I was telling my outpatient group that there were pamphlets at my EMDR therapist’s office about EMDR, and I thought it would be a good idea to take them to my shop and set them out. We were discussing the stigma associated with mental illness.
The counselor said, “Oh, what a wonderful idea! That would be a really great thing for you to do!”
“Um, no,” I said. “I thought about it, but I didn’t because I don’t want to talk to people about my private life, and I’m afraid my co-workers won’t like it for some reason. I feel bad that I haven’t done it, because I know there’s a stigma and that’s the kind of stuff we need to do to educate people. I chickened out. But I need to do that. I’ll get some next time and do that”.
It would be pretty cool if I could’ve said, “Oh yes, I’m very brave and I know we need to do this and that, so I’m telling everyone and handing out flyers. EMDR is amazing and can help so many people! Here’s your pamphlet. Yes, I will tell everyone that I’m bipolar and have PTSD so they can be educated.”
If I had a dollar every time someone sat in my chair and told me about so and so who was Bipolar (for some reason they sometimes lower their voice or cup their hand around their mouth like they’re telling me a dirty secret), I could buy a new car. They proceed to tell me all the crazy shit they did and blah blah blah. Sometimes I will ask if that person is on medication. They usually don’t know. In my experience, when most people refer to people with bipolar disorder, they refer to them with distain. It’s like they believe the person chose the illness, like choosing to do crack or meth.
So the whole time, of course I’m thinking, “I’m bipolar, you bitch!”. Haha, no I don’t always think “bitch.” Not always…wink, wink.
There was a man in group who had been a police officer for 30 years, and for the last ten or so years he has been working as a school resource officer, or SRO. Let’s call him “Ray”. He was taking a mysterious leave of absence from his beloved job because he was experiencing terrible anxiety. Ray struggled with PTSD also. He was physically abused as a child and in the field as a policeman witnessed horrific scenes that haunted him.
He described his PTSD symptoms, “I can see it happening all over again in my mind. Just like a movie”.
Ray was afraid he would lose his job if anyone found out why he was on leave. Would people want an SRO officer around their kids who was experiencing panic attacks? Yes, he was getting the help he needed, but you know how it is….
Now I’m back at work, back at the salon. I have procrastinated and not made an appointment with my EMDR therapist yet (or my gynocologist appointment, or for my mammogram). I do plan on getting pamphlets from her about EMDR therapy and putting them out at the salon. I have an even better reason to now.
Ray had never heard about EMDR therapy. Neither had Scott or Michelle, or Mike, who all had PTSD in my group. They eagerly asked me questions, “What’s it like? What do they do?”
I explained, even demonstrated how some of my sessions went. I gave them my counselor’s name and phone number. They hastily took notes and jotted down her number. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Ray got the help he needed? If he didn’t smell the burning flesh of a car wreck victim every time he saw an auto accident? If he didn’t feel his heart race and shortness of breath every time the school door opened and a stranger walked in?
It made me feel good to take some of the mystery out of EMDR so these new friends (kinda sorta), could try to get more help for their PTSD. I know it has helped me.
I will make an appointment with the therapist today. When I go see her, I will get the pamphlets and take them to work. I’ll set them out and answer questions to anyone who asks.
But it’s going to suck.