I would like to begin my appeal to you on a feeling, human level by describing my personal experience as a patient.
In 1993, after writing about the abuse in my childhood, I was depressed; in fact, I wanted to die rather than live with the pain and agony of childhood memories and flashbacks. I knew I needed help and scheduled an appointment with an HMO therapist. The waiting period at the time was 12 weeks, before I could see a therapist. I was very depressed and anxiety stifled my assertiveness, and I had no choice other than to surrender to the ‘modus operandi’. In addition, besides feeling helpless, I blamed and judged myself for needing help. As in my childhood, I surrendered to the power of the “higher authority,” to the experts who supposedly knew what they were doing.
In these twelve weeks of waiting, a significant transformation was going on in my brain: in spite of my depressed condition, I felt for the first time a wholesome “defrosting” of my brain. In a sense, the mentally reliving of the trauma through writing it down, affected the depression and started a healing process. I felt how frozen, locked away pictures of traumatic memories started melting into consciousness. The impact of the trauma that was force-frozen thirty years ago, began to finish, to complete an unfinished process. Finally, I felt the loose ends (neurons) in my brain try to connect. Every triggered event I felt while in my childhood memories, ended in a flashback. I began to understand why I was in fear all my life. These flashbacks helped me to finish many stuck past traumatic experience to process. I began with a cognitive connecting which lead me to the original source, to a feeling way, and to the source of my over forty year old trauma and fear. Thereafter, the imprinted fear was no longer as devastating; it lost the power because the agony and fear that was attached to the memory was felt first and later, gone. I no longer felt the helpless, childlike emotional feelings (a child who has no words to express). The loose ends had now connected with a functional left hemisphere, and I could explain and express the feeling with the words of an adult, what I was unable to say as an child.
My hope to receive help in continuing this healing process was enormous
After finally meeting my therapist for the first time, this vital healing process was violently interrupted. I was sent to a psychiatrist, and the result was Wellbutrin, in conjunction with cognitive therapy.
I explained my needs to the therapist, that I would like to continue with regressing and feeling but I was not understood. After about 10 sessions, I felt her helplessness when I did not adopt her theory of “managing”/repressing the pain. I wanted to heal, I told her, not repress again, but she did not understand. After the 20th session with her she threw her hands helplessly up in the air, asking me, “What theory fits you?” I do not need a theory, I told her, just help me to heal by answering questions to many feelings I have and can’t understand. She indicated that I would not understand her explanations because I do not have her level of psychological education. Instead of receiving help, I was again stifled and insulted. Shortly after, I searched for another therapist. In the first session with her, I conveyed my wish for answers and assistance in my healing and described again that I would need to make connection to my panic attacks and the constant present fear. Annoyed, she told me “there is no need for you to know how to analyze.” Now, feeling helpless again, I left her as well and continued with Wellbutrin.
Slowly I became aware of some side-effects of the antidepressants and mentioned my weight gain to my psychiatrist and other new symptoms, such as shell fish and chocolate allergies, insomnia and emphysema. He told me harshly that it was menopause and not Wellbutrin that caused my weight gain, and disregarded all other side-effects I mentioned. After being on Wellbutrin for 4 years, I had gained 65 pounds, in spite of eating less than ever.
I changed psychiatrists in 1998 and the new one switched me to Effexor.
Additional fresh hope arrived in 1999 when I heard about EMDR and entered the therapies with an EMDR specialist. After many private sessions, I found another EMDR therapist inside my HMO and switched for financial reasons.
After one and half years, I found out to my dismay, that EMDR had done nothing to heal my fear and anxiety attacks. It helped only as a temporary repressor. The symptoms reappeared again shortly after I stopped EMDR therapy.
In 2000, I gathered my little remaining strength, quit all “therapies”, and got off antidepressants. After three months of withdrawal effects from Effexor, the veil in my cloudy brain was lifted and slowly I began to live again on a feeling level. The most shocking part was for me was that nothing had changed after being on antidepressants nearly 7 years. All the symptoms I had before were still there. The anxiety attacks and my childhood trauma were still alive, just as they were in 1993, before I began with antidepressants. The only difference was that I was a walking zombie for 7 years, with depression.
