My phobias only became more entrenched as I moved into adulthood, and they were in charge. As limiting and immobilizing as they were, I continued to think of them as quirks or flaws that I just had to negotiate my life around.
I began psychotherapy in my 20s, and my search for emotional healing stretched over 22 years, and seven different therapists. I was exposed to traditional talk therapy, CBT therapy, and Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, but none of them offered any substantive or lasting relief.
My search ended at the age of 61, when I walked into the office of an EMDR therapist. While my other therapists had focused on my various phobias, this one zoomed out to look at the bigger picture of my life. To my surprise, he diagnosed the source of my phobias: early childhood trauma.
I was introduced to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), an evidence-based, memory-focused trauma therapy. And from the very first EMDR session, I felt relief. My therapist would guide me to a memory, or physical sensation, or emotion from a particular time in my childhood and have me move my eyes back and forth, from side to side, following his two fingers. This “bilateral stimulation,” a unique feature of EMDR therapy, allowed my brain to process memories that got frozen in my nervous system long ago and this, in turn, led to a dramatic decrease in my symptoms. My past was no longer intruding into my present.