Brainspotting Therapy

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.

 

Sleep Studies and Parenting

I feel like I have so much to write. My blog functions a lot like my brain; nothing and then rapid fire thoughts. Although I can control when to publish my posts unlike my thoughts. If only my brain was that controlled. Anyway, I digress.

The two big kids were in a sleep study. Everyone asks, “What’s wrong with their sleep.” The answer is nothing. We just happen to live semi-close to a university that does research. The gist was to spend the first seven days (which turned into 13) with the kids on a strict sleep schedule in which they woke up and went to bed at the same time. They also wore light meters. The last three days included college students coming into our home, covering all of our windows and lights with tarps and tape and not exposing the kids to light above 10 lux (nightlight level.) We had 5-7 college students in our house entertaining our children in the dark from 6:15AM – 10PM all three days. They also took saliva samples every 20- 30 minutes throughout the evenings. It was intense. More for me, less the kids.

I’m always shocked at how often my identity as a mother shifts. Like any identity, I often don’t “feel” it. Sure, I’m gay but I don’t think about it most days. Same with being a mom. Until I have a bunch of “young” college kids in my home. Oh, to be young and in college. After Noa was born my PP Anxiety made me want to go back to college.

Here’s the thing, the mom identity is a moving target. I’m really good at being a mom to a one year old. I have no idea what I’m doing as a mom to a (soon to be) five year old. Am I old enough to have a five year old? I’m pretty sure my vision of 31 included suits, a briefcase, an office, and probably some pumps. Fuck Cosmo magazine.

And yet, here I am. Navigating parenting three under five. Having a bunch of college kids in my home probably judging my parenting. Feeling my motherhood identity under a microscope. And I care. Why do I care? Who gives a shit what they think? Apparently I do. They see lots of kids. And lots of parenting.

They asked if they could come back and study Atticus again next year. And Cal in two years. Several offered to babysit. I’ll take that as a mom win.

The watch is a light meter. 
Her light meter watch and necklace. 

Faith in Humanity #2

Jordann and I have decided we need to build a playhouse for our kids. This way, when they’re teenagers, they’ll have a place to smoke pot and feel like they’re super sneaky and rebellious. Today, I went to buy all of the lumber we would need for the platform/deck of the playhouse. Once I started piling 2 x 6 x 10s on the cart I realized our Outback was not going to be sufficient in hauling it all back home. Our friend was coming over to help so she drove our SUV over as backup.

While we were loading the boards into the SUV and trying to figure out how to make it all fit, a guy came up to us that looked like he walked off the set of Duck Dynasty. (I know. Duck Dynasty doesn’t have an actual “set”. But you get the metaphor.) This guy had a mustache that hung to his collar bone with perfect ringlets, a camo cowboy hat, a camo sleeveless shirt that showed off his faded military tattoos, the biggest belt buckle I’ve ever seen that was holding on a belt that was holding the pistol on his hip, and wearing cowboy boots that looked like they’d seen their fair share of work. We’ll call him Duck Dynasty Guy (DDG) for now. I was all ready for the “you little ladies need some help there?” conversation and I already had my snarky response ready. HOWEVER, the following conversation ensued:

DDG: That’s not gonna fit in there.

Me: I know. We also have the Outback over there. (Noticing how small and insignificant our Outback looked sitting amongst all the big kid pick-up trucks.)

DDG: Yeah… It’s not gonna fit in there either. Y’all live close by?

Me: Yeesssss….

DDG: I’ll go get my truck. We’ll load it all up in there and then I can just bring it to your house.

He brought up his giant pick up truck (complete with Marine Corps license plates) and we loaded it with all of our lumber. After we got it home and everything was unloaded he told us his name was Bear. He also told us that he grew up in this area and we had a nice little chat before he took off to complete whatever project he had put on hold to play lumber delivery guy.

As much as I think I’m non-judgemental, it’s moments like these when I realize that I still hold judgements toward certain people. I try not to. And this will just be one more lesson I store away next time I start judging someone based on appearance. Thanks, Bear.

Everyone is Lying or We’re Doing it Wrong

Betsy and I just got back from camping with our three kids. It was one night. In a yurt. And it sucked. I’d like to think I’m not alone in the abhorrence of camping with small children. And yet, according to social media, I’m doing something wrong.

