These are journal excerpts about my fitful beginning work with meditation as a guide through depression.
After a day of feeling the chaos of panic, immobilized at work, I went to see JL, first therapist in years. This guy is real. He wasted no time, quickly running through some patterns he observed (explaining that he was hurrying things up because I had been through therapy) and then hit on something that caught me off guard completely. He said he knew how much I loved my brother, he could hear it in what I said, he could feel it in his body. At that, realizing it was true, I wanted to cry, almost did, but covered it with a forced jerky laugh, fooling no one. I was right there, ready to let loose with the feeling I have been sitting on for so long. He explained that he had methods, he did not shoot from the hip. He realized he could have pushed harder about my brother and gotten somewhere, but he prefers to work carefully, using the models he knows from Buddhist psychology. The guy wanted me to know he’d been around, as he says, raised in different cultures and countries. This should be good. I like his attitude: We can break that cycling, that pattern, we can break that, I guarantee it. Who talks like that these days? I sense in him that he’s witnessed, probably experienced, conversion or at least deep insight within the light of a powerful soul. But he’s not trying to become my guru – at least I hope that’s true.
Fast forward a few days, and I’m messed up again. I dragged myself around at work, unable to concentrate, aware only of wanting to break out of the office prison with its cash flow problems and staff tensions. I was also angry at JL as I thought back over incidental remarks he’d made about depression becoming an artifact of advertising – that seemed insulting when said to someone who first ran into the problem decades before anyone even talked about it or named it. And of course the forbidden subject never got anywhere near the mass media. I argued with him in my mind and felt myself falling into a typical pattern of battling with a dominant male, damned if I’ll let another guy glibly analyze me, and in so doing establish power over me. That male to male contest is so basic (I’ve started analyzing again!), a primitive drive to kill the rival men and possess the women – the caveman buried deep but still whacking against the shell of social rules. There is so much savagery ready to rip through civilized rationality. And I go on and on like that – I guess it’s a way of raging myself out of panic. Bad swap – one smash in the head for another.
Then it was back to JL. He went through my psychic profile based on a test he’d given me that first time. “I’m talking to your psyche now, not to you.” Well that’s interesting – to be a puzzled witness to this communication between a therapist and the invisible me. But even though I was eavesdropping, it’s helpful to hear how JL organizes the forces inside me or rather in this psyche guy. How much is obsessive, how much depressive, strains of anxiety, phobia, restlessness – he got pretty well the highlights of how the psychic force splits up and reshapes the struts of a soul. Then he gives something new – for me – a series of meditation assignments to help change things. He says they can even body chemistry. I will keep a journal – not hard since I’m doing `something like that now. We’re starting on loving and kindness as well as relaxation. He taught me a nice meditation reviewing the people who have brought love and happiness into my life, then the people whom I have given warmth and happiness to. Then I pray for compassion, for ?? – I knew I would forget the words! Depressed mind likes to blank out on important things. Anyway, it has to do with warmth and self-acceptance and peace and relaxation. Twice a day I do this – not forgetting to exercise for an hour a day and to write in the journal. At least I’ve got part of that going.
I spent this day completely nervous and unfocused, increasingly anxious as each hour passed filled with small tasks I didn’t want to do but somehow had to. None of them helped me with issues at work – I’m completely stressed out about getting forward movement on a couple of cases. All this fits with JL’s portrait of my psyche – lots of nervousness, lots of unfinished projects, lots of obsessing, little focus. Tonight I finally made time to meditate, just focusing on keeping the belly soft – awful image since I feel so fat – but I found what power there is in the act of concentration. It was late but even with eyes closed and concentrating on this one thing, there was no sleepiness, only the intensity of mental energy, a cleansing feeling, and a waking up. This is my real beginning on the assignments, and I can see that doing this twice a day with a lot of walking will help restore me.
Interesting to see how just hearing the psychic profile from JL has helped relax me at home. That’s part of what L wanted in pushing me into therapy – or any damn thing that would make me easier to live with. She gets the raging, when I can’t see anything good, and then she gets the loving side, when I’m me again, attentive, baffled that I could ever be so crazy. All that twisting rage in my gut, all that obsessing, paranoia, panic and general stress – they all seem at the moment like barriers to fear. And fear of what, exactly? What monster is going to break out, what caveman with his club, what horrible wreckage and carnage will I cause? I’ve had a few clear-headed moments – like the one years back when I understood deep down that my feelings of anger when coming home masked the real fear of losing my family. This pervasive stress and anxiety washes out everything else.
But I’m reaching for the words JL has been teaching me, trying to focus away from that chaos, focus on what? What do I catch onto in this static? Breathing in, breathing out – I have to keep remembering that simple starting point. Count the breaths, focus on the in-rush, the outflow. How high can I count before my mind wanders away. Just look at the thoughts, the feeling flashes, don’t get too close, just watch the jumble from a distance. JL said the fear was what I most wanted not to feel, but at this point fear is floating on the surface of a sea, and I’m looking at it. Is that scummy stuff really a part of me? But I turn back to my breathing – I keep losing count. It feels so simple, so refreshing just to pay attention to breathing – yet how hard it is to hear that constant rhythm in my body when I’m all shot nerves and drained by panic. At least I can hear it now. Maybe tomorrow I can remember all the words of the loving kindness meditation.