Day 5 – My Climb Out of Depression

April 30, 2013

Better or worse?  Who can tell.  I confessed (partially) to B about how bad I’m feeling.

Yesterday, I returned to the gym for another hour plus of cardio exercise.  I sat with Lou (virtually at 9) for 20 minutes last night.  Before that I again listened to the guided meditation body scan; it is helpful – I need to do this thing everyday.

This morning I visited a “cash-only” doctor.  Sitting in the sparsely and sadly decorated waiting room I felt a deep longing for the abundant sense of affluence omnipresent in Plano and Dallas.  This place feels like a 3rd world country by comparison.  This doctor accepts no insurance, no checks, no medicare / medicaid and I find myself wondering how far from the bottom of his class he graduated.  It’s a mean thought to be sure.  Still he is running the office singlehandedly as his reception has not shown up for work and the experience made me queasy.  Fortunately his demeanor is warm and sincere and he seems competent and knowledgeable.  He makes and maintains eye-contact (frequently doctor’s are in such a rush they don’t even manage this feat) and seems to be a caring sort of fellow.  I accept my prescriptions with a promise to return in 3 weeks.  I either will or I won’t.

Today?  I don’t know.  Gotta keep moving.  Exercise. Meditate.  Reach out.  Something.  Feeling very bad still.  My brain chemistry is surely a mess – I hope the medications help and quickly.

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Day 4 – My Climb Out of Depression

April 29, 2012

Oops! Clearly this is NOT working! I felt worse than ever yesterday!  Why can’t I ask for help? Why must I endlessly spin my wheels?

Felt highly anxious and depressed all day.  Went for a walk with my sister and a friend of her’s and despite it being a beautiful day, all I felt were shame, anxiety and fearfulness.

My plans to ruminate less are clearly not working. I gotta move.  This blog idea might prove to be my undoing.

Today I will move …. somehow … not feeling it right now but maybe a trip to the gym will help lift my mood enough to resume job search this afternoon.

In at least two different dreams last night I mentioned to others I was “suicidal.”  Posting to a blog no one will ever read… I’m tossing bottled messages into an ocean and what? Hoping someone will save me?  Sheesh.

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Day 3 – My Climb Out of Depression

Day 3 – april 28, 2013

Yesterday I went to the gym and did cardio for 70 minutes during which time I watched the first part of IDIOCRACY (not a great move by any stretch of the imagination but it did make me laugh and reminded me of how GOOD it feels to laugh!) – I meditated for 20 minutes at home and then later in the day did the (approx) 30 minute guided body scan meditation that is track 2 on the accompanying CD to The Mindful Way Through Depression. In the evening I went to a birthday party for a friend of my sister. During the party I felt much aversion and desire to be elsewhere – it’s my addiction again. Who am I to feel so averse to this life? This place? These people? Would I not love to find someone who could live with me and love me for 30 years? Mostly what I feel for myself is plain and simple disgust. Disgust at not having achieved anything of any lasting (seeking for permanence) substance or how I’ve not found a lasting love. I love my sister but I feel like we’ve become a default “couple.” I don’t want this. Any of this.

The truth is the desire to run away (to anywhere else) is as great as it’s ever been. I want to buy a gun, steal away to the woods somewhere and end my miserable life….

These are NOT helpful thoughts…. Should I DELETE the sentences above? Or should I leave it and thereby acknowledge just how awful I’m feeling? I’m no modern-day Hamlet nor do I aspire to be such. I’m just a man. A man that is suffering a great deal right now and is apparently too scared to tell anyone. So I “post” on my blog. Are these posts a man crying for a help or merely a crying man?

Today I plan on reading a bit (it doesn’t generate much energy but there is hope in The Mindful Way Through Depression), then I plan on studying a little PHP, go to the gym and do some more cardio and maybe core exercises (the “core” I’m convinced is a place I might begin to affect some positive movement of my overall mood by manipulating – through strengthening – the body mind connection; just as the mind can effect the body, the reverse is also true – a stronger body is a happier body!), at some point I’ll do the body scan guided meditation again (Kabat-Zinn’s sonorous voice is full of compassion and healing), maybe a nap, and resume my job search. I see many (surely not all) of the errors in my thinking. I know I’m engaging in “all-or-nothing” thinking for one. The truth is I can find a job but should I move then find a job, or find a job here? (Clearly I’m choosing all these “blocking” self-defeating obstacles.)

I’m so tired.

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Day 2 – My Climb Out of Depression

Day 2 – april 27, 2013

Yesterday I admitted to being deeply depressed and I listed the following seven “problems” that are currently hold me in a depressive mood.

