There has been much deriding of Prince Harry’s exploration of EMDR therapy, particularly from the older generation and a certain section of the media who feel we should keep emotional dirty laundry in our own backyards.
I’m undertaking EMDR therapy right now, and I’m evangelical about its benefits, so I’d like to discuss what it’s done for me, in case it could help anyone else.
We’ve done the stiff upper lip thing and it doesn’t work for many of us. Those weary men returning from wars broken and damaged – you didn’t see them doing tapping therapies – but why should we laud that? If they didn’t suffer from depression, commit acts of rage, or succumb to addictions, then sure as hell their children probably did. And when suicide is the biggest cause of death in young men, we can see we have a crisis on our hands.
It is not weak to admit you suffer from trauma. It should not be a source of shame. If we can discuss our IBS and our gluten intolerance, we can admit that we have an unregulated response to certain life events that others may deal with fine. This lack of regulation is normally your primal reptilian brain controlling you (your fight or flight response to perceived harm). You aren’t in your rational, logical prefrontal cortex, you are behaving from a scared, traumatised place. It feels disproportionate but you might not know why.
If you’d like an example mine was this – a low mood I couldn’t explain, an inability to appreciate my life as fully as I should, an overwhelming anxiety when faced with small inconveniences like being late or getting lost, a lack of motivation to take care of myself, a frustration that my needs weren’t being met (and an inability to recognise what those needs were) and a darkness and self-destruction that scared me at times.
I have a gorgeous supportive husband and children and I didn’t want to pass this onto them, particularly because it was behaviour I’d seen in my own parents. So, I’m currently undertaking EMDR therapy and my goodness it is ground-breaking and exciting. It has changed my life.
I’ve found my safe place, where my mind can go to regulate my brain in times of stress, I’ve retraced my own childhood trauma and cried long overdue tears that came from a little girl scared and sad about what was happening in her life. I’ve sat with my parents and grandparents, retracing the steps of their own lives and traumas, crying real tears for them all, some of whom I’ve never even met. I’ve come to understand why they behaved like they did and that what they did was probably done to them, and to their parents before them. It is hard work, emotionally draining, but the relief is palpable.
Not everyone needs EMDR therapy, but I suspect most people have some form of trauma in their lives. For some, it would be too painful to do what is an emotionally difficult form of therapy and relive traumatic events. For others, they may prefer to brush it under the carpet – and good luck to them, but it didn’t work for me. But one thing is clear – anyone who seeks help for mental health issues is not weak or vulnerable, it is an act of heroic strength, attempting to break a never-ending cycle of generational trauma.
I’m continuing the EMDR therapy as long as I need to. We’ve not even started on my adult trauma – the break ups and addictions, the miscarriages and the birth trauma, the deep-seated shame.
Think what you like of Prince Harry but don’t shame people for choosing to address their mental health issues in a positive way. I applaud him for being brave enough to talk about it publicly, and I hope we see a day when we can reduce destructive patterns of behaviour that cause untold damage to families. We owe it to those men and women who endured terrible hardship in silence and shame, who were never allowed to heal the deep wounds inflicted upon them, and who found themselves inflicting further wounds themselves, often without knowing what they were doing.
I’ve included some photos of my happy place here. I wonder – what is yours?