I grew up camping and have very fond memories of it. As an adult I feel okay about it. It’s great when there are a lot of people to share the work, less fun when it’s was just Betsy and me.

Every Spring Betsy proposes going camping with the kids. Last year she even “practiced” by sleeping with the big kids in a tent. When March rolled around I was ready for her enthusiastic pitch to go camping. I caved. All these friends made it look easy. Surely, we could handle it for one night in a yurt. I could not have been more wrong. I’m just going to throw out a list of why “What the fuck was I thinking” went through my head about a thousand times in the 16 hours (that’s all we lasted) we were roughing it. (Some of these apply to children, others just camping in general.)

  1. Given the growing population of Colorado, you have to book a site roughly six years in advance. If the forecast calls for hail two days before your trip you’re screwed. But of course you don’t want to waste your site so you agree to go anyway. Because nothing is more outdoorsy than sitting in a yurt for hours while in rains and hails.
  2. I have pee anxiety. I pee before getting into my sleeping bag and if I don’t fall asleep right away I lay awake thinking about whether or not I should go pee again. Which is a vicious cycle of thinking about going pee, conceding and going pee, hoping to fall asleep, and then thinking about going pee again. On repeat.
  3. Cooking a meal takes forever. So when trying to feed three kids dinner you should start cooking around 3:30PM.
  4. How the fuck do you get three toddlers to fall asleep at a decent hour in a 100 sq ft space? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.
  5. How do you keep three toddlers entertained in a tent or yurt when it’s pouring rain for hours? Puzzles. Check. Games. Check. Coloring. Check. I didn’t go camping to do the same shit I can do in my living room.
  6. How do you warm milk at 1AM when the baby decides he needs a bottle? Sit in the car with the heat on at full blast hoping it warms up before he wakes the other kids with his screaming.
  7. One of the kids will wake up at 5:30AM. Which in turn wakes up everyone else. So now you have three kids that have gone to bed at 10PM and wake at 5:30AM. Not sure how your kids handle life with less than 10 hours of sleep but mine are tiny devils. Tiny devils in a yurt with nothing to do. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
  8. Things one year olds love; fire pits, crawling on camp chairs, falling off of camp chairs.

I’m sure there are more, but I’m too sleep deprived to think of them. Point being, those Instagram pics are lies. Camping with toddlers and babies isn’t glamorous. It’s terrible. And if no one else will tell you, I will.

Faith in Humanity #1

I just had a brilliant idea for a new series of blog posts. Which means I’ve basically maxed out on good ideas for the week. I, the esteemed side kick of this blog, will share experiences we’ve had that give us reason to have faith in humanity. There is a lot of hatred and negativity in the world today and this will serve as a little glimmer of positivity. And, in the end, it will inspire everyone to be nicer to each other which will lead to world peace. Obviously. So, without further ado, I bring you the first installment of Faith in Humanity.

Yesterday, Jordann and I were at ARC checking out the furniture. Because isn’t that what everyone does on a Saturday morning? No? That’s just us? Huh. Weird. Anyways, we ended up buying a dresser and a small end table. Turns out the dresser and it’s best friend the giant mirror take up the whole back of the car and the little end table doesn’t fit. Jordann asks me what we want to do and i tell her I can just hold it on my lap because one trip to ARC on a Saturday morning is quite enough, and I certainly don’t want to make another trip.

BUT THEN the woman in the car behind us that has been waiting so patiently for us to have this dresser loaded walks up to me and says, “Do you live nearby? Because we can put it my car and I can just follow you home. Then you won’t have to make two trips.” WHAT?! I tell her that’s not necessary and I’m just being lazy. But she tells me that it’s no problem at all and she’d be happy to.

As it turns out, we had to stop at the store to buy milk on the way home so we didn’t take advantage of her kindness, but we thanked her a few more times than socially necessary and went on our way.

Maybe everyone can offer to help someone today. It doesn’t have to be a stranger. A friend or family member would appreciate it too. Then they’ll go help someone else, etc., etc., until world peace prevails!

