EMDR: Lightning Bolts

Day 1 of our EMDR journey

I bet you didn’t know you have lightning bolts in your brain.  Well, you do – we all do.

It is the end of our second day of EMDR therapy and my brain is tired – almost too tired to blog,  but writing helps me process and remember, so here we go.

Day 1 began with the therapists taking a history, some of which we had already done on the phone.  I also prepared a timeline in advance which saved some time (Thanks to Jen for that suggestion).

Next, we worked with Cathy, who explained to Kalkidan how her brain works.  She taught at a level Kalkidan could understand which we also appreciated!  Cathy explained her thoughts plus her feelings, equal her behavior.

Thoughts + Feelings = Behavior

She taught us that when we change our thoughts, we can change our behavior.  She gave some practical examples that helped Dimples understand how her thoughts combined with her feelings determine how she behaves, for better or worse.

Then she drew a sketch of Kalkidan’s brain and explained our brains store all kinds of memories, both happy and sad.  Our brains also store “lightning bolts” or triggers that interfere with our ability to feel our happy and sad thoughts.  In the picture, the lightning bolts were big and covered up the happy and sad thoughts.

We talked about what Kalkidan’s lightening bolts might be and it was impressive how aware she was of her own triggers.

Cathy demonstrated how our thoughts move from one point to another in our brains forming neural networks.  The good news is we can form and strengthen new neural networks – we can change our thoughts which then changes our behavior.  EMDR can help us quickly build new neural networks.

And what is really great is EMDR shrinks the lightning bolts, making them smaller and smaller and getting them out of the way in our brains.

It was a sweeping overview which gave Kalkidan a basic understanding of where we are headed in this work.

Next we had our first EMDR session with Deb.  Kalkidan sat between Russ and me on a small sofa.  Much of the time, she held “tappers” in her hands which alternated vibrating in her hands.  I personally think calling them “buzzies” is more descriptive than “tappers,” but either they way, they are small things Kalkidan held in her hands.  She liked the way they felt and preferred them on the strongest setting.

As she held the tappers, Deb talked through some of Kalkidan’s history and talked to her about the Little Kalkidan inside of her who was so hurt and scared.  I won’t share details of Kalkidan’s therapy, but it was very good.

We’re ready to tackle those lightning bolts and love on the hurt Little Kalkidan living inside our 10 year-old daughter.

We are all doing well.  Kalkidan is loving the time with us and we are honestly enjoying her, which in and of itself is very healing.  It’s good to get a fresh perspective on our daughter, even when we know that this is not our true reality.  In real life, Kalkidan has lots of siblings and we don’t eat lunch in restaurants of her choosing every day. For now, we’re just riding the wave of happy feelings and experiences.

We are having a wonderful time with the family hosting us.  They have a beautiful home on a lake and we have our own lovely rooms above their garage.  This morning I stood on the balcony brushing my teeth and thought, even in the challenges God brings to us, He has also brings gifts.  He shows His love to us in so many ways even when life is hard.

Thank you for your prayers – we feel a distinct peace we know can only be from God.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

20 Comments

  1. Our Faith Walk
    September 19, 2012

    Thank you for sharing your journey, Lisa. Praying for you all…
    Luana

    Reply
  2. Coffeemom
    September 19, 2012

    Wow! Just wow! Love reading this. FASCINATING!! Gives me much to think about as well! So happy this is going well I know it's drinking too. Therapy is. but good. Prayers continue. Strong work you all!

    Reply
  3. Sharon
    September 19, 2012

    So good to hear how it's going and thankful for God's gifts to you along the way. Blessings and prayers for strength as you continue.

    Reply
  4. Jodie
    September 19, 2012

    Lisa, it is great to compare and contrast the EMDR experiences. We just started several weeks ago with our 5 yr old from Congo. Many of the first sessions were talking about feelings and how to express herself, as she needed to give her a base line of understanding first before beginning the EMDR. With another trauma incident this last week, she is going to use that to do an EMDR session. I am facinated by how the brain works and how we can fold this most recent incident into her healing. Good luck on your journey!

    Reply
  5. Denise
    September 19, 2012

    Lisa…

    We see Cathy and Deb, too. They are incredible. Just in your description I can hear them talking. My son has been doing the therapy for a couple months now with amazing results. We has learned that at age 12 he only thinks with tricky brain and I need to be his logical brain until some of the trauma has been worked through.

