Anxiety is shit.
I’m sitting on the floor in the middle of my lounge room crying my eyes out. While feeling sad, angry, annoyed and overwhelmed I also feel like a total failure and fraud. This phrase is repeating through my mind: “you talk about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, but you’re still a total mess”. Failure. Overwhelm. The urge to up and run as far away from everything as I can.
Fuck you brain.
This is how my anxiety feels on bad days. I break out in hives, snap at everyone I talk to, cry because my coffee is a little less than super hot and spend hours on end watching Nashville when I should be studying for the final exams of semester.
Yep, it isn’t pretty.
I share this with you today, because shiny happy Instagram accounts and blogs that just talk about all the ways certain things can enhance or improve your life don’t show the whole story. The reason Buddhist ideas are attractive to me are that they start with a truth that resonates - there is suffering in life. Practices such as meditation are offered as a way to cope with and resolve this suffering. This pragmatism appeals, there’s no point denying that life is uncertain or that some days you will feel like shit, but let’s find ways to live wonderfully despite this. In fact, let’s find ways to work with the suffering, to turn it around and use it as a way to to wake up to the life we are living.
The frustrating thing is, my life is actually honestly pretty marvelous. I enjoy such privilege in this world, and it could all be much much worse. Sadly, that doesn’t mean anxiety leaves me alone. Anxious thinking is worn into my mind thanks to 30 years of practice. It will take many more days of 15 minutes of mindfulness in the morning to unlearn these patterns and reprogram my brain!
Right now, as I type this, I’m at home battling another wave of this yucky uncertainty and self-loathing. This is where mindfulness and meditation do come in handy, I can see that this is where my mind is going, and instead of rehashing old negative thoughts, I’m choosing to write this post.
Earlier I meditated, letting the shitty shaky feelings be there, sitting with it all and simply offering myself mindful presence. No part of me wanted to sit on that little red cushion. The practice was hard - I wanted to run, to cry, to eat chocolate or go for a long walk. Instead I stayed, and allowed myself to feel whatever was there.
One of the benefits of having a routine daily practice is that I have had a few days like this. Now I know they are bearable, things get better, every session is completely different. This helps.
Mindfulness and meditation aren’t miracle cures or tickets to a golden life. Instead, they can be excellent tools to have in our arsenal against the demons of anxiety and depression. If we can be with ourselves in the dark moments, offering self-compassion instead of believing the inner-critic, we can learn a lot about ourselves. The shit will pass, the feelings of doom lift eventually, and watching this happen again and again eventually builds our resilience for the next time we face the beast.
I will also say that counselling, medication and exercise also help me manage my anxiety. Meditation has been a wonderful addition to the mix, but if you are struggling with issues yourself I highly recommend having a chat to your Dr or a therapist and taking it from there. The MBSR course can also be a fantastic introduction to mindfulness for mental and physical health if you want to learn more.
Here’s to taking a deep breath, getting up off the floor, and allowing a little kindness towards ourselves. Life isn’t always shiny, it is a rich blend of varied experiences. If we can come to terms with this, I think that’s half the battle won.