Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

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Jared N, modified 3 Months ago at 3/9/22 11:36 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/6/22 10:51 AM

Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 72 Join Date: 3/6/22 Recent Posts
Hi,

I'm so scared and panicked right now.  I don't have a strong formal background in any formal meditative training, so a lot of terminologies are new. I made it most of the way through MTCB but am struggling to read it because it brings up so many difficult feelings.

Anyways, I think I may have passed through the 3C's and experienced A&P into DN but I'm not totally sure where or what part I'm at, or if I'm even in the dark night.

I have a religious background, but since have lost my faith. It's been hard to deal with the loss of meaning. I want so bad for a Christ who makes everything right, but I struggle to believe it, nor am I sure I actually want to.

​​​​​​​My experiences with 3C's all started with an experience 6 months ago.  I felt intense doom and meaninglessness and panic.  I remembered how harrowing it was and kept questioning the meaning of life. I remember seeing that I wasn't actually there. I didn't understand it at all then. Finally, I came to the conclusion towards the end of the trip that "we make the meaning of our lives."

I've also been an on or off meditator for the past 4 years or so, but never seriously until recently. I began with the headspace app and learn to focus on the breath and body scanning. For some reason, body scanning really clicked for me and I began to exclusively do body scanning. 

Beginning in January, I began meditating daily for 1-2 hours a day. Near the end of January, I had a couple of experiences where I sensed a soft empty void behind the brain and body. At first, I was intrigued, but then it became scary.  (Around this time I also began hearing things in intense almost unbearable detail and these sudden realizations/waking up feeling, like how did I get here, who are all these people, etc.) I also began to occasionally be conscious during sleep which was probably the most disarming thing because I felt I had no reprieve from the hellish experience I was going through. I stopped meditating after these experiences.

All of this led to a trip to the ER and an inpatient stay. Now I've been back from the hospital for about a month, am seeing a therapist, and psychiatrist weekly. I'm safe now in terms of physical well-being with a good family and support system.

​​​​​​​I've ceased meditation entirely as much as possible (I still find myself noting, focusing intently on body sensations, etc but try to stop myself).  Since January I've been experiencing super heavy realizations about impermanence, losing all my loved ones and my life, and the suffering has been intense. I feel deep periods of intense panic, fear, and terror. They manifest as freezing ice-cold water trickling along my back, throat clenching, and dark heavy holes in my body, as well as a dark void threatening to surround me.  I feel like I've been given more than I can bear.

When I started meditating, I just wanted more peace and tranquility, and now I feel like I got more than I bargained for. Is this even worth it? Can I stop it?.  I am terrified that I have no soul, no control, my sense of self is holding on for dear life, and I know that I want it gone, but I am struggling with losing everything I love.  I feel trapped in a fear of biological determinism and nihilism.

I have always loved spending time with my wife and brother and playing video games with them.  Am I going to lose this joy forever?? How can I possibly come to terms with the fact that everything I know and love is going to be gone?? 

I'm so afraid and so upset and terrified of the nihilism and meaninglessness that seems to come up anytime I ponder these.  I feel so raw, and I'm struggling to do anything in basic life. I have no appetite, and I feel like things will never get better. I'm scared of the long journey ahead and I feel like I can't handle this much pain.  Can anyone help me? I don't know what to do. I'm scared to keep meditating but I'm also scared of being stuck here forever. 

I have noticed that the feelings of fear and panic come and go. Sometimes I can be back totally involved in my sense of self, doing things I love, being with my family. It's almost as it was before. I can even get to a point of being consciously okay with the realizations I've had, but then new ones will crop up.

Can I ever get the joy back or do I need to let go of it forever? Will I stop loving the people I care about??

If I stop meditating will it help? Can I deal with the dark night without meditating? Is there a point of no return and have I crossed it?

This might be asking a lot, but please be kind and gentle with your responses. I'm even struggling with reading about these topics because it's bringing up so much fear and panic. 
T DC, modified 3 Months ago at 3/6/22 1:53 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/6/22 11:28 AM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 447 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Sorry you're going through that! Sounds like you have absolutely done the right thing by getting professional help and stopping your meditation practice. 

As far as dealing with the intense existential worries that you described, I would recommend trying some mindfulness of breathing when it occurs.  Take some deep breaths and focus on the peace and relaxation of breathing.  Be aware of your thoughts and feelings, and try allow them to be there without fighting them or attempting to resolve them - just sit with their strong and challenging energy.  I have found that gently sitting with strong emotions while grounding my awareness in mindfulness of breathing can provide some relief in stressful moments. 

As far as long term solutions, it's hard to know - hopefully these things calm down over time as you avoid triggers and live a balanced life style.  Meditation is naturally destabilizing for some people, particularly when you pursue it in a hardcore manner in a quest for existential answers - this seems to be true in your case so honestly I would be extremely cautious before starting another meditation practice. 