You can start by picking up our end table at ARC.

All In

I am a behavior activator. A do-er. Give me a challenge and I will accept it. I once found Otis Spunkmeyer cookie dough for a friend’s birthday present. Do you know how hard it is to find those tiny circles of deliciousness? You can’t buy them in a store. Try. Trust me. You won’t find them anywhere. It took months, and a sweet lady name Lucy at a local hotel chain. I ended up having to order a 20-pound box with 500 pieces of dough.

Let’s not confuse this with a Type-A personality. I will never stay up until 2:00am to make sure my kitchen is clean after a party. That shit can wait until morning. Or afternoon.

Or Play-doh mixing (yes it’s a thing.) How the hell do you prevent a toddler from mixing Play-doh? Don’t ask me. Ask a Type-A person.

I have anxiety. I manage it by finding new hobbies. I make stuff. I put stripes on my walls. Fancy stripes.

I sew quilts. One that required 20 hours of learning how to appliqué to make the ‘H’ for Hogwarts.

I used to bake all the time. Betsy told me I had to stop. She was gaining too much weight. I even made the cupcakes for my own wedding. It helped me cope with the anxiety of, well, my own wedding.

Pinterest is my best friend. And Betsy’s worst enemy.

This trait would be really convenient if I didn’t also go all in for everything I do.

I started therapy a few weeks ago. It’s a very specific technique called Brainspotting (more on that later). My therapist told me it was a “gentle” technique. Not for me. If I was going to work through my shit, I was going to make it worthwhile. All in. I am a therapist’s dream.

It’s probably why I don’t take on certain tasks. Like running. I couldn’t just run a 5K. I would want to run a marathon. But probably not. Because running sucks.

I took on furniture painting eight months ago. You’ve seen how that’s gone. A garage full of pieces. Late night painting sessions. Not enough sleep. This one has actually worked out in my favor.

Relationships. All in. This isn’t specific to romantic relationships. It’s friendships, too. I don’t want the superficial version of anyone. I want to know EVERYTHING about you. I ask uncomfortable questions. Which I don’t view as intrusive but I’ve been told otherwise. (Thanks, Elizabeth.)

Here’s the thing. I didn’t know this about myself until a month ago. Which I know seems impossible. I mean I knew I was a passionate person. But I didn’t realize how extreme it was.

A close friend (again, thanks Elizabeth) asked me how my therapy was going.

Me: “It’s super intense. Which is odd because the therapist told me it was a gentler method.”

Eli: “Why is it so intense?”

Me: “You pick something that makes you super anxious and make yourself as anxious as possible without freaking out. And then you work through it.”

Eli: “Wow, that sounds terrible.”

Me: “I mean, you don’t have to take it to the extreme. I just figured if I was going to do it, I might as well DO IT.”

Eli: “Weird, Jordann going all in on something. Totally not you.” (Obviously being sarcastic.)

I literally stopped the conversation and asked her if I do this with everything. She laughed slightly and said, “Really? Have you met yourself.”

Huh, I guess I do. Wow, Betsy must find this super annoying. All people don’t function this way? How am I thirty one and just now realizing this? I have a whole new thing to explore in therapy. Needless to say, it was somewhat shocking to finding this out about myself.

 

 

 

The Luxury Of Mental Health

If you’ve read my blog, you know I have OCD and anxiety. I’ve written before about how my ability to get into a psychiatrist within a week of my mental breakdown was solely dependent on who I knew and how much I was willing to pay. Sad, but true.

Upon my diagnosis five years ago my psychiatrist would only prescribe meds if I was in therapy. I participated in talk therapy for about six months before the therapist felt I no longer needed it. Honestly, I was happy to stop. The experience of going was, in itself, anxiety inducing. Not every therapist’s style fits every patient. Not what you want from therapy.

Prior to that, I had gone to therapy in college. Again, not life changing, but it was free. You can’t beat free therapy.

Fast forward five years and three kids.

I’m lucky that my family physician will prescribe my meds. I don’t have to wait the four-six months to see a psychiatrist. ‘I’m sorry you’re having a mental crisis but you’re going to have to wait four months to see someone. Let’s just hope for the best while you wait.’ (This is the actual wait time to see a psychiatrist. I didn’t just make it up.)

