At first, I thought meditation was going to cure me and solve all of my problems. I still don’t know if the struggles I have are chemical or situational in nature. I suspect both. I think society, materialism, and our chattering monkey brains are contributing to the rising diagnoses for depression, anxiety, ADHD, and bipolar. I believe the polarized extremes most people endure are causing great strain and sickness to our psyches. I believe the best way to approach all of this is by avoiding extremes and finding the middle. Becoming an observer of self and others in meditation can help the middle ground be easier to see despite the distractions of life.
Fruit Fly Attention Span Summary (Keep reading if interested) TL;DR: Mental health and meditation go hand in hand. I spent most of my life being terrified I am crazy. Meditation helped me go crazy so I could stop being afraid of being crazy. Meditation is a powerful practice, and you may find yourself connecting with memories and emotions that can have powerful effects on your life. I do not say that to deter anyone from meditating, but to be completely honest in my experience. I use both meditation and medication to support me from a mental health perspective because any extreme is unhealthy.
Becoming Aware of the Monsters in My Closet
I spent most of my life terrified of my own mind, living under a huge shadow of “Am I crazy?” Every thought, action, or emotion I would experience would be followed with those three words. Every time I did something I did not like, or someone else reacted negatively to, I would berate myself for being a “crazy bitch”. I blamed myself for everything wrong in my life, and I would never give myself an iota of praise for good. Asking for help was impossible because I had to be perfect. My external world and my internal world were two complete opposites.
An unfortunate consequence of trying to figure out why you are the way you are is realizing you are the way you are. As I became aware of how much I was struggling, I began struggling more. I say this as a word of honest caution of meditation. You may find more about yourself then you’d like to find out. You may connect with emotions that are difficult. You may have nothing of the sort. Like medication – everyone reacts differently.
I had a tendency to repress every facet of my being in a mental closet. I lived my life in filters and almost everyone in my life new different approved versions of me. Most of my friends new a fun, funny, party girl. They did not know that particular personality was fueled by alcohol to escape my severe anxiety from being around people, and a manic behavior fueled by escaping crippling depression. Meditation threw that closet open and it created a hell of a mess.
Going Crazy Made me Sane
Ultimately, I had psychosis. Did meditation cause psychosis? It’s possible, but I doubt it. I have found articles for and against this possibility. The psychosis could have also happened because of Chantix I was taking. Regardless of the cause of the psychosis, what I experienced was 2-3 weeks of a bad acid trip-like state where every fear, emotion, etc. that I repressed came out to play. At the time, it was terrifying, but I’m glad it happened. Something had to open my eyes to how fractured my psyche was. I’m a stubborn (itchy) ass.
Despite the psychosis, I would not change a thing, nor have I stopped meditating. I don’t think meditation caused my psychosis, but I do think the way I treated myself, my body, and my brain did. It’s nothing I will ever have an answer to, and it’s nothing I will live my life in fear of. Meditation gave me awareness; you can’t heal what you aren’t aware of. The psychosis also made me decide to pursue medication again. I knew I needed help because my life (single mom of 3 kids working full time) as a baseline was too stressful and my coping skills weren’t able to handle it all anymore.
I’ve always been wary of medicine. I rarely take Advil for a headache. It’s just how I am and have always been. After my first hospitalization 4 years ago, I had been on so many different medicines, and all have had disastrous effects. I have weird side effects to everything. NyQuil has put me damn near comatose (and making my ex carry an unconscious me in bed) or had me up all night pacing. Hell, even my most recent medication ended up in a really bad drug rash that I’m still taking steroids to clear. My new psychiatrist does not believe I’ll have to take medication for the rest of my life, but I will need to use medications to help me stabilize. It’s what I had always thought. At this point, it’s been too much for too long, and it’s going to take awhile to clean up the mess.
The Illusion of Duality
Meditating helps me find peaceful middles. Buddha speaks of duality as a cause of suffering. My life is a metaphor of duality and the suffering it causes. I think bipolar is duality in action. Duality is when you put vs in between everything. Bad vs. good, republican vs. democrat, left vs. right. Anything polarized or extreme is not healthy. The true reality is the yin yang – the light in the darkness and darkness in the light. You cannot have one without the other.
“You cannot be sensitive to pleasure without being sensitive to pain” ~Alan Watts
That quote applies to everything, and I have said before most of my life has been chasing the highs to escape the depression. I once ignored all of it and pushed myself to extremes that I can’t even understand anymore. Once I stopped pushing, I began fearing the depression and trying to constantly offset the depression by forcing as much happiness/joy/whatever to compensate.
Now, I am leaving the labels behind, and focusing on this moment. As I am typing here, I am typing. I am not mentally calculating bills, planning my day, or berating myself for yesterday. I can’t say how that happened, it would be like trying to explain how I move my fingers to type; I just do it. Time, consistency, and practice got me here, and letting go of the biggest duality I suffer under: crazy vs. sane. One day I realized both of those words don’t actually make any sense to me. Sure, I’m crazy, I’ve been in the hospital 5 times. I’m also sane, I do all the #adulting I must. I think everyone is pretty much in that boat, even though we keep chasing one side vs. the other.
Buddha’s Middle Way
Buddhism teaches The Middle Way. To me, meditation is the very definition of the middle way. I like to steal Osho’s explanation: thoughts are like clouds, and meditation will show you the sky around and behind the clouds. If you focus on the clouds, you will see more, and if you focus on the sky, you will see more. This is how I have fewer thoughts, and this is how I suffer from less duality. Regardless of the words I use, reality will not bend to my silly words. I can say I am happy, sad, or bombastic. It doesn’t matter. I spent most of my life terrified of and allowing a word to dictate my reality. I refused to seek assistance because I did not want to be that word. By eliminating all of that, I have the whole world of options available to support me.
So, here I am now. I am still working on the medication side of things, and I’m chugging along with the holistic side of things. For me, I found that Lamictal (Prior to the rash) was helping me do the holistic stuff more easily – i.e. I was able to be more consistent with the good stuff. I was less derailed if life kicked me in the ass. From my perspective, if I am perfectly willing to drop some weird crap that some dude in a lab developed in my body, then I am perfectly willing to study energy, do yoga, and meditate too. I tend to get eyebrows raised with reiki and meditation, and encouraged to take pills with side effects like your entire body being covered in a rash or suicidal thoughts or psychosis. I get it, I used to feel that way too about both sides.
So, did meditation solve all my problems and cure me? The only way I can answer is with another question: what problems?
Want to start meditating? Here are some great ones!
Michael Seale’s voice is amazing/relaxing – I can’t meditate to annoying voices. This meditation helped me a lot with recognizing the thoughts. I think that’s the biggest help for me is seeing how stream of consciousness goes. I think oh, I have to do this, and 20 minutes later, I have thought many thoughts, and done very little.
Loving kindness meditations are one of my favorites. It’s really healing and beautiful. I find it really helpful for truly connecting with forgiveness and letting go. If you can send love to someone who has hurt you, you find your attachment to the pain, etc. comes away.
Got kids? This is the BEST explanation for thoughts! Watch it too, you will be amazed at how simple an explanation it is and how comforting it is!
No time? Try some conscious breathing to start:
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale for 8 seconds
- Repeat 3-4 times
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