What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy is used for people suffering with recurring memories and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it is used to treat a range of complex trauma and disociative disorders. It’s widely used to treat the traumatic emotions and feelings attached to significant memories that have not been properly processed by the brain. Here’s all you need to know about how it works.

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that is used to diminish negative thoughts and feelings associated with a certain memory, using rapid eye movement. The aim is to imitate the natural process of REM sleep to reprocess memories. After a successful EMDR session, the patient should feel less negative effects from the thought of the incident, although they will not forget that the incident that took place.

During sleep the body falls into REM periods at different intervals, using rapid eye movements to process any dreams or significant incidents that occurred during the day. Have you ever sat on a train with someone who is looking out of the window? Did you notice how quickly their eyes move as they try to focus on different objects outside the train as it’s moving? This is the exact same movement of the eyes during REM sleep.

Just let me cry a little bit longer.

EMDR adopts this eye movement to process the negative memory and “re-wire” the brains response to it. After several sessions talking to the therapist about the incident(s) that create negative responses, the sessions move on to confront the brains’ responses. The therapist will ask the patient to think right back to the moment the incident took place, noticing any smells, sounds or significant feelings at that time. For example, a traumatic experience could have taken place while the sun was out on a summers day, with the sound of an ice cream van approaching and lots of background noise of children and nature. It is important for the patient to focus on these sounds, feelings and sensations as this opens the door to the memory.

Once the origins of the memory have been sourced, the therapist moves their fingers back and forth at a rapid speed in front of the patients eyes, asking them to follow this movement with their eyes only – no head movement. For me, this invoked a massive negative reaction and caused me to relive those awful feelings and thoughts as if I had been taken back in time and exposed to the traumatic situation again. This is a perfectly natural response to reliving those memories, and after talking about how I felt and what I was thinking, we resumed the eye movement again. As the session progresses, the patient is exposed to different feelings and sensations as the brain begins to “re-wire” itself and respond to the memory in a different way. Almost as if the brain begins to understand that the situation maybe wasn’t as scary as it thought, and that in actual fact it can be overcome.

emdr

My therapist likens the therapy to taking a train journey through your memories, watching them go by out of the window and stopping every now and then at a station to discuss how you feel and what you are thinking. You then get back on the train and continue with the journey.

How this is actually working is something that has been heavily debated by different professionals; some insist that this therapy just does not work and there are others who live by it. The aim of the therapy is to process memories that the brain neglected to process during REM sleep some time ago, but the person is awake and is being guided through the entire process. It is the lack of processing that forces the person to see disturbing material in such a distressing way, therefore this therapy aims to make them see this material in a new and less distressing way.

I highly recommend this therapy as an effective way of treating symptoms of PTSD and other disociative disorders, when combined with SSRI’s and regular check ups with the GP. There are many websites and books that follow the topic of EMDR and are accessible to anyone who is interested in reading up on the therapy.

L x

 

 

 

Advertisements

My Fight

I have officially completed my first year of university and couldn’t be more proud of myself. I have had a really tough 2018 and I wanted to share some of my story. The topic of mental health has been a constant in the news and headlines for some time now, with so many unfortunate deaths and incidents related to mental health issues. Seeing celebrities and influential people open up about their struggles has inspired many people to talk about their own feelings. I feel that this is a life saving movement, and that’s why I have shared a section of my story with you. 

It’s not that I don’t feel the pain, it’s just I’m not afraid of hurting anymore.

This year I battled with depression, anxiety and a diagnosis of PTSD. Half way through my first year of university I was being sucked into a black hole and saw no way out of it, and certainly no possibility of completing my studies. At my worst I found it impossible to move through paralysed fear, I dropped a stone and a half due to a flare up of my Eeating Disorder and became so scared of my own brain I believed I could actually die.

For anyone who has suffered with their mental health, you might be able to picture the sheer terror that I experienced, but for those who have not had to confront their own brains might not understand how terrifying it is. I simply couldn’t look into a mirror to do my make up because I would find myself sitting there staring at myself half an hour later. Sometimes I would have thoughts or impulses that didn’t feel like mine, which would make me feel like I wasn’t present in the room and that I’d just floated off and left my body to the control of someone else. I felt so isolated and lonely, because I didn’t think I could explain well enough to anyone how I was feeling.

header

Six months passed me by and I made gradual progress. I turned to the two closest friends I had in my new home city and sought lots of reassurance and advice from them. My house mate, K, spent several nights sleeping on the sofa next to me because I was too scared to take myself up to bed and be alone. He force fed me soup and water for 2 months when I couldn’t coerce myself to eat. My girl, Ape, cancelled countless plans of her own to have me sit on her sofa sobbing and moaning about my life, all while she was planning and organising her wedding! She suggested that I might benefit from speaking to someone about my thoughts and feelings which absolutely terrified me. I knew she was right, but I didn’t want a label for my problems, I wanted to continue to believe that it was just a “blip” and that I would wake up one day soon and it would all be fine again.

Eventually I found the courage to seek some advice from the student well-being centre at my university who pointed me toward a diagnosis of depression and seeking counselling for my various issues.

Throughout this entire time I had deadlines, presentations and expectations to meet in regards to my studies; causing even more stress and pressure on top of everything else. I had no family to turn to as they were all 150 miles away back home and sometimes a simple phone call just doesn’t do it. The times I got to see my mum for a brief visit meant the world to me. The fly by stops for tea with dad became the only thing I would get out of bed for. I fully expected to not only fail my first year but to be forced to drop out and move home so I could get better.

whats wrong with you

But here is the catch; I didn’t fail. I did not leave and I did not die.

Instead my friends, family and doctors/therapists gave me the courage to fight my demons every single day. I became more confident in my own ability to sustain a healthy life and was no longer consumed by the fear of death. Instead of thinking, this is it, this is never going to get any better and you are doomed to be sad and useless for the rest of your life” I was starting to think, well, you got through that panic attack so you can get through the next one.” Things became easier to cope with, the anxiety and panic became less scary with the more confidence I found I had in myself.

I started to eat properly again, I secured a healthy 2.1 for my first year of studies, the love of my life moved 150 miles across the country to be with me. The phone calls and text messages to Ape and K became less frequent and the topic of my mental health went from being the elephant in the room and constantly present to a slight lingering thought at the back of my mind.

Now, I am still in therapy for my PTSD and will continue with that for the next 5 weeks. I am using a therapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) which has been really successful for me so far, and I will follow up with a more in depth description as to what that is. I have a job which I really enjoy and I move to a new house at the end of this week.

I am not out of the woods yet, and there will be bad days to confront in the future. However, I have fought the hardest battle of my life so far and reached the ground on the other side. My fight has effected so many people in both negative and positive ways, and it is important for those people to reach out for help and seek comfort during those tough times, specially when someones mental health is causing you a great deal of stress.

I cannot stress enough as to how important it is to communicate and talk to your peers. It’s really scary to open up your weak points to the outside world, but those wounds wont ever get stitched back together without the help of a friend.

L x