This is My Story The Ballerina Girl Becomes a Petronus By C.F.
I remember the ballerina girl the week of Thanksgiving. Or, maybe it was that I imagined her. Maybe it was she was left-over from my childhood, refusing to leave, so I let her stay because I didn’t know what else to do with her. It is a Tuesday night, that’s what I know, and I am in a therapy appointment. I’m going to call my therapist Molly Lupin because she reminds me of Molly Weasley and Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter books. “I’m going to quit my job,” I tell her. I’m hunched over, my elbows on my knees, and my head in my hands. Molly told me a few weeks earlier that she thought I should quit, but I said quitting wasn’t an option. “I am good at teaching,” I told her. “When you’re good at something, you do it.” Tonight, a few nights before Thanksgiving, I still believe I am good at teaching, but I also believe the job is sucking life out of me, and I need to leave it. “I’m not going to hurt myself,” I tell Molly, prefacing what I am about to say next. “I want to be alive, but lately, I’ve started to think that it’d be better on everyone if I wasn’t here.” Molly is calm, like Lupin. She’s cool, too, as I thought Lupin was. She wears Converse with skirts and heels with jeans. She has tattoos and her office is cozy with throw pillows, blankets, and coloring books. Her several degrees are framed on the wall behind her desk. Molly talks to me like we’re having a beer after work, not like I’m a patient. Not like I’m someone who needs fixing. She talks to me like I have stories to tell. She reminds me of Mrs. Weasley, too. She’s frazzled but utterly confident in who she is. When she talks to me about her kids, I always think of the scene in book 7 when Mrs. Weasley is fighting Bellatrix. “Not my daughter, you bitch!” she screams, and this is one of my favorite lines in the entire series. Here’s a woman who worries, who tends house, who may at times be brushed aside as a nag, and who literally makes Voldermort and Harry Potter pause in their duel to the death because they are in awe of her own magnificent duel. This is how I think of my therapist. She is frazzled and she is confident. She is dark, and she is delightful. That’s why I call her Molly Lupin. “Do you think you can tell your boss?” Molly asks. “I don’t think I can, but I know I need to.” I start to cry. I cry all the time now. “This job is killing me. I’m throwing up on the way to work. I start to cry as soon as I turn off 94, and I can’t stop. I don’t know why I can’t get a handle on this.” “Why don’t you think you can tell your boss?” Molly asks. “I’m afraid I’ll make her mad. I’m afraid of disappointing her.” Molly takes off her glasses and rubs her eyes. I am such a trite story, I think she is thinking. She stands, walks to her desk, and opens a drawer. “Would you like a piece of chocolate?” I’m rolling Kleenex in my hand, turning it into a messy pulp from my tears, and my runny nose, but her question makes me laugh. My laugh comes out of me like a burst, like a surprise. “Just like Lupin!” I say, still giggling. She laughs and hands me a piece of dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel. She gets the reference. I take a bite, then say, “I like those parts in the third book,” I lean back on the couch, the first time that night, and cross my legs. I take another bite and say, “You know, Harry does some hard work, and Lupin hands him a chocolate, not to reward him, but to sort of encourage him to keep going.” Molly eats her chocolate and listens. She knows I talk easier through story, and she knows the more I talk, the more I figure things out. “I like the idea of a Patronus,” I continue, “a thought that makes you so happy that it shields those other scary and sad thoughts from you.” I put a hand up. I talk with my hands when I start to get going. “Those thoughts are still there, you can still see them, but they don’t have so much power. It’s not all you see.” I think about what I said, and tears fill my eyes again. They come so easy these days. I put my chocolate wrapper on my lap and unravel my Kleenex. “I don’t think I can do that,” I tell Molly. “Why not?” “I feel like my bad thoughts are too strong,” I am mumbling again. I’ve hunched forward and my arms cross my stomach. We are back where I started. The chocolate square was not enough. There is still a lingering taste though, dark and sweet. Remnants are still on my taste buds, dissolving into my memory, where I want them to stay. Why do opposites linger? Why are they so palpable – like sweet sorrow – why are they difficult to experience at the same time? Why are they the most meaningful? “If you could make a Patronus, what would it be?” Molly asks, bringing me into make-believe again. That’s when the ballerina girl shows up. I don’t look Molly in the eye when I tell her about the ballerina girl. I don’t want to see her laugh or roll her eyes, or worst, have no expression at all. “What does she look like?” Molly asks, handing me another piece of chocolate. “She looks like me,” I say, unwrapping it and popping the whole square into my mouth. “What is she wearing?” “She has on a denim workshirt and a tulle skirt,” I answer easily, like she’s been walking around with me forever. I toss my Kleenex in the garbage can. “She’s holding pointe shoes.” “Why is she holding them? Why isn’t she wearing them? Why isn’t she dancing?” “I haven’t told her to put them on. I haven’t told her to dance.” I lift the chocolate wrapper and fold it into tiny squares. “Does she think she can wear them? Does she think she can dance?” “She doesn’t really care if she can or can’t. She just wants to try.” I throw the wrapper in the trash, and push up my shirtsleeves. This shirt is disgusting and doesn’t fit anymore. It was my favorite for years, and I’ve been putting it on every night after I get home from teaching. Sometimes I wear it to work. It was a crisp white, and perfectly fitted. Now, it’s dingy and frayed. It looks more like the Kleenex I just threw away. “Well,” Molly Lupin asks, what’s she waiting for?” “Me,” I tell her.
