Shifting Focus

TW: In this post I talk about suicidal ideation (SI) in concept, though not in detail, and about some maladaptive (non-violent, illness/injury-based) daydreams I’ve had over the years.

So, after a hiatus of a couple of months, my therapist and I have re-entered the realm of EMDR over the past couple of weeks. Originally, I thought my next target would be around mom, and my childhood years. However, some recent realizations led us to an interesting starting point: a connection point between my childhood and my SI (Suicidal Ideation).

Back in junior high, when most girls daydreamed of marrying their celebrity crush or did whatever a typical girl did, I remember sitting through lunch a lot of times, writing truly cringe-worthy poems and daydreaming of meeting my own celebrity crushes, and looking forward to buying another Bop or Tiger Beat magazine. On the surface, that doesn’t seem too unlike a “typical” junior high girl of the early ’90s. However, I truly doubt that, in the average fantasy of meeting a celebrity crush and hearing them proclaim their undying love, the average girl likely didn’t envision being critically ill/injured, dying in a hospital bed, with that celebrity crush wishing they had only known her sooner. Yeah, that’s what I fantasized about. I haven’t done a statistical survey or anything, but I highly doubt fantasies like that, on a regular basis, are a common thing for your average pre-teen (whatever “average” means, anyway).


Reading Hamlet in 8th grade didn’t help with the already growing fascination with the concept of a tragic heroine that fed my frequent daydreams.

Ophelia by Friedrich Wilhelm Theodor Heyser (1857-1921) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsFast forward to today, a year and a half into my therapy journey, married to one of my best friends from 8th grade. My husband and I both have read a lot of Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, and have also watched one of his talks on the subject several times. A few weeks back, as we were discussing something else, he asked if I thought if either of us regularly had full love tanks as children. My immediate response was “no,” and it almost surprised me not only how quickly I answered the question but how certain I was in giving it. Once I answered, and realized how comfortable I was in my answer, I started to think it through. As I thought about it, I had the realization that the times I felt most loved as a kid were at, say, my birthday or Christmas, and when I was sick. I often felt very loved and cared for whenever I was sick.
In that moment, it hit. A flash of realization, of connection, like one of those movie scenes where the camera zooms into the main character’s eye and time pauses, but the viewer can see all of these memories going by. When I was young, feeling sick ended up being tied to the feeling of being loved and cared for. As I went through puberty, and a bunch of other challenging points of my growing-up years, I craved, if even sub-consciously, that feeling of being loved and cared for and being allowed to be vulnerable. And, as puberty tends to magnify everything, that craving translated to fantasies of the ultimate situation where I could feel the most love: being severely ill or injured. As time went by, it became less of a jump to go from “I wish I were dying,” to “Well, it hasn’t happened yet, what if I do something about it?” In that moment, I saw the direct connection between my childhood perception of sick = love, and my SI that began in high school and has haunted me throughout adulthood so far (though it is getting weaker and less frequent as I work on myself).

Image by Alessandro Bianchi on

Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into my SI issues than just that one connection, but it’s a starting point, and a starting point we’re using. We’ve started with a focus on EMD (just trying to desensitize), though I feel like some reprocessing has started to happen, especially in the last 2 sessions. I also have a lot of other targets, or potential targets, to work through, as well as a number of cognitive points to start challenging and working through, such as the (false) belief that, just because I don’t perceive that I’m doing as much in a day/week/month as someone else, I must be lazy, or that I’m never trying hard enough, and that my best isn’t good enough. That’s all bullshit, to be blunt, and cognitively, in the logical part of my brain, I know it’s bullshit. Whether or not I believe it is a different thing altogether, and that’s part of the hard and lonely work of healing.

As hard as it is though, and as much as, some days, I just want to give up on all this therapy and mental health work, being able to see the difference in myself, my thoughts, my energy, and my self-awareness, even just since my hospitalization (let alone since before I started this journey) really helps keep me going, helps me see that it’s hard work, but the longer I wait, the harder it gets, and the wider the ripples of the effects of my pain spread.

Image by Gerd Altmann on

Is there anything that helps keep you going on your journey on those really hard days?

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