After years of stagnancy since getting floxed, I’ve finally started seeing a therapist for my post-traumatic stress disorder.
I have tried to see different types of talk therapists for my dysthymia, but nothing ever worked. It seemed like a waste of time and a waste of money. I even saw some specialist in LA who was supposed to be awesome even though he didn’t take insurance. I shelled out $150/week to see him and have him tell me nothing was wrong after I was up all night debating suicide.
So talk therapy never worked for my depression, but PTSD is a whole different thing. At first, I wasn’t aware of it. I didn’t know why I refused to move in with my boyfriend a couple months ago or why July and August were particularly horrible months for me, seemingly out of nowhere. I didn’t know why I was so angry at everything.
I decided to try therapy again for PTSD specifically. I didn’t know how to choose a therapist, so I went with one who had ‘PTSD’ listed on his website and shared the same alma mater. When I met him I said, “Go Bearcats!” and he was confused. I had to explain the connection. “Oh yeah,” he said. “We didn’t have a mascot when I went to Binghamton.” Sad. We bleed green… nah, actually Binghamton doesn’t have much school spirit.
I sat down on the couch in his office while a thunderstorm roared around us. “I don’t want this to be all about my parents,” I explained as I told my story. I proceeded to tell him about all of the terrible therapy sessions I’ve had over the years, with therapists who seemed ill-experienced, who would talk at me, who would think, “oh, you were a child abuse survivor. That’s the root of all of your problems,” then tell me to confront my parents when the reason I was there was because my emotional support animal of 11 years had died and I was extremely lonely/suicidal.
He listened to me and we discussed my PTSD. “You have severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” he said. “I don’t think I can help you. There are so many levels to this. You need a specialist.” -_- Ughhhh.
“Can you recommend one?” I asked. No, he didn’t know one. Great.
At least I knew what my problem was. I searched for EMDR specialists in my area online and narrowed it down to two options: One was 20 minutes from my house with a MSW and certificates in other strange therapy practices I’ve never heard of. The other had a doctorate degree from Harvard, but she was significantly farther. The MSW had an entire website dedicated to PTSD. It seems like that’s all he did. She did a bunch of other stuff and just happened to be certified in EMDR. Harvard became my second choice. I made an appointment with the PTSD specialist, who responded to my email immediately with a phone call.
I was so concerned during my first appointment. I was terrified of seeing another shitty therapist, but once we sat down and discussed some of the problems I’ve been having, he did something no other therapist has done – he stopped me from talking. “Don’t trigger yourself,” he said, as he changed the subject.
“I’m not triggering myself. I talk about this all the time,” I replied. He said something about seeing me visibly upset at explaining how I felt or describing past experiences and we moved forward. Talk therapy may have been making me go backwards in my treatment. I needed to talk less, not more.
We then practiced something called Brainspotting. Let me first tell you a bit about EMDR. EMDR, although we haven’t yet used it in therapy, is a practice developed in Central Massachusetts for PTSD using rapid eye movement and having the patient recall their past traumas. Brainspotting was discovered within EMDR. It’s basically EMDR in slow motion, using spots that trigger the reptilian brain to focus on past traumas.
Every time I’ve gone to therapy so far, we’ve practiced brainspotting. My first session was extremely helpful. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders just by focusing on what the pit in my chest that is this stuckness, that is PTSD, looks and feels like.
This is the first therapy that’s ever worked for me and it’s because it isn’t just talk. It’s using science and your physical body to bring out traumas and work on them. It’s like chiropractic for the brain… but not like the chiropractic neurologist I saw in Amherst, who actually first told me about EMDR.
I’ve felt less depressed, less angry, less humiliated, less whatever-the-fuck since I started therapy and I’m only getting better. What I’ve come to realize is that in order for therapy to work, you need one that works for you. My depression isn’t just depression. It’s dysthymia, which is based in PTSD. Cure the PTSD, cure the depression… maybe. We’re still working on it. I’m so happy I found a therapist I can connect with who recognizes what I need and works with me. Maybe therapy isn’t all bull.
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