Experiences: PTSD and EMDR
by Maya Cherins
After my freshman year of college, I fell into a deep depression. I missed school and was adjusting to being home with my high school friends and family. I could not function. I was stuck in bed unable to comprehend what I was going through and incapable of talking to anyone. One day my mom came in, lifted my shades, made me get out of bed, and forced me to therapy.
I had been seeing my therapist for almost 2 years when she finally diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a while back. I was originally in shock; my education on PTSD was that it only occurred with war veterans or people who had experienced severe physical trauma. When I finally came to terms with my diagnosis, I talked to my parents and decided to go forward with the treatment: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Once a week I would go to my therapist for EMDR therapy. My fingers were connected to a machine that would change vibrations as I recalled the events of my trauma. I talked through my trauma and was reminded of why I was in so much pain. For the days following the EMDR therapy, I would be exhausted and quiet, overwhelmed by my recollection.
As I continued with the EMDR, I also began to see a psychiatrist. After many appointments and genome tests, I decided to go on anti-depressants. Between the medication and the EMDR, I was starting to feel a real change in my mind and body. I was finally in control of my life.
Although my PTSD diagnosis was merely a year ago, I had been experiencing emotions of anxiety and depression for years. Why is it that it took so long for me to get the serious medical help I needed?
A recent study in the UK found that the most commonly held stigma around mental health is that people with mental health problems are dangerous, the problems are self-inflicted, and people with mental health problems are difficult to talk to. These long-lasting stigmas are prejudiced and discriminatory towards people with mental health problems, and can further cause internalized stigma for the person experiencing mental health issues.
I had been taught to fear mental health, only to grow up to fear my own experiences.
Since my diagnosis and treatment, I have been more outspoken about my mental health, providing comfort for others who are going through similar experiences. I am able to engage in conversations with friends and family members about my mental health and am proud to share my story.
While I am finally confident and happy with my mental health, 2/3 of people with mental illnesses receive no treatment. Yet 20% of U.S. adults and 17% of U.S. teenagers experience some form of mental illness. LGBTQ+ communities experience mental illnesses at alarmingly higher rates: 37% The average time span it takes from when mental health symptoms arise and when one receives treatment is 11 years.
How do we ensure that no one has to wait 11 years to receive mental health treatment? How do we ensure that this treatment is affordable for all? How do we provide a safe outlet for those who are scared to talk about their experiences? Can we envision a future without mental health stigma?
- Talk openly with friends, colleagues and family members about mental health.
- Educate yourself and others on mental health statistics and the communities that are disproportionately affected.
- Elevate mental health to the same level of physical health.
- Fight the stigma! Share your experiences and fight your battles! Understand that you are never alone.
The following resources include hotlines, organizations, and support networks to fight stigma against mental illness and to provide resources to those in need:
- The Trevor Project: Supporting Black and LGBTQ+ mental health through education, resources, support centers, and more
- LGBT National Help Center: Providing free and confidential peer support and resources for LGBTQ+ folks
- National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine Resources: A list of hotlines and resources for those struggling with mental health