I just had the most amazing EMDR therapy session that I have to gush about!
One of the strongest messages that I’ve gotten through my early life is that my primary value and purpose in life is to help others. It first came from my parents who are both incredibly helpful people to their communities and find a lot of purpose in that. And then it came from my ex wife who had a much more toxic view where my primary job was to serve her and make her comfortable at my own expense including doing very public acts of service to make us look good as a couple.
I don’t think my parents taught me that with any malicious intent. It came from their deep desire to be of service to the people around them. But the message I took away from it was that if I wasn’t productive or useful enough to others, I wasn’t valuable, either to God or to other people.
Ever since then, I have really struggled with that internal messaging, especially as my disabilities have gotten worse and prevented me from helping others using my physical strength in the same way. And as I have been trying to get this choir off the ground, it has been a constant battle for me internally to want to give more of myself than I am capable of. Especially when my mental health is worst during the winter, I tend to feel like I am a failure and have let everyone down if I can’t get the funding together to make this choir successful.
So today, my therapist and I decided to finally tackle that deep rooted belief through Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (or rather tapping in this case) therapy. We started by analyzing the difference between my stated belief that a person has inherent value that isn’t tied to their productivity and the feelings in my body that tell me I have to keep being useful in order to have value. Then we went into my mental safe space, which in my case is a children’s blanket fort. Next we started diving into the feelings about the phrase “I am only valuable when I am doing things for others” in small chunks, while tapping my leg bilaterally with my eyes closed.
At first I was envisioning a physical wresting match between my logic and my emotions; a divide which had been hammered into me by my ex. But on second pass, that fight turned into a hug where my heart and my brain hugged each other. It reminded me a lot of the show Steven Universe where a major theme of the show is Steven diffusing fights by taking the time to understand the other’s feelings. By the third pass, I felt almost zen about the phrase and had a sense of inner calm. And by the time we got to the inverse phrase “I am valuable even when I’m not productive”, I could envision the cracks in my heart knitting together and healing, almost like the gem fragments at the heart of the Earth being bubbled by Steven.
Finally, at the end of the session, I could almost feel a physical presence where a part of my own self was hugging me and healing my broken parts. Very much like the final episode of Steven Universe. It made me want to reach out to my mom and help her feel that same acceptance and peace through understanding.
I know that I’m not magically healed and that these feelings will continue to come up. But I also know that now I have the tools and vivid memory of that moment to help me combat them. I feel confident that next time I’m feeling down because I ran out of energy to be productive or my body is getting in the way of being useful in the ways I want, I won’t beat myself up for it. I can be at peace with where I am at and accept the love and support of the people around me.
So if you’re feeling down, especially in this cruel world that is so hard on trans folk like us, please remember that you are valuable just by existing. Your existence and joy is revolutionary!