My LENS Journey

Jamie Schmidt, LPC

As a Type A Perfectionist - anxiety is something I have lived with my entire life. In my youth, anxiety was a motivator that helped me to excel and achieve beyond most in my cohort. However, after a series of events in my late teens, my anxiety became crippling. In college, there were many days I found myself struggling just to leave my apartment. During that time, I was prescribed Klonapin for my anxiety, which I took for several years. In my mid-twenties though, I decided medication wasn’t eliminating symptoms, just dulling them, and was potentially even preventing me from dealing with the underlying issues. I also knew I did not want to be dependent on the system for the rest of my life. When, I chose to stop taking medication - Klonapin was by far the hardest to wean off. After years of daily use, my system had become dependent on it, and my withdrawal symptoms were legit!! I knew it was a process I would not want to go through again.

Last year, my partner landed a job out of town that meant he was away from home 5 days a week. What a difficult transition this was for all of us! He did not like being away from us, and the way we were handling our stress independently was creating some really unhealthy patterns for the two of us. After a few months of this, I found myself struggling with high levels of anxiety, again. I knew I needed a little help to get through the situation. Unable to see any other option, I scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist I had previously worked with professionally and trusted. The week before my appointment, I discussed my frustrations and fears about resuming medication with my analyst. He suggested, I try his biofeedback system, a process he initially tried to sell me on months earlier and admittedly, I had kind of balked at. I was totally not a believer, but at this point I figured, “What the heck? I’ll give this a try. It’s not going to leave me any worse off, and best-case scenario, I guess it could help.”

My first session was intense. We did an entire mapping, which is 21 sites (in my practice with emotionally sensitive individuals we typically cap at 4 sites). For some, results manifest immediately, while others may need a couple of sleep cycles to see any improvements. So, with my total doubting self, I did not expect to notice anything at all. However, on my way home sitting in traffic on Beltway 8, I found I was much more at peace than usual. My exit always backs up from people shooting past the line and cutting back in at the very last second. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, and I can even admit that there are days when it enrages me. This day though, there was no anger, just acceptance that traffic is what it is. I couldn’t believe that I was already feeling this new level of peace less than an hour after my first session!!!

The week after this first treatment was amazing. It is like it opened my brain up and allowed it to make all of these connections that it had been unable to before. Like most kids, my childhood had some bumpy moments in it. With this new flexibility my brain found, I was able to draw connections I had never seen before. I processed a lot of childhood pain during this week in a way that I had been unable to in over a decade of therapy. Over the next few months, I received treatments bi-monthly, and the benefits continued to roll in. Insomnia had always been present with my anxiety, and all of a sudden, I was sleeping better than I ever had. I also started dreaming again. For a therapist, who is fascinated with different levels of consciousness - oh what a joy to be reunited with these subconscious messages!!!

When I decided to resume practicing in the mental health field, I knew I had to integrate this technology into my practice. I am a practitioner and a provider but I have also been a consumer for over 10 years. Until my therapist introduced me to the technology, I had never even heard of it. I knew what biofeedback was, but I also knew the limitations of traditional neurofeedback and those limitations (high time requirement in beginning, costs, etc.) had prevented me from ever looking further into it. Often, I wonder how different my journey would have been, if this would have been offered as an option to me, when I was a teen. How much better could I perform today, if instead of pumping chemicals into it for 8 years, I had just been able to help my brain reset back to its own best level of functioning?

As mental health issues continue to skyrocket in teens and young Americans, the message I want to share is there are options out there other than medications. You can have marked improvements in your functioning by targeting issues in a different way. I know my parents thought they were doing the right thing by “getting me professional help.” In the end, I think they wasted a lot of time/money on resources that did not provide actual results. I want this generation of consumers to know there are more options - lots of amazing developments are currently happening in the field of mental health! If a suggested approach does not feel right to you, keep looking. Find a practitioner whose viewpoints more closely fit your own. You are ALWAYS the best expert about your experience in life, and those you choose to work with should feel like partners on your journey to health.

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