Here's What EMDR Looks Like

I'm Not Sure How To Feel About EMDR Therapy, But Here's What It Looks Like

It's not hypnosis, I promise.

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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!

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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How To Stay Mentally Healthy In College

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.

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Staying healthy in college seems really, really hard to do. Classes, friends, clubs, and the whole fact of living by yourself can create a lot of stress and anxiety. Most students, and people in general, don't really know how to deal with stress or how to take care of themselves mentally, leading to unhealthy behaviors physically and mentally. If you don't take care of your mental health, your physical health will suffer eventually. Here are a few tips and tricks to help take care of your mental health:

1. Eat a well-balanced diet

Eating fruits, vegetables, grains, and other healthy foods will help you feel more energized and motivated. Most people associate eating a balanced diet as beneficial for your physical health, but it is just as important for your mental health.

2. Keep a journal and write in it daily

Writing can be one of the most relaxing and stress-relieving things you can do for yourself. Writing down the issues you are struggling with or the problems you are encountering in your life on a piece of paper can help you relax and take a step back from that stress.

3. Do something that brings you joy

Take some time to do something that brings you joy and happiness! It can be really easy to forget about this when you are running around with your busy schedule but make some time to do something you enjoy. Whether it be dancing, writing, coloring, or even running, make some time for yourself.

4. Give thanks

Keeping a gratitude log — writing what brings you joy and happiness — helps to keep you positively minded, which leads to you becoming mentally healthy. Try to write down three things that brought you joy or made you smile from your day.

5. Smile and laugh

Experts say that smiling and laughing help improve your mental health. Not only is it fun to laugh, but laughing also helps you burn calories! There's a reason why smiling and laughing are often associated with happiness and joyful thoughts.

6. Exercise

Staying active and doing exercises that energize your body will help release endorphins and serotonin, which both act as a natural antidepressant. Keeping an active lifestyle will help you stay happy!

7. Talk out your problems

All of us deal with stress and have problems from time to time. The easiest and probably most beneficial way to deal with this stress and anxiety is to talk it out with a close friend, family member, or even a counselor.

8. See a counselor, peer mentor, or psychologist

Just like it was stated in the previous point, it is beneficial to talk out your problems with a counselor. We all have issues, and it is OK to ask for help.

Keeping up your mental health in college can be a struggle, and it may be hard to even admit you are not mentally healthy. This is OK; you are not alone. If you want to see a psychologist or would like to learn more about mental health, there are resources. You can also take a self-assessment of your mental health. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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