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Brianna confronts the roots of her pain

Last Modified: April 25, 2023

Healthy Mind, People of Parkview

This is the second in a three-part series that follows the story of Brianna Graham, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, diversion prevention specialist, Parkview Health, and her journey of healing after a back injury aggravated her scoliosis in 2014.

Over the many years of unrelenting discomfort, Brianna had become a master at putting on a brave face so that others would assume she had it all together. As a caregiver, she was, admittedly, a terrible patient–preferring to help others, rather than herself. But the enormity of her battle to heal after an invasive spine surgery, lose excess weight and do the work necessary to prevent a backslide was more than she could cover.

“I was recovering beautifully and back at work, but I was also the heaviest I’d ever been – 242 pounds – and still taking all six of the pain medications I’d been on,” Brianna recounted. “I was depressed, and I knew I had to put things in place, even though I didn’t feel like it. It was time to ween off of some of those meds. I’d been surviving my life, and I missed thriving.”

Brianna was seeing Kelly Hutner, PsyD, PPG – Pain Management, and working hard to understand the mental health nuances of her journey. “I’m a huge believer in therapy,” Brianna said. “The more open we are about our mental health, the more we realize it isn’t a weakness to take care of yourself, express emotions, feel emotions. It just makes us better overall.”

Dr. Hutner specializes in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and thought the approach would be helpful to Brianna. “She said you’ve been on one highway for so long, now you need to make a U-turn and your brain doesn’t know how.” 

Over the course of her sessions, Brianna connected with past traumas that had been weighing on her mental and physical health. “I wasn’t prepared for the depth of the emotions I felt with EMDR. Facing yourself and your demons and parts of yourself you’d rather hide, that’s difficult.” She held on tight to her “why” during the toughest moments. “I wanted to be the best version of myself for my kids and I wanted to get better.”

Ultimately, a combination of her deep-rooted faith and the EMDR therapy helped Brianna arrive at a better place of understanding and release. “I realized that all of the people God placed in my life along the way, were the ones He sent to get me to fulfill the work He had for me to do. Dr. Hutner had such a loving approach and understanding. She let me be where I was but encouraged me to let it go. She helped me realize that I don’t have to carry all of this anymore, and it was never mine to carry in the first place. I gained permission to forgive the three-year-old little girl who started carrying it and look at it as the woman I am now, knowing that I’ve got this. I picked up the torch, and that was the moment my life changed.”

To be continued …


Watch more of this series

Brianna Graham finds her “why”

Brianna becomes comfortable in her skin


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