Trauma, EMDR helped remove a lot of pain from my body

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I've been suffering for over a decade now with chronic fatigue and with that came a lot of pain in my body. I'd have either constant discomfort or an unrelaxed feeling in the kidneys/adrenals, which I've experienced throughout all my adult life. It got much worse if I started doing something to improve my health like a better diet. The pain felt like a physical manifestation of "adrenal fatigue", I could always feel them. I would numb myself with food to reduce the discomfort. I also couldn't have any stimulants. I once got into a seaweed salt bath and couldn't sleep properly for 6 weeks.

I was extremely confused, no one else on the internet seemed to have this particular problem of kidney pain and hyper sensitivity to stimulants, so I wasn't sure what it could be.

After 10 years of trying lots of supplements, diets and ignoring the mental side, I started looking for therapists. I tried CBT, which was a waste of time, then I came across a video of someone who'd claimed to have cured her chronic fatigue. She mentioned reverse therapy, so spoke to a few practitioners and they suggested that I focus on trauma instead of reverse therapy.

Here's the interesting bit, after telling the therapist about the pain in my kidneys she asked, "have you ever been hit in your kidneys?" ... Well, in fact I had! It was my most traumatic memory from my childhood where I was beaten at full force, by an adult, around my kidneys for what felt like an eternity. I'd been carrying around that pain for 30 years.

After a lot of sessions, re-experiencing traumas, being in bed for lots of days the pain subsided in my kidneys for the first time in many years. It was extraordinary and I could have stimulants again without bizarre reactions (although I avoid them for obvious reasons).

Once that quietened down other areas of my body got louder. I noticed intense, constant, discomfort around my heart and intestines area. Through many more sessions and processing other traumas (some of the traumas could be more accurately defined as unprocessed negative emotions rather than the usual meaning of the word) the full-time pain gradually disappeared from my body in those areas, leaving only a little left now as I come to the end of the EMDR journey - I suspect in the next month or two.

However, EMDR hasn't been a linear journey of getting better. I made a lot of progress initially and stalled for a long time and changed therapists. The person who beat me was still in my life and when I saw them again, I almost had a panic attack and it set me back months. It took me a while to realise it was my current feelings towards them were causing problem rather than past traumas and that I still had parts of me that felt like that same vulnerable child around them.

All in all, it has made me understand that emotions have a strong effect on the physical and these areas of the body now function better without the constant tension and stress happening 24/7.

Am I recovered? I feel I'm close, but I'm sure if you're like me you've had many false leads. You will be the first to know if that ever happens. I'm struggling a lot with much post exertional malaise as I try to up my activity levels, I'll know if I ever overcome that, then I'll be done. But what I can tell you is I feel a lot better about myself, more confident, my personality has changed and the pain has gone. With the session I had last time, I unlocked a secret to my lifelong depression.

If you are interested in finding out more, I'd recommend a book called: The Body Keeps Score . It's big book, but you can skip all the chapters and go straight to the ones that focus on trauma/emotional recovery (which cover EMDR, other therapies, Yoga, etc). If I didn't have that book, EMDR alone wouldn't have made things better, as the chapter on Integrated Family Systems (IFS) therapy was pivotal for helping me get past my mental blocks in the EMDR sessions.
 
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Mary

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Hi @AdamSee - I highly recommend EMDR for trauma of any kind. I found it after 20 years of regular talk therapy for childhood trauma just kept me afloat, but not much else - no swimming so to speak. And EMDR started to give me my life back - I wish I had known about it when I was 20!

Unfortunately, it hasn't done anything for my ME/CFS. By the time I discovered EMDR, my body was already on a long downward slide. So though mentally and emotionally I felt much better after doing work with EMDR, it couldn't stop the progression - for me - of ME/CFS. I think that severe chronic lifelong stress coupled with the necessary opportune viruses are what propelled me into ME/CFS. I think the stress damaged my immune system and viruses did the rest (though I don't know for sure of course)

I'm really glad EMDR has helped you so much though. I think every therapist should be trained in this technique. It can help with minor stuff too - it doesn't have to be horrible trauma, I think just anywhere someone is stuck, EMDR can help get them unstuck.