  1. No money
  2. No energy
  3. Lack of sobriety / recovery from my addiction
  4. Loss of social connections
  5. Loss of hope
  6. Loss of enthusiasm
  7. Loss of faith in anything “eternal” that is leading me closer to nihilism

Someone (okay it was me!) suggested that what was needed was MOTION!  I agreed with him (me!) and then spent the rest of the day fussing with FACEBOOK, reading a bit, and chastising myself for not moving.  Oh boy!

I’m committed to a 90 day program to lifting myself from this state.  If I’m successful, this blog will record my exodus from hell, if I’m not then I guess this trail of entries will serve as my final “note.”  (I’m hoping for the former… today! Tomorrow I may be ready to abandon the whole enterprise…. It’s happened before.  The stakes are higher this time.)

To be sure, I need some structure, some overlying artifice on which to hang my recovery (pardon the Freudian word-choice slip there!).  I need motion, energy, some hope.  The things that can (and have in the past) work to lift me to a more energetic place.

  1. Exercise
  2. Meditation
  3. Creating
  4. Learning

I need to commit to at least three of these four activities everyday.

I’m also working through “A Mindful Way though Depression” which I know the authors do not recommend for someone in the midst of a depressive episode, I feel like I have no other option at present.  (The shame of asking for anything today, when it’s been so long since I’ve done anything for myself is something I will have to address before day 87…)

That and finding a damned job!  Seriously out of money here!

 

 

 

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Questions from a Beginning Meditator

A friend sent me these questions from a beginning meditator. I thought I’d post them along with my answers (opinions really, after all, who am I to say?!).

1. How do you know you have entered a meditative state or do you really know?  I was startled both times when the alarm went off so I think that says something, however, I am not sure what.

While it is arguably true that “jhanna” or “absorption” IS a meditative state, I would suggest, that in general and particularly for a beginning meditator, that “meditative state” is perhaps not a helpful or meaningful term. To me, it sounds like an affectation even. Meditation is not about blissing out or numbing out or zoning out (though forms of it can be used to these ends). Rather meditation is learning to practice staying present, deepening attention, awareness, and concentration.  It’s not an altered state it is a state of profound presence. To meditate is to sit without agenda or goal. Don’t judge your practice if thoughts arise of if you wander off mentally (they will and you will), simply return to the breath with as much gentleness and compassion as you can.

The practice of “labeling” can be used when you notice you’re no longer with the breath.  When you notice you’re no longer with the breath simply label whatever is arising and then gently return to your object of meditation.  One might say (to themselves) “thinking, thinking, thinking” and then return gently to the practice. (The operative word being “gently” – IMO – its’ far too easy to judge our meditations harshly when we have distractive thoughts, so as gently and with as much compassion as possible, label and let go of the distraction and return to the breath.)

The reason for the gentleness is because, as I see it, my consciousness is like a small rowboat or sailboat on a placid lake (sometimes the lake is assailed with storms, high winds, raining frogs, angry drivers, etc.).  My job as a meditator is to stand at the stern of the boat and simply observe everything going on.  If I see that I’m no longer present and am NOT gentle in returning my attention to the breath, then it’s like I’ve suddenly found myself peering over the bow, remembering I’m supposed to be at the stern and then quickly running to the back of the boat!  Obviously the running is going to upset the boat even further than my unintended trip forward!  I need to gently and nimbly step back to the stern being careful not to step on any of my crew!

So meditation is not a “state” so much as simple, uncluttered awareness and attention to whatever is arising. If frustration or negativity is arising, don’t try to suppress it or paint over it with “optimistic” thoughts.  Simply acknowledge the feeling with a label and return to the breath.

 “The moment you realize you aren’t present, you are present, because you’re present as the watcher of your mind.”

 Eckhart Tolle

If you are startled when the timer goes off, it sounds like you are perhaps not as present as you could be (that’s not a judgment – it is a fact – it happens to ALL meditators) simply notice you were surprised as you end your practice period.

2. I noticed my breathing seemed to change over the course of the 10 minutes.  At first it was fairly normal, then I would take deeper breaths and at the end it seemed to be slower and more shallow.

This doesn’t appear to be a question.  It is true the breath will vary.  The breath is an utterly fascinating thing to base our practice around. It is an autonomous process but one over which we can exert control.  Watching it closely always seems to exert at least some influence over the character of our breathing.  Some authors claim to simply notice when it’s long, when it’s smooth, when it’s shallow, etc.  Others have different things to say on this.  Thanissaro Bhikku recognizes that we will inevitably modify our breaths by observing it and says (in effect):

“Try to breathe in a way that is as gratifying as possible.”

Thanissaro Bhikku

This approach strikes me as a thoroughly pragmatic recognition of the phenomenon and encourages his students to use it to a positive end.  (The idea being – of course – that if one is thoroughly gratified by his / her breathing, they are going to be less apt to quit meditating.)

