Depression, Meditation, Mental Health, Narratives, Well-being, Yoga

When It Gets Bad

Note: As of this posting, I’m doing swell, which is just a testament to how quickly a mood can change. Still, I’m going to post it in its entirety because when I wrote it, I really needed to.

Guess what? The last few days have been, by and large, not great.

I work my ass off to not feel like total garbage: Daily meditation, a pretty rad diet, a lot of running, sobriety, journaling, baths… and of course I’ve done my rounds in therapy and with medication. In spite of these efforts, the thought that has dominated my mind lately has been along the lines of “I’m going to blow my brains out.” (Please know that I wouldn’t be putting this on my blog if it was really a concern.)

I keep wanting to drink (I haven’t) and sometimes I get devastatingly lonely. I know I have created my current circumstances—and we all have, whether we like it or not—but of course I don’t know why. I recently texted a loved one that my “5-year plan” involves getting back into binge drinking and shooting myself in the head off of a cliff. I was kidding, but there really are times when I feel, sincerely, that I am Not Okay, like at all, and I don’t think there is anything that will help. At night I ask the universe to just make me normal and good, but I never wake up normal and good. I wake up the same me who falls short in every regard, who doesn’t love correctly, who isn’t open enough, patient enough, consistent enough, un-thinky enough, kind enough, calm enough, or safe enough. I do not always act like who I am, and I haven’t yet figured out how to fix that permanently.

Why am I posting this even though I try to be all about light and the possibility of well-being? First, it’s real. We are supposed to share our experiences with one another, and I know that the feelings I have are shared by millions of others. The second we fall into the trap of believing our isolation, depression, grief, and self-loathing are any different than those felt by the rest of humanity, we become doubly lost.

Positivity and spirituality are sometimes treated as synonyms, and that’s just not genuine. The path embraces all feelings and states of mind, and it is generally understood that (for a while anyway) waking up hurts. And, even when it’s really horrible, I know that all of my feelings and thoughts are teaching me something. For whatever reason, I haven’t gotten the lesson. If I’d gotten it, this shit would cease. Maybe the lesson is simply in impermanence itself: Never, ever expect to feel All Good, because you will never, ever be static.

Mainly I’m posting this because hiding brings its own kind of pain. When we do this, we deny our true selves to the people who want to love us. It feels worse to hide, even though it definitely feels super uncool to write about my feelings, too. I also know I’m running the risk of sounding dramatic, and at some point—maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, probably right after I hit “Publish”—I’ll regret posting it. Soon, I’ll file this time period away into that which I psychologically label “my tantrums.”

The point is: I’m better than I’ve ever been, and still, I am This.

In spite of the intensity of these emotions, I remain unwilling to consider myself ill. I will not accept the bipolar story and I will not label myself “disordered.” This narrative doesn’t serve me, and if anything it damns me to believing I am fixed being. Part of that fixed narrative comes with the notion that I’ll never be fully healed, and I don’t buy that. The only reason I’m even here and in an overall healthier place than I’ve ever been in is because I’ve refused to buy it.

Of course I don’t deny the existence of mental disorders, but rather consider all life experiences as variations in consciousness. This way of thinking makes the difference between the chance at deep healing and perpetual, cyclical illness. One promotes a false “normal/abnormal, neurotypical/neurodiverse” dichotomy; the other promotes a much more realistic spectrum. Training oneself in higher consciousness (by way of self-care, meditation, journaling, etc.) can lead to the cessation of suffering, or at the very least, the dampening of it.

Because really, that’s what it’s all about: Suffering. Whether you call it depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a personality disorder, the main concern of the human experience is suffering. The harsher felt aspects of life that are pervasive and repetitive—the ones that get called “disorders” in our culture—persist because we are, on the whole, in a very low place. Greed rules the day. “Every man for himself” is the prevailing ethos. “Us and them” is a mentality that very few people ever escape. When our overall level as a people reaches something higher, we will see mental illness fall away. I’ve said this before and I’m going to keep saying it.

