EMDR & Depression: A Personal Account of Suffering and Recovery in 2020Jul 16, 2022
[Originally Published 02/04/2021]
What is depression? Depression can be characterized by feelings of low motivation, sadness, and lack of hope for things to get better. It may look like irritability and impatience. When someone rejects themselves, they may portray that rejection onto others. Those that love them may feel powerless to help. Depression is hard to deal with and can be debilitating.
Dysthymia (Pervasive Depressive Disorder) is a low grade depression that often begins in childhood. Children are often 'forced to perform' and their feelings are not recognized until they escalate and help comes a little late. Children with Dysthymia can be misdiagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD or anxiety. Dysthymia often turns into depression for adults. Although anxiety is also an issue for many who have depressive disorders, it is often not the primary issue and it will receive treatment over depression.
Another way to conceptualize depressive symptoms is having a disconnection with the best parts of yourself, you feel lost and blocked from realizing the goodness in life. It is riddled with negative beliefs of self and deep emotions that are hard to overcome.
EMDR can help. MFCC deeply appreciates the vulnerability and willingness of this contributor to share their road to healing with EMDR treatment.
2020... 20. 20. Wow.
2020 was hard on so many of us and 2021 does not appear to have much better in store for many of us.
2020 was both the hardest, worst, most disheartening year and the best, most profoundly transformative and empowering year I have ever had. As painful, disgusting, disappointing and full of despair as 2020 was for everyone, I am incredibly grateful for 2020. It is not lost on me how profoundly privileged I must be to be able to say that. I wish with all of me that all of us could say it.
Throughout my life I have often been told "self-care, no matter how hard it can be, is always the first step in being well". Before 2020, I always thought to myself "Sounds like victim blaming/shaming" and "I'm too depressed to care for myself, how am I ever going to get out of this cycle?" It never seemed to ring true for me.
My whole life I have battled deep, persistent dysthymic depression. I know just how impossible it can feel to even do the most basic tasks like getting out of bed to go melt in the couch instead of moldering on the mattress. Sometimes you can't even do that and feel shame because it doesn't help, it just makes it worse, creating a seemingly endless loop of personal degradation.
Our society had a terrible start to 2020 but for myself I should have been happy. I am privileged enough by happenstance that I wasn't personally suffering in a tangible way from our country’s social and political woes. I should have been ecstatic after finally reaping the rewards of all the exceedingly hard work and strife my partner and I had endured for the past several years. This should have been one of the happiest times of my life, personally. Among many other substantial hard-won triumphs, I had finally purchased my first home with the love of my life. We had been through so much, so many let-downs and disappointments and so much hard work and delayed gratification to overcome those setbacks and now we were finally able to breath, to relax our shoulders.
Nevertheless, early in 2020, deep into winter, I was suffocating under layers of seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, and despair over the state and potential future of our society, so much injustice and suffering, it was all I could do to bear it. Everything was bleak and I was steadily sinking into the thick, sucking bog of nihilistic hopelessness. I was doing the absolute minimum to keep myself alive and even that seemed pointless. I saw no point in doing anything, no point in anything at all which I eventually realized also meant "no point in NOT trying something, anything new". So, at the suggestion (pleading) of someone very near and dear to me, I finally tried EMDR therapy after hearing about it for years. I had already given up so why not give in? Within a few one-hour EMDR sessions I finally internalized that idea that was always being pushed on me "self-care is always the first step in being well". Self-care isn't always administered by one's self; sometimes it only needs initiation or acceptance by one's self. I had to accept the help.
I will be eternally, indescribably grateful that person pushed me to push myself one more time. My sessions allowed me to shed so much emotional weight that I could finally see a twinkle of light at the end of my tunnel of despair. I realized I had forgotten myself and with EMDR I was finally starting to remember, to feel like the me I had forgotten. To me, it felt miraculous; it felt like magic. I had let go of hope but now I had the clarity to realize I didn't need hope, hope doesn’t help, I needed action. EMDR took off enough of that crushing emotional weight and numbness that I could move again. EMDR didn't do the work. It allowed me to. In the wake of the deepest depression of my 35 years I knew I could do it again.
Once I had movement, I had progress. Once I had progress, I had desire. Once I had desire, I had successes again. Little successes. Once I had successes, I had self-worth again. I could do something that felt impossible; I could love myself again. Now I could achieve big successes again.
I mean this all very literally. I had the desire and the motivation to move, to eat well, to stay hydrated, to exercise, to laugh, to love, to work, to quit smoking, to eat well, to improve my physical fitness, to finish projects, to care for my loved ones and pets. I had a clarity I cannot remember ever enjoying in all my 35 years.
I cannot adequately articulate the amount of positive transformation I experienced in 2020 IN SPITE OF 2020, all thanks to the cascading effects I experienced from giving in to EMDR therapy.
My experience was profound, and I have healed and I have grown. I keep going to EMDR sessions because now I am experiencing additive benefits and continued growth beyond healing my past traumas and managing my depression. I am learning to overcome life's challenges with healthy and efficient skills as they come up. I am seeing huge leaps in my productivity and performance and I feel a sustained sense of well-being I never knew before. Every one of us has had a different journey and I would never compare my struggles to another's, but I can't help but believe that if I can find such profound relief in this therapy it can offer help to anyone.
I hope you give EMDR a chance in 2021.