When I became unwell due to working too hard, drinking too much and generally keeping 'bad house', for the first time in my life, I had to think, where I had come from and where I was going from there-on. In the depths of my 'illness', I had to try to take stock of the situation and put togther a structure of action to climb back out of the hole and rediscover my happy, anxiety-free, non-depressed self. Here are a few points regarding descending into illness and pulling back from it.
Being struck with an anxious and depressed mind (let's throw in some OCD and hypercondria too) is usually the most devastating point in anyone's life and those who have not been there at least once in their lives cannot grasp the wretched nature of it. Sudden traumatic events and/or (in my case) the drip-drip effect of a stressful life supported by a bad diet, no rest or recreation and too much alcohol can render the mind's mental defences ineffective in coping with incoming and unfolding events. By mental defences, I mean, a collection of learnt, assured, tried and tested values and experiences that shape and confirm an equilibrium of events verses our feelings towards them. It's a finely tuned support structure* that reassures the mind and body that daily non-threatening activities (driving, flying, working) are benign and are generally not worth the bother. With a traumatic or the drip-drip effect, that network of mental/emotional protection is stripped away to reveal a frightened and traumatised individual whose previous experiences apparently count for very little. The new feelings of wretchedness are new and confusing and cause even more trauma and fear. The cycle of confusion, trauma and fear continues to feed on itself until the individual is paralyzed with it. From a happy, adventurous individual, I became so fearful, I couldn't leave the house, I was scared to used household appliances and I could only put small mashed up pieces of food in my mouth. My ability to swallow had almost completely disappeared. From this point of crippling fear and trauma, a line (no matter how small) had to be drawn to indicate action would be taken and life would move slowly towards recovery.
In his book, 'At Last a Life', Paul David describes a scenario which is key to anyone who wishes to start a move towards inhabiting a free-thinking and contented mind. He talks about the sufferer being so traumatised and fearful, his/her life is dominated by behaviour which appears to avoid futher fear - checking locks and windows a hundred times, staying indoors, avoiding friends and family - the list is endless. This behaviour does nothing but ENHANCE the fear not reduce it. The sufferer is faced with two options - 1. continue the cycle of avoidance/fear - or 2. start to rebulid the support structure* that the sufferer once had. This is easier said than done. Paul David's observation is this - sufferers often continue the cycle of avoidance/fear, instead of rebuilding the support structure*. The former appears easier than the latter. The behaviour of avoidance/fear becomes so entrenched, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy - much like a horse tethered to a post, walking in circles, wearing a track in the soil with it's hooves. The horse becomes conditioned into it's behaviour to the point where, when the tether is cut, the horse is scared to move out of the trench. Paul David's comments are valid.
But how do we move from a postion of fear to a position of action? Well, the most important first step is commit yourself to the move, wholeheartedly and systematically - knowing that beneath the fear and trauma resides the contented and happy person we always were. Even though we feel wretched and rudderless, our 'real' self is obsured by the fear, the anxiety and depression - but undeniable 'we' are still there. When I found there was a light (albeit very dim) inside that represented the old, carefree 'me', it was a very important indication that my traumatised and fearful mind was obscuring the light and pulling me back to fearful thoughts. We all have the light, if we look.
Sit down, relax, breathe gently in for 7 counts and out for 11 eleven counts just for a few minutes and and allow thoughts to come and go. Don't grab onto (or hold onto) any fearful thoughts or preconceptions, just allow the thoughts to fizzle out. Imagine there is a part of your ego that wants you to continue to be fearful - just like a spoilt child. Just ignore the ranting child for a few minutes and let the thoughts fizzle into the ether. Keep breathing gently in and out (7 in 11 out). After a few minutes, say to yourself, from now on, I will acknowlege the real, happy and contented 'me' is with me right now but obscured by fearful thoughts and although the light is dim, every time I sit, relax and breathe, put negative thoughts to one side (just for a few minutes), the light will become slowly brighter.
I did this 3 or 4 times a day. I allowed myself the luxury to step out of my tired and traumatised mind and look to calmer waters. After several weeks, I was back to work, after several months, I was connecting fundamentally with my old self. Now, 3 years on, I don't meditate regularly because the light shines brightly, but I still acknowlege the power of the simple routine. Try it but be gentle with yourself. Don't expect instant results but look at it as a long-term programme of relaxing, breathing. it will certainly do you no harm. If you feel you need help regarding meditaion, there will be a meditaion group near to where you live. They are the most encouraging and positive people you will ever meet.