E M D ARGH!
Updated: Sep 1
Another emotional one here! Again; I’ll try to keep it as relevant as possible, but this one is very personal. I’m sharing it to show people the benefits of therapy and how small things in the past can have large impacts in the present.
This time its emotional for entirely different reasons to the last one. Since the last instalment, my divorce has completed, and in the most lacklustre fashion imaginable. For something that represented almost one third of my life, it went out with a whimper rather than a bang.
Probably for the best.
Nevertheless, it’s done and I now have a huge weight and burden off my mind and shoulders and can now begin growing again in earnest. I feel a lot better for it. It’s just a strange sensation.
Regardless, that’s not why I’m writing today.
I have been going to therapy for almost three years now. I have worked with the most wonderful Gemma Ridge throughout this time and I would gladly recommend her, or therapy in general to everyone. Having that one hour or so a week to just talk is so valuable.
With the divorce out the way, which was a huge focus for the past few months, I wanted to start working on how I felt about myself.
To the surprise of many and no one at the same time, I’m actually not confident in myself at all.
I feel like a constant failure and lack confidence in myself.
I think of myself and ugly and unattractive.
I believe that losing my ex-wife meant I would never be able to feel loved by anyone else again.
Now, these statements are not necessarily objective truth. They are based on my feelings and emotions. No matter who tells me that I have succeeded, I am attractive or that someday I may feel loved again, I still don’t believe it.
So I wanted to work on it!
I wanted to start by considering my body confidence.
Gemma suggested we consider a technique/process called EMDR. It stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing.
Essentially this is a form of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) that uses sensory inputs to bi-laterally stimulate your brain and encourage the same state of mind as found during REM sleep. I’m sure any therapists, psychotherapists and counsellors out there are wincing at this description, but I’m just trying to keep it simple.
It’s used to help address PTSD by allowing people to “relive” their past experiences in a safe environment and then express and cope with the pain that has been repressed for however long.
I was in!
My past is pretty messed up and I knew things there were going to be causing a lot of how I feel now.
The first memory…
I was about eight.
I was at Leeds Grammar School (not GSAL).
I was walking up from the Junior School, which is now less than 100m from my house, to the Senior School for lunch as was common. We walked in pairs wearing our navy blue and yellow ‘hot cross bun’ caps.
We had just crossed Woodsley Road.
I felt a pain in the back of my leg.
I looked round and saw a large straight cut across it. It almost stretched from one side to the other. It was a clean cut, in a straight line. There was blood dripping out and trickling down the back of my leg. There was so much red.
I looking around wondering what could have caused it.
The boy behind me, one of my ‘friends’, was stood there with a razor blade from a pencil sharpener in hand. Blood was on the blade. He looked up at me and we caught eye contact. He simply said;
“I wanted to see if fat would drip out.”
I started getting faint from looking at the blood realising what had happened. Some of the other boys around were shocked, others were laughing. I was in panic.
In that moment, I felt alone. I didn’t know what to do, what to say or how to act. I was in so much panic that shock set in.
Eventually a teacher walked by us, saw the blood and gave me a tissue or something to hold the wound and stop the blood dripping further. When we finished walking to the Senior School I was taken to the Infirmary.
The nurse treated the wound and called my parents.
Both at work.
She tried again.
This continued until the end of lunch, at which point I was just sent back to class and carried on with the day.
Why tell you this rather horrific story?
Well this is the first memory I have of being overly conscious about my weight. I’m not saying that this is the only memory that caused my lack of confidence in my body image, but this is the first.
What I realised when going through the process of EMDR though, was that I realised that this wasn’t just about my body image and confidence.
This was about my loneliness too!
This was about abandonment too!
From thinking I had lots of problems, I realised that many of them were tied together. Addressing them as individual problems wouldn’t help solve them because the threads were so tightly wound that it would be impossible to pull them apart. The only way to unravel this mess is to consider it as a whole.
I was asked what ‘Little Andy’ would want to happen in that moment. What would make him feel better?
He wanted someone to protect him and tell him it would be alright.
But when asked who it should be; who from my past, my present, fiction, anywhere; should come to protect him…
…I couldn’t picture anyone in that spot.
There was a void where that protector figure should be.
And it was a void that I couldn’t imagine anyone filling.
Not my parents. Not my friends. Not teachers. Not heroes. No one. No one at all from my past or present could I imagine being there as a protector.
The Tapestry of my Life…
In that moment of realisation, I could see that the question “Who protects Andy?” was present throughout my life in so many subtle ways.
In my romantic relationships, I always dated (and married) people who needed a protector, who were struggling or who needed help of some kind so I could fill the role of the saviour; hoping that in turn they would fill that role for me.
It never happened.
And the one time I felt it was happening; she left and I’m now divorced…
In work, I always tried to work closely with my father, who wasn’t there when I was younger. I did everything I could to get closer to him to see if he could protect Andy. What it did however was give him the confidence that I was doing well and didn’t need protecting, even though underneath I did.
In life, I would always try to shoulder every burden alone and by myself rather than share it as I just didn’t feel I had anyone who could help me through these problems.
Look where all the above got me.
A depressed and divorced accountant who almost committed suicide who feels he is incapable of being loved and who has no confidence in himself.
Pretty. Fucking. Bleak.
Andy protects Andy…
As with all good three act structures, there is a somewhat happy ending.
I’ve learned that I need to protect me.
Andy must protect Andy.
As harsh as that sounds; I need to defend and fight for myself.
It won’t necessarily be easy, but it’s a journey I want to take. I am going to continue working with Gemma on my confidence and my own well-being so I can fight for myself in the future.
‘Life is a Four-Letter Word’ is now in First Draft format and is with a number of people for review. I’m in the process of looking for publishers to work with on marketing and distributing the book over the coming year.
I’ve had a few people ask about what all my tattoos mean. Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve probably already written my first book on my arm! I’m going to be doing an in depth look at them soon so feel free to watch this space.
Just another guy