Help! Feel like I am completely losing it!

A Dietrich Ringle, modified 10 Years ago at 5/16/12 6:30 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/16/12 6:30 PM

Help! Feel like I am completely losing it!

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts

I have posted here a few times in the past although never specifically asking for help. I am currently in a deep dilemma where I feel I am literally losing my mind and not in a good way.

I started meditating last summer after a fairly heavy nine month period of what you might call consumptive behavior. A 4.0 student with tendencies towards perfectionism, I dropped out of college with 4 hours left due to a deep sense of despair as to the state of the world. Always the seeker (or perhaps somewhat of a hungry ghost depending on your perspective), I abruptly moved out of my dorm and moved to Washington state, even though I didn't know anyone there. I lived there for 6 months with some interesting and fairly like minded people who shared in common interest in connecting "back to the earth." During this time I started using marijuana fairly extensively as a way of self medicating my depression and anxiety. Unfortunately it often had the opposite effect and this, along with the dreary weather and dwindling resources brought me back to my home state.

The following summer (last summer) I got fairly heavy into psychedelics, thinking that perhaps they might give me the insight into life I was looking for so desperately. I tried pretty much everything. It was during a DMT trip that I got scared out of my mind so to speak and shortly thereafter began meditating, as it was the only route that I felt was left for me besides suicide.

My life changed drastically at this point, as I went from consuming psychedelics on a daily basis, smoking MJ several times a day, drinking, eating lots of junk food and sugar, spending tons of time on the computer, watching movies, etc to a bare bones existence. I began doing lengthy sits when I got home from work in the evening and very quickly felt a lot of my initial fear melt away. It was during this time that I had an experience that might be called a crossing of the A and P.

Basically I mention this experience because it still affects me to this day. I was "following my breath" through, out and down into my body when I tried to focus it down into my "lower chakra" area. I tried this several times until one day with a tremendous amount of effort felt like I achieved something. I really don't know what I did, but I felt a sharp release of energy down my right side that was characterized by a both a relaxing of my muscles (especially in my right shoulder) and a feeling of tension at the same time. It felt almost like a stroke. To this day my muscle tone on the right side is less than my left and I still have pain there at times (and the shoulder on that side is a good half inch lower than the left).

Immediately following this event I was lying in bed to find that the room seemed to drop out in to a deep darkness, although my sense of observer was still there. After this point I began to identify with descriptions of the dark night I have read on this site and elsewhere.

Now, since this time I have felt more and more impaired in my ability to think and reason, and I have become super sensitive to my environment (very touchy).

As to date, I have quit my job (I was working in mental health of all things), left my stable relationship as of four years, ran away to a monastery, escaped from the monastery and was found in town by one of the brothers, escaped again the next day (walking 25 miles with no food or water for 36 hours and getting picked up by an ambulance lying by the side of the road). After this last event, my father flew to the monastery and picked me up, bringing me to the house of my parents where I have been the last week and a half.

There is much more that I could say, but cutting to the chase, I feel another so called mindstorm brewing and this one is showing all the signs of being even worse than the previous ones.

Should I get on some meds? My life has become a nightmare. I am completely impaired and can't hardly do anything left brain oriented.
fivebells , modified 10 Years ago at 5/16/12 7:08 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/16/12 7:08 PM

RE: Help! Feel like I am completely losing it!

Posts: 563 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Sorry you're going through that, and I hope you find some peace. I'm not sure that asking for help here will lead to good results. You would probably be better off seeking professional help, both psychiatric and spiritual.
Bruno Loff, modified 10 Years ago at 5/17/12 6:20 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/17/12 6:20 AM

RE: Help! Feel like I am completely losing it!

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Here is my educated guess:

You've had A&P in the past, and your despair about "the state of the world" was just the ensuing dark night.

Unfortunately, you reacted strongly, and made changes to your life hoping that would do the trick (quitting university), but the symptoms got worst. You reacted again by taking various drugs, hoping this would help you. This didn't go well, and then you reacted even further, by making even more radical changes in your life hoping that would do the trick instead.

I think that you need to stop reacting and calm down. I guess that you are furiously grasping and/or pushing away your own internal stuff, and that this is the cause of your turmoil.

I think that you need to realize that none of this grasping and pushing away will ever bring any satisfaction: you have plenty of evidence of this from the previous events in your life. So give it up. Relax. Stop the stupid pointless state of anxious struggle you got yourself into.

