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Before Your Eyes

Posted on Tue Dec 28th, 2021 @ 1:19am by Lieutenant Jennifer Bracco, M.D. & Lieutenant Kennedy Ryan Walsh

Mission: Starbase Shoreleave
Location: Doctor Bracco's Office
Timeline: Mission Day 2 at 0900

[Doctor Bracco's Office]
[MD 2: 0900 Hours]

Doctor Kennedy Ryan Walsh anxieties were heightening while he walked down the corridor. This was his second visit, technically the continuation of his first after it was rudely interrupted by the crew-maiming drones that plagued the Sojourner. He was impressed by Doctor Bracco's medical training and was appreciative of the care she provided. They would have been lost without her. Still, talking about his feelings about the events before, during, and after were difficult for him.

He gasped before pressing the chime, which was shortly followed by the doors swishing open.

"Come on in, Kennedy," a voice called from within. With just a hint of gravel, the tones came from Doctor Bracco, who'd rose into a standing position as the young doctor entered. "I just checked with the Bridge...we're safely at warp. No drones, no emergencies...just us. Sound like a plan?" she smirked, gesturing to an open chintz arm chair. Unlike its predecessor -- which had been immolated by a drone firing at Kennedy -- this chair sat there unmarred, cross-patterned in beige-and-rust stitching. "Can I get you anything?" Jennifer asked, motioning towards the replicator.

He slowly walked into Doctor Bracco's Office. The familiarity of the events that followed brought up a slight nervous tick. He looked at the chair he froze in for a split second. Any sooner than what he had, he probably would have been hit by the drone. He could have ended up in Sickbay himself, injured like Lieutenant Ellsworth, who'd lost an arm. He knew that Dr. Bracco was making light of the situation and laughed nervously at her comment before folding his hands together. His fingers entwined itching the back of his knuckles as he moved forward. He shook his head at her inquiry, then indecisively, "Yes. Actually, iced water. Please, Doctor Bracco." He smiled then realizing she wanted them to be on a first-name basis in their first session. "Sorry, Jennifer. Out of habit."

He slowly moved to the seat. He stood behind it. His hands rested on the headrest while he gripped down at it. He looked down at the seat before gradually moving around the seat to slowly sit down.

It was then that Jennifer returned from the replicator, placing a glass of ice water down for Kennedy and a steaming cup of tea for herself. The tea smelled florally fragrant; jasmine and honeysuckle, perhaps? Taking her own seat, the woman smoothed the legs of her uniform pants and then folded one leg over the other. "Our first time at this didn't go so well, did it?" Jennifer asked, already knowing the answer. Still, she watched the young doctor's face for any sign of displayed emotion, hoping to get a sense of his current mood towards therapy. "I'm glad you came back. That's the important thing," she nodded slowly before taking a sip from her teacup, gently blowing to cool the liquid down before doing so.

Kennedy's facial cues gave off anxiety and concern, he nodded his head wanting to simply not answer her question even with her follow-up remark. He was nervous, he knew that Doctor Bracco -- Jennifer -- was a psychiatrist but she was nothing like his mother. She was nice and seemed to have a sense of humor. He didn't know psychiatrists could be funny. A short smile crept over his face, removing his hands from the back of the chair once she was situated. She was higher ranking and hadn't invited him to sit down. He folded his hands in each other in front of his chest.

He had forgotten he nodded his head, he nodded his head again, "I did come back... Doctor - Jennifer." He blushed slightly -- he was raised in a household of doctors and the social hierarchy where his parents during his teenage years instructed to call his parents Dr. Ryan and Dr. Walsh in the presence of non-immediate family. "I really want to get better. The nightmares are fading but they're still there."

Jennifer had gestured Kennedy to the chintz chair but the young man -- distracted and in his feelings as he was -- must not have noticed. "Plant it," she said then, smiling wide as she reached up to adjust her glasses. She could have had corrective eye surgery but there was something about the weight of the eye-wear that Jennifer found comforting. Truth told, she rather enjoyed how they made her look as well: bespectacled and wise beyond her years. "Wanting to get better is the hardest part of all this. It isn't easy to talk to someone about your problems. Especially someone you barely know, hmm?"

After another sip of tea, Jennifer placed the cup back on the side table and produced a PADD and stylus. "I'm a little old fashioned, Kennedy. I like the tactile sensation of writing my notes. Plus, there's none of that noisy beeping when you type on these things," she smirked, nodding down at the data entry device. "How about we start with how you're feeling right now. In this moment...this exact second," she encouraged, looking at the doctor with an expectant but neutral expression.

