Anxiety Girl: How Neurofeedback Helped Me Regain My Sanity
Anxiety Girl: How Neurofeedback Helped Me – Posted on April 24, 2013 by admin
When I first started working in Hollywood, a producer told me that an artist’s personal demons are always reflected in what you see on screen. Scorsese played out his Catholic guilt. Woody Allen gave us his New York neurosis. Hitchcock was claustrophobic. See if you can guess what weighs heavily on my mind:
One of my first screenplays was a contemporary version of Alice in Wonderland set in L.A.. “Alice” is lured by a rock star (The Rabbit) to a sleazy motel where he has sex with her, then bolts in the middle of the night. Next, an 18-wheeler crashes through the wall of the motel, nearly turning Alice into road kill. Among the debris she finds a postcard of a girl – who looks just like her – falling through the middle of the earth with a look of terror on her face.
Along with abandonment, a fear of driving and vertigo, any Jungian dream analyst worth his $350 an hour would pigeonhole my “condition” as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Kind of covers all those terrors expressed in my screenplay, doesn’t it? GAD -as it is known- is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable, often irrational anxiety about everyday things disproportionate to the actual source of worry. My friends laugh whenever I quip, “Oh it’s hard to be me”. But ask any anxiety junkie and they’ll tell you: catastrophic thinking is kind of like shoveling coal in the bowels of a steam ship: it’s a relentless, sweaty, full time gig.
And the better things get, the more my anxiety meter ticks north. Find the love of your life? Check. Marry at the same place Jackie O. honeymooned? Check. Find success in a career you’re passionate about? Check. Give birth to beautiful baby boy? Check. Well, duh! Of course everything is doomed to go south at any moment without warning!
I was first diagnosed with GAD eight years ago when my son was born, but I’m pretty sure I’ve suffered from the disorder my entire life. Instead of postpartum depression, I had (severe) postpartum anxiety. What finally drove me to the doctor’s office was my meltdown over the potential for lead poisoning in our newly purchased Pasadena Craftsman bungalow (built 1910). I convinced myself that our newborn was going to have brain damage if I didn’t scrape and repaint every inch of that house. Even after I sanded, sealed and painted (twice!) every surface, the sense of impending doom didn’t disappear. At one point, I remember sliding down my freshly painted bedroom wall; crying hysterically. That was my husband’s cue to exclaim, “I think it’s time to consider medication.”
Three weeks later, I was on anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds. That was NOT an easy decision because it meant I had to stop breastfeeding. And that triggered a whole new repertoire of catastrophic thoughts, like: “Will my son get the best nutrients? (yes). IS formula bad for him? (no) Will he not be as smart? (Big “no”. FYI: he now tests as “gifted”).
My BPP (Blue Pill Period) lasted about 18 months. I stopped taking meds because they made me sleep all day and crave more carbs (the objective was to shed, not re-gain 65 lbs. of “baby weight”). But it wasn’t until a few years later that someone introduced me to NeurOptimal / Neurofeedback for anxiety. Now THAT was my own personal Jesus, I mean, savior! Naturopathic? Check. No freaky side effects? Check. No pig-out inducing appetite stimulation? BIG check. (Hey, I’m under five feet tall. 5 lbs. is like 50 on everyone else). I was skeptical, but the first night after I ran a session, I slept like a baby. Can I just comment here…why does everyone use that metaphor? What baby sleeps soundly through the night? Let’s say, I slept like my hounds after an all uphill canyon hike. I had intense, technicolor dreams. I woke up completely rested and relaxed.
After a few more Neurofeedback sessions, pesky catastrophic thoughts didn’t even enter my mind. Even in the face of some pretty heavy external stressors, the Neuroptimal brain training kept my knee-jerk panic at bay. A few months ago, my BF had her breast cancer return and it is now in her bones. In a matter of months, she went from cancer-free to fighting for her life. While I comforted her on the outside; inside I was in the midst of a 100% Code Blue Breakdown. Of course, I was concerned about her, but it also relit the fuse of my own health fears.
Over the next few weeks, I stuck to a very strict training schedule, making sure I ran my Neurofeedback training consistently. What happened as a result was -quite literally- mind blowing. I continued to sleep soundly. When I woke up I was calm. Intense feelings about my friend’s cancer – even suffocating pressure from work and clients – were totally manageable. Fear of death. Gone.
But the ultimate test was “the meeting.” Last month, my husband and I had a business lunch with a film producer in West Hollywood who was casting one of our scripts. This was the kind of event that typically pushed my anxiety buttons – hard. Hollywood lunches are kind of like Japanese business meetings: “no” means “maybe”; “maybe” means “yes” and no one knows what “yes” means. Not exactly stable ground if you’ve worried about free-falling through the center of the earth most of your life(!). But amazingly, I enjoyed myself in this meeting. I felt no pressure; only calm. I was clear-headed and focused. It was as if all those EEG biofeedback sessions with my Neurofeedback machine melted away the overwhelming anxiety that had such a stranglehold on my psyche. I’ve never felt like I was standing on such solid ground.
Now, anxiety has been a part of my personality and my artistry for a long time. It’s actually a good thing to acknowledge your anxiety and express it through art. What’s bad is living with neurosis day to day and allowing it to destroy your joy and peace of mind. That was my hangout before Neurofeedback.
P.S.: While I went to hell and back, my BF went to Mexico on a yoga retreat. She came back de-stressed and full of life and her prognosis is extremely positive.
Guest blogger Rozanna Leo-Fields lives in La La Land with her husband, two children-with-fur and her perfectly healthy human son.
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