Post-EMDR Processing

Seonaidh

New Here
Hello Folks,
Something I've read/heard a lot when people talk about EMDR is that "It can wipe you out for a couple of days, sometimes a week," and that "It brings up old stuff which can be painful and unpleasant." EMDR is difficult, seems to be the basic message. And: "It's different for everyone."

I've begun EMDR treatment for C-PTSD, and we've been focusing on one particular trauma out of the wide variety I've (unfortunately) got available to work with. The day of processing, it feels like my head is left spinning a little-- familiar old thoughts of the trauma and the people involved bubbling up and percolating away for hours. When I wake at night, I'm conscious of those same thoughts almost immediately. They are intrusive. Then variations or expansions on those thoughts for the next several days, or most the week. I've also found myself re-engaging in frozen/avoidant behaviors and panic/anxiety states I remember being trapped in at the time of the originating events. (Eg, oversleeping for 11-12hrs, unwilling to rise after waking, intense hypervigilance & negative predictions, hopelessness/futility). The thing is, none of this feels any different from when I first underwent these feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, or in the years since. If anything, it maybe feels more concentrated and intense. There doesn't seem to be any reconciliation or positive shift, or lessening of distress.

Understanding that processing affects everyone in different ways, I'd still like to know more about what post-session processing actually *feels* like and consists of for other PTSD sufferers-- what types of thoughts go through your head, what type of emotional reaction(s) you experience, and what behaviors you find yourself enacting (even if it's just to shut down completely and do nothing), duration of all-the-above.

Detailed descriptions of post-processing are in short supply-- the handful I've seen are either curt or vague.

I guess my own thoughts so far about EMDR are:
"Is this *it*?"
"Is this what I'm supposed to be feeling?"
"This doesn't feel helpful or even any different from what I've already lived with mentally for years."

Thanks in advance for any insight or experience you might share!
 
I'd still like to know more about what post-session processing actually *feels* like and consists of for other PTSD sufferers-- what types of thoughts go through your head, what type of emotional reaction(s) you experience, and what behaviors you find yourself enacting (even if it's just to shut down completely and do nothing), duration of all-the-above.
Unfortunately, everyone's different. Also, I find processing is slightly different for me each time depending on what target I'm working on.
I guess my own thoughts so far about EMDR are:
"Is this *it*?"
"Is this what I'm supposed to be feeling?"
"This doesn't feel helpful or even any different from what I've already lived with mentally for years."
For me, when I got it, I just knew that it worked. The first time I knew that it worked was when I was working on the belief that I was a monster, not a human. At some time between one appointment and another, I just stopped believing it. That's when I became a believer in EMDR.

Part of the issue is that sometimes you can end up working on something that just isn't going to shift. That's happened a couple of times for me and it meant that I first had to work on a core belief or something else that led to the thing I was trying to shift.

The first time I work on a target, my thoughts are very scattered, and often the second time, too. If my thoughts are still scattered the third time, I know it's the wrong target.
 
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Wendell_R

MyPTSD Pro
My responses vary. Sometimes, I feel more peaceful. Other times, very, very tired. This week, I'm happier, but completely emotionally drained. Occasionally, we'll go too far and I'll be agitated afterward. Sometimes, the EMDR will open up intense feelings that come up both waking and in my dreams.

A lot of my EMDR work for C-PTSD involves resourcing--bringing in other people in my imagination, or bringing in my older self, so that when we go back to the early childhood trauma, I have greater strength and resilience and support. That's a big part of making the EMDR more tolerable for me.
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
It is like that for me too, sometimes. My first experience was so revealing, and I guess refreshing in that years of talk and a laundry list of anti-d's hadn't done anything but cause predictable unpleasant side effects from the various drugs. EMDR left me feeling like- HEY! That was an effect! And then like a junkie chasing a high I began my search for a way to make the effect bring about positive changes. Nothing after the initial experience has been as jolting, but advances have come about and I am currently on my 5th provider with each along the way adding more to the whole.

I would say it works, but almost 8 years in I still cannot say it has worked. Anything can be made better, and the idea that any one treatment will be someone's final perfect capstone of healing is ridiculous. I personally think EMDR is very helpful, hopefully you will too. Emdr hasn't lead me to close this account and stop seeking help, but it is good for now.

After each session I am faced with fresher memories of traumatic events to deal with, but also I am able to "store" them away in better forms than the way they were being carried around. Like a squared away memory as opposed to a bunch of jagged torn little pieces. Same volume, same weight, but easier to pack and less trouble to keep tidy.

Best wishes to you on the journey
 

Sues

Confident
I've been doing EMDR for abuse that spanned 25 years. My therapist and I figured out to just take one room at a time in the house I lived with him to process. I was very skeptical, but kept an open mind. I didn't think I would see any big results. I was able to see significant results with the first EMDR session. It was a great surprise. I had therapy today and did EMDR again and it continues to surprise me with the results. We just started the third room today. I'm starting with the "easier" rooms and moving towards the more violent, harder rooms.

