A few posts ago I mentioned my desire to start therapy. I had looked into several therapists and the price was not something we could afford at that moment. However, like most things that are meant to be, I found out some local therapists were looking for individuals with PPD/Anxiety to partake in a therapy called brainspotting. As part of the study they were providing the therapy at a reduced rate.
I’m going to do my best to describe how brainspotting therapy works from a patient’s perspective. Granted, this is only one person’s perspective so keep that in mind.
Ideally you go in with some shit you need to work through. For me it was all that was associated with my perinatal mental breakdown and the anxiety caused from it. Once you have identified some shit your therapist will guide you to find a “brainspot.” This is done by following a pointer with your eyes until you feel more or less “activated.” Once you find a brainspot you work through your shit. This may involve active conversation with the therapist. Or it may be silent and you are doing constant body check ins. Sometimes it’s both. And typically more shit you didn’t even know was there starts to pop up.
I had been avoiding this type of therapy for some time. Why? Well, it requires active recounting of unpleasant things. And going back to my mental breakdown was not a place I wanted to go. Although apparently I was willing to go there for the right price.
Session one: I go in and am asked to fill out the standard anxiety and depression questionnaire. This was required before session one, four and seven. I remember distinctly thinking there was no way my answers were going to be different after session three or six.
It’s not that I didn’t think the therapy was going to work. But when you are so used to living with a mental illness it’s hard to imagine not having it.
I also want to note that there is limited research about the success of brainspotting. It is often associated with EMDR, which has mixed reviews. I’m not sure there is any research about the success of brainspotting with PPD or anxiety. Which is why this study is happening.
Like everything I do, I went all in. If it was going to work, great. If not, well at least I can say I went all in.
Session one included me talking all about my anxieties and intrusive thoughts. Safe space. All in. Major anxiety. And session one was done. I left in a tolerably anxious state.
Session two was my first brainspotting session. It was intense but again, I left with similar anxiety to how I came in. It wasn’t until two days post session two that I noticed a change in how I felt. Typically, when I talk about anything related to my perinatal mental health anxiety goes to an eight. However, when I talked to a few friends about the experience my anxiety didn’t change. It took me by surprise. Why was I able to talk about my perinatal experience without a huge spike in anxiety? And yet, here I was talking about it and not on the verge of a panic attack.
Over the next several weeks we addressed other anxieties and past experiences. The sessions themselves were uncomfortable. Admittedly, I pushed them to be as activating as I could tolerate. But I was quick to realize that there was a change happening. Some weeks the change felt more noticeable than others.
After the sixth session the study was over. I again was asked to fill out the same paperwork. I felt substantially different. And I was shocked how much different my answers were.
I’m still doing brainspotting. I think I’m roughly ten sessions in. I actually did talk therapy during one of the sessions and hated it. Don’t get me wrong. I love my therapist but I’m hooked on brainspotting.
A couple notes I want to add. This is MY experience and only my experience.
Also, I don’t know that there is ever a quick fix to any illness. Mental or physical. It takes work. For me, the work in brainspotting comes during the sessions with the therapist. When I do CBT or similar types of therapy I feel like I constantly have to be on the lookout for triggers and how to avoid/respond to those triggers. With brainspotting I feel like my everyday baseline anxiety is lower. And I have far fewer triggers than before.