* Ellie’s real name has been changed for confidentiality’s sake.
In the third session we didn’t even touch on the 9/11 incident. Instead, we dealt with a very upsetting incident that had occurred with her boyfriend. This started out with a SUDs of 10 and about halfway through the session, she re framed this incident in such a way that it was no longer upsetting.
We also talked about some self-destructive patterns she realized she follows in choosing the types of men with whom she tends to get involved, men that were lovable but have many problems. She was also beginning to realize that taking care of men was a repetition of her having to take care of her mother when the mother was inebriated. She then didn’t have to think of taking care of herself.
In the fourth session she did more talking and we did less of the bi-lateral EMDR stimulation than in previous sessions. She had finished some ads for a New York project and was having to work very hard to get them ready for her next New York trip the following week. She’s very nervous about going back there, particularly flying in and not seeing the twin towers any more. She’s also supposed to have dinner with two of the people in the apartment building where she was saved, but she’s anxious about going there She doesn’t know if the plane trip is upsetting her or if it’s just her usual anxiety about flying. So I suggested that we target the whole trip to New York when doing the EMDR.
#1 (71) She remembers that the time she was in New York City before 9/11 was with her boyfriend. They walked all over the city and had a great time. She really loved New York. But now it’s all different, she’s more scared than excited about going.
#2 (80) She laughs, says “I don’t understand myself. I kept asking myself, over and over, ‘Why are you anxious? Why are you anxious?’ I couldn’t get past that.” I say, “Are you implying that you’re critical of yourself for being anxious?” She says, “Yes, I should be ready to go back there. My boss told me I don’t have to go.” But I went into my office, sat down and said, “Of course you have to go.” She talks about the conflict she feels inside and says, “I don’t want to be a wuss.”
#3 (61) “Sunday I found a litter of kittens under the house. This cat is always having kittens. I took them to work to find homes for them. I was holding one in my lap while I was working. It’s a real feisty one. And there it was, lying on its back [she demonstrates]. It was the best feeling I’ve had in a long time. I want to be able to trust someone like that, just let go and be taken care of.” I feel pleased that this young woman, who has had to learn to deny her dependency needs, is starting to own them.
She tells me about a recent test she has to periodically take to make sure the disease she contracted as a result of the rape has not returned. The illness has only been in remission for a few months, and she is anxious about the results. She’s still paying off the treatment from 8 years ago, when she was 19.
#4 (92) “I’m tired--physically, emotionally, in every single way. I feel like I’m failing. I’m angry at my boyfriend. I come in and he’s watching TV and I get angry that he’s not catering to me. We got satellite TV and all he wants to do is watch movies. I come home and instead of talking to me, he shushes me so he can watch a movie.” But she is obviously critical of herself for wanting more from him than he is giving her. I think to myself that it’s a positive development that she is starting to allow herself to have needs of her own. I find out that they both have very traditional ideas about male and female roles. She is supposed to clean and balance his checkbook, which he won’t do, but she says he does work very hard at his job.
#5 (68) She tells me about being a procrastinator. She had a 4.3 average in high school but always did things at the last minute. Her parents never helped her with homework, or helping her learn how to do things in an organized manner. So she puts off things, fearing they’re going to be difficult, and is always surprised, when she does get down to work, that she does them quickly and easily.
I go back to the original target, the trip to New York, and she feels much better about going there. She doesn’t dread it anymore. I suggest that we try to install a resource in her that will help to sustain her in her trip back to NYC and ask if she can think of anyone or anything that would be a good candidate. She tries to think of one, but can’t for a few minutes. She then mentions her mother, “Who was always a good Mom when she wasn’t drinking.”
After one short set of eye movements, she remembers breaking her arm at 4 and lying on the “healing couch,” which she always went to when sick or needing some solace. She remembered her mother taking good care of her, putting her hand over her forehead and eyes. Her mother has the same hands as she, with a distinctive smell of cigarettes, hand lotion and her natural skin odor.
After the next set of eye movements, she tells me that when she was in New York after the bombing she spent a lot of time on the phone with her mother, who “was terrific, very supportive and comforting.” I ask her to hear her mother’s voice on the phone and to attend to the feelings in her body when she hears her voice, and she says she feels calm and good.
After the next set, she tells me that her mother also grew up on the East Coast, has fond memories of her life there and she remembers talking to her excitedly on her first couple of trips to NYC. When I ask her to imagine herself in New York, she feels calm. I do a few shorts sets of eye movements to strengthen the tranquility.
Her positive cognition is “I’m Safe there, nothing’s going to happen now.” She gives it a score of 7 on the 7-point scale.
Our time is now up and I tell her that it’s been a great pleasure to work with her. I also ask her to call me and tell me how the trip went and she says she will. She is beaming as she hugs me briefly, thanks me eagerly and leaves.
A few weeks later she wrote me a letter telling me about her trip to New York. She said she wasn’t frightened during the plane trip. And she was also able to have lunch in the apartment of the people with whom she had made friends in the building where she had taken refuge from the falling towers. As she looked down from the apartment at Ground Zero below her, she found it ”interesting,” and felt “in awe” at realizing the ordeal she had survived.
I have had a few contacts with her therapist over the past year and a half, and one with Ellie herself, and it’s clear that the gains we made have been maintained. She told me recently that she had split up with the boyfriend she had at the time and has a new one, who seems better able to take care of himself and to meet her needs.