Are you stuck here? According to one model, perhaps you passed the A/P and now are in an endless dark night.  But just as likely from your story is that your meditation experience triggered issues related to a previous "bad trip" of sorts, causing mental destabilization. 

I would avoid hard labels on what you are experiencing, do what seems to help, avoid what seems to make it worse, and have faith that it can get better over time.  Since this issue just started recently, give it 6 months and reevaluate - hopefully by that time things have calmed down more and you will be in a much better place. 

Edit: I'm not implying that had you crossed the A+P you would be stuck in a literally endless dark night.  The way the POI model works though is that once we cross the A+P, we are subject to the dark night until we work past it to gain stream entry.  My point was that this may be an unhelpful way to frame the issue of the OPs suffering - as necessary to be worked through to gain genuine relief - when pushing through in meditation could make it worse.  Instead, taking a break from meditation, maintaining positive habits, seeking professional help, all of which you're doing, could be very helpful and beneficial for your situation.
Stephen, modified 3 Months ago at 3/6/22 1:00 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/6/22 1:00 PM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 25 Join Date: 1/5/17 Recent Posts
I agree that you've done well to get yourself out of the worst place you were in and though you are still struggling you have a therapist and are getting help. The previous comment about the dark night, even if you were in such a place it would not be endless. In any case, I don't think it's particularly helpful to think about such things given your circumstances. I think if you were to do any kind of practice a simple loving kindness meditation and focusing on generating loving kindness for yourself might be most helpful for you. Perhaps even a guided practice on loving kindness. You have people in your life that love you so remember that. Also, if you haven't already, let them know how much you're struggling perhaps share with them. You are not alone in this. Presently, I'm getting that you're having a lot of thoughts/questions that are difficult to control. Things will shift over time. If you find yourself ruminating on these thoughts and questions try switching to some activity that you find wholesome, whether that's playing video games, taking a walk in nature, or cooking, or spending time with loved ones, whatever it is. Don't focus on ideas about a long journey ahead or worrying about losing something. Right now it can just be day by day and you have people that you love right now so no need to consider losing this. Perhaps avoid body scans. It might not be helpful to think about getting back to any state before this happened, just consider every moment a fresh opportunity, if possible.

If you need to see your therapist more often than you currently are then see if that's a possibility for you. 

Wishing you well friend,
Stephen
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J W, modified 3 Months ago at 3/6/22 1:50 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/6/22 1:41 PM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 590 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
I am terrified that I have no soul, no control, my sense of self is holding on for dear life, and I know that I want it gone, but I am struggling with losing everything I love.  I feel trapped in a fear of biological determinism and nihilism.

I have always loved spending time with my wife and brother and playing videogames with them.  Am I going to lose this joy forever?? How can I possibly come to terms with the fact that everything I know and love is going to be gone?? 

Can I ever get the joy back or do I need to let go of it forever. Will I stop loving the people I care about??
Dear Stephen,
Thank you for putting in the effort in taking steps to seek help on this and I hope you continue to seek out and benefit from that support, as I am sure you know your family and friends all care a lot about you and I am sure they (and also we) all appreciate that effort.

As far as your experience, a couple of things which I can say which I hope may be helpful to you, first off, it is likely that some of the existential fear you are describing is related to the psychedelic trip you had, which could have launched you into some advanced mental state without the necessary framework to really fully know what to do with it.  

Even though your statement "we make the meaning in our lives" is essentially true in a lot of ways, it's a subtle thing to grasp and can easily lead one to sort of teeter towards the view of "everything is meaningless" (which is not quite the same and is actually not accurate).  

I did have a similar experience with psychedelics when I was younger, (and I also grew up in a very conservative Christian setting and went to church and all that) and I remember that fear seeming to be omnipresent and inescapable, but it did fade after some time.  I believe that you can and you will recover, but it may take time and yes you will need to find some way of understanding this experience.  

Regarding the fear itself, one thing I can say is, if this is an existential 'fear of death' type feeling, well, we don't know what it's like to be dead, but one may imagine it's actually not very hard or scary at all.  A lot of the fears and anxieties around it are basically just our reactions to what we imagine as occurring at death or after death.  But when you think about it we actually don't know what it's like - and so perhaps the reaction is to that ignorance rather than the thing itself, which then begs the question of whether the fear itself is anything other than ignorance.

Secondly, as for the meditative path itself, I would not say that it should lead to any sort of long-term lack of joy or meaning, in fact i think awakening leads one to feel more connected, more joyful, more appreciative and life does feel more meaningful -- though perhaps meaning is understood in a different way.  

