I've always invalidated my experiences. I've believed that if I wasn't crying all the time or if I was numb or resilient that what happened to me couldn't have been "that bad," which isn't necessarily true. I always thought that what I went through was never "that bad" in comparison to other people. I'm not alone in this — all kinds of people with all kinds of experiences often feel this way.
But the truth is, we can't compare or rank problems and negative experiences. Growing up thinking otherwise, I've needed a lot of convincing of this.
When my therapist mentioned trying EMDR therapy the first time, I tried out an additional therapist she suggested who specializes in EMDR and in the reasons I would be trying it. EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a type of therapy that helps people process their trauma in a more helpful and adaptable way. This may be carried out through thinking through a memory while moving your eyes back and forth or holding buzzers that alternate buzzing in each hand. This type of therapy is known to be very successful.
The EMDR therapist believed I needed to work on healthier coping mechanisms first and that I didn't really need EMDR therapy because I wasn't "that traumatized" anyways.
When I told other therapists and professionals this, they couldn't believe a fellow specialist had said this to me. However, the invalidation continued.
Fast forward to a new therapist who suggested the idea again. We decided to try it out. We started with creating a safe place to go to in my mind if I needed to do so. We talked about the negative cognitions I gained from negative experiences and what I would like those cognitions to be instead.
For example, after multiple experiences in which I felt powerless, I experienced learned helplessness, which is a condition in which someone tends to automatically feel powerless in multiple situations in which they are not. Because of this, I wanted to be convinced I do have power in what happens to me and that I could keep myself safe moving forward.
Let me go ahead and say this: I can definitely talk a lot. While I knew EMDR had the potential to be more helpful than talk therapy, I couldn't keep myself from talking during sessions before we brought out the buzzers. In addition, if I was already having a stressful week or felt anxious about something coming up that could be triggering, I decided to skip EMDR that week. Because of those factors, I only did EMDR for a few sessions, which typically isn't enough to feel a whole lot better or reap the benefits EMDR can have.
EMDR looks like two buzzers and headphones. It looks like questions intermittently interjected throughout memories and closed eyes. It looks like being sad for your younger self who deserved so much better. It looks like questioning your memories and feeling gross in your body.
Because I only engaged in EMDR a few times, I can't say for sure if it helped me or not. I know it has for others, so I'm not discrediting it in any way. But if you're wondering what it's like, here's what my experience entailed:
I held two buzzers in my hand that alternated buzzing from my left to my right hand. I wore headphones that beeped on the same side at the same time. These tools were to keep me in the present and help me feel safe.
My therapist and I had picked out a chronological troubling memory in which I would go through what happened in my head and she would intermittently ask what came to mind for me. If I went too far off track, she would take me back. We would then discuss afterward if I believed my previous, unhelpful cognition or the cognition I wanted; I would rate on a scale how much I believed each cognition. We also discussed if I had any certain feelings in my body, like an anxious stomach or body memories from bad experiences.
Was it super triggering? Not really for me personally, though it can be for some. Was it hard emotionally? Yes, especially with certain experiences. Am I interested in doing it again? Yes, if I can get myself to be quiet and choose it over ranting about other problems. Should you try it? Well, it depends.
EMDR can be helpful if you've learned unhelpful or harmful beliefs from negative experiences you've had. If you need to see a trauma in a new way that helps you feel less scared or more healed, I would definitely consider it. If you have any other questions about it, I'm happy to answer what I can as a non-experienced person and non-professional. It definitely helped me to have a good friend who had done it before who could explain what it looked like.
Keep in mind as well that other types of successful therapy approaches exist, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. If you're interested in finding a specialist or professional who practices a certain type of therapy, check out this subdomain of Psychology Today.
Regardless, I want you to know that things will get better because they will. Try out different coping skills and therapy styles and ultimately do what works for you!