Life has its ups and downs – it goes without saying, but sometimes these lows occur after experiencing a traumatic event or a series of events. Trauma is basically something that shouldn’t have happened or that should have happened but not.
Sometimes these traumatic events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is often viewed in extreme situations like intense panic attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares, but there are also more subtle ways trauma can infiltrate your life and affect your well-being.
- Low self-worth: Not feeling worthy of love, asking about your needs, or even being alive.
- Don’t say your opinion: If you feel too anxious or have low self-esteem to be honest with others, it can also look like social anxiety.
- Easily distracted: Difficulty focusing on tasks and conversations.
- Lack of trust: This can be the case with other people, with yourself, your body, or in life as a whole.
- Low libido: Feeling not interested in sex or physical contact also increased libido.
- Blurred borders: Difficulty in setting and enforcing your boundaries or in respecting other peoples.
- Relationship problems: Romantic and platonic relationships can be affected by trauma.
There are so many other subtle ways that trauma can affect your daily life, but one of the biggest things is just not feeling like yourself. Which is difficult, yet understandable, when you live in a place of fear and tension.
EMDR and PTSD
There are a wide range of treatments for PTSD, from pharmaceutical medications to acupuncture, Meditation and Herbalism.
One modality that is used in clinical psychologist settings, but with a holistic lens, is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. EMDR.
Developed in 1987 to treat PTSD, it acts on certain traumatic root memories and untangles them from the nervous system. The EMDR framework is based on the adaptive information processing model which views non-chemically based symptoms of PTSD as a result of memory or memories that are not adequately processed.
The American Psychological Association explains it as if “Unprocessed memories are the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and physical sensations that were occurring at the time of the event.
When the memories are triggered, these stored disturbing elements are experienced and cause the symptoms of PTSD and / or other disorders. “
How does EMDR work?
The magic of EMDR comes from clients focusing on a specific memory while experiencing rhythmic, bilateral stimulation of the right and left brain hemispheres.
What does that actually look like in a meeting?
Your therapist will be really specific about memory or a series of memories. Based on what you’ve been wearing, the surroundings, who was there and small details that you can remember.
Then comes the bilateral stimulation. Originally this was done by the vendor sitting in front of a customer and using his finger or some kind of pendulum to move his eyes from one direction to another while the mind made connections from the original memory.
To activate bilateral stimulation, therapists can also use small vibration devices in each hand that quickly switch from side-to-side vibration. Whenever I had virtual sessions with my therapist, she would make me sit with my feet on the floor and tap one thigh and then the other, another time I would tap my hand on one side of my heart, then the other.
How effective is EMDR?
Various independent studies have found significantly improved results for people undergoing treatment. One study found that after three 1½ hour sessions, 90% of sexual assault survivors had a decrease in PTSD symptoms. In another studyAfter six EMDR sessions, 100% of survivors from a single trauma and 77% of those affected by multiple trauma had no diagnosable symptoms of PTSD. Furthermore Studies Continue this trend of high efficacy rates.
EMDR is helpful for any traumatic experience, from injury to natural disaster, accident, abusive relationship, or parenting. sexual trauma, Pregnancy loss, and so much more.
My experience with EMDR
The reason I am such a proponent of this modality is because after years of partial relief with other remedies through EMDR treatment, I have had the opportunity to completely rid my system of the effects of numerous traumatic events.
Although I had calmed my nervous system through mediation, yoga, Breath workand over time there were still parts of me that I knew I was holding back and patterns that were obviously influenced by the impact these traumatic events had on me.
A therapist is like any other relationship, sometimes it takes time to find the right one.
When I found mine, I knew I could trust her to delicately work through my trauma. We do this using a variety of methods, but most notably EMDR.
She described the process as a way to sort out the root of the patterns that play out after someone experiences trauma. While there were specific events for me to focus on, much of them worked through a complicated series of long-term traumatic events. Even so, it made me get as specific as possible, and I was surprised which memories seemed to carry the most weight when it came to my PTSD symptoms.
My therapist really let me guide the process, intuitively focusing on what I thought would be most effective for my own healing, such as what memory to start with.
During each session, she let me focus on the memory we were working on and then apply bilateral stimulation for about 30 seconds to a minute. She stopped, then let me take a deep breath to ground back, and told her what I was watching.
After telling her my thought process, she said, “Ok, let’s go from there,” and started bilateral stimulation again, doing this for a total of fifteen to twenty minutes.
Unless I really struggled to hold on to part of this, she wouldn’t give any input until the end of the session. This enabled me to truly observe and see the natural chain of thoughts and revelations that unfolded from these root memories.
We went through the first memory in at least five or six sessions and focused on the associated feeling – “I am not worthy”. After reformulating this inner belief, I no longer feel triggered by any of the other traumatic events I experienced and my self-esteem feels so grounded and secure.
What you should know before EMDR
As effective as it is, this process can be intense, especially in those with severe PTSD symptoms.
Going deep into your subconscious may create feelings that you didn’t realize were there. It can even feel like it’s getting worse before it gets better, at least initially.
It is important that you have self-care tools in advance and know who or whom to turn to when you are feeling the intensity of your healing.
If you are in the United States Psychology todayis a great resource for finding an EMDR provider that fits your needs.
The time to heal is now.