Since last January (2023), I have dealt with more anxiety and looked for options to make my concussion more manageable. Someone gave me the advice to try EMDR therapy to heal my trauma after I sustained a concussion. So far, I've had 2 sessions, and in this blog, I'll share whether it helped me, how I felt after the sessions and tell you more about what a session looks like.
Table of contents
What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. This therapy was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987 to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It's a mental health therapy method to let go of trauma, which can be very helpful for people dealing with concussion symptoms.
During the therapy, you use eye movements to change the way a memory is stored in the brain, allowing it to process it.
When you have a concussion, eye movements can be too much, so you can also use headphones with sounds or tapping on your knees or shoulders. It's all about focusing on the traumatic event/thought and then distracting your mind by doing cognitive exercises.
But how does it work?
When something reminds you of trauma, your body and brain can react like it's happening again. This is what you often see when someone sustains a concussion and feel like they are in fight/flight mode. The brain doesn't know the difference between the past and the present.
That's when EMDR can be helpful. During a session, you reprocess a trauma memory to help you move past it.
EMDR changes the way traumatic memories are stored in the brain. Once you properly process the memory, you should be able to remember this traumatic event without experiencing intense and emotional reactions. You move the thought from one part of the brain to the other.
For me, one of the signs I was dealing with trauma after my concussion was crying so much, and I felt more irritated.
>> Read my blog: Can a concussion affect your emotions? Crying after a concussion.
My first EMDR trauma therapy session using eye movements while dealing with eye issues after a concussion.
I'd already had a few normal therapy sessions with my therapist, and then out of the blue, she told me she thought EMDR trauma therapy could help with the anxiety I was dealing with after I sustained my concussion. So, let's try it now.
So I didn't have time to Google first (maybe that's better ;)), we just started. The first session was with eye movements, which we realized was too much after the session.
I started EMDR because I'd been dealing with panic attacks and anxiety since January, 6 months before we started EMDR.
During the session, I had to tune into the panic feelings first, this was my trauma event. She asked me to tune into the panic attack that scared me the most. This was my first panic attack as I didn't know what was happening, and it freaked me out.
Tuning in on this made me feel more anxious, I felt that pressure on my chest again and the panic in my body. My therapist told me that was a good thing and guided me through it.
After focusing on that for about 30 seconds, I had to follow a ball that moved from left to right and was changing color on a screen. I had to name the color each time it changed. This went very fast, and I already felt it was a lot for me, but I thought it was normal.
Then after doing that, I felt tired. Now I had to tune into the feeling of feeling tired. After that, I had to follow that ball again.
I felt even more tired. After every round, we tuned into that new feeling I felt. We did around 4 rounds, and I felt completely exhausted.
The session was over, and I had to lie down immediately. We did this session online, and I can't even imagine going back home after doing a session like this.
In the video below, I tell you more about my experience with the first EMDR session.
I had to recover for about a month
A positive result, I felt calmer and less anxious after that session. It really did something!
The negative thing was that it was way too much for me. I felt so tired the first few days that I could only lie down. My eyes were overstimulated, and I couldn't function normally. I didn't leave the house for about a week.
I just knew I don't do that eye movement again as I already have eye issues from sustaining my concussion.
So I can recommend everyone dealing with eye issues after a concussion and wanting to do the EMDR trauma therapy starts with tapping or using headphones. Please discuss this with your therapist because eye movements aren't necessary to get the same results.
How long does it take to recover from an EMDR session? What's normal?
As you can read, I had to recover for about a month; this is way too long! It's normal to feel exhausted the first few days to a maximum a week. When it's longer, it means the session was too much or EMDR isn't for you. Always discuss this with your therapist.
My second EMDR session
After a month, I felt I recovered from my first session. A month's recovery time is way too long. So, my therapist and I decided not to do the eye movements anymore and focus on tapping on the shoulders.
This time we focused on the panic feelings in my body. This was pressure on my chest, pressure on my head and restlessness. Again, I felt a small increase in symptoms, but not that I couldn't handle it. I felt more emotional and had to cry.
After that, we focused on tapping on my shoulders. I had to put my right hand on my left shoulder and my left hand on my right. She gave me instructions: one tap on the left eye, two on the right, then switch to four on the left and five on the right shoulder, and so on.
Again, we focused after doing that on how I felt after the tapping part. I didn't feel more tired but more relaxed, so we focused on that. Then we started tapping again. We did around four rounds.
I didn't notice that huge effect like I had after the first session with the eye movements, but I felt a bit calmer.
In the podcast below, I tell you more about my experience with the second EMDR session.
Will I do more EMDR sessions?
I felt an improvement in my symptoms after the eye moment session. It really felt like I'd left some trauma behind. But I didn't feel much difference after the tapping session.
I don't want to do the eye movements anymore as I feel this is way too much for my eyes as I still struggle with my eyes from my concussion.
So I decided to wait until my eyes were better or try another session using the headphones and little beeps instead of tapping on my shoulders.
For now, we focus more on coping and how to deal with anxiety and panic feelings.
Are you thinking about doing EMDR as well?
I would suggest trying a session first without the eye movements.
With every treatment, it's so important to follow your gut feeling. If you feel EMDR can help you, I would try it. I heard about many people with a concussion who benefited greatly from this trauma therapy.
If you go for it, good luck! I will keep you updated about my sessions :).
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