Meanwhile, one of my best friends is a huge advocate of therapy. She goes regularly and loves it. And often encourages me to go.

I’ve reached a point in my life that I know I would benefit from good therapy. So I looked into it. The average cost of seeing a clinical psychologist in the area is $150/session. Guess how much insurance covers; $0.

On the flip-side, it costs me $12 to get meds for 45 days. It’s a lot easier to justify $12/month compared to $300 for two therapy sessions. And yet, I know the research. I know how much therapy would help.

Three hundred dollars. It’s not an easy decision. It’s budgeting and reworking our schedules to make it fit. But, for me it is a decision I get to make. There are plenty of individuals that desperately need it and it isn’t an option. They simply can’t afford to spend the $150 or take the time off work. Instead, they leave it untreated. Or, if they’re lucky, take the meds.

In his interview on The Hilarious World of Depression, Reggie Osse made the point, “I think the issue is not only that mental illness is a stigma, but mental health is a luxury.” I think this explains why we have a mental health crisis in this country.

 

Unexpected Fights

Betsy and I are four plus years into this parenting gig and there are just some fights I never imagined I would have. Granted many of these can be settled with a game of rock, paper, scissors. But sans kids, I never knew these discussion existed. You don’t know what you don’t know. (Name that musical!)

  1. Who has to brush the kids’ teeth. Seriously, this shit sucks. And when you have three that need assistance it sucks even more.
  2. Food. What they eat? When they eat? How much they eat? Where they eat? This is a big one. And not solved with a hand game. I never realized how much society pushes food norms on us until we had kids. (I’m convinced this is why so many people have eating anxiety.) Betsy likes the three meals a day, breakfast as soon as they wake up regime. I let the kids eat five spoonfuls of peanut butter for dinner if that’s what they want. Seriously, this should be addressed in pre-kid convos.
  3. Sleep. This one is two-fold. Creating healthy sleep habits being part one. Kids one and two required some sleep intervention to make it thought the night. Kid three figured it out on his own. Betsy always wanted to come up with a sleep plan at 3AM when she was waking up with the baby and couldn’t do it anymore. FYI, nothing good comes from 3AM fights. Part two is getting toddlers to stay in their f-ing room! This battle hit me like a freight train. I never knew they could be so manipulative to avoid bed. I’ll be honest, we haven’t found an overly successful method. But I promise, taking it out on your spouse isn’t the solution.
  4. Birthday parties. It’s my mini version of hell. Small talk with other parents about who’s kid is better. This is a topic with a post of it’s own. Needless to say, I typically feign sick to get out of taking them.
  5. Cleaning up. Another big one. At some point you will threaten to get rid of every toy. Which seems reasonable until you realize you’ll then have to entertain your child which is fun for about 5 min. I go with the “clean up or go to your room” method. Needless to say, we still have too many toys and a living room that often looks like an episode of Hoarders.
  6. And finally, how to handle crying/shitty behavior during carefully planned “fun time.” Because your child will inevitably act like a shit when you are trying to have fun. We attempted to partake in the kids workshop at the home improvement store. The kids were awful. I wanted to leave. But this was supposed to be family time. Figuring out when to raise the white flag is much harder to figure out then you realize.

What other unexpected fights do you and your spouse have related to parenting?

Riding the Wave

I haven’t written much recently. I’ve wanted to write. I’ve thought about writing but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I mentioned in a previous post that I was in a post baby slump. Or I thought I was. It came post baby and felt a lot like the other dips I had after Noa and Atticus. However, this one was lasting much longer.

When I’m in this state I go to a place of existing. I’m not numb to life, I wouldn’t call it depression. Simply, just trying to keep my head above water. Which is a lot. Working and parenting. Running a hobby turned side business. And trying to keep the house in some sort of order. Wife-ing. Ish. When someone else can sustain life on their own sometimes they fall to the bottom of the list.

I knew I wasn’t in a great place. But we often don’t feel the depth of the pit until we are climbing out. And I often feel like I’m in a ditch rather than a valley, or that’s what I tell people. Self-preservation, I’m not sure. I up-ed my meds and this seemed to help. But I needed to get at the root of my problem. Luckily, I’ve spent some solid time in therapy (and am working on going back) and am pretty good at self analyzing.