Kennedy found himself following her invitation to sit by walking around the chair with a hand still on the headrest while he pivoted around the chair. He removed his arm from the headrest and shifted himself downward. He sat in the chair with both arms laid out on the armrest. His fingers setting downward to ground himself in the chair, "Nervous?"

"Well, I'd say that's pretty understandable," Bracco nodded. "Talking to someone you barely know about your private thoughts and feelings...nervousness kind of comes with the territory. Last time we did this," she referred to her notes, "we were talking about what happened down on Ch'othil. Of course, we've since had an even bigger crisis on our hands." Jennifer meant the drones of course. "How are you handling everything?"

"I," Kennedy nodded, "Day-to-day most of the time. I think while I live daily with the trauma that happened that day, I've changed for the better?" He frowned, "I'm not happy what happened on that planet and the nightmares still occur with less frequency. The day we were attacked, I really wanted to prone into a ball and not move but I wanted to see her again."

"Irynya?" Jennifer smiled thinly, expectant of Kennedy's answer. It wasn't exactly a secret that the two were dating each other. "It sounds like she's serving as a bit of an anchor for you. Anchors are good as long as you don't lose hold of them." She didn't seem interested in pursuing the discussion around Irynya further. Instead, she straightened her shoulders and said, "Tell me about the nightmares. How often are they happening now? And how do you feel upon waking from them?"

"Yes..." Kennedy replied softly, "Irynya." He knew that Jennifer and Irynya had spoken which had resulted in her own confession on how she felt about him. "They..." he trailed off, "They're horrible, well, they are nightmares after all. Sometimes they're mostly the same team. It all starts the same, they hold us at gunpoint. They shoot Nir. Sometimes there are other people on the Away Team that weren't even on the surface. I have them maybe once or twice a week lately. Better than having them every night. When I wake up, I find myself scared. I usually see if Irynya is awake or I sit for a bit in the common area."

"You know," Jennifer spoke up kindly, "dreams are helpful things. They are the brain's way of processing all of the information we've collected over the days, weeks, months, years..." she trailed off. "But sometimes, the brain gets stuck in its own trauma and it can't find a way to absorb the dreams into long-term memory properly. Thus, a person can have the same nightmare over and over again, even if it is a little different each time. The key," Jennifer stressed, "is to help the brain accept what has happened without reliving it."

"Have you ever heard of something called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing? EMDR for short," Jennifer added on, waiting to see if the young doctor had come across the therapeutic methodology in his own line of work. She thought the likelihood of such pretty low but, then again, people had all kinds of interests: perhaps Kennedy had dabbled a little in psychiatry at some point?

"I cannot say I'm familiar with that treatment," Kennedy replied, his eyes moved to look for the glass of water that Doctor Bracco had left out for him. He reached over for it holding it both hands as he brought the glass to his lips. He took a long sip before setting it down in his lap. "I find your earlier point... Interesting? I don't think I've had the same dream before... with an exception of this one.... of course."

"Which makes me even more certain that your brain is stuck, Kennedy," Jennifer said, emphasizing the word. "EMDR involves stimulating the same rapid eye movement patterns of REM sleep. While you're sleeping, your eyes dance around as your brain processes information and stores it in memory. REM sleep is an amazing tool for that but," Jennifer explained, "since your brain is struggling to internalize Ch'othil's events, the goal would be to mimic some of the REM process while you're awake. This will allow me to help you with some visualizations that can help to break up the quagmire."

"Can you walk me through what is required with EDMR?" Kennedy felt an inclination to dig further in for more information into the treatment. He knew Doctor Bracco wouldn't have suggested it lightly. "As in, is that something we could try in this session or something we can do in the next?"

"Well, that's up to you. If you'd like to simply talk, we can do that..." Jennifer explained, "but if, after I tell you a bit more, you want to try today, it might be very beneficial for you." Standing, she moved over to the desk to pick something up. When she returned, crossing her legs once again, the therapist held up what appeared to be a stylus device. Instead of writing with it, though, Jennifer twisted its tip, which caused the device to emit a bright glow from its end.

"We'd lower the lights, Kennedy. Not enough to be dark," Jennifer stressed, "but enough that the light here becomes the focal point. I'd wave it back and forth at varying speeds," she said, demonstrating slowly, "and in different patterns while your eyes follow the light. And while they do," she explained patiently, "I'll ask you to visualize some things. Where you were on Ch'othil, what you were feeling, how you're still affected...that sort of thing," Jennifer said. "Hopefully by talking while following the light, your brain can move past where it's getting stuck."

Kennedy breathed in deeply while he watched Doctor Bracco walk to her desk to grab something and deposited herself back into her chair. He gingerly sipped on his water before reaching over to return it on the table before him. He nodded his head, "I do want to try this. I want to get better."

