I’m writing this post mid-flight on my way to Orlando, Florida. I am calm and happy and completely unmedicated. And this is a miracle! For over 10 years, I suffered from intense panic attacks, mostly while traveling and always while flying. They began when I turned 30 and soon overtook my life. I had previously loved traveling and found myself staying closer and closer to home.
For those of you who have experienced panic, you know how horrendous, terrifying and gut wrenching it can be. And for those of you who haven’t, well, if you’ve ever started choking on food or while swimming, you have a sense of how the body just takes over in its blind fight to survive. That’s all well and good when you are actually choking but what if that feeling came up seemingly “out of nowhere?” Not fun.
And the effect it had on my life was frustrating. I am a strong, powerful woman and it just pissed me off to no end to have my body betray me in this way. It wasn’t something I could make go away with any of my regular tools — ya know, my wit, my charm, and my grace =). I would try to go on vacations for fun and relaxation and I would just end up dreading them or, worse, while on them, curled up in the fetal position sobbing.
Needless to say, I was highly motivated to do something about it. Over the years, I have worked with therapists, taken anti-anxiety medication, practiced meditation, and used the EMDR technique. All were helpful to varying degrees — I learned a lot about my triggers, and flashbacks, and useful tools for calming myself down after panic had kicked off.
But I also felt like I was just “managing” the panic and not really getting to the heart of it. Just when I was truly about to give up on travel altogether, I heard about the Brain Spotting Technique. There are only a handful of practitioners in the US and one lives in Santa Barbara, Michael Madden. I went to see him, with my wonderful husband in tow, and had my first session.
The theory of brain spotting (created by David Grand) is that trauma can be stored neurologically in the body and can be stuck there until it is properly released. Michael had me sit in a chair, while listening on earphones to the sounds of waves that went back and forth between my right and left ears. He then asked me to think of a time when I had panicked while he asked me to slowly move my gaze to different points. Once he found the eye gaze where I was most activated (the brain spot), my job was to then just hang out and let my body do it’s own healing work.
What happened next was mind-blowing and amazing for both me and my husband, who was holding my hand through the entire session. Every muscle on the left side of my face scrunched up — I could feel it happening but I could not stop it or control it. Simultaneously, my hands started feeling like pins and needles. This went on for 15-20 minutes and then everything returned to normal.
The next session had my left arm, I kid you not, lifted up and back behind my head for about 20 minutes. Again, I could not stop it or control it. Michael explained that these were the places that my trauma was stored in my body and he shared with me that my experience was not unique. He had personally witnessed astounding and permanent healing in lots of people, many of whom were far worse off. I did a total of 6 sessions with Michael, and each brought greater and greater relief until I could travel with nary an issue.
Of course, at first I was nervous that I would have problems but each trip turned out great. And as they did, and I got braver and had more confidence.
Today marked my first cross-country flight in 15 years that was truly panic free and medication free! Woooooo hoooooo! And I think it’s fitting that I am on my way to Disneyworld, where Peter Pan reminds us all of the joy of flying. I can fly, I can fly, I can fly!