It's kind of natural in a sense when one has been conditioned by eternalistic viewpoints, to want to go in the opposite direction and take a nihilistic approach.  But the truth is somewhere in the middle.  So I think what you are going can be understood as a natural part of the process of awakening just based on the conditions which you were born into.

Best wishes to you and i hope this is helpful in some way.

John


BTW - you do know that the term 'Dark Night' is in reference to Christian mystic St John of the Cross?

https://www.poetseers.org/spiritual-and-devotional-poets/christian/the-works-of-st-john-of-the-cross/dark-night-of-the-soul/
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Jared N, modified 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 11:30 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 11:30 AM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 72 Join Date: 3/6/22 Recent Posts
Thank you all so much for your generous, kind responses.  They have really been a light in the darkness.  I've leveled off a lot since Sunday evening, and I'm feeling a sense of peace around some of these ideas, even though my head isn't fully wrapped around them.  I appreciate the support and am so grateful for a community to help with this huge growth period in my life.  I will continue to steer clear of meditation for the time being, since it seems like the things I'm feeling are more related to trauma, anxiety, and panic, rather than an official "dark night" period. And steering clear of meditation and just grounding with long walks seems like it has been magical for this body to bring itself peace. I've traditionally been a huge user of CBT, and surprisingly, a reframe of these ideas was a huge part of feeling more peaceful.

So to anyone else struggling in a similar position, I would recommend "trying on new thoughts" until you find one that fits: one that you can buy into to bring some peace.  You don't have to deal with it all right now emoticon
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terry, modified 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 11:44 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 11:44 AM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 2185 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
aloha jared,


panic attacks in the face of anxiety...

find courage

sitting meditation is the only way to master fear

just do it

you have not been given more than you can bear, trust that, be brave and have faith

the void is your friend and loves you like a womb

nihilism ultimately is positive liberation: no one can help you is a positive statement: let no one help you

terry



INVICTUS
(William Ernest Henley) 


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
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terry, modified 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 11:48 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 11:48 AM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 2185 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
IMUA!
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terry, modified 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 11:59 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 11:59 AM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 2185 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
link for jw, one of my favorite videos, the woman is a GODDESS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtJzr1Wcy_s


Nina Simone Lyrics
"Ain't Got No (I Got Life)"

I ain't got no home, ain't got no shoes
Ain't got no money, ain't got no class
Ain't got no skirts, ain't got no sweater
Ain't got no perfume, ain't got no bed
Ain't got no mind

Ain't got no mother, ain't got no culture
Ain't got no friends, ain't got no schooling
Ain't got no love, ain't got no name
Ain't got no ticket, ain't got no token
Ain't got no God

And what have I got?
Why am I alive anyway?
Yeah, what have I got
Nobody can take away?

Got my hair, got my head
Got my brains, got my ears
Got my eyes, got my nose
Got my mouth, I got my smile
I got my tongue, got my chin
Got my neck, got my boobs
Got my heart, got my soul
Got my back, I got my sex

I got my arms, got my hands
Got my fingers, got my legs
Got my feet, got my toes
Got my liver, got my blood

I've got life, I've got my freedom
I've got the life

I've got the life
And I'm gonna keep it
I've got the life
And nobody's gonna take it away
I've got the life


Writer(s): Rado James, Mac Dermot Arthur Terence Galt, Ragni Gerome
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terry, modified 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 12:12 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 12:12 PM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 2185 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
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terry, modified 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 12:40 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 12:40 PM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 2185 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
Your old grandmother says,
“Maybe you shouldn’t go to school.
You look a little pale.”
Run when you hear that.
A father’s stern slaps are better. 
Your bodily soul wants comforting.
The severe father wants spiritual clarity.
He scolds, but eventually
leads you into the open.
Pray for a tough instructor
to hear and act and stay within you.
We have been busy accumulating solace.
Make us ashamed of how we were.

~rumi, trans robert bly
Stephen, modified 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 2:40 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/8/22 2:40 PM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 25 Join Date: 1/5/17 Recent Posts
Really glad to hear you're feeling better. It sounds like a lot of the positive things you're doing is helping to stabilize. I like the attitude of you don't have to figure it all out right now, small steps. It's good yu reached out because many of us have been in similar places before and when you're stuck in a dark place it's really helpful to know there are others who wish you to be in a better place. Thanks for the update.
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Jared N, modified 3 Months ago at 3/9/22 11:35 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/9/22 11:34 AM

RE: Please Help!--I'm suffering so much

Posts: 72 Join Date: 3/6/22 Recent Posts
Terry,

Thank you for your wisdom and kindness. It means a lot, and I am grateful for your response. I love the references you sent as well, both Nina Simone as well as the Henley poem and Rumi quote.

​​​​​​​Jared