Start with the most important things: have a good diet, do exercise, and take long walks in nature. This is NOT going to satisfy your angst, but it should calm you down. Learn not to do stupid things just because you feel bad (and don't do them when you feel good either). 20-30m of relaxed running every day, followed by some stretching, is very powerful; get nice relaxing hobbies, like doing stuff with your hands... etc

Thinking and reasoning are only possible if you are calm and balanced. If you have the levels of stress which your post suggests you have, then it is natural and normal and expected that you have a hard time thinking properly. Don't worry: it is normal.

It is also normal to feel that one is loosing one's mind, I've personally had that a few times, and it was ALWAYS caused by a very high level of anxiety and stress.

forget about grand spiritual goals and other lofty escapisms (if you are prone to that kind of thing): you just need to relax. For this it helps to become disenchanted: no radical reaction, internal or external, is going to help, no amount of pleasure will bring any satisfaction, and no amount of scratching will cure the itch. So just chill.

As for taking medication, this is between you and a psychiatrist. Inform yourself about the effects (and side effects), make calm, pondered, wise choices over the span of days or weeks. Although you might feel like rushing into a solution, this feeling is really a big part of the problem (and from the episodes you describe, you already have enough information to realize this).

Take good care of yourself.
Ian And, modified 10 Years ago at 5/17/12 12:27 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/17/12 12:27 PM

RE: Help! Feel like I am completely losing it!

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I second everything that Bruno said!!!

However, sometimes one cannot do for himself what another might assist him to accomplish with help. You may want to consider, in addition to the suggestions that Bruno has provided, finding someone who can help you begin to put the pieces back together. Someone whom you trust, so not just anyone.

Given all the variables in such a situation, there's no sure-fire answer as to who to look for, either. For example, when I was undergoing my own descent into depression over three decades ago, I never trusted academic type psychotherapists or psychoanalysts. Much less any of the meds they might have been peddling. I ended up staying away from both. Eventually, after many false starts and dead ends, I found a man who was genuinely happy who also happened to be an old Catholic priest (albeit with a background in psychotherapy in addition to claiming psychic abilities, which I was able to confirm). He helped to get my mind out of its negative swirl and to begin seeing the positives in my life. It took several more years after that for me to finally kill off those negatives altogether; but they have never returned since then, and I know they never will. But this is another story altogether.

In addition, you may want to consider that the reaction of your mind has only exacerbated this pointless descension into darkness. Gotama talks about a concept he described as papanca-sanna-sankha or a "proliferation of thought." According to Bhikkhu Nanananda in his book Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought, "papanca ... is a more comprehensive term hinting at the tendency of the worldling's imagination to break loose and run riot." Being aware of this phenomenon isn't, in itself, going to help you overcome it; however, it can provide you with some kind of corroborating evidence about the process itself, enough to see that it takes place and to want to do something to counteract its occurrence.

This is especially important to realize from Bruno's advice: "Thinking and reasoning are only possible if you are calm and balanced. If you have the levels of stress which your post suggests you have, then it is natural and normal and expected that you have a hard time thinking properly. Don't worry: it is normal. It is also normal to feel that one is loosing one's mind, I've personally had that a few times, and it was ALWAYS caused by a very high level of anxiety and stress."

His admonition to "Take good care of yourself," in one way of viewing it, means no more psychotropic drug use. What you need is a calm mind in order to begin seeing reality for what it is and to regain mental balance. Drugs only distract and pour gasoline on the fire that's already in the mind; so stop doing that. You already have ample evidence that it's not working for you.

Start with the little things that you know you have control over, like having a good diet and getting exercise (like taking long walks to enjoy nature). Myself, I went out and ran every day. It gives you something positive that you can point toward that you did for yourself every day. It's a small step, to be sure, but long journey's are begun and finished by taking those first steps and continuing to forge ahead.

I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing you well.
Adam L, modified 10 Years ago at 5/17/12 2:44 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/17/12 2:36 PM

RE: Help! Feel like I am completely losing it!

Posts: 45 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Though I'm far from any authority in any of these topics, I can say from reflective hindsight that had I been able to apply even some of the wisdom given by Bruno and Ian, my personal experiences with many of the emotions you describe would likely have been far less daunting and dramatic. Again, upon reflection, it seems that much/most/(all?) of the suffering in my own dark night experiences was the result of an almost stubborn and willful insistence on trying to control my experience, particularly the aspects of my experience that scared me the most. Though I understood at an intellectual level that my suffering was self-induced (this became abundantly clear after many years of trying different "things" to solve my "problems"), I had the hardest time simply relinquishing the illusion of control that I had been cultivating so carefully over a period of almost over a decade at the expense of a significant amount of anxiety and misery. I'm still not entirely clear on the mechanics involved, but when I finally submitted to the fear, misery, self-loathing/judgment/etc ... when I finally just "caved" to it... it was as if I just broke through the clouds to a place of neither pain, nor pleasure...a place that was peaceful. None of my circumstances changed, none of the things that "caused" so much doubt/fear/misery/etc were (and are) gone; simply (and unhelpfully put), it was only my relationship to these that changed. Looking back, if not so tragic and painful, it would almost be funny how so much pain could be remedied by an act of such raw simplicity, by some type of pseudo-non-action. Now, like all things, this state/stage of peacefulness and equanimity was dynamic and changing, but an experience of something utterly different that the suffering I had gone through was enough to "show me" how to no longer remain attached to it. So it goes...

