Calm and stability after years of trauma following an assault
Having a mother who was quite emotionally abusive meant that Lucy had struggled to assert herself from a young age, and often felt overpowered. She grew up in a small hamlet, and when she left home and moved to London as a student it was quite a shock for a young girl without much confidence or experience. Appallingly, whilst she was working at a summer job in the capital a male colleague took advantage of her vulnerability.
Lucy says: “I had no idea I was being sexually harassed, and this led up to a serious assault. If it had happened when I was older with more life-experience I may have realised, but I was missing certain cues; I didn’t recognise a dangerous person.”
Following a police investigation and a court case, Lucy developed symptoms which were akin to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), although this was not recognised at the time. She suffered a mental break-down, made three suicide attempts and was hospitalised.
The serious side effects carried on for many years afterwards, during which she had counselling specifically for people who had experienced sexual assault or rape; psychotherapy in a private practice; and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) on the NHS. She only heard about EMDR therapy by chance through a friend taking a psychology course.
By this time Lucy was 32 years old and feeling she may never escape the past but decided to give EMDR a try. She says: “I was a bit shocked when I looked into it. It seemed odd to do rapid eye movements, but the more I read, the more it seemed to be directly targeting the automated responses ingrained in the body. Other therapies I had tried looked at thought patterns, but they didn’t help on a deeper level. I was still having intrusive thoughts and flashbacks. I wasn’t eating properly, I lost sleep, I had psychotic episodes, and my anxiety was triggered by certain men.”
After scoring very highly on a questionnaire to rate the symptoms of PTSD she was offered a time limited number of sessions with an EMDR therapist on the NHS. Lucy says: “It helped me that EMDR is a very visual therapy. I could picture things rather than talk about the details, and as such had more sense of control. I was taught how to return to a safe place in my mind – for me it was a trip to the mountains of Armenia – when the memories got too much. It’s a phenomenal therapy, very quick, and hits the spot other avenues and other therapies don’t quite reach. There is something at play in the body and the mind together. EMDR suddenly got rid of so many nightmares and memories.”
She had a lot of trauma to process; as well as the sexual assault, there were issues in her childhood, so it wasn’t possible to cover everything in six therapy sessions. A few months later she was able to secure a further 10 sessions with another EMDR therapist.
Lucy is now living a stable life, working at a university providing pastoral and learning support to students. A friend remarked on how calmly she came across after having EMDR.
Lucy says: “I can now talk about the trauma as if it’s a cup of tea. For so many years I had all these thoughts and reminders and mental exhaustion – I didn’t quite realise the effects until I looked back after having EMDR. It has literally erased all of those bad memories.”