One thing that helps me a lot is my container that I put the memory I am processing for that session into. It's really important to leave that memory in the container before you leave your session. If it comes up later, I put it back into the container and leave it until my next therapy session. I also have my positive coping skills and most importantly my "safe place" I can use if needed.

After EMDR I'm ok with the room/memories we worked on. When I think about the two previous rooms that we've already processed with EMDR I don't have any bad reactions. It's so strange. It actually works! I still have all the other stuff that I go through on a daily basis, anxiety, horrible memories, nightmares, etc. I'm hoping that it will get better as I work through more memories.

The first few times I did EMDR I was pretty tired afterwards. Since then I've been ok. Maybe it's because I'm used to it, or maybe it's my continual exhaustion from long and stressful work hours. I do know that we worked for a while to lay a good foundation of coping before we started EMDR. I have so much anxiety around never feeling safe, that I really needed that.

I hope this helps. Ask me any questions you might have. I'm sure there's things I'm not thinking of right now.
 

Skywatcher

MyPTSD Pro
We have changed up the emdr many times. I’m grateful to have an experienced therapist who knows different techniques to use in complex trauma. For me, it feels like something is “solved” once the processing or resourcing has made it to a finish. We went through a few years where the emdr was stirring up too much scary stuff. What you (O.P.) are describing sounds a lot like how those beginning (over whelming) sessions were for me. Just openly communicate with your T and it will work itself out.
 

NotTooLate

Confident
I am reading all of this with so much interest as I'm currently considering switching therapists to one that is more trauma-focused and offers EMDR. Thanks to everyone for sharing. The more I read, the more I believe there is hope that I won't be stuck for the rest of my life.

Is anyone doing EMDR sessions virtually? I don't know if I'd be comfortable with that.
 
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Rumors

MyPTSD Pro
I have similar fallout initially after the first emdr session so we do a follow up the next day to process anything unprocessed. I found it to help me with the horror of some things and I am glad I did it, however at the time it totally sucked....good communication with your therapist is essential so they know where you are. If you can't be fully present during the session, you can work on grounding skills to bring you back then proceed with emdr... hang in there!
 

Wendell_R

MyPTSD Pro
Is anyone doing EMDR sessions virtually?
I am doing it virtually. The sessions begin and end without EMDR, which helps. My therapist uses headphones & tactile "tappers". T had a spare unit to give me early on in the Covid pandemic to take home. We eased into it slowly, trying it out a little bit and seeing what my comfort level was before proceeding more. Now, doing EMDR virtually is just fine, although I miss T's presence in other ways.

As @Sues says, a good foundation of coping skills and resources helps a lot. EMDR was initially terrifying--just the sounds and touch were triggers. So for me, we had to first do talk resourcing, and then do a lot of resourcing with EMDR before we even got close to working on the trauma.

I like the way @enough puts it: EMDR "works," but it hasn't "worked". EMDR helps me feel more at peace, and helps me move on in life much freer of the trauma, but there are still reminders of the trauma.
 
Is anyone doing EMDR sessions virtually?
Yep, I have no choice. My T uses a site like emdrremote.com that provides a a ball bouncing back and forth across the browser screen.

It was a little difficult to get used to at first but I adjusted pretty quickly. One thing I do is expand the tracking browser window to 75% of my computer screen while keeping 25% of my screen on the session so I can still see my T out of the corner of my eye as I track the ball back and forth. That's given me a much greater feeling of safety.

I would say virtual EMDR works just as well as in-person for me.
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
Is anyone doing EMDR sessions virtually? I don't know if I'd be comfortable with that.
My current T and I have never met in person. He is actually a psychologist and we are using a hybrid form of EMDR where the feelings and emotions are the focus, trying to locate the place in the body and brain that are hurting and working from there. Individual memories are in the brain, and felt in the body. Once one has been located and can be visited repeatedly, we do that like an exposure therapy to the effects rather than the cause.
i still havent done the straight on EMDR eye motion and physical stimulus with this guy, but there is bilateral background music in headphones. We are making big progress but I am not done.
The best unexpected part of virtual therapy? I am sensitized to and triggered by stupid people behind the wheel and driving home was a scary part of EMDR for sure, now I am at home already and no motor morons can distract me from the necessary ease back into daily life. I was a heart beat away from a very bad day driving home from other in-office sessions.
 

Skywatcher

MyPTSD Pro
Our virtual emdr has been going fine. We make a butterfly hug and tap left and right. Sometimes I may just tap my legs or feet, like if I’m needing to hug my pillow or blanket in my lap. I hope to go back in person in the spring after we are vaccinated. Mainly, just to have a reason to leave my house since my work is currently done virtually.
 
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