It was 3:15 am and I was rocking my daughter, my second child while nursing her in the middle of the night, half-asleep myself, and staring emptily out her bedroom window looking at the moon. I wanted to cry again but didn’t have one ounce of energy left to do so. I had wanted this baby girl for so long and here she was, and yet I was deeply exhausted, overwhelmed, irritable, and sad.
Brushing it off as baby blues, as so many mamas often do, things just progressively got worse. I would experience bursts of red fire rage and scream at everything and nothing, feeling as if I had absolutely zero control in those moments. Immediately following I would apologize, own my shit but then sink deeper into the mama guilt.
Then one day I had the thought that I just couldn’t do this. I just couldn’t do life, couldn’t parent two kids, run a business, and that the world was probably better off without me.
I was fantasizing about running away.
As a therapist, and a woman who so intensely loves her family, I knew at this point those thoughts were not mine, they were Postpartum Depression. I knew I had to immediately reach out for help.
I had a neighbor who had done EMDR with a local therapist and I thought, “Wow, this experience has brought up a lot for me, I must be ready to do deeper trauma work”. So I reached out to that therapist to book a session and to begin the process.
The Universe Always Provides!
Over the phone, the therapist shared with me that she no longer did EMDR because she had been trained to do Brainspotting and that it was perfect timing for me to call because she was getting ready to launch a research study on Brainspotting for PPD/ PPA. She briefly provided an overview of Brainspotting and, while I didn’t totally get it, I was desperate to get the suicidal thoughts out of my head.
Fast forward to my very first session where I brought in a core belief that I had about myself which was that I was disgusting. A disgusting person. This core belief is not true, I know that now, and was born out of trauma. But at that time, I thought I was rotten to the core.
The session took me down memory lane of all the things that have happened that helped create that belief, but by pulling out the information this way, I was able to see it differently. I was able to disconnect from it emotionally. I was able to have compassion for the girl who has been living her life believing this about herself when it’s not true. And I kid you not, by the end of this session, the belief was completely irrelevant.
The suicidal thoughts completely subsided.
I was shocked by the results and did several more sessions, working to peel back the layers of my healing one by one until I felt more like me again.
Obviously, not everyone will have the same results and outcomes, but for me, I had to know more. It just so happened, because again the Universe always provides, that Brainspotting training Phase 1 was coming to Ft Collins, CO the following month, which is not a normal occurrence. I knew I had to have this game-changer as a tool in my tool belt for myself and also my clients.
Brainspotting helped me get to the root of my struggles which then lifted the symptoms I was experiencing, which were everything from depression and anxiety to perfectionism and hiding behind perceived success by doing and performing.
And, here’s the deal. It is so common for many of us to struggle to get to the root of our suffering because when we experience extremely distressing, disruptive, and traumatic experiences, the brain goes into overload, the nervous system freezes, and the memory then gets filed deep in the brain and the energy stuck in the nervous system. (Levine, 1997)
Peter Levine, Ph.D., illustrates that when other animals are in a traumatic situation if they survive, they will immediately shake off what was stuck and stored. Humans however are the only animals that don’t complete this cycle resulting in unprocessed trauma held in the brain and body.
Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD illustrates with his research how we hold trauma in the body with his book The Body Keeps The Score.
Many people don’t even realize that some of the things they have experienced in life were traumatic. Experiences such as being humiliated in front of your peers in second grade could have been traumatic. High school heart breaks are traumatic. Parents divorcing can be traumatic. Car accidents, fights, and any form of abuse at any time is traumatic. The point is, we all most likely have some stuff in the files in the mid brain that are causing our nervous systems to flare up and get ready to fight, flight, freeze or shut down (Polyvagal theory, Dr. Stephen Porges) which could be causing the anxiety you are experiencing, among other things.
Especially during a pandemic.
Dr. David Grand is the founder of Brainspotting and its community which I professionally engage in (www.Brainspotting.com). We believe Brainspotting gives clients access to parts of the brain that are deep within that can’t be accessed during conscious thinking. By following the concept of where you look affects how you feel (Dr. David Grand), he discovered that eye position greatly effected how clients felt about the subjects they were discussing. That eye position across the visual field, along with bilateral music, and the containment of the relationship led to this process that ignited accessing, processing, and re-organizing what has been stored deep in the mid-brain.
Having traumatic memories stuck in the mid-brain means that the subconscious part of our brain is being heavily influenced by trauma. What you learned about yourself and the world around you from living through that trauma informs your brain and nervous system on what is safe or not. This might mean that you are more easily triggered, living in worst-case scenario thinking, severely anxious, dealing with physical pain, relationship problems, overeating or over-drinking, and many other maladaptive coping strategies.
When we process the trauma in a healthy way and release it from the body we are literally healing from the inside out.
When we re-organize those memories that conditioned us to believe the world is not safe, or that we are not good enough, we can view the world through a refreshed, present, and truthful lens. We can see things for what they really are rather than how we have perceived them. We may be less triggered and therefore no longer need those unhealthy coping strategies. We might rebuild our sense of self, learn to listen and trust our intuition, and access core truths about ourselves that have been buried in the yuck.
Once we clear out those traumatic experiences and release the stagnant energy that has been stuck in the body, we typically notice a reduction in anxiety, although that is not guaranteed. Then we can leverage Brainspotting for expansion. To enhance skills, knowledge, and performance while removing barriers. This process is used with athletes, C-suite level executives, and anyone willing to do the work.
The possibilities are unlimited and I have been so jazzed, as both a client and a clinician, to do this work and spread the good word about what this can do for my clients and everyone else.
Just to give you a little exposure, let’s do a little exercise to show you how this works. Think of something that is currently distressing to you. Seriously, take a moment to close your eyes and pull up this issue. Now while having the issue in your awareness look to your right for five seconds. Pause there and notice how you feel and if you notice any sensations in your body. Next, look to your far left with the issue in your awareness for five seconds and notice how that feels. Did you notice they were different?
Have I at least sparked your interest in learning more and starting this healing and enhancement process?
Take care of yourselves and therefore each other.
Brooke Jean, MA, LPC