I spent over 20 years of my life believing something was wrong with me. I was sensitive, hypervigilant, couldn't focus, ate waaaaaaaay too much (like boxes of snack cakes), had heightened sensory skills (people chewing - I could literally feel anger rise in my body), lacked confidence, and blamed myself for EVERYTHING! I hated myself, had lost sight of who I was and who I wanted to be. I felt that I always had something to prove, needed to please those around me and that thinking of my needs was selfish. I even lost faith and stuffed down a lot of anger, sadness and pain.
Doctors prescribed me medication, I would get on a diet and exercise, buy the latest therapy workbook or take the latest supplement. I was positive I was insane (and a failed marriage really didn't help). Every new doctor would throw at me a new diagnosis.
In my early adult life, I spent $100's of dollars out of pocket for therapy to talk and talk and talk and despite realizing truths, noticed I didn't FEEL different. I was having chronic pain, crying spells, couldn't focus, and even had trouble putting sentences together. I had panic attacks around balloons and fireworks. Eventually, my body couldn't take it anymore and it collapsed. My body really was keeping the score.
Then, I learned about the Polyvagal Theory and how the body will do whatever it takes to protect us. When I first heard this, I wondered "what did I need protecting from? Sure, my life was hard, but I didn't have it as bad as others."
But guess what?! I did!!! Physical and emotional abuse, in small doses over the years, in addition to other small "t" traumas had finally built such a strong automatic body defense that it literally made me think I was "CRAZY"!!! That was a transformative moment. The things I hated the most, weren't defects, it was my body trying to keep me connected and safe!
I will always be a product of the events that happened in my life and I will never forget them. But that doesn't mean I have to FEEL them every time I am triggered. The body CAN and WANTS TO let go of the pain, symptoms and emotional defenses keeping us stuck, disconnected and out of balance.
The Level Up Trauma Program freed me from being stuck. Using Somatic (Body) based methods to help me understand what was going on with my body, Eye Movement Desentization and Reprocessing to clear stuck trauma, Safe and Sound Therapy to help remove my sensory overwhelm and see the world as safe again. All this was non invasive, fast acting and powerfully transforming.
I share my story because this therapy freed me from being stuck and FEELING out of control or broken. These methods freed my oldest son from substance use. They freed my younger children from sensory processing overwhelm and hyperarousal resulting in tantrums and angry outbursts. The freedom gave my family and I our lives back and helped us find safety and connection in the right ways by balancing our body's nervous system. It allowed our bodies to be aware of our past, but continue to stay in the present. Most importantly, I finally felt connected to my family, had the energy and motivation to follow my dreams, achieve my goals and be present to enjoy them!
Client JH - 2021
My son had been struggling for years with controlling his emotional state. The littlest thing would set him off, from his order being wrong at a restaurant to who would brush their teeth first in the morning. He seemed to need to control EVERYTHING. I found myself frustrated, tired, crying and worrying constantly that I had somehow "messed him up." Worse, I found myself losing my own temper and then rebounding with shame and guilt. Our family was struggling and I wanted to find a way to fix it.
I tried Cognitive Behavioral therapy. We posted daily routines, did sticker charts, reward charts, and posted rules and consequences. We practiced daily devotions, gratitude and breathing and mindfulness activities. We participated in play and sand therapy with some of the best therapists in the area. All to no avail. When he was triggered he would go from zero to 100 in 2 seconds!
Then I worked with Hargrove Counseling's staff and learned about the way our body and brain works. I was completely BLOWN away at the fact my son felt as confused as I did when his autonomic nervous system would be triggered. It wasn't a choice to be angry and say mean things, it was his body wanting to protect him from what his brain felt was a "threat." He had had a very traumatic birth and severe ear infections as a child, so it turns out that his Vagus nerve had become dysregulated sensing only sounds and sights of threats around him. He was hypervigilant all the time. No wonder it didn't take much to set him off!!
Together my son and I completed the Safe and Sound Protocol and within a week, I saw a new child and found my own system less activated. He would use words instead of yelling, was making eye contact, giving more hugs and smiling so much more. He was even acting more flexible and trying new foods. No more meltdowns when his order went wrong! This settling of both our bodies allowed us to build back up our relationship. This in combination with knowledge and techniques from 'No Drama Discipline' created a calmer, more relaxed environment, allowing us to enjoy each other's company again! Don't get me wrong, he still gets angry or anxious sometimes. But he and I know how to approach it from a body and whole brain perspective making those uncomfortable emotions safe and the episodes fewer and shorter. I am forever changed by this therapy!!
Client RH, 2020