Noun: los·er | \ ˈlü-zər \
1: a person or thing that loses especially consistently
2: a person who is incompetent or unable to succeed
also: something doomed to fail or disappoint¹
So, my initial word for L was Lightsome. (Adj. Providing light; luminous. Covered with or full of light; bright.) I like to write about shiny sparkly things like self-love and finding light in dark situations, but this is the story of living with anxiety, and stories about anxiety often start with darkness, so Loser seemed liked a fitting word.
If I had a dollar for every time I used this word in my head, I would be a very rich woman. Occasionally it is aimed at someone else, but 99.9% of the time, it’s aimed at me. Or, I should say, used to be aimed at me. I don’t use words like that anymore when I’m talking to myself. Or at least rarely.
Self-talk has a profound impact on how we see our place in the world. I recently read that our self-esteem is developed by how we interpret other people’s reaction to us, and, quite often, we struggle to accurately read the amount of acceptance or rejection in our lives. Additionally, living with an anxiety disorder can skew our interpretation of other’s reaction to us. So, we believe that we are rejected far more than we probably are, and we miss seeing that we are actually accepted and loved quite a bit.
I spent a lot of years calling myself a lot of terrible names. I partnered this self-talk with destructive actions that confirmed the self- talk. Call yourself a loser. Act like a loser. Confirm to yourself that you are, indeed, a loser.
I continued this trend into my 30’s. I continued it until I just couldn’t stand it anymore. And then I did something to change it.
As you may have been able to deduce by now, I am a big advocate for therapy. I’ve had several therapists throughout the years, and each one has helped me to improve the quality of my life in different ways. But the therapist that introduced me to EMDR gave me the biggest gift I have ever received. It was a gamechanger.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR Canada describes this treatment as “an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma” ²
To understand EMDR, I think it’s important to first understand the meaning of words like trauma or post traumatic stress. These words often conjure images of abuse, war, or death, but that description is not complete. There is a spectrum of trauma, and most of us have experienced it to some degree in our lives. Importantly, how we process that trauma (or are able to process it) at the time it occurs can influence how much we are affected by it in the future.
Studies have found that EMDR decreases or eliminates the symptoms of post traumatic stress and anxiety. “The goal of EMDR therapy is to completely process the experiences that are causing problems, and to include new ones that are needed for full health.” ³
So, in a nutshell, what that means is that it helps us to take a traumatic event, remove the inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations, and leave us with emotions, perspective, and understanding that are healthy and beneficial.
And that is exactly what happened for me.
I underwent this treatment about 15 years ago and have since talked to others whose experience with EMDR was slightly different than mine, but there are commonalities for all of us. Everyone that I have talked to has had the experience of watching a series of lights or dots which moved or blinked in a rhythmic left-right motion. There could also be other bilateral stimulation, such as taps or tones.
And while this was happening, the client discusses or visualizes a traumatic memory, either briefly or in detail.
In my case, my therapist had me focus on a line of lights that blinked in a rhythm from left to right and back again. At the same time, I had 2 hand-held transmitters that buzzed, alternately left, then right, throughout the appointment. We talked about past trauma, but with me watching the lights and feeling the buzzers in my hands.
One day, about a month after we had started this treatment, something occurred that triggered that deep-seated self-blame that I often felt and my old inner dialogue of “OMG Michelle you are such a loser” started up. But before I could even get warmed up with my self-flagellation, it just stopped, and I thought “no you’re not”.
What? Where did that come from? The need or want to chastise myself vanished, and I could look at the situation rationally and calmly. Wow. It was like the emotional side of my brain was able to talk to the logical side of my brain in the middle of an emotional situation, something that never happened before.
I’ve never looked back.
Sure, sometimes I lose my shit in the middle of an emotional situation, and I can certainly accept that I’m quite possibly to blame for whatever is happening, but I don’t beat myself up anymore. I apologize (sometimes), recognize that I screwed up and leave it at that. No more litany of insults in my brain, making me feel worse about the situation.
If you can’t find a therapist who is trained in EMDR, then start by taking time each day to look at your self-talk and question its validity. Spend more time thinking about what you do right instead of focusing on what you believe you are doing wrong. Celebrate your achievements. Think about buying a journal and writing all of that good stuff down. And keep looking for an EMDR trained therapist. It will, in my opinion, be worth it.
On a final note, I will qualify that I sometimes call myself fat, a term viewed as derogatory, but I don’t use it to negatively comment on my personality, worth, or character, but factually on the size of my ass. And as I am writing this, I’ve lost over 50 pounds, so I am, quite literally, a loser. I hope to continue to be this kind of loser. From my lips to God’s ear.