Forgetting Harry Potter

It is Harry Potter’s birthday today, I love the Harry Potter books and the films (the films will never ever be as good as the books though!). Last year I was excited to read the script/book of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It had been a long time since there was a new book out so I bought it and in my usual style, I devoured the book in two evenings and I loved it. 

Today some colleagues were talking about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I said that I had read it and as the conversation went on it was clear that I couldn’t remember a single detail about the plot, the twist at the end of act one, the new characters. With some prompting I could recall the job of Harry, Ron and Hermione, and the names of Harry and Ginny’s children but that was it. There was nothing else. 

I made a jokey comment about having a bad memory and my brain being wonky and wondered out loud if I perhaps needed to read the book again.

Inside I was shocked. I know details from 2016 are sketchy and a bit blurred in places, I know I forgot the Olympics happened last year, I know my trauma bruised memory is rubbish these days. But, I forgot Harry Potter. How could I forget Harry Potter? I used to think I was a bit of a wizard of world expert, but how can I be if I can’t even recall the basic plot line of one of the most recent books? 

I’m frightened I’ll never remember much of 2016, it feels like I have wasted a whole year of my life. 

I think I need to accept that much of it ain’t coming back but first things first, I need to re-read that book! 

No joy at the end of the rainbow? 

I was all set to write an end of school year celebration and then this popped up in my news feed. So Toby will have to wait. 

Here’s the link: Still Standing Magazine
The writer acknowledges that not everyone gets a rainbow (brilliant I thought!), and then she goes on to whine about the difficulties of a rainbow pregnancy 🙄 

I can empathise with her, I really can as I felt all of those things when pregnant with Henry, I get it. I get that you just want a baby, I get that you want your dead baby back, I get that you don’t want baby showers, gender reveals and the general merriment associated with pregnancy.  

But my rainbow died – the unimaginable happened and I have to navigate life without a happy ending, without the joy that a rainbow brings. I know a rainbow doesn’t take the pain away but I’d imagine it makes it a lot softer. I can only imagine the bittersweetness of those newborn cuddles, but my gosh, the joy of cuddling your new baby must be amazing. I know I have Toby, I’m lucky I know I am, but I carry his grief too, he doesn’t have a rainbow to cuddle and sometimes he gets cross and upset about that.

I don’t have a problem with someone whining about their rainbow pregnancy but I do have issue with the opening gambit  of the Still Standing post as it acknowledges people who don’t get their happy ending but STILL goes on to whine about a rainbow pregnancy.

It’s a bit like someone with a pizza, saying to their friend who is nil by mouth ‘this is your favourite isn’t it?’ and then proceeding to scoff the lot and then moaning about indigestion and then saying you wish you hadn’t eaten it. You wouldn’t do it would you? So, rainbow mums, please don’t tell me how joyless your life is, cuddle your baby a little harder and think for a moment what it might be to navigate your life without them.

I’m going to speak to my therapist about that…

The title is something I’d only heard in films or in TV, so part of me finds it mildly amusing that I do indeed have a therapist (and a very nice one at that!).

A few months ago as I stood in the playground surrounded by bumps and babies feeling the usual sense of dread in my stomach I realised that I needed to take charge of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder triggers. 

The bumps and babies will always be there – at school, at work, in our friendship circle, in our family, at Sainsbury’s, on days out, the list is endless. I can’t spend my life avoiding and ignoring the things that trigger me so it was time to do something about it. 

In our area we have a self referral service, I called up and registered my details and within the week I had a telephone assessment. During the call I mentioned that I’d heard good things about EMDR therapy, told the lady I had no interest in more counselling or going back on medication. I said I was safe but my normal daily activities were becoming difficult and full of triggers. In short I needed help beyond that of my family and friends could offer. I’m rubbish at asking for help, so this was a big thing for me!

A few days later I had a call back to say that I was being treated as a priority and an appointment was booked with the peri-natal psychotherapist covering the area.

Two gruelling sessions later where I told my story from start to finish* I was deemed suitable for EMDR therapy.

*everything was in there my childhood, the hip operations, school, meeting Matt, work, our infertility, my fear of flying, Toby, Rory, Henry – EVERYTHING.

In the third session I was prepared for the treatment by trying out some things to calm me down and desensitise things when I was triggered outside of the sessions as well as helping me to leave a session in good mental shape – grounding, visualising a safe place, distraction techniques – all useful and weirdly counting things to distract me was my favourite! I also had to consider my first, worst and last traumatic memory (in my case twice over as there’s Rory trauma and Henry trauma).

So, what is EMDR therapy? Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a form of treatment for PTSD, I’m not a medical professional but the next couple of paragraphs hopefully explain things… 

PTSD happens because of misfiled and uncategorised memories – imagine a desk covered in papers next to a filing cabinet with papers shoved in randomly and spilling out of the drawers – that ladies and gents is my brain. When Rory and Henry died there were too many traumatic memories to process so my brain dumped them wherever there was space, it is an untidy disorganised place at the moment! 

PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced some sort of trauma.

When I am triggered my poor brain rummages through the messy desk and filing cabinet and throws up the first traumatic memory it can find and off we go with the dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, zoning in on the thing causing the trigger and an overwhelming wish to run for the hills. 

EMDR will help my brain to organise and file the memories – liken it to a good sort out, filing, and archiving session!

The process itself is interesting, the therapist (a lovely Swedish lady) moves two fingers from side to side really fast and I follow them with my eyes whilst reliving a traumatic memory (yes, I know it sounds ridiculous), EMDR mimics rapid eye movement in sleep which is the time when our brain categorises and processes information, the therapy essentially allows my brain to have a sort out.

I’ve had one full session of EMDR so far and it was exhausting. I had to relive the same memory over and over, I cried a lot, big fat snotty tears in fact. I remembered things I’d forgotten (this was good and bad). Sometimes I lost my train of thought completely just like she said I would. I had to think about my feelings at the time and talk through them. My brain hurt a lot.

I was told not to drink alcohol for two days so as not to interfere with the process (my little face fell a bit when she said that!) and the therapist said to note down anything that sprung to mind in the time before the next session. 

The one thing I’ve noticed that I’m hyper sensitive to noise at the moment, everything seems too loud, too annoying. I have fairly low tolerance levels anyway and find lots of things annoying but this has increased tenfold at present. But I’m hopeful the negatives will be short term and I’ll start reaping the benefits over the next 16 sessions. 

The therapist said I’d come to hate the sessions and love them all at the same time. I think she might be right!