Meditation and mental illness

Robin Woods, modified 8 Months ago at 10/30/21 2:52 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 10/30/21 2:51 PM

Meditation and mental illness

Posts: 189 Join Date: 5/28/12 Recent Posts
Re: the warning at the start of MCTB, I just wondered if any consensus had formed on here re: whether the mentally ill should meditate. 

If someone has ever experienced psychosis, I assume it could be quite risky and the individual would probably be confined to playing out their misery within the confines of the Western healthcare system. 

But what of more ‘common or garden’ anxiety/depression. Despite Daniel’s warning, I remember being very impressed on the old KFD site by the number of people who claimed that Pragmatic Dharma had effectively cured their anxiety/depression. So this was probably principally what influenced me to just go for it and take the risk…

It definitely worked (at first anyway) and after second path I was able to re-engage with and enjoy life again. 

Until COVID. To my considerable and eternal shame/embarrassment- I think I fundamentally misunderstood/perceived ‘non-duality. Because I no longer felt like a separate, secure entity encased in skin I think it massively increased my anxiety because I felt like the the contagion was already inside ‘me’ and I had a massive mental and physical breakdown. 

I now find myself out of work and severely depressed/anxious. ALL psychiatric medication has stopped working for me. 
I guess I feel my last chance would be to try and note my way out of it? I don’t even see what I have to loose or how anything could get any worse? 
George S, modified 8 Months ago at 10/30/21 4:11 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 10/30/21 3:49 PM

RE: Meditation and mental illness

Posts: 2463 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Thoughts are just thoughts. They don't have any meaning outside of thought space, which is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of overall sense experience. Focus on what is actually going on in your body, the actual physical sensations, regardless of what you happen to think about anything. The mind is just reacting to get away from what's going on in the body, the unfelt emotions. Just my experience/opinion, not professional psychiatric advice (which I assume you are already getting?)
Papa Che Dusko, modified 8 Months ago at 10/31/21 7:16 AM
Created 8 Months ago at 10/31/21 7:16 AM

RE: Meditation and mental illness

Posts: 2449 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Yes. I suffered from combat PTSD for years. All of it as well as paranoia as if something will attack me any moment. Checking if I locked the main door several times in the evening just to be sure. Any tiny sound would make my heart pump into adrenaline! 

Then break down and talk therapy did not much help. Found Reiki Hands On self healing in 2008. Did it daily. Then in 2009 found Aikido style Ki-breathing and did that for a year, daily. Got me all the way up to 5th Samatha Juana. Loved it so much as it felt so safe. Safest space I ever experienced in my insecure life (life without parents). Then I lost it and so wanted it back. Still I enjoyed the sits and life. 

However, tapping into this infinite space did something and my panic attacks, flashbacks and paranoia vanished. 

I kept looking for other practices and found Calm-abiding Samatha in 2010-2012 practiced daily. This lead all the way into DN and I lost it but had no issues with PTSD as such. However the DN bleed through was clear with other people and I was struggling to get back my lively meditation. 

Anyway long story short;

several years without practice and in the same year within a few months I lost my beloved dog, my beloved cat and my beloved father in law. I lost it totally. Paranoia was full on back!!! And I mean it. Panic attacks also. I really was in bad shape. 

So I went for talking therapy for couple of months and I started to feel better. I liked this old therapist fellow. We clicked. I think it's important to like the therapist one works with. 

Then after a year or so I felt DN struggle being impossible to live with but I was ok psychologically and I decided to just poke full on noting together with Kenneth Folk as my one on one teacher. This worked well for me. 

Stopped with SSRI meds a few months after the cessation. Still off medicine since then (end of 2019 or start of 2020 , don't remember) Btw, started with SSRI back in 2011. 

This is my experience. I'm not offering any suggestions just sharing what happened to me. 

Best wishes Robin! 
Dream Walker, modified 8 Months ago at 11/1/21 10:19 AM
Created 8 Months ago at 11/1/21 10:19 AM

RE: Meditation and mental illness

Posts: 1430 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Hey Robin,
Been a while since we hung out. Life has been a horrible yoyo for me, not to compare but meditation has been what keeps me going.
It doesn't always bring nice things especially working on 3rd path. Look at my 'framework of awakening' again and pick some nice off the cushion meditations. start with the visual exersizes, they are fun walking around gentle stuff that brings nice permanent upgrades. If you have panoramic done work on some other visual upgrades. then work on other doors. Don't need to note, just notice and tune into and stay on stuff. It is fun and quick if you can stay on it especially is you can stay on a flower for hours to EQ. When you get it, you just nudge it back when ya loose it.
Anyway, reach out to me if you want to video chat, we can compare our shitty curcumstances and trade advise.
Good luck,
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 7 Months ago at 11/4/21 2:52 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 11/4/21 2:49 PM

