941-462-4807 meg@megyounglcsw.com

relax You feel like you’re weak, not good enough. You think something is wrong with you. You just aren’t yourself anymore and it’s bothering you. You just don’t know who to talk to about it. You aren’t sure you even want others to know you’re thinking and feeling this way. So you suffer in silence.
Unfortunately, when we suffer in silence like this, it affects our lives in numerous ways. We start falling deeper into this emotional pit which also takes a physical toll on us. There may even come a time or two that the idea of suicide walks through our minds.
The downsides of suffering in silence not only affect us emotionally and physically, but affect those we love as we can’t hide our pain from them. We may take out our frustrations on them or tell them we’re fine when we are really not. We may withdraw from them or start engaging in risky behavior like excess alcohol use or other adrenalin pumping activities.
It is often a slippery slope that we try to ignore for awhile. There may have been small signs that if we look back, we can notice, but had excuses for in the moment. Now it’s come to this – panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, superimposing loved ones onto calls you’ve been on, racing heart, not being able to turn your brain off, not liking silence, trouble sleeping, and more.
Unfortunately, you’re so deep into the anxiety, stress, feelings of being a failure and embarrassment, that you don’t know how to get out of the hole. Hopelessness may have started to set in by now as well.
The reality is you are normal. You are sane. You are just like many other first responders who realized the cumulative impact of your job. You see such suffering every day. It is completely normal to struggle to make sense of the pain day after day, week after week, year after year. What humans can do to each other is unspeakable. What some accident scenes look like can be indescribable. Yet your brain tries to make sense of it – over and over because it cannot make it make sense.
It’s true that you’re feeling lost, scared, and unsure whether you will be ok. However, there is something that can help you regain a feeling of security and confidence in yourself. When you experience the process of EMDR, it is entirely possible to feel like your old self again and continue the career you were called to.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about EMDR so you can decide if it is right for you
EMDR is defined as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. By moving your eyes back and forth quickly (similarly to rapid eye movement during sleep), you will resolve intense feelings, unhelpful behaviors and generalized negative beliefs about yourself and the world, stemming from experiences you’ve had throughout your life or career.
It may sound kind of hokey, but there have been numerous studies showing the technique is real and does what it claims. It is supported as an evidenced based treatment model (meaning it has been extensively studied) by the VA and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
It helps with anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and secondary trauma (learning about someone else’s trauma). It resolves the nagging thoughts that we aren’t good enough, or aren’t safe enough, or the world is dangerous, or I’m not strong enough, or one of a million other negative self beliefs that go alone with depression, anxiety and PTSD.
EMDR technically starts from our initial appointment. This is because EMDR is more than just the actual eye movement or reprocessing. EMDR begins with history taking (telling me about yourself). Then my clients and I review safety, including self regulation and coping. This is a vital part of the process and one I will not skip over or go through too quickly.
The actual reprocessing is what people associate EMDR with. This is when we do the back and forth eye motions. Many clients will do the eye movements, but many actually prefer the “tappers” which will rapidly vibrate alternately in each hand. This is just as effective as using eye movements. You will not be hypnotized. I want you to be aware of your surroundings and in the room with me at all times.
During reprocessing, we review and pull into the treatment emotions, thoughts, and body sensations as the body holds memories as well. Phantom limb pain is a good example of the body holding memories. We want to get rid of all the negative sensations – emotional, physical, and in the thoughts/mind – in order to fully reprocess the event(s).
There are three phases to active reprocessing. We start with the past experience(s) – what brought you to me, then the present triggers (what is bothering you still today), then the future (what if the distressing situation(s) happen again).
One thing my clients love about EMDR is they don’t have to share anything out loud they don’t want to. Traditional trauma therapies have you share the story with the therapist. With EMDR, you may never share anything with me. Yet, the technique will resolve your symptoms.
The Ultimate Guide to EMDR that Helps First Responders Obtain a Feeling of Security in Life
An important thing to keep in mind is you will not “forget” the memories. You will still have them. However, they will not be causing distress anymore. They will not continuously resurface.
When used over time, my clients naturally fall back into their old selves. Often they just start feeling better and can’t pinpoint anything different or why they are feeling better. It is a good feeling for them when they realize they haven’t had a panic attack in some time, or they slept through the night without nightmares.
