“Nice and soft,” my pediatrician proclaimed after palpating my two-year-old belly as I lay naked on the exam table. Once again he could not find that solid stone, the pyloric ‘tumor’ or ‘swelling’ of the pyloric muscle, that shortly after birth, had stopped my stomach from working. “Could she have problems down the road, say when she’s fifty?” my mother asked. “I don’t think so. We’ll keep checking, of course.” To many, this conversation may seem benign, but for me, the one whose body they were referring to, danger took root.
At any point, I could be in trouble, I understood. At any time, I could be stricken, close to death, feeling unbearable pain. The ‘tumor’ might return. I don’t recall thinking these thoughts. I do recall panicking. I do remember tensing up, my breath and mind freezing. I do recall alarm bells going off in my head and a thousand unformed questions battling one another. Emotionally, I lifted off the planet, helpless, alone, and afraid for my life. Emotionally, I got stuck. When would it be back?, I worried.
In EDMR therapy sixty-four years later, those questions about what I’d heard as a child were still emotionally alive. As the wand whipped back and forth, I found myself back on the exam table but this time, in a reflective mode, not actually in the experience itself. A nurturing, older self stood next to toddler-me, my mother absent. Toddler-me to nurturer: “So my body could attack me again? Could I end up in the hospital? Could I die? So I need to be hyper-aware as to whether it’s come back?” My hands shot up to my throat. “Will I be intubated again?” These thoughts and emotions rapid- fired out of me as the wand swung left and right. The nurturer, that more adult part of me, answered with equanimity and grace: “Don’t worry. You are fine. You won’t be sick again. The operation fixed you. You are free!”
Then, as the wand continued metronoming, I was my child-self in kindergarten, running without hesitation to play in the doll house and next, to the sand box, unburdened, without that constant cautiousness and dread I’d always felt–without the fear of death weighing on my shoulders. I was light and happy, gravitating toward whatever stirred my fancy–fleet and spontaneous. Happy! EMDR interrupted that terror that the early conversation between my mother and the doctor and the consequent unasked questions spawned. A new neuronal brain loop formed, sparking movement toward a new way of being in the world. Such is the power of EMDR to undo and redo! The power of EMDR to heal.
–by Wendy Patrice Williams