Apr 03, 2021
4 mins read
Hello, all! I'm glad that you're here.
As you can tell from my BMC page, I've decided to do something a little different here than I do on the blog. There will be plenty of mental health content in the future, but I'm also going to be posting some of my original writing, poems, and updates on my life and my recovery journey.
Today is an update and it's one that I'm pretty excited about.
After many learning sessions and a few delays, I finally had my first EMDR treatment last week. I've been working with Elizabeth since December and she is absolutely fantastic. I feel safe with her and she is kind, warm, and empathetic.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It's quite a mouthful, I know. It's even harder to explain, so I'll borrow a quote from the EMDR International Association:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.
EMDR uses left brain/right brain stimulation to reprocess traumatic memories. In some cases, people follow the clinician's fingers with their eyes. Some people choose different tapping methods. For me, the best choice was a device that creates vibration, one in each hand. As they vibrate back and forth, Elizabeth asks me to focus on a traumatic memory.
I chose the hand device because I need to be able to close my eyes to effectively visualize my experiences. As I'm visualizing, and as the vibrations active right/left, I'm also keeping the focus on a negative self-belief stemming from the memories.
You process the memory for a short amount of time and then you stop and take a self-inventory. How do you feel? Do you feel any bodily sensations? Where do you feel them? Then you start processing again. You repeat the process until you have no physical responses to the memory.
Half through processing, you stop focusing on the negative self-belief and you start to replace it with a positive self-belief. For me, my negative self-belief is, "I am helpless and powerless. I feel out of control of my circumstances." I will be replacing that belief with, "I am strong and resilient. I have control of myself and my destiny."
You don't even talk about the memory in detail. I talked about them a little, but the bulk of the treatment is just immersing yourself in the memory. Remembering everything...the smells, the sounds, what you felt, what your body was touching. Was the TV on? Was the wind blowing? Anything to make the memory come to life in your mind.
My Initial Observations
As you can imagine, when they were explaining the process I was...skeptical to say the least. I had gotten feedback from my other therapists and done some research online and everything that I read or heard was that it was amazing...almost like magic. The memories are there, but they suddenly hold no emotional charge.
Elizabeth said it isn't magic...it's science. According to her, on a brain image, you can actually see the "memories" move from the trauma part of the brain to the logic part of the brain, where they are reprocessed. Still, it feels impossible that someone can take these painful memories and make them like all the rest...just something that happened, with no emotional attachment to the memory.
During the treatment itself, my mind kept wandering away from the memories. I'd be in a living room from my childhood and the next thing I knew, I was thinking about what to make for dinner. I kept getting myself back on track, but I was convinced that it wasn't going to work for me.
I was wrong. Y'all. This is amazing.
I still have a long way to go, you process every traumatic memory that you can remember for your whole life and we only processed 2 or 3 of them on my first visit. But the memories that we processed... are completely different. Not gone, but I have dig to find them now. The have a fuzzy-around-the-edges quality to them.
I can't express to you how deeply ingrained these memories were in my brain. They happened when I was 5 and 7, respectively and still at 38-years-old would make me start crying when they popped up. Memories that invoked a strong emotional reaction. And now they don't.
I don't know how it works or why it works, honestly. I am not a scientist or a doctor. I still have a long way to go and a lot of traumatic memories to reprocess. If this first treatment is any indication, though, I'm in for some seriously intense healing over the next few months.
I noticed the results by the next day. I had to think hard to even remember which memories we processed and then I had to think even harder about the memories to recall them at all. It's almost a week later and I can barely remember which memories we processed. It's really unbelievable.
Anyway. That's the update. I had my very first EMDR treatment and it freaking WORKED!! I'll keep you all posted on my progress and I plan to do a more in-depth blog on The Winter Of My Discontent. I just want to get a few more treatments under my belt before I really dive into it.
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