EMDR works well with both adults and children. It helps people struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, secondary trauma, and substance use. People who respond well to EMDR often report nightmares, racing thoughts, inability to relax, irritability, stress, difficulty separating home and work, relationship problems, increased risky behaviors, and even behavioral changes in their children as they start responding to the client’s stress prior to engaging in EMDR.
It works well for all of these symptoms because the brain is wired for survival. When first responders see threats to life day after day, the alarm system of the brain becomes overactive and the stress response stays active causing the above symptoms. EMDR reprocesses these experiences so you remember them without carrying the baggage caused by an overactive alarm system in the brain.
My clients often see a decrease in physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems (stomach problems), headaches, and decreased blood pressure as well as an increase in overall life satisfaction. They feel confident, safe, and in control.
First, EMDR doesn’t work for organic illnesses such as bipolar, ADD, and schizophrenia. Additionally, you want to make sure you have a competent therapist who is well trained in EMDR if you have large gaps of lost time in your memory, which could be caused by “dissociation.” If you get flashbacks (being transported back to the experience in your mind with all associated feelings, sensations, visuals, etc) this is a form of dissociation.
This is because with EMDR, I want you to stay present in the room. It is not hypnosis. You are fully aware of everything at all times. The therapist will need to help you stay present if you have episodes of dissociation.
With organic illnesses, it is not just a matter of reprocessing experiences. The brain is wired differently with illnesses such as bipolar, ADD, and schizophrenia, therefore EMDR is not effective with these illnesses.
When you do EMDR with me, you and I will first do a thorough evaluation to know what we are targeting and what symptoms have developed. I will do a great deal of education with you about the physiology of trauma and why you are normal.
We will then move into safety and stabilization. If we move too quickly into reprocessing, we can actually make your symptoms worse and there is the potential you will stop therapy prematurely or spiral further down. As much as my clients want to get right into the reprocessing, this is a phase we cannot skip. In fact, some clients find that after getting through this phase, they don’t even need the reprocessing as self regulation is enough for them to be able to manage the symptoms.
Then we move into the reprocessing phase. We will first discuss the options of eye movements and tappers then start with something not too distressing so you can experience the process. When we reprocess what we are targeting, we have three options of where to star. We can start with what the worst symptom you are dealing with is, or the first time you thought or felt the identified symptom, or the most recent time the symptom bothered you. We will review the benefits of all three starting places and you will decide which you want to start with.
We do not have to do EMDR active reprocessing each session. During reprocessing, I do not want you to analyze or judge what is happening, so there will be very little “discussion” from me until the end of the day’s session. I leave time at the end of the session to discuss anything you want. However, sometimes my clients like to take a break from reprocessing to discuss and analyze what they did in the previous reprocessing session.
Finally, we move into post growth. Now what? Now that you’re feeling stable, safe and confident, we will discuss what’s next. Sometimes this is the end of therapy, and sometimes we’ll move into another bothersome area of life. You are completely in control of your therapy experience.
Going forward, you can learn more about EMDR on the EMDRIA website or VA’s website. There is a ton of recent research and many websites to answer your questions.
The best thing to do if you are interested in EMDR is to schedule a session with me. We will discuss what EMDR is and whether it will work well for you. At any point, you can decide to do EMDR or to stop EMDR. You are in the driver’s seat and I will help guide you through safely and as quickly as possible.
Although you struggle with nightmares, difficulty separating work and home, racing thoughts, or irritability, you have the potential to enjoy your career as much as you did when you started.
Now that you know a lot about EMDR, and likely as much as you will without experiencing it yourself, there is the possibility for you to see for yourself the results you can get without having to share every gruesome detail of the calls you went on. You absolutely can get your life back and feel strong and confident in yourself and your career again.
You have the opportunity to spend just a few short hours of your life to get yourself feeling better about without the need to take medication, share details you don’t want to, or do meditation on a daily basis (if you don’t want to).
Achieving freedom from a chaotic mind can be exhilarating and is worth every penny and every minute of your time. You absolutely can get the results you’re hoping for and the life you long to get back.
Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC specializes in helping first responders, just like you, obtain this freedom and control. Visit my website to learn more about me at https://megyounglcsw.com or call me today to schedule an initial appointment to see what life can be like for you. I can be reached at 941-462-4807.