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What is EMDR therapy? One woman shares the story of how it changed her life

20 January 2022

After facing fertility issues, 32-year-old ‘Lucy’ decided to seek support from a therapist. Here, she shares the story of her EMDR therapy journey…

happy young woman having online therapy to deal with fertility issues


I first decided to seek therapy because I was going through a difficult time in my life due to unexplained infertility. I felt ashamed, as if my body was out of my control. I was also deeply fearful of medical procedures and interventions due to previous trauma I had experienced. Infertility had begun to take over my life and I was filled with anxiety most of the time. As a result of this, I felt increasingly detached from both myself and other people.

I’d previously tried therapy in my early twenties due to difficulties with my mental health and had seen significant improvements following this. I decided that given how I was feeling, it might be the right time to seek help again. My partner was also struggling emotionally with our experience of infertility and loss. However, he sought support separately as we decided that this would be better for us rather than joint therapy.  

‘I liked the flexibility of online therapy’

Initially, I tried my local talking therapy service but was advised that my situation was too complex for this approach. Instead, I was given various private options. I spent time contacting different services and therapists, which I found quite overwhelming as I had to explain my situation multiple times. From past experience, I knew that I wanted more than a simple counselling approach and that I needed a therapist who could be both directive and supportive. This is because I tend to detach as a way of coping and find it difficult to trust others. I also had my financial situation to consider too. 

Fortunately, I stumbled across a therapist that I worked with when I was struggling with my mental health in the past. I knew that she was a good balance of being empathic, reflective and challenging, which had worked well for me before. I actually started therapy just as the pandemic began and due to lockdown, my fertility treatment was cancelled. While this was a huge blow it was also a relief as it meant a break from invasive scans and interventions. 

Another result of the pandemic was that my therapy ended up being online. I hadn’t tried this before but actually found it to be useful as it was easier to juggle with my work. In fact, I would probably have struggled to commit to regular face to face sessions and liked the flexibility of online therapy. I also think that being online helped me to open up a bit more than I am able to in person. Added to this, I am very introverted and I found it easier to ground myself after online sessions as I didn’t have to be around other people for a while.  

 

‘Over time, I realised that I don’t need to be a prisoner to my past, and there can be hope for the future, whatever that might look like

At first, it felt like I had taken a step backwards to be starting therapy again and I felt frustrated with myself that I was not coping as well as I wanted to. At the same time, I felt hopeful that I might be able to make positive changes in my life after several years of being in a dark place. Together, my therapist and I decided to try an approach that I hadn’t experienced before — EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing). This is basically a combination of both talk and body-based therapy that can help you process trauma. To begin with, we spent a lot of time focusing on positive memories and physical sensations as a way of creating a safe space within the therapy. I think having this cushion of happy memories really helped me when I moved on to remembering more difficult experiences.  

One experience that stands out for me is when my therapist and I did an EMDR exercise known as ‘the flash technique’, which is used to take the heat out of disturbing memories. I wasn’t expecting there to be such a dramatic shift in my body or mind, but I remember that the intense panic and ‘door slam’ feeling in my body eased up almost instantly. I found my therapist’s supportive approach — where she was able to hold space for all of my emotions — combined with EMDR helped me to feel safe and to challenge negative beliefs I had about myself. This let me gradually shed the layers of shame and guilt that I had stored up in my body, while building on parts of myself that I felt good about. Over time, I realised that I don’t need to be a prisoner to my past, and there can be hope for the future, whatever that might look like.

‘I have new skills and resilience that I can draw on when I am finding things difficult’

Overall, I don’t think I would have been able to navigate fertility treatment or the thought of being a mother as well as I have done without therapy. I feel more confident and ‘good’ about myself, and am less prone to automatically blaming myself or overlooking my own boundaries when I am going through a difficult experience. Instead, I have new skills and resilience that I can draw on when I am finding things difficult. 

I now feel more connected to my body and regularly practice things that help when I start to feel disconnected. I also feel more connected to my partner, family and friends, and able to open up to them about how I feel. One huge achievement for me was making it through fertility treatment successfully (despite several setbacks), without feeling completely overwhelmed or disconnected from the process. Instead, I felt empowered and in control.  

Therapy might not be for everyone but I think it can be helpful for most people. It provides a space in which you can reflect on your life and achieve personal goals that would not be possible in any other context. I would say to anyone thinking of trying therapy that you should expect there to be bumps along the way. You should also be aware that building a trusting relationship with your therapist can take time. Sometimes, I would feel really exhausted after sessions but I also felt like this was part of the healing process (it is also important to tell your therapist if you are uncomfortable with something, as they are there to help you). 

For me, EMDR was especially helpful with unblocking some of the emotional pain I had stored away physically. As a result, I’m now able to live a more fulfilling life.  

How does EMDR therapy work?

EMDR is an increasingly popular online and in-person trauma therapy. Your therapist will lead you safely back into a difficult memory, inviting you to notice what comes up while you simultaneously pay attention to a moving object, hand taps or sound tones. In this way your brain can process the experience and come to terms with it, so that it no longer impacts you in the same way. 

EMDR is a powerful approach for issues such as trauma, PTSD, C-PTSD, phobias, addiction, depression, anger, anxiety and more. Read Jonathan’s blog post on his own personal EMDR journey after a traumatic experience.

Interested in trying EMDR or another form of therapy? Connect with a fully accredited psychotherapist or psychologist today for an in-person, video or live chat session.

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