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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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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Anxiety Medications Aren't As Scary As You Might Think

It took me about 2 months to even find the right medication and dosage. It's truly a process.

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Before my journey with anxiety, I was very anti-medication. I truly didn't understand the purpose or need for it. Boy, have I learned a lot since then. Upon visiting the doctor, I learned that there are two types of medication that do two different things to the neurotransmitters in your brain. These are categorized as SSRI or SNRI. According to anxiety.org, "SSRIs increase serotonin in the brain. Neural systems affected by increased serotonin regulate mood, sleep, appetite, and digestion."

The medication that I am currently taking falls under the category of SSRI. As a result of taking this medication, "your brain is more capable of making changes that will lead to a decrease in anxiety" (anxiety.org). I don't know if that sounds nice to you, but I loved the sound of it.

On the other hand, per mayoclinic.org, SNRIs "ease depression by impacting chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) used to communicate between brain cells. Like most antidepressants, SNRIs work by ultimately effecting changes in brain chemistry and communication in brain nerve cell circuitry known to regulate mood, to help relieve depression."

From my understanding, the different types of medication focus on different neurotransmitters in your brain. I don't think that one of these is "bad" and one of these is "good." This is simply because anxiety and depression are very personal and impact people differently. My anxiety is not the same as my friend's anxiety. I think it's more of a spectrum.

There are a lot of misconceptions upon starting medication. I think the first is that it works instantly. I have some bad news and it's that some medications take up to a month to get into your system. I mean, you're chemically altering your brain, so it makes sense. It took me about 2 months to even find the right medication and dosage. It's truly a process.

Another misconception is that the pills are addicting- making them completely unnecessary or dangerous. That wasn't true for me. One of my dear friends told me that if you don't feel guilty for taking cold medicine when you have a cold, then you shouldn't feel guilty for taking medication that helps your anxiety. I think this really does boil down to knowing yourself and if there's a history of addiction in your family. However, as someone who's taken the heavy pain killers (via surgery) and now takes anxiety medication, I can testify to say that there's a difference.

The pain killers made me a zombie. The anxiety medication allows me to be the best version of myself. I like who I am when I'm not constantly worried about EVERYTHING. I used to not leave the house without makeup on because I constantly worried what people thought of me. I used to be terrified that my friends didn't want me around. I used to overthink every single decision that I made. Now, none of that is happening. I enjoy my friends and their company, I hardly wear makeup, and I'm getting better at making decisions.

Do I want to be able to thrive without having to correct my neurotransmitters? Sure. However, this is the way that I am, and I wouldn't have gotten better without both therapy and medication. I'm forever grateful for both.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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