Do not underestimate the effectiveness of using exercise, diet, and communing with nature as a tool/technique for letting go. All three of these elements were *strong* variables that were present at the time when I gained insight into the nature of my problems. Likewise, it may be circumstantial (though I strongly doubt it), but I was out very much out of balance in these areas during the darkest of times.

Do not underestimate the effectiveness of using professional cognitive therapy as a tool/technique for letting go (if you haven't already, check out Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction literature for interesting information; perhaps a therapist specializing in this type of technique would be a helpful flag as to whether or not their techniques would be useful to you).

It may not help much, but perhaps there's some solace in knowing that you are not unique with regards to "losing it". There are many of us out there that have gone through similar experiences.

I, too, hope for and wish you well!
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 10 Years ago at 5/17/12 4:24 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/17/12 4:24 PM

RE: Help! Feel like I am completely losing it!

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Thank you all for your helpful suggestions.

I have been trying to walk more often and it does help. Still, as Bruno said it is good to have grounded expectations. Sometimes it really gets me into a good mind frame and sometimes I will just get tired and want to go sit/lie down. My experience is that there are no cure all techniques as I have excitedly led myself to believe a few times now. Being flexible and attentive seems to be the name of the game.

My parents have found me a psychologist that I suppose I will see once a week until I calm down a bit. I don't think I am going to rush into getting on medication or anything like that but at the same time I am not excluding that option if it ever seems prudent down the line. I have found that avoiding spicy/stimulating foods/drinks and drinking calming teas helps a good deal.

Once again thank you for your help.
David Nelson, modified 10 Years ago at 8/9/12 3:51 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 8/9/12 3:51 PM

RE: Help! Feel like I am completely losing it!

Posts: 28 Join Date: 10/20/10 Recent Posts
Hi! I wanted to add that paying attention to the breath calms one down considerably, and you can do it at any time of the day or night. You don't have to sacrifice other activities, you can do it alone or with friends. It is an instant calm-down you can use any time! Try it out, see how long you can remain aware of every breath, then try to extend that. I guarantee you'll chill out.
Tom Tom, modified 10 Years ago at 8/10/12 12:18 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 8/9/12 9:50 PM

RE: Help! Feel like I am completely losing it!

Posts: 466 Join Date: 9/19/09 Recent Posts
Hi there,

I would recommend that you not do any insight practices for now, make a vow not to make progress for now, and instead focus on stabilizing through nutrition/light easy basic mindfulness meditation/stopping recreational drug use. Insight practices can then be resumed when you have been stabilized for some period of time. Given this sort of history, I would caution against immediately going on any extended official retreats as well (even after you have stabilized for some significant period of time).

If you see a psychiatrist, they are very likely going to put you on some anti-manic-depressive type drugs as well as give you a somewhat "meaningless" diagnostic label which will then also get thrown at you by your therapist. If this label persists the mind will then try to struggle with it in extreme terms of either denying it or totally embracing it. Though these may be helpful for now, there are some issues that come up with this psychological struggle as well as with the medications if you wish to continue insight later (as well as causing a lot of unforeseen issues if you choose not to continue insight later). The drugs will help with the symptoms, but are extremely difficult to come off without precipitating intense withdrawal symptoms and extreme "episodes," so much so that I recommend not going off them (once you start) at all until you are very highly realized.

I have written more extensively (with links about information on medications/vitmains) on the topic of manic-depression/mental illness and dharma practice in this post:

I would not at all recommend that you go anywhere past the "training the puppy phase" of which I wrote about in that post.

EDIT: It could be argued that if you keep practicing then you can "get stream-entry" and then everything may be okay. However, I would be on the cautious side as "getting stream-entry" isn't necessarily a cure-all as there will be intense review cycles afterward as well as the inevitable start of 2nd path which could possibly lead to even worse symptoms/horrible situations than this if you don't practice calming these sorts of things now.