Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas: Time to Heal?

Given my humbuggery about Thanksgiving, I suppose it's only karma that I stumbled onto this article, "The Purpose Driven Christmas," by Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Drive Life and similar titles.

One of the ways Warren suggests we add meaning to the holiday is to "Make It a Time for Personal Growth," which has a very specific meaning for him. He challenges us to look at who we need to forgive and of whom we need to ask forgiveness. He writes:

Resentment always hurts you more than the person you resent because bitterness keeps you emotionally stuck in the past. Let go of those hurts and remember this: The most valuable and significant gift you can give anyone this Christmas is your forgiveness, because it will allow you to grow.

Obviously, I've got some forgiving to do. The question for me has always been how? To tell you the truth, I've never found that real forgiveness - where you can give as you did before the injury - happens easily or often. People forgive in that they let go of the anger, but they don't give up the fear, the mistrust or the pain. I think if you're really going to forgive, you have to do that as well. And that's damn hard to do if someone keeps hurting you by doing the same thing.

Here's a little secret: I'm trying a new form of therapy that's supposed to help you do exactly this. It's called EMDR, and I started going for post-traumatic stress disorder from the Oklahoma City bombing.

I'll be honest with you: If I'd walked into a therapist's office and she tried EMDR, I'd probably walk right out or never go back. But I have a psychiatrist friend who's been using it with his patients, and he reported nigh-miracle results: People off their medicines, completely different, happy and well-adjusted in a very short time. Then a friend tried it and it seemed to work for her.

After years of struggling with depression, always being on medicine and never getting very far in therapy, despite three therapists and years of work, I thought I'd give it a try.

And it seems to be working. Really, really well. Even my husband agrees.

So far, I have been able to 'let go' of a lot of pain and anger. What's nice about that is I can come from a place of strength and resolve without feeling all ick inside about it. You know what I mean: The nervousness, the anxiety. No, in the situations where we've done EMDR, I can just be myself and feel okay and not have to worry about it. I remember everything - but it's all clearer and in perspective.

Sometimes, like over Thanksgiving, I still get knocked down, but so far, it's always been in an area where we're still doing the work or a new area I've never tackled. It turns out, some of this depression stuff goes way, way back. Surprise. Maybe when we're finished with the EMDR, I won't have to write posts about 'subtracting' family members. Although, you know, after EMDR, I really have no guilt about cutting off some very dangerous, destructive family members. Previously, it was very hard for me to opt out - I felt guilty, as if I should make it possible to see them over the holidays, even though they didn't respect our requests, our rules and even potentially were a danger to my child.

If you're really struggling to forgiveness, depression, anger or anxiety, why not find an EMDR therapist and try. Be prepared to give it at least two months before you see results. And realize that you'll actually get worse before you get better. That's what happens when you dig up bones.

Hopefully, by Christmas, I'll be able to manage some forgiveness under the tree.

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