I’d been struggling. Not bingeing or breaking my abstinence, but getting sloppier and sloppier with my portions and “allowable” foods. I was taking chances with my recovery, and the dam finally broke one Friday night. Looking back now, I am surprised it held as long as it did.
I was tired, which can be a trigger. It was the end of the work week, and my four year old son and I were snuggled up on the couch watching a movie. I had made him a bowl of popcorn. A few minutes into the movie, my phone flashed, alerting me to a new message.
It was from an acquaintance I rarely spoke with in person outside of social media. After a typical salutation or two, she said something I didn’t understand, “I bet you don’t remember me?”
I replied in confusion, “Sure I do.”
It took a couple more messages before I realized that I was not talking to the person whose name was on the account, but someone else. Someone who claimed to know me.
The messages continued:
“I lived next door to you when you were 13 and I was 27.”
“We were friends.”
“We used to talk all the time.”
Eventually, I realized that it was the man who had raped me when I was 11 years old. Somehow he knew my acquaintance, and somehow he realized that she and I were friends.
I felt sick to my stomach. I felt like I had been violated all over again. He asked if he could call me. Of course, I said no. Thankfully, my friend had to leave for the evening, so she took her phone with her.
I deleted and blocked her. Then, I went to the bathroom.
When I came back, I realized that my phone was covered in oil. It turns out that in the middle of messaging that creep from my past, I had eaten all of my now-sleeping son’s popcorn.
For the first time in a very long time, I had compulsively eaten. In fact, compulsively overeaten. In fact, binged.
In the past, I would have felt guilty. I would have felt ashamed. I would have felt angry. I would have kept on eating.
Instead, I washed my hands, put the bowl in the sink, and carried my son upstairs to his room. I climbed into bed and tried to let my feelings come: anger, sadness, pity. I finally fell asleep a few hours later.
In the weeks that followed, I felt weak and unstable. I experienced what therapists call “splitting.” I was outside myself, not integrated. I was disembodied. It is exactly what had been happening for years when I experienced new or relived old trauma. It was a pattern I had developed as a child as a way of surviving the trauma of abuse.
When I finally went to see my therapist 18 days after the phone call, I was ready to try something new. I needed to break the hold the rape had over me. I needed to sever the ties that kept me bound to a man I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years.
She decided to try a new technique with me called brain spotting, which is a form of EMDR. The idea behind it is that if you can get someone to focus on sound and a visual stimulus while focusing on past trauma, then the patient can incorporate the trauma into her body and thereby repair or rejoin the body and mind.
Okay, so when she first told me about it, I thought she was the crazy one, but I will try just about anything to get better, and folks, this worked!
I had to stare at a red tipped pointer while her recorder played beeps in my ears back and forth. I had to focus on the trauma–in this case, the rape–and feel it in my body. By the end of the session, I felt like an enormous burden had been lifted from my mind, body, and soul.
Whether it is mind over matter, the power of suggestion, or the effectiveness of the procedure, it seemed to have worked. I noticed right away that my thoughts about food had departed, I was eating only until full, and I would sit down to a meal only when hungry.
It’s been less than a week now since we attempted to find and incorporate the trauma back into my body. All along I have been searching for wholeness. Little by little I find pieces of me and fit them back together. As the saying goes, I am not what was done to me. I am only what I do to myself because of it.
If you want to read more about brain spotting, see the developer’s explanation.
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