Earlier this year, I finished a course of EMDR therapy, which stands for eye movement desensitisation & reprocessing.
What follows is my perspective & experience of the EMDR therapy I received.
Last year I had everything I wanted & needed – I was in a place where I should have felt on top of the world. But often I would still feel tormented inside. Strange thoughts of this happiness won’t last forever, something terrible is going to happen and sometimes even the wish to no longer be here.
Which was completely in contrast to the life I was living and who I am as a person.
What was going on inside, made no sense to me at all. Why couldn’t I just be happy? I was tired of this battle going on inside my head. And I refused to live any more of my life being controlled by these thoughts and feelings. So I got assessed and was referred to Laura.
Laura is a Clinical Psychologist specialising in EMDR therapy – She helped me to realise that despite my positive outlook on life, inwardly I held a lot of negative beliefs about myself that sprung from a series of un-dealt-with past traumas. The wounds these traumas had caused were blocking me from experiencing my life in the way I wanted to experience it.
EMDR therapy was going to be my opportunity to re-write the script.
You can’t just jump straight in with EMDR, re-living negative memories can be traumatic. Laura and I completed a lot of preparation groundwork and set some coping strategies. These were tools that I could use not only in my sessions but also all the times in between. Therapy can be emotionally exhaustive and these tools are effective in helping you cope.
Once I was ready, working with Laura, I would select a traumatic memory for ‘processing’. We would start with the worst aspect of the memory and the negative belief I held about myself as a result. I would also need to rate the memory out of 10 as to how negatively I felt it was affecting me. We would also set a desired positive belief that we wanted to end up at. So for example if one of the negative belief’s I held relating to a bad event was ‘I am powerless & weak’ the positive belief to move to could be ‘I’m powerful & in control’.
To start the processing, Laura would simply hold up her finger and move it from side to side which I would follow with my eyes. After a moment she would stop, I would talk about the memory, any feelings that arose and then we would continue with me following the movement of her finger across my field of vision. This would then pause, I would continue processing the memory by talking about it and we would keep going until it reached a conclusion and the memory moved from a high number on the ‘trauma scale’ to a zero. Sometimes I would be able to process and ‘close’ a memory in one session or sometimes it would take a few sessions.
To find out more about the actual EMDR process, the EMDR Institute has a helpful page of frequently asked questions here.
Every session was completely in my control. Laura never pushed me anywhere I didn’t want to go. Sometimes she would encourage me to push forward, but if I showed up to a session feeling tired and hormonal she’d just allow me to vent whilst providing me with some suggested solutions for dealing with how I was feeling.
Ultimately, the processing allowed me to desensitise my memories. Quite often it would feel like a light bulb was being switched on in my brain – like suddenly everything made sense. I began to naturally challenge my negative beliefs, I was kinder to myself.
It was liberating.
I could now stand back from these traumas and understand things from a much more reasoned perspective. Memories that once severely held me back were now sources of empowerment.
Towards the end, I was actually able to unravel some hard memories on my own without the need to undertake EMDR itself. It all just clicked.
But there were some memories from events that I wasn’t going to be able to just stop feeling upset about…
Such as the death of my mother. When I started therapy I honestly believed I would be able to get over the pain I held inside. But I actually never spent a session processing this event – because I realised, of course, you are going to feel bad about something that is sh*t. I was already dealing with the passing of my mum in the best way possible (Keeping Mum (Life after loss)) and that in itself was a positive discovery – it’s OK to feel bad about these things, to cry & to hurt – that’s natural. When you feel upset process it and then – in your own way – gently let it pass.
It’s just a case of not allowing what has happened to cement in your mind that bad things will always happen to you or allow it to overrun your life in a negative way. That is just one of the beneficial realisations undertaking EMDR therapy has provided me.
And I also made some tough decisions…
During my time with Laura, I gained confidence and reassurance to let go of a relationship that was damaging me but that I had been holding onto due to inaccurate beliefs I held about myself. It wasn’t easy to take the action but it was very freeing. Ultimately I knew it was for the best, but I would never have taken this step if it hadn’t been for EMDR.
My last session with Laura was a review of all I had learned and what I needed to do going forward.
I really did learn so much about myself and shed so many unhelpful beliefs. I just feel so much calmer and my relationship with and management of anxiety has definitely changed for the more productive.
I’m using the tools I’ve been given to help me continue to develop and not regress, some of which I’ll share at a later date (one, in particular, has been very ground-breaking for me).
This is just my experience with EMDR therapy.
It won’t be for everyone, and I do recommend you get assessed to discover which type of therapy is right for you.
But the point of sharing my experience with you is this – work to truly understand yourself, prevent yourself from being defined by what isn’t true and holistically invest what is needed in order to allow yourself to grow
For me at least – but hopefully for you too – these will be the most significant steps in truly developing a happier you.
Practising Mindfulness was always beneficial to me during my EMDR experience. You can find out more here: Being Mindful – Is mindfulness for you?
As I mentioned at the start, this isn’t intended to be a fact sheet for the ins and outs of EMDR therapy, it is just my personal reflection on my own experience. I know I am blessed to be able to fund private therapy and acknowledge the need for it to be more easily accessible to all. I just wanted to share this in the hope that anyone who is considering & able to access the therapy will do so. If you have any questions do please get in touch and I’ll help where I can.