RE: Meditation and mental illness

Posts: 6432 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer to whether people with mental illness should stay away from meditating. I have personally chosen not to stay away from it, and I don't regret it. I'm pretty robust despite my tendencies towards depression and anxiety (and even something that's at least vaguely similar to hypomania at times, and some mild hallucinations and a history of dissociative seizures) and I find that meditation keeps me sane. The adverse affects from energetic stuff occurred much more frequently before I started practicing, whereas meditation together with yoga helps healing them. I haven't been able to quit my antidepressants because of the practice, and I don't expect that I will either. I seem to have chronic imbalance in my neurotransmitters. That's just part of living with this body, just like I need glasses and sometimes get a cold or a stomach flue. I have no doubts that meditation can have a destabilizing effect on some people. I think each and everyone of us needs to get to know ourselves well enough to find our own answer as to whether or not a practice is good for us. However, I'm not so sure there's always a real choice. Sometimes the dharma just happens to us. It sort of did for me, and it didn't take no for an answer, so I might as well go with it and refrain from freaking out. 
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 7 Months ago at 11/4/21 2:56 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 11/4/21 2:56 PM

RE: Meditation and mental illness

Posts: 6432 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
By the way, sorry for proselyting, but have you tried regular hatha or vinyasa yoga? For me it's a central component to managing my depressive tendencies. It also helps my meditation practice.
shargrol, modified 7 Months ago at 11/5/21 5:14 AM
Created 7 Months ago at 11/5/21 4:53 AM

RE: Meditation and mental illness

Posts: 1761 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
The problem of "meditation and mental illness" is similar to the problem of "physical injury and exercise".

When someone is physically injured there is still a need for gentle exercise for the body to heal and recover, but there is also a risk that too much exercise will cause more injury. So the real trick is to find a physical therapist who can provide exercises that help heal the body without retraumatizing it. Of course if we don't have access to a therapist we can still make progress on our own, but we need to get smart and go very very slow. We should read all we can about our physical injury and test out some of the methods suggested for healing and go very very slow. But if we're serious about getting to physical health quickly and without a lot of mistakes, then seeing a physical therapist is the way to go.

In the mental health world, the best people to work with are therapists. These people are skilled at slowly teasing out our psychological blind spots and the ways we self-sabotage our best efforts to be mentally sane. They are also good at helping us remember to do the things we already know we need to do -- things like nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stuff related to work and finances. So I would suggest researching and seeking good references for a therapist. Ideally talk with friends or aquaintances that personally recommend their therapist. Take your time and don't rush, but spend some time looking. There are many ways to use hotlines to find help, too (for example or in the U.S. --- just google "mental health hotline" and include the state/country where you live). A lot of these groups will also help people find free or low-cost services.

Of course if you don't have access to a therapist you can still make progress. You just have to get smart and go slow. We should read all we can about our mental disease --- read about depression, anxiety, etc.; read personal accounts of people who have had these problems and gotten better; read about what treatments are available that you can do on your own --- and test out some of the methods suggested for treatment. But if we're serious about getting to mental health quickly and without a lot of mistakes, seeing a mental health professional is the way to go.

Meditation is always easy to add into the mix. We're always able to sit down and spend time noticing the sensations, emotions, and thoughts that appear in the present moment. This can help bring clarity... or it might make someone more depressed/anxious. Again, if we're doing this on our own, we need to go slow. Even with a meditation teacher, meditation isn't always the best modality for making changes in our life. It can help, for sure, but it doesn't mean it's the first and only thing we should use to make change happen.

The best way to fix our problems is to directly fix our problems with the modality that works directly on our problem. It's never good to "just meditate and hope it works", because it is rarely that simple. 

Best wishes for your work situation and your mental health! I remember being unemployed for months and it was a crushing blow to my self-esteem (and finances). Eventually I started working again, but I had to work as a laborer despite my education and employment experience. Still it was good to get out of my head and just do some work and make some money. It helped with my depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Eventually things got better, but it was one of the most difficult times in my life.

Hope this helps in some way.
Dan Latner, modified 7 Months ago at 11/5/21 8:28 AM
Created 7 Months ago at 11/5/21 7:59 AM

RE: Meditation and mental illness

Posts: 36 Join Date: 3/17/21 Recent Posts
I basically learned about psychology and deep-end meditation at the same time. I am not advanced in either, so please keep that in mind.

Sometimes I like to zoom out to a place where consciousness exists, nervous systems exist, and behaviour exists. Then comes language. Know what I mean? What we consider good science in the field of psychology is changing FAST. Even in normie consensus reality, the gap between traditional middle-of-the-road psychiatry and trauma-informed care is massive.

Good meditation teachers will always tell you to take care of your "mental health". Lots of "good" mental health professionals will tell you spirituality doesn't exist. 

From my limited vantage point, it seems like there are lots of things you can do when meditating. If insight practice is destabilizing, maybe brahmaviharas and jhannas are more appropriate.

Getting psychoeducated is powerful. Learn about your nervous system and psychological patterns. Bessel Van Der Kolk and Gabor Mate are two of my favourites.
Brandon Michael Rohe, modified 7 Months ago at 11/7/21 8:57 AM
Created 7 Months ago at 11/7/21 8:57 AM

RE: Meditation and mental illness

Posts: 16 Join Date: 6/1/21 Recent Posts
I think your issues are being caused by misunderstanding in nonduality as you suggested. I've met and responded to a number of people on another forum I frequent who run into similar issues. I don't think meditating or noting more is the real solution here IMO. It would probably be more effective to speak with someone who has a deep understanding in nonduality in order to work through the misconceptions. This isn't just a Buddhist question. There are many other slices of the pie to unpack to get this right. 

Feel free to shoot me an email if you want to discuss it. I have a few psychiatric diagnoses myself. It definitely adds a lot of complexity to the situation.