Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fast Forward, Part 2

I'll start by saying I'm not a believer.

I'm not talking about religious belief here, although I am not religious and this probably does explain it. I also don't mean "believer" negatively. I just mean that I am, by nature, a skeptic. 

I know believers. I know people who are able to throw themselves into things when they feel passionately about them. Whatever it is that they're into-- and it can be one thing or many things at once-- they go with it, they get excited about it, they commit to it, they nurture it, they evangelize it. They're willing to suspend disbelief. They're willing to give it a try. They're willing to give in to it fully until they're proven wrong.

I am often envious of this quality in others. It seems, from the outside, like such a guileless way to live; such an open, embracing approach to life. In its best applications, it seems so free, so spontaneous, so breathless and joyful and life-affirming. 

This is not the way I work. I need proof. I need research. I need preliminary trials, user review comparisons, observation and evaluation. The scientific method. Time and distance. I need to let things sink waaaay in before I make a move.

What I'm saying here is that no one could be more surprised than me by where this has led, which, if nothing else, lends validity to its effectiveness. I didn't go looking for any of this, and certainly didn't expect it. I am not of the type to accept things at face value. I am definitely not the type to subject myself to crazy-seeming and potentially mortifying procedures, expecting them to work miracles. Got it?

Just so we're clear.

So. I'd been doing EMDR therapy for a few months, and had experienced some of the effects of the technique.

There are different ways of doing it, but the basic principle is that you use a "dual attention stimulus"-- wear headphones that play tones that alternate from ear to ear, or hold little vibrating paddles that alternate, or watch a light box with a point of light that scrolls back and forth-- while focusing on a memory from the incident you're trying to explore. The therapist watches your eye movement while you do this, and stops you when they "stick," indicating a particular kind of brain process, and asks you to talk about what's going on, bypassing conscious processes and getting at what's underneath.

The light box gave me a migraine, so I just used the headphones and paddles. I was not, shall we say, enthusiastic. Buzz, buzz. Beep, beep. What the hell am I doing?!

Headphones and paddles. Super high-tech, eh?
It's a controversial technique. People aren't sure how, or if, it works. I can't speak to the "how,", but I can say that somehow during those sessions, our conversations went deeper, got weirder, uncovered things that I seemed to hold on a more subconscious level.

So, that night in April, my therapist (we'll call her Dr. Oz) and I were talking about a small segment of the night of the accident: the very last moment I remembered before the impact, and then the very first moment I remembered after the impact. I didn't know it at the time, but she was having me focus on the time where my "reptilian brain," the primitive part that controls survival needs and manages the fight or flight response, would have taken charge.

Buzz buzz. Beep beep. What did I remember?

Cold. Dark. The winding mountain highway had been completely deserted for the whole first half of my trip home. It was 1am. I hadn't yet seen a single other car. 

I was heading toward a wide left-handed bend, the first part of a blind S-curve, at about 50MPH. As I hit the curve, another car came into view, heading uphill toward me. 

I was told later that the other car was traveling at least 70MPH. 

The next part happened in less than 2 two seconds: We hit the middle portion of the curve at the same time. The oncoming headlights veered into my lane. I thought they'd move back, but they didn't. They kept on, closer, closer, 20 feet away, 15, 10. 

I jerked the steering wheel to the right. The headlights followed. I immediately jerked back. 5 feet. No time to brake.

Then nothing.

And then...

Everything was orange. Glowing. 

My eyes were closed. I was tipped forward and to the left, my head leaning to the side and resting on something. I couldn't lift myself up. I couldn't open my eyes. Through my eyelids, the world was orange. 

"Just sit tight," a man said from beyond my left shoulder. "Don't move. Just sit tight. We'll get you out."

"Stop for a moment," said Dr. Oz. "Let's check in. What are you feeling in your body right now?"

I stopped. I checked. I was still embarrassed by this question; I never really knew how to answer it. I was opening my mouth to say what I usually said, "Nothing," when all of a sudden, I noticed something strange. 

I looked up at Dr. Oz, and said instead: "My arms are numb."

1 comment:

  1. All my hair is standing on end over this. I've never heard of EMDR therapy. Am dying to know what happened next: how long it took for your arms to have feeling again, what else you remembered, what implications the therapy has had for your life.

    Keep writing!