I FEEL HOPEFUL.
I FEEL EMPOWERED.
I FEEL PROGRESS.
I FEEL RELIEF.
I have been in therapy for my anxiety (and now grief) for about 2 years on and off now. When I made the move to South Florida, I also left my therapist. My therapist and I had a great relationship, she “got” me, she too suffered with anxiety and it felt great to talk to someone who could relate and give me concrete advice and coping skills. She was also my brother’s therapist which created a very unique bond for us after his passing. So once I moved here, we tried to keep having sessions through telecommunication but it was just not the same for me. After a few months of struggling, I decided to reach out and find a new therapist.
Once I got to my new therapist, I was NOT looking forward to telling someone my life story. I felt extraordinarily anxious about starting this process with someone new. My struggles in middle school, my anxiety since then, my brother, the loss of my brother, and now my own struggles with depression. Sucks to put it all out there in an hour long meet and greet sharing everything you’ve struggled with and what you’re still struggling with. We clicked though, and she told me about Neurofeedback. I asked 1 million questions and even asked for a quick demo and I was FASCINATED. I came home and did hours and hours of research. Why had I never heard of this before?! To be honest, I was little angry because this could’ve helped my brother! But, let’s not go there…This is about my healing from this point forward.
I spoke with my parents and we decided I’d give it a try. My new therapist said it takes 5-8 sessions to see significant improvement and 20 sessions to have lasting results. Seems like a lot, right? I thought so too. But I will be going twice a week for the first few times to get my brain used to the program. I had my third session today and I have already started feeling results. I am sleeping better, not having as frequent nightmares, my depression isn’t as debilitating, but my anxiety hasn’t subsided yet. I do have to say my mind-set has changed a lot over the last week and a half since learning about Neurofeedback. I feel so hopeful and realize that I don’t have to be sad or anxious and that I can fix this. I can do this. I don’t deserve to be sad and worried all the time. I did nothing wrong and won’t continue to let myself be self-deprecating.
In a nutshell, Neurofeedback allows your brain to see itself. It holds up a mirror to your brain and shows it the parts that need to be fixed. According to the program I am using, called “BrainPaint”, “In the case of EEG biofeedback, software gives visual and audio feedback to provide an experience to the brain of enhanced function, specifically to improve its regulation of thoughts, feelings, and focus. As with everything we learn, a beneficial lesson makes a lasting impression”. When I read that I seriously wanted to slap myself. It makes total sense. If your brain doesn’t know what it’s doing wrong, how can it fix itself? Medication is a bandage that I personally don’t want to wear forever, and my practical mind knows what’s right and wrong, but for some reason my brain won’t allow me to experience life the right way anymore. As much as I believe in psycho-therapy (aka “Talk Therapy”), I don’t feel talking about what has happened will be beneficial any longer. I get myself all worked up and force myself to relive and think deeply about all the things that are “wrong” with me. What good does that do? I typically leave feeling worse. So I have decided to give Neurofeedback a whirl.
The most common applications Neurofeedback is used for are:
I was given a few days to decide on the 4 areas that are lowering my quality of life the most, for me it is: PTSD/Trauma (which includes nightmares & consistent daily flashbacks), Sleeplessness, Anxiety, and Depression. My therapist then asked me 90 questions to give the program specifics about what I am needing to work on. I was then hooked up with sensors on my earlobes and different areas of my scalp. One question I had was if anything was going into my brain, like waves or shocks or anything…the answer is a big ole NO! The sensors simply pick up the electrical activity coming from your brain. For me personally, the first part of my sessions each time is an “eyes closed” portion, which is by far the hardest part. Basically the program prompts me to be in my subconscious and think about a happy time or moment for 1 minute, and then I am supposed to let my subconscious drift wherever it may. I am not supposed to guide it back to positive thoughts or different thoughts. This is to help me process and heal my PTSD symptoms. The first time I did this my therapist asked me if there’s anything I’d like to process after I opened my eyes and I said no. She then showed me on the screen where my brain waves changed and she could see me having unpleasant thoughts in real time. WHAT! EVEN!
Next, you watch morphing fractal images created from your brain activity as well as listen to sounds that your brain waves are creating. It is broken up into 2 minute chunks with a 20 second rest in between. You will need the break… trust me! The first couple of sessions were difficult to get my brain to focus but today’s 3rd session was much easier for me for some reason. Your brain activity is being monitored the entire time and there are check systems to be sure you are getting the full effect of the treatment. It’s like a workout for your brain and boy am I tired afterwards! It’s insane how taxing this treatment is, but I know it will be worth it in the end.
The fact that there is a program out there that is clinically proven to help “fix your brain” is incredible to me. I asked my therapist why this isn’t a more prominent option for treatment. She basically said it’s because psychiatrists make their money off of writing prescriptions because people want a quick fix. I have absolutely no judgement for that, as I am on anti-depressants and a heavy antihistamine to help me fall back asleep quickly when I wake up frequently during the night. But I much rather fix the root of the problem than to keep taking a medication for the rest of my life. Of course this is just a personal choice after watching my brother go through medications after medication and finding no relief.
I have only gone through three treatments so far but I am hell bent on the idea that this is going to help me and fix me, but it will take work. Helping yourself isn’t about just walking into a therapists’ office, it’s about holding yourself accountable and making the changes you want to see happen within yourself. Your mindset is more than half the battle. It is much easier said than done to be open and hopeful that you will get better.
Recovering from a tragedy or struggle is not an easy choice, it is hard work. Sitting in your own sadness can become disgustingly comfortable. It is the HARDER choice to challenge yourself to overcome your obstacles.
What is the alternative to this hard road? Giving up? Well, I refuse to sink. Andy wouldn’t want me to go down with him. As much as I miss him with every ounce of my being and want to lie in bed and do nothing by cry most days, I know he would want me to rise up and be who I am supposed to be. This is a huge step in my healing but just a small fragment of who I will become. I miss my person, every second of every day. But I love him a thousand times more. This is for you, Andy bear, but this even more for ME.