Here’s what I realized….

For the past five years I’ve worked at creating family. We always wanted three kids.  I’ve talked about the process of getting pregnant as a same sex couple. (In case you missed it, we’re missing what doctors like to call the “male factor.” Apparently, this is important in procreation.) I’ve been “trying to get pregnant,” “pregnant” or “postpartum” for five years. My world revolved around these three things. And then it didn’t. And apparently that fucked with me mentally.

Now what? We have our three kids. I had to find something else to invest my time and energy in. You’re probably thinking, “Wait, aren’t you starting a little side business? Isn’t that your new focus?” Good question. My mind didn’t see it that way. I was stuck in this place of “what’s next?” And let me tell you, with all the mindfulness books I’ve read, this is not the place to be.

I just want to clarify, “what’s next” and goals are two very different things. Having goals implies taking steps to achieve them. Having a family was a goal. I knew how to get there. And I was able to actively work towards achieving it. Pregnancy, times three, was one long-ass step in achieving my family goal.

Family.

Check.

“What’s next?” Bad place. Missing the now and waiting for better.

So, what’s changed? I can’t say I’m out of the pit. Sure, I’m not at the bottom of it. But I’m still working my way to the top. Meds have helped. Knowing what the issue is has helped. Although hasn’t magically solved it. Five years is a long time spent towards achieving something. Recognizing that it is going to take time to create a new goal is what I find most helpful. It will come. I just need to give it time.

Time For That

One of the most common questions Betsy and I get asked, “How do you have time for that?” I thought I would do a post or two on our daily life since we both work unconventional jobs. Along with the benefits and drawbacks of self-employment.

Betsy and I are both interpreters. We both work and stay home. There was a brief time before kids that we considered leaving the field of interpreting. Thankfully, that thought was short lived. We are both freelance interpreters, which means we work for a handful of companies, some as “staff” and others as contractors. There is a lot of freedom in creating our own schedule (although limited by when we get requests.) But also some drawbacks to self-employment

After having Noa, I stayed home full time for six months. It was awful. I loved being home with Noa but knew staying home full time was not for me. Around the six month mark we decided we needed to split our schedules between working and staying home. We didn’t want to put Noa, or any of our kids, into daycare. The price is outrageous and we like getting to witness all the milestones. I recognize we are extremely lucky in having this option.

So, what does our day to day life look like? Here’s a peak.

Monday- Work from home for an hour. Paint some furniture. Family lunch. Another job in the afternoon. Betsy is also supposed to work but her job cancelled. Evening as a family.

Tuesday- Two jobs for me. Second one finishes early. Home for entire middle of day. Another job in the evening that overlaps with Betsy. Although hers is cancelled.

Wednesday- Job in community then straight home for a job online. Online job is a no show. Several hours free to hang as a family/paint furniture. Afternoon job for me. Betsy has an evening job that cancels.

Thursday- Morning job at home. Long break. Afternoon job that is a no show. We paint furniture, housework, play outside. Betsy has an evening job that cancels. I pick up a job in the evening.

Friday- Betsy works in the morning. Rushes home. Appointment. Betsy has an evening job.

Saturday- I have a middle of the day job. Pre and post job is family time.

Sunday- Family day.

This isn’t the exact schedule each week but we do a fair amount of evening/weekend jobs. There are also a fair amount of no shows and cancellations thrown in. Oh, and the times we show up and they find out we are not a Spanish interpreter and they ordered the wrong language. Which allows us lots of time to do other things. Like paint furniture. Or read nap while the boys are napping and Noa is at school.

There are times when our schedules overlap due to requests. Luckily, we have family close by that can babysit. We are fortunate that there is a plethora of work in the area and we try to split the schedule as evenly as possible. This makes for much happier moms.

There are TONS of benefits to being self-employed. Flexible schedule, saving money on daycare, lots of family time, getting to take our kids to the doctor, being home when they are sick, unconventional vacations times, etc. However, there are also drawbacks (health insurance issues!!!!!), which I will go into in my next post.