When people ask me about my interest in meditation, I often say “it saved my life”. And here’s how.
Have you ever had a moment or a time in your life that was so impactful, things would forever be known as pre- "____" and post -"____"?
About five years ago, I started to find myself sad for seemingly no reason. I say no reason because on the very superficial level, things weren’t too bad. I was in my last year of university and acing my classes, actively involved on campus with my sorority & other organizations, held multiple fun and engaging part time jobs and had a good group of friends as well as a significant other. Pretty damned good.
However, I began to be overwhelmed by a sensation of a “heavy heart”. There really is no other way to describe it and no way to explain what triggered it. It was almost as if I suddenly saw the world and life, not just my life but life as a whole, as this miserable, melancholic place to be and couldn't unsee it.
(Note- Let me just mention that a lot of this unhappiness was definitely NOT visible from the outside looking in. Additionally, the negative thoughts didn’t live with me every minute of every day. They would pop up every so often and stick around for a day or two before leaving again.)
I don’t actually remember too much about how I felt prior to leaving for Australia in July 2012. It sort of felt like I was on autopilot. I do remember a few things:
- I remember HUGE fights with my family and my SO.
- I remember entertaining the thought of wanting to escape. That this just wasn't worth it & I wanted it to end. I called the suicide hotline one time hoping in the back of my head that they could persuade me to not think these thoughts . They didn't "say what I wanted/ needed to hear" and so I hung up.
- I remember one night, while my significant other was out with his friends, I was feeling so despondent. I started to google all the different over the counter pills and concoctions one could take to end their lives.
- I remember telling two of my closest friends- one girl and one guy about how I had really dark thoughts that would leave me crying for no reason. I don’t remember what they said but I remember wanting to hear a certain something- I just didn’t know what that something was.
Now, in all the time in Melbourne, not once did I feel or think any of these thoughts. I still don’t know why but I can guess it’s probably because I was living in this care free, idealistic world with no consequences (at least in my head). The night before leaving to fly home to Vancouver almost four years ago, I was so ridden with worry about those “dark thoughts” finding me again that I started to bawl.
Around the Fall of 2013, I was on the edge every night. As in THE edge- between wanting to tough it out and wanting to give up. The straw had finally broken the camel's back. I had just ended things with my long distance boyfriend and had completely cut communication with the ex, who was one of my best friends, before him. I was basically ping-ponging between the two. I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to matter to someone because I didn’t matter to myself.
At one point, I remember feeling so alone and so hopeless and thinking
"I hope to god no one else ever feels this way. "
And then I thought
"maybe everyone else feels this way, they’re just better at dealing with it."
At which point I then thought-
"Well, I’m just shitty at being a human being then. Why bother?"
The best way to describe how I was feeling is with this metaphor I came up with one day in the midst of it all:
“It’s like being in a cold, dark, terrifying circular funhouse room with many doors. I’m rushing, frenzied, from one door to another hoping for a way out. Looking for happiness but not finding anything.”
I didn’t feel comfortable describing myself as “suicidal”. Heck, I still don’t like that word. I mean, thoughts of suicide don’t happen to me! I was trained in suicide prevention at my workplace with the Student Health Center. (Insert nerd emoji here.)
Yet these thoughts persisted. I found a website that rated the different ways to end your life in terms of efficacy, pain, etc.
I ruled out hanging because I didn’t want anyone to find a swollen, blue body. I ruled out OD’ing because there was a high chance of surviving with terrible side effects. I wanted something that was quick, guaranteed, and relatively painless. There was absolutely no emotion behind any of this process- it was methodical.
And so I continued on. Highly volatile. Feeling alone yet not wanting to bother any of my friends because at this point, I was so cynical about other people. I remember telling some of my closest friends and my sister at one point. Once again, what they said wasn’t the “right” thing nor the thing I felt like I needed/ wanted to hear. Granted, who can blame them? Even I didn’t know what I needed to hear.
It was around November/ December that I finally sought help. I think I only did it because the Aussie said we would get back together or something like that. (On his part, well played.) So I went to a clinic and let me tell you, answering the question “what are you here for?” with “I want to see a doctor because I have had thoughts of suicide” was something I never thought I would say. Anyway, I chatted with a doctor/ nurse about my feelings and they told me that because I wasn’t feeling like I had a cloud over my head all day every day, they thought it was this thing where instead of getting grumpy & craving chocolate before my “Moon cycle”, I got depressed and suicidal. It was just something I’d have to deal with and they had the perfect pill(s) to fix it. These pills ranged from vitamin B pills (to boost mood), to birth control pills (to regulate hormones) to anti depressants. I didn't think what I had was intense enough for serious meds so I opted for vitamin B supplements and thought my problems were solved.
And they did help, at least a little bit. Between December (when I started taking the supplements) to January, I didn’t experience any thoughts of suicide. Sure, there were some pretty low points in which I felt shrouded in hopelessness, but no suicide. So… I’m all better, right?
Well, I sure thought I was. I attended Landmark in January and during a break on the last day of the weekend, I went up to chat with the forum facilitator about a conversation he had with a girl just before the break. She was suffering from an eating disorder and they just finished a really intense “coaching” session which ended in half of the forum furious at the facilitator because they felt like what he said was inappropriate. I wanted to go up and explain to him how, as someone with an eating disorder, the girl probably twisted his words in her head. Amidst talking about my experience with an eating disorder in high school, I casually mentioned how “I’m still no stranger to poor mental health. Heck, up until a month ago, I couldn’t shake off thoughts of suicide.”
You know how in TV shows, the music just cuts out and it’s suddenly dead silent? Well, if my life had a soundtrack, that would have been that moment. It was as if the air changed. The forum leader told me I had to go get help. I told him I had tried and they just want me on meds- which didn't feel right. He told me to keep trying until I got to speak to someone who offered up an alternative. He personally took responsibility for following up with me the next day to make sure I went to see someone.
So I did. I went to see a psychologist who also happened to be a yoga teacher. I could almost hear her judgemental thoughts when I told her I am also a yoga teacher (at least, I thought those were her judgemental thoughts. It’s more likely they were a story I created in my head). I only went to see her a handful of times and it always felt awkward and contrived because I was never suicidal or sad when I was around her. I had gotten so good at being smiley and performing that I didn’t even know how to be real around her. What I will credit her with is introducing me to a very simple meditation. And it is this meditation that saved my life. It’s gotten to a point where my body and mind crave meditation to help me push the “reset” button when things get hectic or when I start to get wrapped up in negative self talk. I didn’t want a bandaid solution in the form of pills, I wanted a tool I could use and this is what meditation is to me.
This is co-founder Anita's personal story on her experience with Mental Health & Illness. For us at MOMENT, Mental wellbeing is a cause we are passionate about. It courses through our veins and is the reason we get up every morning. In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to share our journey with you. To read Evian's story, click here. To read Hiroko's story, click here.