This is My Story By David R.
I entered therapy in the midst of crisis. My marriage of over 35 years was ending. I was devastated. The process left me overwhelmed by issues of rejection and abandonment. Why was this happening? What was wrong with me? Where was God in all of this? Each day was a struggle, but steadily, step by step, with compassion, encouragement and deep insight, therapy helped me navigate through the turmoil and confusion. One thing that was particularly helpful was introducing EMDR into our sessions. The process was very effective in helping me identify the sore points from the past which contributed to the present. Being able to name and confront those root causes accelerated me down the path to healing.
I am putting back together the pieces of my life. The journey has not been easy or painless, but I would not have progressed to where I am on the road to wholeness without working hard in psychotherapy with Dr. Wolf .
This is My Story By R.
Something very traumatic happened to me a year and a half ago. I experienced a grief reaction. I cried a lot during the day. At night, I was having a lot of trouble sleeping. Most nights I couldn’t fall asleep at all. I could lie in bed for hours, paralyzed by anxiety and fear. When I could sleep, I had frequent and disturbing nightmares. It was all too much for me. I needed to find enough healing and recovery to be able to live my life…to be able to cope.
I began to work with Dr. Michele Wolf. She helped me with a therapeutic intervention called EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It was developed in California by Francine Shapiro for people with posttraumatic stress disorder. Dr. Wolf explained that people store memories in an unhealthy way under traumatic circumstances. The theory is that EMDR helps the brain reprocess those memories and to store them more beneficially. She said to think of it as riding on a train past my memories, looking out at them, but still moving forward. She asked me to recall a traumatic image. She then asked me to assign this image a thought (I am completely powerless) and a quantity—a number from 1 to 10, for how distressing it was (9). She held up two fingers. She asked me to track them with my eyes as she moved them rapidly across my field of vision. Left, right. Left, right. Again and again. Left right, left right. For ninety seconds. Every 90 seconds she would pause and ask me what I was thinking or feeling. I would tell her briefly, and then she would repeat the eye movement instructions.
EMDR is a difficult type of therapy, since it is so focused on reprocessing traumatic events. Feeling the emotions of the trauma again is brutal. I cried a lot. But after a while I felt calmer. I felt somewhat insulated from the events of that traumatic day. I was able to leave it more in the past. During the second session, we worked on a second traumatic image. I was having tremendous anxiety about that particular memory. Dr. Wolf asked me to assign this image a quality (Someone I love is unsafe) and a quantity—a number from 1 to 10, for how distressing it was (9). Once again, she held up two fingers. She asked me to track them with my eyes as she moved them rapidly across my field of vision. Left, right. Left, right. For ninety seconds. She instructed me to keep thinking about the traumatic image. Every 90 seconds she would pause and ask me what I was thinking or feeling.
By the end of the second session, I was making progress. For the first time in months I actually felt a sense of wellbeing, even for a few minutes. What a relief.
Before EMDR, my faith in God had been harmed by the trauma. I was very angry at God. I didn’t think I could trust Him anymore. Over several sessions of EMDR, a new voice began to emerge. It wasn't the familiar voice of faith that I'd had before. It was a voice that could only whisper. This voice said, “God's ways can't be entirely understood.” It whispered, “Maybe God can use even this.” “Maybe you can begin to trust Him with even a molecule of faith.” The voice kept working on me. It kept encouraging me. It said, “God is not going to abandon you. “ “Nothing can stop God from loving you.” EMDR helped me to feel God's love again. I was absolutely astonished by the returning sense that God was with me, and that my rage at Him was softening.
My fears were still powerful, but they weren’t as crippling. My anguish and sadness were just beneath the surface of my thoughts, but there were moments of joy again. The situation that brought me to therapy continued to worry me a great deal, but it’s wasn’t quite as distressing. And that allowed me to start working more deliberately on my grieving process, rather than just being stuck on the trauma itself.