All I got from antidepressants was some loss of my short-term memory, 65 pounds, and new allergies. The effects of my childhood trauma were still present, actively diminishing my life.
Why, in the name of humanity, I asked the psychiatrist, did I have to take these dangerous drugs? Silence was the answer and no advice was given to me about how to heal my mental agony.
As I found out too late, Wellbutrin had slowed down everything in my body, even my thyroid. Off and on, my cortisol level was down to 4.8. One of my symptoms, emphysema, did disappear. The shell fish and chocolate allergies remain until today.
The tip of the iceberg was the 60 hours cognitive therapy (with four different therapists), were wasted years and brought no more than false hope and was no more than pain-management meaning again suppression/oppression/repression of consciousness of mental pain. I did not want to manage my pain, I wanted to heal from the wounds of severe childhood abuse. Naturally, neither Wellbutrin nor cognitive therapy could do this. Dependent like every patient, I had to trust the medical professionals. My concern about weight gain and the still lingering anxiety attacks were not heard. What can a patient do who suffers from constant depression, anxiety, and fears, other than believe the one who supposed to help? After three years on Effexor, I had lost an enormous amount of my short-term memory.
Knowing I would not receive the help I needed, I did address most of the symptoms myself. I chose to consciously address the past, my RCT (repressed childhood trauma) in a self-regressive therapy. I allowed stuck memories to surface and two times I traveled to my home town to face the reality of the past. I felt and released the pain which finished the process of the stuck trauma. With this natural step by step process and the support from empathetic friends, who did not label or stifle me with theories or the projection of their own limitations, a natural healing took place. Now after three years, I can call myself a mentally strong human being, free from the effects of early trauma.
Now I am dealing with the leftover effects from Wellbutrin and Effexor, which include a very slow metabolism, and a partial loss of short-term memory.
Finally, I would like to tell you that meanwhile I have been contacted by many Adults Abused as Children who have told me, not only their experienced trauma, but also their disgraceful experiences with their psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists. In their helplessness they have reached out to many organizations, even churches for help. Some of them have been in therapy for more then a decade without any progress. Most of them are on antidepressants and/or have been re-programmed by different therapies, and learned a new way of repressing their trauma. Some are indoctrinated by religion and believe now that the blind obedience to a god will change and heal their lives.
The effects of early childhood trauma, anxiety, depression will be alive as long as the trauma remains unprocessed. Other disorders and side-effects will dominate the life of all who have not been given the opportunity to heal.
I have met only a handful of therapists who agree with me that mental healing can take place if we allow it, support and assist the process with empathy on a human non-judgmental/or labeling level, and without limiting the help-seekers with theories. Unfortunately, most people in the psychological profession do not have the tools needed for such a big task. Often, I believe the therapist her/him-self is most incapable of providing such empathetic assistance because of their own CTE (childhood trauma effects) which lead them to act out their unconscious childhood emotions instead of partnering in their clients’ healing.
My plea to all professionals is:
Respect the human being. Support clients in becoming more aware of their inner selves and answer their questions without assuming your superiority.
Apply your education wisely and only as a tool to liberate instead of creating a new dependency and helplessness in indoctrination or theories.
Teach the young psychologists (in addition to the curriculum), the most vital learning: that a human being is born with a fully intact right hemisphere, and remains throughout life a creature with a right to her/his feelings.
Most of all I urge those who choose psychology or psychiatry for personal reasons, to heal and feel your own trauma first, before applying left hemisphere knowledge on others in pain. After all, healing mental/emotional pain cannot come from left hemisphere knowledge alone, because we all are born with the perfect functional right hemisphere, with feelings; It is these feelings and the soul that is damaged and destroyed by abuse and trauma, not our logic.
Sieglinde W. Alexander