    Praying for your time here.

    Denise

    Reply
    1. Paula Miles Spears
      September 19, 2012

      We see Cathy too, Denise. I love her so much. At our house we call her Cathy the Wonder Therapist. EMDR and Cathy's loving therapeutic touch have been Godsends to our family.

      Reply
  6. Cat
    September 19, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this. I know it can't be easy to talk about, to process, but know that it has benefits beyond your own family 🙂 Prayers will keep coming your way!

    Reply
  7. Dinah McKinley
    September 19, 2012

    Hi! I just started following you on FB a few months ago at the suggestion of a new friend I met at a homeschool co-op. When explaining the issues we were having with our youngest (adopted from China at 10 months old and now 7), she sent me your link and also a link to Karen Purvis with Empowered to Connect. I am interested to know where you are having the EMDR therapy and how you found a therapist. We have spent $1,000's on talk/play therapy, medication, and doctors (all out of pocket since our insurance won't cover any "mental health" treatment), with some progress, but still having issues. Frustrated with therapists that don't seem to know how to deal with RAD, we haven't seen anyone in over a year except for the psyche that treats her for her ADHD. We are in the Birmingham, AL area. Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 19, 2012

      Dinah, we are in Nebraska at The Attachment and Trauma Center of Nebraska. The therapists here train people all over the country, so they may be able to put you in touch with somebody in your region. Amazingly, we couldn't find a single therapist in the Northwest who does EMDR with children who have complex developmental trauma. It's a newer use of this therapy that I hope will grow. I feel your pain about the costs – it's amazing the sacrifice required to help our families heal. Fortunately, Blue Cross does cover some therapy, so we're not 100% on our own – but still…. Here is a link to the center in Nebraska: http://atcnebraska.com/

      Reply
  8. gobbelcounseling
    September 19, 2012

    Lisa! This is so wonderful hear! I'm so happy that you found the team at ATCNebraska. Thinking of your family very much this week!

    Reply
  9. sadee
    September 19, 2012

    So hopeful!! Thank you for sharing your journey with us! Praying!!

    Reply
  10. Laurel
    September 19, 2012

    So glad that things are going well. Loved this line . . . "In real life Dimples has lots of siblings and we don’t eat lunch in restaurants of her choosing every day. " I will pray that when you get "back to reality" in ID, that Dimples will take with her much of what she has learned this week.

    Look forward to hearing more about this therapy.

    Laurel

    Reply
  11. Elizabeth
    September 19, 2012

    Fascinating! And it's wonderful that you also get this one on one time together. Wishing you the best, Elizabeth

    Reply
  12. blesseday
    September 19, 2012

    So happy you are having this good experience, and you even get to enjoy one another in fantasy land. (Hey, people go to Disney for vacations to escape from the normal and be in a fantasy world–you are having your fantasy vacation and bonding in your own unique way. : ) __I also LOVE everything you share that you learn–because I learn so much from it! That idea of thoughts + feelings = behavior–you better believe I am now thinking about my own kids and myself with that! May the rest of your time there be as rewarding. : )

    Reply
  13. Ann
    September 19, 2012

    Praying for you and Dimples. I have been sending prayers all week. God is a big God.

    Reply
  14. drpattijane
    September 20, 2012

    Sounds terrific, Lisa! Something extra for you and everyone is Dr. Shapiro's new book: Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy. &lt ;http://www.emdr.com/getting-past-your-past.html> It's an easy and user-friendly read and has something for everyone. Enjoy!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 20, 2012

      Thank you – it's in my Amazon cart, I just need to order it!

      Reply
  15. Tisha
    September 20, 2012

    There is so much all of us can learn from you as you share this experience. Thank you!! We are praying for all of you.

    Reply
  16. sleepyknitter
    September 20, 2012

    Wow! Wonderful, wonderful!

    Our three children have big hurts and needs, but I don't know that they are of a nature that would call for EMDR. Just the same, I think we can benefit even from the things you've shared in this post: thoughts + feelings = behavior; and our children have Little selves that were hurt years ago who need to find healing.

    Continuing to pray for your family during this time!

    Reply
  17. sleighs79
    September 20, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this! Even your brief overviews give me extra tools and things to think about here at home. I'm praying for all of you as you work towards healing.

    Reply

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