Updated: Apr 7
My experience of EMDR therapy and advice to you.
Is EMDR therapy the answer? The short answer is yes. The long answer is, well, longer.
EMDR therapy works by helping as to process traumatic memories from our working/short
term memory where they’ve become stuck, into our our long term memory where they no longer disturb us. It sounds simple right! And it is. But it takes work, commitment and self love.
I started EMDR therapy in June. I accessed it through the NHS, therapy for you. Up to the date this was published I have had 17 sessions.
Putting In The Work
There’s no denying it. It is 100% my believe that you HAVE TO put in the emotional work if you want the best possible results for yourself.
Before even considering EMDR therapy I did 20 sessions of counselling with a rape counsellor. I also did a hell of a lot of work at home, using books like Healing From Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Abuse, From Surviving to Thriving. Doing the the counselling allowed me to gently open the box and to start feeling the feelings. The more I read and studied the more language I learned to be able to express what I was feeling.
Opening Pandora's Box
The more I opened the box in counselling the harder it got for me to close it when I wasn’t in a session. In the end I asked for help. My doctor signed me off and diagnosed me with CPTSD. The CPTSD explained the flashback, nightmares and depression.
In February 2020 I made a referral for EMDR therapy. In July an appointment became available.
Each session starts with a set of negative beliefs that I have about a traumatic event. Our aim is to reprogram the brain with a preferred positive statement, for example
“I am out of control” to “I am now in control”,
“I am not safe” to “I am now safe”
The way my therapist explains it to me is like this. Imagine you are on a train journey. You get on at “I am out of control”. During the journey what you see from the window are all your emotions and thoughts about a traumatic event. You stay on this train until you reach the preferred believe “ I am now in control”.
Now don’t get me wrong, this metaphor sounds simple, but trust me, you never know which direction that track is going to take! The good thing about this train journey is that it does take rest stops at stations where you can get off, catch your breath, wipe your eyes and give your nose a good blow. There’s also an emergency stop if you need it.
Fault on The Lines
Not every session is “complete”. Meaning that I’m often not able to get to the preferred statement within the 45 minute timeframe. Some processing has taken me several sessions. Like a tricky game of snakes and ladders, I end up at the beginning again. But I lean on the expertise of my therapist and I board that train and eventually the journey gets shorter.
It’s Like Magic
I’ve still got a few more different trains to board. I’ve still got a few more different lines to travel. However, the journeys I have been on have reprogrammed my thinking an absolute treat. Now when I think of a certain triggering image my preferred belief shuts it down like a 6 foot think concrete portcullis, BANG, “I am now in control”.
And I feel it too. That image and allllll the emotions that surround it have had the fire and pain taken out of them. “I am now in control” .
Forewarned Is Forearmed
More often than not a 45 minute session will leave me wiped out for the rest of the day. It is not uncommon for me to sleep all day on the sofa, wake up make some dinner, and be back in bed by 7.
In light of Covid my therapist and I conduct our sessions over zoom. This means I need complete privacy. It took open communication with the people around me to work out ways to have the house to myself during my session. I also had to tell them that I needed mental and physical space after a session as well. I remember feeling so vulnerable, telling those people I love the, who, where, what and why’s of my EMDR therapy. It was worth it though. Being clear about my needs and boundaries shows the Universe that I am serious about my wellbeing.
In a Nut Shell
Do All The Things.
Do the work. Get the counselling. Get the right doctor. Take the medication. Be brave enough to ask for exactly what you want. Take as much time off as you need. Read the books. Make a referral for EMDR.