The changing breath is nothing to be concerned with.  It happens.

3. How do you know you are getting any benefit from the meditation other than study results?

Now that is a good question!

While it is not possible to practice without some goal – ultimately we (speaking as a Buddhist) seek to eliminate all craving.  But the desire to end suffering is in itself a “desire.”  One would not practice if one didn’t wish to suffer no more or even just suffer less.

I think a lot of the benefits we reap from meditation occur in the form of “reductions;” a reduction in my grasping, a reduction in overly-identifying with my thoughts (or somehow equating my thoughts with “reality”), a reduction in stress, etc.

In Buddhism the three poisons are generally thought to be greed, hatred, and delusion.  The more I entertain thoughts that are rife with such poisons, the lower my consciousness will be and the more I will suffer.  To the degree I can decrease or outright eliminate such poisonous thoughts, the less I will suffer, and the higher my consciousness will be.

If I have a jar of mud and set it in the sun, eventually all of the dirt will settle to the bottom of the jar.  Our consciousness is like this jar of muddy water.  If we can wait, our mud, sand, and dirt will settle to the bottom and we will be able to see clearly.  Meditation is waiting for our water to clear.

Do you have the patience to wait 
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving 
till the right action arises by itself?

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 15 (excerpt)

In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 48 (excerpt)

Of course, this is all just my opinion.

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There’s no Denying it any Further; I am Depressed

Day 1 – april 26, 2013

I am depressed.

I am nearly totally out of money.

I’ve not worked in over a half a year.  I have nearly completed exhausted my savings and resources.  In the last few months I have been selling off the handful of stocks I have to pay my minimal monthly expenses (car payment, minimal (if any)  credit card payments, car insurance, health insurance, phone bill, some money for food to my sister, money for my daily coffee fix at Joplin Avenue Coffee or Panera’s Bread Co.).

Currently all I want to do is sleep.

Or look at XXXX on my iPhone.

I am a XXX and XXXX addict that has (again) fallen from his fragile and secular wagon of sobriety and recovery.  If I am honest with myself (I am not always so), then I am not even sure I even want to cease my addiction. On one hand, I know it is killing me, wrecking my consciousness, infusing my (what? psyche? brain? mind? consciousness?) with way more desire than can be healthy.

I am agnostic or atheist; most people would consider me atheist I suppose.  I can no longer accept the idea of a god that is “separate and apart from reality” even though at times I feel a presence and protection that my secular mind can not explain away with science or anything.  The truth is I do not know.  I know I doubt!  I doubt a lot!  I doubt the existence of an eternal soul, of a loving father figure of a god.  The idea that most of my fellow countrymen seem to worship is not one I can understand.  The idea of an “infinite” amount of suffering for no more grievous offense than not believing, is something I find curious and repugnant.  (No human parent could punish a child forever, yet these same people are okay worshiping this monstrosity of a misunderstanding, as surely this can not reflect any “reality.”)

I believe in poetry.

I believe all religions are enhanced when their beliefs are held, scriptures read loosely.  When they are read as and experienced as poetry.

So what?!  How is that helping me? Now? As I sit here with the sirens tempting me towards suicide?  My beliefs are no better than those I stand in judgement of.  I cling to my beliefs (and ironically those “beliefs” I want everyone to know, I can not believe!) and I suffer for them.

For the next two months – or for how ever long it takes – I’m going to try to journal my progression away from the brink of insanity and death and towards health, happiness and engagement.  Otherwise I will end up hiding in the woods in Oregon or Alaska, or on a beach in Hawaii, waiting to die or perhaps accelerating the process with a gun, knife, or bottle of pills).

So here are my problems, as I perceive them:

  1. No money
  2. No energy
  3. Lack of sobriety / recovery from my addiction
  4. Loss of social connections
  5. Loss of hope
  6. Loss of enthusiasm
  7. Loss of faith in anything “eternal” that is leading me closer to nihilism

Which of these is most important?  I have  no clue.  But I had better get one  soon or I will not be around much longer.

Wish me luck.  Prayers are appreciated (I said I was agnostic!).

Shawn

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Future Posts

Maturing as a Meditator

Thoughts on Anapanasati Sutta (Controversy, Pranyama, etc)

Thoughts on Big Numbers

Taking Refuge in the Third Refuge

How to End a Retreat

Thoughts on Self Retreats

Thoughts on an (Idealized) Retreat (rigorous schedule, fewer meals, fewer props)

Never Hungry Until I Visit the Kitchen

Stop Fidgeting

Emptiness

Anatta and Reincarnation (NOT Rebirth)

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