Carolina enjoyed picking her daughter up after school — it was just another part of her everyday routine but something she looked forward to. She enjoyed the site of her young daughter skipping down the concrete steps toward the waiting car. She envied the excitement and enthusiasm with which she delivered her daily update.
On a day that seemed no different than any other, Carolina was waiting for school to let out. The sun was shining, but it was cool so she had the window rolled down. Suddenly, a sharp, confusing crack rang out. The initial shot was followed by more shots in rapid succession and the screeching of a hurried get-a-way. It all happened so fast that Carolina was paralyzed with confusion, shock and fear. As the reality of the situation sunk in, she realized a bullet had struck her car.
She could hardly believe that something so innocent, routine and simple as picking her child up from school could put her in such a terrifying situation. She thought about the person at the other end of a gun, the type of person who would fire bullets in daylight outside of a school. She thought about how close that bullet had come and how fragile life is. These thoughts haunted her, sleepless, nightmare-filled nights began to string together, she lost her appetite, she could not go back to the school, and she was extremely anxious.
Carolina came to The Family Conservancy to work through her trauma. She participated in eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) treatment. EMDR is used to relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder with the goals of processing distressing memories, reducing their emotional effects and allowing the person to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms (Shapiro).
The treatment consists of having the person recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, including side-to-side eye movements. This process allows patients to reprocess the traumatic event in a safe place, minimizing the reactive response to treatment.
This treatment helped Carolina connect with her feelings of fear and increase coping skills to deal with her anxiety. After just eight sessions, she no longer had symptoms of trauma. She was sleeping regularly, had an improved sense of self and personal safety, and she was able to return to the school without experiencing any anxiety or panic.
With the help of The Family Conservancy, a few short months after the traumatic event Carolina pulled into the very same parking spot, stepped out of the car and walked her daughter into school free of fear.
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