Monday, December 12, 2011

NOT the answer...So what is?

First, thanks to the readers who commented on my Uncle Michael post. I'm glad his story resonated with you as it did with me.

So, now on to putting Uncle Michael's words to work. As you will recall, he said he had to calm down or he would die. And I feel the same way.

The best way to start explaining how I'm going about this hugely important task is to use Sally's words as my springboard. This is what she said (and I heartily agree):

"Antidepressants and tranquilizers are NOT the answer! "

Now, I don't want to tell anyone else how to handle their anxiety. Truly, far be it from me! We all have to find our own way, and if pharmacology is right for you, I won't stand in your way.

However, I know myself well enough to realize that taking pills is not something that really works for me. After my first, disastrous hip surgery, I got really, really depressed and with good reason. I started having a lot of trouble eating enough to simply nourish my body. Food was the last thing on my mind, even when my stomach was screaming with hunger. By the time my surgeon had confirmed that something was really wrong and that he was going to perform a revision, my GP had already put me on an anti-depressant. I knew that the best anti-depressant was having confirmation that I wasn't imagining things and that I really needed another surgery, but it was too late. My GP wanted to keep me on the medication until after the second surgery and I complied. What did it get me? Nothing but some extra poundage I really didn't need!

So, when I recently found myself in a deep, thyroid-induced depression, I knew that neither anxiety nor anti-depressant medication was not the answer.

In the past, right here on this blog, I talked about meditation and more specifically, breathing meditation to help keep me on a more even keel in a very stress filled life. But, to be absolutely honest, I didn't do anything.

This time was different.

As you know, I was in a very deep hole. I had a serious falling out with my work associates and left our group. My reasons, under different circumstances, could have been quite justified. I work in an extremely tense environment. But this has been the only work life I've known for almost twenty-five years and to a great extent, it's just the nature of the beast. You have to have nerves of steel to do what I do, and nerves of steel to deal with the prima donnas who make up a high percentage of people in my profession.

It was being hyperthyroid that took me over the edge, but as I tumbled, I realized that I had a lot of personal, long-standing baggage that made the tumble all the worse. I had to do something more than just take my thyroid medication and mentally paper over the hurt and the anxiety. I was NOT going to go on anti-depressants.

So what have I been doing?

Quite a while ago, I heard about Jon Kabat-Zinn, a well-known practitioner and proponent of "mindfulness" and I finally began to read one of his books on mindfulness, which focuses specifically on people suffering from illness and stress. There's so much and so little to say about mindfulness, being in the moment, not letting yourself be buffeted about by the world around you, ....I really don't know where to start nor what to say, so I'll be brief (after this very long introduction):

Read Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

This book is having a profound effect on me. I'm still quite recognizable, both in body and in spirit, but sometimes it's the little, yet deep changes that make all the difference. I'm keeping these changes for myself. They may mean nothing to you. However, your changes, no matter how small, can have a huge effect on who you are as a human being and how you move through life.

So, if you're looking for something--not something to make you lose weight, or help you burn more calories or rev up your metabolism or tone your abs--something to help you live your life with more calm and personal understanding, and less anxiety, read this book. It may not touch you, but if it does, and you find that it's made a positive change in your life, well, that will make my heart sing.

Read the book!!


  1. I feel honoured to have my comments quoted. I am a pharmacist, reiki master and hypnotherapist. 4 years ago I was a depressed pharmacist on anti-depressants - then I discovered self hypnosis, visualizations and the amazing power of the mind over the body. That led me to reiki and hypnotherapy. It wasn't the anti -depressants that helped me - it was finding a different way to think that had a more positive effect on my mind, body and spirit.

    I am so pleased you have discovered meditation. I think meditation ought to be taught on the National Health Service (our national free to all provider of health care in the UK). If it has the dramatic effect on you it had on me, you will never be the same again.

  2. I cannot fathom how some folks live without some kind of mindfulness practice--any form of practice that: 1) changes one's thinking patterns and unhelpful beliefs, 2) opens one's heart to new experiences and ways of being present, 3) expands one's conscious AND unconscious relationships with self and others. It's like choosing to open doors to worlds you have always known were here but felt too afraid or inadequate to step through and explore. Your adventure has already begun! :)

  3. Ha... Thanks for the reminder - that book currently gathers dust on my bookshelf; last spring I also bought myself a fancy meditation cushion which likewise has only been used a handful of times.

  4. Might I also suggest Jon Kabat-Zinn's book Wherever You Go, There You Are--it's an easy to read book, laid out with hands on activities and thoughts to contemplate, along with lovely quotes. I've referred to it for years.

  5. Lori, I have the other book too, but right now Full Catastrophe is really speaking to me!

  6. This book sounds like something that I desperately need to be reading. I really, really dislike being on medication for my anxiety but for the moment - at least until I have properly learned another successful technique, it will have to do. Thank you for the suggestion and I hope you are feeling some much-needed relief from your daily stressors.

  7. Okay, for six months I've been meaning to buy Kabat-Zinn's books. Reading this today was the final push; I'm ordering a few for my Kindle NOW. Thank you.