- Tara Ferguson, PhD
Client Stories: Laney* (part 2)
Read the conclusion to Laney's heartwarming story about her journey through receiving EMDR therapy and how it changed her life, helping her to heal and find resources within herself that she did not realize she had.
*All names have been changed to protect client identity
I have been through three rounds of trauma work with Dr. Ferguson. I was unaware I was traumatized by so much until we began working through it all.
When you mention trauma therapy to someone, quite honestly I’m not sure what they think because I’ve never asked and they’ve never told me, because I didn’t really care about their opinions. I was doing it for me. But I know how it sounded to me when it was first presented. We would create a safe place first. There was weeks of preparing. There was a safety plan so that between our appointments, if I was triggered, I could handle it. The way she described the freedom you experience was unbelievable, as in, I didn’t believe her. No way would I be able to live with the traumas of my past and not feel controlled by them. They had a hold of me. They would be my death. But I was hopeful, almost desperate, for an answer. I didn’t actually want to die. I didn’t want to feel unimportant. I didn’t want to believe I was pointless. I didn’t want to hate myself. I wanted to love myself. I wanted my hope to become reality, and it sounded like it could. But how?
I won’t lie. It’s scary. Reliving your greatest traumas, reliving all of the negative things you have come to learn and know about yourself, others, and life. We had to understand the negative beliefs and come up with alternative beliefs to retrain my brain. I sat in her office, eyes closed, once without EMDR and twice with it – I will admit EMDR definitely helps the processing to move along faster. What is even scarier to me though, is never dealing with these memories. Being haunted daily, a chip on my shoulder telling me to live in fear and remorse, when I should be living my life with control over my memories, instead of my memories controlling me.
I’ve often believed that if something is scary, it’s probably worth it. Getting on a roller coaster. Taking the job. Leaving the relationship. Getting married. Moving. Moving on. Facing your memories.
I was lucky to have tremendous support while I processed. Some people I told what I experienced, and some people will never know, but all of that is within my control. The process is not quick. Some traumas happen so young and then there are years of events, significant or insignificant, that just reinforce them. I had no idea I would sit in her office dealing with some of the topics I have. Here’s the thing: choosing not to face your traumas out of fear will not give you the freedom you want from those traumas. I wasn’t sure it would work. Some days I wasn’t sure I would make it through. But in those moments, Dr. Ferguson pulls you back to process. I left her office every day feeling some type of progress, and I hoped for a better outcome. I needed a better version of myself.
What did I discover? My younger self, the little girl that I used to be, needed protection she didn’t get. She experienced emotional and physical abuse. She was devalued. She was lied to. She was made to feel like no one would ever love the real her. She was made to believe her body needed to look a certain way, and that she was only good for one thing. I had problems with intimacy. I leaned towards one race because my abuser hated that race. When I finally chose to give my body to someone I was shamed for it. I needed to be needed by men who didn’t even really want me. I wanted someone to “choose” me instead of choosing myself. I didn’t think I would ever be truly loved. I chose relationships with men who were incapable of really loving me back because they were so caught up with themselves and unwilling to work on their own traumas. I was a pleaser to the point that I compromised everything I’ve ever wanted because he might love me enough. I discovered I was not protecting myself, and I did not believe I was worthy of love, including my own.
I began speaking to my younger self. I saw her, and I recognized her. I went back in my memories and I spoke to her. I began protecting her. In turn I began protecting my adult self. I began recognizing that I am worthy of my own love. I accepted that, in reality, I can only depend on myself because others will in some form let you down. That. Is. Okay. I discovered I am strong, and I have a story to tell. I am a survivor, and I am stronger for surviving. I am stronger for sharing, and I get to decide what I share. I have power over my story, over my body, over my life. People are in my life because I choose for them to be. I have forgiveness in my heart for those who are undeserving and those who are, I have love for those who hurt and seek help and those who don’t. I gained knowledge. I gained power. I gained self-love.
Somehow I find myself sitting here able to say I have worked through all of the greatest traumas of my life. I still see Dr. Ferguson once a month, but now it’s more of an upkeep. My mental health is my number one priority, and I like having my appointments with her to make sure I stay on track and get reminded of how to process and cope when I need it. I have moved on from processing what happened to me, to processing what I grew up without. That feels nuts to say, but it also feels so good. I am free from the traumas that bound me.
Don’t get me wrong, I still live with them. The difference is that now I know how to process when I am triggered, and I handle them differently. I am safe within myself. Occasionally my younger self pops up with a need or a fear, and now I know not only how to listen to her, but how to sooth her. I still deal with sadness, but I don’t walk around with a heavy weight on my chest every day. I am breathing. I no longer think I am supposed to take my own life. I cry every year that I age with a thankful heart that I get to watch my niece, who I never would have met, grow up. I get to figure out what I want to do with my life. I get to love my 5 year old cat. I get to experience a relationship that’s filled with love and understanding, where I don’t have to change who I am or what I want, and I am unapologetic. And if that ever changes, I get to know I will be okay. Because at the end of the day, when I lay my head down at night, I know that because of the work I have done, because I have properly processed the traumas of my past, I get to live my life and be the one in control. And, if you ask me, there is nothing more freeing than knowing that you are in control of your own life, and that you are worthy of love. Especially your own love.
Thank you so much Laney for sharing your story with us! We are all inspired by your courage :)