I doubt that this will happen in my lifetime, since our system still seems hell-bent on letting individuals know that they’re the ones with “problems.” In our haste to diagnose—to codify, to limit, to “explain”—we tend to just not bring up the ugly truth of the situation, which is that the world is burning to the ground and our paradigm is truly fucked up. Sick societies create sick individuals, and vice versa. Healthy people depend on a healthy planet, and our planet is really not healthy.

When healing occurs, it does so on an individual and collective level at the same time: We heal ourselves and—brick by brick, mind by mind—build healthier societies that make wellness a possibility for future generations. Until we do this work, we can only expect to see rising rates of suicide, depression, addiction, and everything else we claim to be against. I for one am getting a bit tired of the short-lived outpour of concern that follows celebrity suicides. I am also tired of the idea that a person simply not killing themselves is a great victory: If all we’re doing is constantly pulling each other back from the brink, we’re still failing miserably.

Not a single professional I’ve worked with has really broached the fact that I suffer because A. Suffering is inherent in human existence (and so I have no reason to expect not to suffer), and B. Our culture basically breeds people to suffer for the machine. It was always about “my condition,” “my problems,” “my depression,” “my story of why I hurt.” We all have stories about why we hurt, and to some extent, these stories need to be explored. Some stories are more harrowing than others, but even the most well-off, well-loved people suffer.

Finally, meditation and yoga are being regarded as helpful treatment modalities for mental illnesses. I want to address that here: The science behind psychiatric medication is based on the theory that your brain makes the wrong chemicals and these other chemicals will kinda fix it. The science behind yoga is based on the theory that you are a universal being and ultimately, you are pure consciousness. Get in touch with the part of you that is pure consciousness—through systematic postures and meditation—and suffering begins to transform. This is true for all forms of suffering, be they given medical labels or are simply the “normal” malaise of routine adult life.

These theories/sciences are not mutually exclusive. I will always advocate doing all the things to help yourself. However, through my (largely unintentional and also explosive) exploration of inner space, I’ve found that the latter theory is a whole lot more complete.

There is tremendous power in stepping into the realization that it’s not you. You are not an addict or a depressed person or anything else because something is wrong with you. Instead, we have tendencies to harm ourselves because…

  • Our overall culture is unconscious of the way it thinks and acts.
  • We do not understand and/or accept the depths of the ways we all affect one another. Even people who fancy themselves hella woke tend to carry some amount of hatred and derision in their hearts. This doesn’t work, and it still hurts everyone.
  • We literally carry legacies of pain in bodily memory.
  • Fear is the default mode of living.
  • We have forgotten the truth of what we are.

It’s not that you’re a defective model, and you do have the power to rise above all of these things.

When it comes to mental health and overall wellness, that’s what it’s all about: The cessation of suffering through the exploration of higher consciousness. Not endless treatment, not an illness-oriented model, and certainly not a narrative that you will always be one thing or another.

Let’s end this on a high note, shall we?

Before I sat down to write this post, I went for a run. Even when I’m in the depths of it, meditating and running tend to lift my spirits. Near the end, I found this rosebush in someone’s yard, and it was too beautiful not to take pictures:

Being a good millennial, I put these on the Instagram where a friend commented, “Peace roses.” Again, being a good millennial, I Googled it. Lo and behold, this is what’s called the Peace Rose. And although I regard the entirety of my life experience as equally meaningful and meaningless, I’ll gladly take signs like this in times of need.

If you’re reading this, the message is meant for you as well.

– Lish

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10 thoughts on “When It Gets Bad

  1. Words of wisdom, well taken. I’ve lived in a few countries – for work – and it doesn’t take three weeks living in a place, not being a tourist, but living there, to realize how endemic is the inclination of our culture to sow dissatisfaction at nearly every level. It’s exhausting. It makes me mistrust our idea of “normal” or “well”. I do believe in “mental illness” but in a way much different than any mental health professional would. The “illness” is too much of this culture’s conditioning, the prescription is to rid oneself of it. For those of us with lives that don’t allow for a retreat to a cave for six months, it is a challenge. So, to the drugstore we go because we can’t meditate three hours a day and we need something more to shield ourselves from the poison of samsara in which we must immerse ourselves to earn our paycheque.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the comment, and I also think you’re totally spot on. It’s not a matter of “believing in” mental illness to me; it’s how said illness is framed in a societal context that I am interested in. I suspect you already understand where I’m coming from here. I’d write a bunch more, but this coffee shop is kicking me out. Be well!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. David says:

    Nearly all of your writing resonates with me. I cant take all of it in yet its hard to let go of stuff held onto for so long. I was told yesterday I may not be bi polar but I have had a manic episode. Which resulted in me walking the streets naked giving all my money away after seeing heaven on earth. Now I feel flattened. 5 days in euphoric state and one day of crippling despair. I was in a mental health facility for a little over a week. People think I’m back to normal now, which I am to them, but normal to me is just a façade. So I bow my head and continue anyway. Cant shake the delusions of grandeur but at least my Ego tells people they were delusions. Or are my delusions of grandeur part of my ego? If so surely we all have them so why are we all not walking round saying listen to me I’m a prophet? That’s how it felt to my consciousness for 5 days such insight euphoria and empathy. I started to believe so fully that to me it was true, and at that point I lost my free will and collapsed within my self. Felt outside of time and so completely alone. Like I was the only consciousness in existence and everyone was but constructs of my mind so that I hadn’t had to live on my own.

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    • Thank you for your comment. There’s a lot there that I want to respond thoughtfully to, even though I’m limited on time. Throughout my spiritual studies, I’ve learned that mania was (for me) an unplanned expansion in consciousness without any training or spiritual knowledge. Sounds like you can relate. When I started reading spiritual books and meditating regularly, things became much clearer: Of course you really are a prophet; even more, you are God. We are all God, underneath a million layers of delusion and illusion. The ego is the part of you that wants to make known your “specialness.”

      I hope you continue to move forward on your path. To my loved ones, my hospitalization and major manic episode do not define me. But from my perspective, my whole reality changed. Everything I took to be true just fell apart at the seams (in some really amazing ways), and no, I don’t believe we can ever fully “come back to who we were.” This is not always a bad thing. Who I was before was less genuine, more afraid, more lost. We’ve seen something so intense and so true; we have to keep going. And there are lots of ways to grow in a much more smooth manner, which I hope you will take on. Projecting love to you, friend.

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  3. David says:

    Just read your comments on my comment I got goose bumps it feels we are so similar. Yeah I’m pursuing Buddhism, and spirituality as well as trying to lucid dream. Just averted a manic episode today which feels like a great deprivation but I know I don’t have the spiritual understanding to remain so elevated. I told my consultant at the priory that I would just watch Schindlers list to prevent a manic episode. She said it wouldn’t work. She was right. I didn’t try it mind but it felt like it wouldn’t. I tried to be humble but I wasn’t humble enough felt the elevation pull so I clung to guilt. Or maybe there was a wisper in my convincing me so. that’s fine to. I’m not ready for such an elevation that it may be maintained. I cant wish you recovery because that implies going back. I wish you love, light and understanding on your journey.

    David

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  4. David says:

    I have been deluded the whole time I posted comments here. Now I realize I’m not a prophet because I don’t want to be. I prefer to think of myself as a mentor. and will try and help in any way I can in as much as I am able and that enough because that’s all I can do.
    there are so many ways to explain what I think happened to me, and to you to. I will say this my ego was damaged to the point it feels better to just cast it aside. In embracing spirituality don’t forget science logic and reason. And if you don’t understand it all that’s ok because others will answer those questions. Just because we saw so much doesn’t mean we understand everything. We don’t need to. Our species does.

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  5. David says:

    I’m going to write my own story. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, feelings your truth. I don’t know what I am that’s what we have to accept. Ill let other people tell me what I am from now on. So I’m my husbands husband he tells me that’s what I am that’s all I am. So that’s fine because its enough for me because I love him so much. We are going to have some conversations because obviously I’m a different person now. But I have lowered that crushing feeling of responsibility. I hope that the changes that our experiences have “forsaw” come to pass it doesn’t matter who does its not one persons responsibility we all just have to nudge it along as best we can. We are a collective we just haven’t realized it yet.

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  6. Pingback: When It Gets Bad — The Upward Mind – Nikki Phayze

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