This afternoon, I start therapy. It’s in the interest of the project, really. I said I was going to do everything I could to heal, and therapy seems like the natural first step, at least in the country I happen to live in. This will be my third go at it; the first was in December 08-March 09, shortly after the miscarriage, and the second was May-August 09, after I realized that the first wasn’t really helping much.
My first therapist was a basic talk therapist, who was recommended to me by the midwives as someone who specialized in miscarriage and infertility issues. She was a nice enough girl, with a sweet smile, but I usually came out of there feeling like I had talked myself in a circle. I would express my fears of never getting to that magical place Dawn had told me about – the one where the stars would all be aligned and it would suddenly be the “right time” to have a baby – and she would ask what I felt needed to happen before it would be the “right time.” I would tell her I wanted to get my life back, and she would ask what that meant. I usually came out of a session feeling like I had just spilled my guts to a very expensive friend who knew nothing about my personal history. And it annoyed me that when I would ask a question – usually some variation of, “What should I do?” – she would turn the question back on me without giving any advice. (My free friends all give advice.) And she really wanted to talk about my divorce, when I really just wanted to talk about my miscarriage. I couldn’t quit though; since she’d wrap up each session with, “Let’s talk about that next week,” I always believed that the following week would be the one with the breakthroughs and the answers. Fortunately (and horribly, ironically), she was pregnant, so when she went on maternity leave, I got some time to reflect, and realized I probably didn’t need her anymore.
A few months later, after admitting to my nurse practitioner that yes, the Wellbutrin seemed to be helping my depression, but that I was still so angry, I went back to therapy, this time to an EMDR therapist my NP recommended. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; it’s a way of helping people to work through trauma using the right-brain-left-brain patterns experienced during REM sleep. The theory is that, like the body can heal itself from a cut but sometimes requires stitches to help it along, so can the mind heal itself from a trauma, but sometimes needs something to help it along, especially when the traumatizing incident gets “stuck” in the brain. This form of therapy has been proven to be very successful at treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients – war vets, rape victims, etc – in a way that no other therapy has. And it can be used to treat minor traumas (such as school bullying or, say, a miscarriage) just as effectively.
EMDR aside, I loved this therapist from day one. During that first meeting, we mostly just talked; I told her my story, and instead of just smiling and telling me we’d work on it next week, she actually responded. Most memorably, perhaps, was when I ran through a quick description of my marriage and divorce, since I figured it would come up eventually, ending with, “And then he kicked me out of the apartment.”
My new therapist looked up from her clipboard, shot me a very pointed look, and affirmed, “Lucky you.” And I’ll be damned if all the shame and embarrassment and guilt I’d been carrying about the whole ordeal didn’t melt away right then and there.
I did weekly EMDR with her for a few months, to try and process a series of painful snapshots taken from my miscarriage experience: the excitement that came with that first pregnancy test; telling Doug, “Of course there’ll be a baby;” sitting in the hospital hallway crying; my hand on my stomach in those Gettysburg photos; the black hole in my uterus on the ultrasound screen… And what I’ve realized, from doing this project so far, is that the EMDR worked. Those things are still all major details in the story I’ve told here, but they don’t affect me the way they once did. Doug told me that rereading everything over these past few weeks has made him sad, like he’s reliving it, but I don’t feel that way. I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story; I know this happened to me, but I’ve somehow been gracefully removed from it.
So why more therapy? Well, if I was really and truly cured, there would be no need for this project. I still can’t shake my aversion to pregnant women (although we truly did try in several EMDR sessions), and I feel like there’s something keeping me from enjoying my life as it is right now – and that this something is, of course, connected to the miscarriage, Mirena, and the biological clock I never knew I had.