Anxiety can be a real bitch. It’s something I think I have dealt with for most of my life, but I was only made aware of it in my early 20’s. We won’t get into the how’s and why’s for now, but I know that a lot of you also deal with anxiety and I want to share a modality for treating anxiety that has helped me IMMENSELY. 

Anxiety is what brought me to therapy. After about a year and a half of therapy (broken up over years and a couple of therapists), my ride-or-die (can I say that?!) therapist recommended EMDR to help treat my anxiety and PTSD. Side note: I was pretty shocked to hear that PTSD was something I had. I had associated PTSD with war veterans, and not to compare stories and hardships, but mine didn’t seem as big as those of a war veteran.

I decided to give EMDR a try. I was skeptical. After years of trying different things such as talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and medication to treat my anxiety to hear about EMDR after never knowing about it…I thought, “if it’s so amazing at treating complex PTSD/trauma, why doesn’t everyone know about it?” 

They should. You should, if anxiety, trauma, and/or PTSD are things that you struggle with. 

Ok, so what is EMDR? According to the American Psychology Association:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

EMDR is a structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories. {via}

According to EMDR.com:

When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes. {via}

In short, focusing on a traumatic event while experiencing the bilateral stimulation forces your eyes to move back and forth which allows your brain to reprocess the trauma.

EMDR drastically changed the game for me and my anxiety. It helped me become so much more self-aware and a gain of control over my anxiety as a whole. I started in late 2019 and by the beginning of 2020, I stopped EMDR. Just wanted to note that it is usually a short-term therapy. My therapist told me that she suspected I would need about 3 EMDR sessions for the specific trauma I’m about to share but this is different for everyone. 

Before I dive deep into what my first experience with EMDR therapy was, there’s one thing I want to recommend: it’s so important to be comfortable with your therapist before you begin EMDR therapy. You are literally re-living your trauma(s) and feeling safe is the #1 goal as you experience this.

Ok, on to the experience.

I will give provide some details on one of the traumas that I worked through with EMDR to give you a full picture of what that looked like. I did do EMDR for other things, but the format etc. is the same.

About 10 years ago, I fainted in a public setting after being extremely dehydrated. After this episode, I began experiencing what I know now to be panic attacks. Right before I passed out, my body was hot, shaking, and weak. The panic attacks felt just like that feeling. As I carried on with my life, many things were tied to this event and I would feel ‘random’ pangs of panic and anxiety. It wasn’t until years later that I realized the PTSD and anxiety this caused, left untreated.

The fainting episode is what we started with. While I was re-experiencing the trauma of that day, most of the physical sensations came rushing back while sitting on my therapist’s couch. It was scary as fuck. I felt like I was floating, like I had no control over my body, I got HOT, my heart was pounding, and my palms were sweaty. After I went through it, my therapist helped me to re-process the event as my eyes followed the light and I was able to take the negative, scary charge away from the experience.

By the end of the session, I felt inexplicably calmer. I wondered if it’d ‘stick’ as I mentioned earlier in this post, my physical symptoms manifested and I still felt them at times.

I had another EMDR sessions around this trauma, and my therapist and I will revisit EMDR occasionally if we find a core childhood experience to process. About a week after my second session, I noticed that my physical symptoms had melted away. I almost couldn’t believe it because for 10 years, I felt these symptoms.

I was driving, and my mind wandered to the fainting episode. I thought about it, put myself in that place again, and felt no emotional charge tied to the memory. I was almost…calm?!

The next time I came to therapy, I asked if this sense of calm was tied to the EMDR sessions, and she said yes, absolutely. I realized then that that memory was now in its proper place. It’s been over a year since those particular EMDR sessions, and since then, I have not experienced all of those physical symptoms of panic and anxiety. It’s so freeing, and I had to share with you.

xx, Lynn