"The want is definitely important," Jennifer nodded. "Alright. Let's give it a whirl. Computer," she intoned, "lights at 25%." In response, the ambient lighting in the room dimmed. There was enough light to see by, certainly, but not so much that the room was flooded with luminance. Holding up the pen-light -- which was still glowing from its tip -- the therapist began to slowly wave it back and forth. "Follow the light with your eyes, Kennedy. And while you do, I want you to focus on your breathing. Slow, deep breaths in...and out," she demonstrated with her own breathing, the light still moving.

Following the events of Ch'othil, Kennedy had grown accustomed to distrust complete darkness. He had started to associate it with his traumatic episode at the start with the levels of excruciating night terrors he suffered through. He wished he could have asked Noah if they could have the room dimly lit like the setting Doctor Bracco had the computer set to for their session. He knew Noah would have made him something like a nighttime lamp to help ease his anxieties and stresses. He was too much of a people pleaser to make such a request. He was grateful that it wasn't complete darkness.

He had lost focus on the task assigned as she spoke. He then remembered once the light from the tool Doctor Bracco was using went back and forth. His eyes followed. He then moved his focus on his breathing, slowly taking deep breaths in and out.

"Think back to that moment on Ch'othil," Jennifer gently directed. "To when you felt the most scared and unsafe. I want you to describe -- in detail -- exactly what was happening to and around you. Include anything that comes to mind. What could you see? Hear? Smell? Any details your mind can recall." The woman guided the light back and forth, slowly at first but then it picked up speed and changed direction, moving up and down.

"I see the jungle ruins on Ch'othil... we've come across Chameloids in various state of decomposing... a light wind through the unfamiliar plantlife.. The Orions... they pointed their weapons at us... I've never been so terrified.. then I thought nothing bad could happen other than this... Nir... oh no.. Nir... he tried to make a move... he's shot straight through the chest.. I feel I've relieved myself... the smell of urine staining my pants... all while everyone else... standing there..."

"Distill these things into base emotions, Kennedy," Jennifer said, waving the light faster and faster: not so fast as to be impossible to follow but quick enough for the pen light to become a blur. She also began to move the light diagonally, alternating patterns between each phase of her comments and questions. "You've brought up the events of what was happening but, if you had to name them, what emotions were you feeling at the time?"

"I was terrified, petrified, scared to death. I've never been that terrified in my life, Doctor Bracco," he frowned, "I felt a great sense of loss and I felt hopeless and then helpless when I saw my crewmate gunned down before my eyes. I've never been held at gunpoint before."

"Those events are in the past now," Jennifer encouraged, "but the emotions feel perhaps as close as yesterday. Kennedy," the light slowed, returning to a back and forth motion, "you are here and safe. What happened to you happened but those things cannot hurt you now. Let the memories fade into your unconscious; imagine," she smiled kindly, "filing them away like you would a report after seeing a patient. There if you need to refer back but otherwise out of sight, out of mind."

"How is it that simple?" Kennedy frowned, "I've never been great at compartmentalization. What sort of strategies would you recommend I look? How do you imagine something to be gone when I close my eyes and still see Nir falling to the ground?"

"Believe it or not, that's what the EMDR is for. I realize," Bracco straightened in her chair, "that thus far at least, you've not been able to let go of those mental images. But the eye movement while we've been talking will help you to move those memories into longterm storage where they belong. It may not be immediate," she added, "but give it a few days. EMDR may sound like a bunch of hooey but I promise, you're going to start feeling differently." Jennifer sounded exceedingly confident in the therapy she'd just administered but she wanted her patient to be confident, too. "Are you willing to give it a few days and see how it goes?"

Kennedy nodded his head. He knew that Doctor Bracco generally cared for his mental well-being and he wanted to get better but for those around him, "I do want to get better and if its your personal recommendation for us to continue these EDMR sessions that I'll happily participate." He took in a deep breath before refocusing. His curiosity as a medical doctor fascinated to read into studies but that isn't why he was here.

"Alright then," Jennifer nodded. "Let's follow up in a few days, then." She rose, indicating that Kennedy should do the same, and moved over to her desk. Activating the terminal, the therapist reviewed her calendar and asked, "Friday at 1300 hours work for you?" When assent had been given, she completed the booking and sent Kennedy on his way, confident that they'd take an important first step into helping the young man manage -- finally -- his nightmares.

=/\= A joint post by... =/\=

Doctor Kennedy Ryan Walsh
Chief Medical Officer
USS Sojo


Doctor Jennifer Bracco
Acting Ship's Counselor
USS Sojo


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