And, one of the best things about EMDR is that it produces lasting change. and relatively quickly, compared to regular talk therapy alone. With regular talk therapy, I kept talking about the same things (off and on) for 20 years! Nothing ever really got resolved. But issues got resolved for me with EMDR, and much more quickly. I've recommended it to several people and other family members, and they've universally all been happily surprised with the results.

emdr.com has a lot of info and also has a link where you can find clinicians trained in this technique. I've also read several books - it's fascinating stuff! and it has been used by the VA with veterans and with hurricane victims, rape survivors, incest survivors, everything.

And the book you linked, The Body Keeps Score, definitely looks worth a read - thanks for posting :nerd:
 
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I'm really saddened to hear that it didn't work for you Mary. It's not nice to continue on a downward spiral in-spite of the obvious effort and learning you've done. It is really interesting to hear you suffered from childhood trauma, too. I wonder if there are many more of us who have CFS whom have also experienced trauma?

Whilst EMDR has improved my life a lot already, the jury is still out on whether this is going to be a long term fix and I promise I will come back in few months and be truthful. Let's be fair, nearly everything else I've tried has not been successful. But I have to hope, there's really not much left for me to try - I have to believe there is a way to cure it for good. Because the alternative is so much worse.

My analogy for the CFS I have is: A car with a leaky fuel tank. No matter how much fuel is put in, it will soon run out of gas.

My approach had always been to try and increase the energy going into my system. With good food, supplements and gentle exercise. But using the analogy of the car, no matter how much fuel is put into the car, if you've got a big leak you're not going to get very far on your journey. So what was causing my leak?

A clue came from looking at my past temporary successes. Whenever I tried something new to help with CFS, it worked for a couple of weeks and then stopped.

Pretty much anything would work, whether it be a crazy diet, fasting, pills, whatever. I would get better for a while. Then I would relapse. It even got to a point that I knew something would work for a while, but in two weeks I'd be back to normal. However, once I spotted this pattern, then everything stopped working! I couldn't figure it, it didn't make sense. It just added to the overwhelming complexity of CFS rather than reducing it. The more I learnt, the less I understood.

I eventually came to realise that it wasn't the pills or the diet that was doing it, it was me feeling powerful: I was taking control. It was the opposite to the absolute worst feeling in the world for me; being powerless. Which came from being unable to stop the trauma taking place in the first place. That's why once I'd spotted the pattern, every new attempt to improve my CFS symptoms didn't work because I knew from the start it was unlikely to work - making me feel powerless.

It was the placebo effect! But a placebo effect I finally understood. Feeling powerless was the biggest hole in my fuel tank. Feeling powerful stopped the leak.

The problem was feeling powerful all the time can't continue. After a couple of weeks of being in control my brain would say "Ok, got this, I've made this a habit now. I'll do the rest for you" and the feelings of power would disappear because I'd start to focus on other things and then I'd relapse, back to square one. Even knowing this, I couldn't magically conjure up feelings of being powerful, but I'm hoping after the therapy has been completed I won't need to. I will have closed enough leaks to carry on the gradual increase of my energy reserves. If I overcome post exertional malaise, then only then will I know for sure.
 
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As promised a few months have passed and I've finished with EMDR. It helped me remove my trauma from kidneys and other areas but it wasn't really appropriate for dealing with every issue - as coming to terms with not a great childhood takes a lot of rebuilding.

I started working with a former buddhist monk who does IFS (integrated family systems). We've spent the last few months going into painful areas of my body and removing that pain. It's been fascinating seeing parts of my psyche express emotions that I didn't know I felt: guilt, betrayal and strong religious belief (I've been agnostic for a long while, but the patterns of religion are still there).

The process has been very positive - I'm no longer in fight or flight all the time and my depression is fading away. As far as I can tell I still have PEM, but I have hope that it is going to diminish soon because I'm getting a desire to want to exercise, which I haven't felt for a very long time.

I'll update again in a few more months.
 
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