PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Being a survivor of multiple traumatic and violent experiences throughout my childhood, looking back I never realized that as a result of those experiences I suffered from severe anxiety. Since I was a teenager I countered the anxiety I felt by acting out against everyone that cared for me or tried to understand me. Fortunately I was able to enlist in the Army which provided me with lots of ways to dispel the anxiety I felt and channel those feelings through years of rigorous training and deployments.
Twenty-two years later after retirement from the army, I found myself a civilian again without the fast paced, high tempo, structured military environment that I thrived in. Life as an Infantry soldier quenched the anxiety that I had been carrying around within me since childhood, successfully hidden away deep beneath layer upon layer of protective barriers in the form of achievements like high rank, leadership and command positions, multiple combat deployments and alcohol when not on duty.
Then suddenly after completing my obligations with the military, my life began to spiral out of control, I suffered from panic attacks, seizures, memory loss, and irritability that caused me to lash out verbally against those closest to me. I could not get the violence that I had experienced and witnessed out of my daily thoughts. I tried everything from counseling, medications, biofeedback training and eventually discovered psychology's best kept secret Neurofeedback.
My first experience was not with CSUSB but the Neurofeedback I did receive made me an instant believer. Because of the commuting distance I was unable to continue treatment at my original treatment location so I searched online and found CSUSB's Neurofeedback program. Dr. Connie McReynolds and my clinician Brenda Arnold M.A. administered a surprisingly comprehensive report that nailed most of the symptoms and deficits that I had dealt with for decades. Excited by what they were able to tell me about myself after a simple 15 minute test provided me with even more confidence in their program.
Brenda who has been handling all my treatment sessions was very professional, accommodating and showed genuine concern with my progress throughout my 2x/week sessions over the last 20 weeks. In the first 10 sessions I could not really tell much of a difference with the anxiety I experienced but Brenda assured me that I was making progress because the programs (video games) I worked with became more challenging and increasingly difficult.
It was around 20 to 25 sessions into the program that I noticed that I was smiling more often, the intensity of my facial expressions and the tension I felt all the time began to subside. I would catch myself just genuinely enjoying whatever it was I was doing, my outlook on life and the future improved as did my ability to sit still and just read a book. I used to drink beer or wine in the evenings to relieve stress and now I don't even feel the urge to have a drink. I drank alcohol regularly for over 30 years and now not even feeling the urge to have a drink is amazing.
I definitely recommend anyone who suffers from anxiety, difficulty paying attention or is easily distracted to see what Neurofeedback training can do for you. I am probably one of the more extreme cases as far as being a candidate for Neurofeedback training goes but I'm positive that if the brain training programs worked for me I am certain that the results for others who suffer from the same symptoms or vices, it will work for them too.
Neurofeedback at the CSUSB's Institute for Research, Assessment & Professional Development has given me control of my anxiety and improved my ability to live a more meaningful life.
Nathaniel Hays, 1SG (USA Retired)
It has almost been 5 months since I completed my Neurofeedback training. The time has given me an opportunity to reflect on the results of the therapy in a more thoughtful way.
Initially when I began Neurofeedback and had the evaluation administrated, I was devastated. The fact was, I knew that something was wrong. Since I had removed myself from the traumatic circumstances of my years in Los Angeles I had felt so impaired that I wondered if I had had a stroke. Having been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Disorder in my 30's, I was aware of certain dynamics of PTSD and knew this could also be the problem. When I heard about your Center I was intrigued but skeptical. When it became apparent I was going to be able to have the training myself, I was at a point I was amenable to trying anything.
My anxiety for the last few years was very difficult to manage despite over 20 years of conventional therapy. I was very aware of impaired cognition, my depression, my emotional pain, my exhaustion, my anger, my inability to let go. I was always on the verge of tears. I could not focus on my work. An avid reader, for the first time in my life I could not focus on reading and I could not write. Though I am not someone with the training you have, I think it is safe to say I was paranoid and inclined to over react. I was always fighting the urge to isolate. Being with people was a genuine chore. I felt that the coping skills I had learned while going through conventional therapy for 20 years were inadequate and I was drowning. I had been in sustained crisis since January of 2009. To make matters worse, I was terrified of my condition. For me, my ability to do my work, relate to people, and have a future was dependent on me getting better. Nonetheless, the good news was I really had no expectation. I was resigned that I was not going to recover like I had in the past; particularly after the evaluation. I honestly did not know what to expect so I started journaling.
Through the first 7 sessions I found I would get a headache and felt tired after each session. It was pretty rough initially but eventually the headaches and the tiredness dissipated. The training was very frustrating in the beginning. What had been easy before I had gone through my latest trauma, was now horribly difficult. It wasn't until I started getting into my 12th session that I gradually started seeing some very subtle improvements. After 20 sessions, I began getting better at writing and began recognizing patterns. I was able to proofread and catch typos. I started getting calmer. I didn't get as confused and I started getting less paranoid. My emotions did not feel so raw. I was actually dealing with things. After 20 weeks another evaluation was done and there was evidence of the improvement I was feeling. My training was adjusted accordingly. In the next 20 weeks my frustrations began melting away. I began writing with more complexity. I was able to articulate and track information better. I was able to begin focusing and problem solve with some facility.
Since completing my last session in September 2015, I have had some time to step back and assess the results. Neurofeedback therapy has had a profound impact on my life. I have struggled with PTSD literally all my life. I have spent enormous amounts of money and time on conventional therapy to understand how I could overcome a disorder that literally tormented me almost every day of my life. In truth, suicide was not an uncommon thought. As a result of Neurofeedback, I have come to realize now that I was closer than I ever had been to rationalizing such an act.
Because of Neurofeedback training, because of you and your staff, I do not feel the feeling of fear or dread any longer. I do not recall a day in my life when I did not have to tamp down the feelings of fear and dread. Given the extent of abuse I experienced growing up, I thought those feelings were embedded in me and I would never know a day without those feelings skewing my point of view. I was always compensating; at least that is what 20 years of conventional therapy taught me.
The clarity now I feel is so foreign I am still trying to process the experience. The things that happened to me resulting in PTSD I can only describe as seeing those things now from the outside looking in. They are not as painful; at least for me. I guess you could say the results of the Neurofeedback training has exceeded my imagination. Every aspect of my life has been literally enriched as a result of the Neurofeedback therapy you and your staff provided. Since September 2015, I feel a lot of my old self is back and I continue to see progress. I suspect benefits of Neurofeedback training will continue to reveal themselves for some time to come. In the meantime, thank you all for helping me reclaim my life while also facilitating a welcomed turning point in the healing of some very old and deep wounds.