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Beating depression and anxiety: Martin's journey from darkness to light
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26 September 2016
Martin* has been plagued by depression and anxiety since youth.
''I once read someone describe depression as like having a wet blanket around you all the time,' Martin said. 'When I meditated, it was like somebody took that blanket off for the first time, and I thought, 'Oh, this is what the world is supposed to feel like!'''
Here is his inspiring story of discovering that finding happiness isn't impossible—it's already within.
When I was a kid, I learned that eating junk food was a good way to distract myself from feeling bad. As a teenager I added alcohol and cannabis to the mix. By the time I was in my 20's, I was taking painkillers and anti-anxiety medication in quantities exceeding what had been prescribed on top of antidepressants.
Anything, just to get me through the day.
When you're depressed and anxious, it feels like the world is just too much. Normal things just seem insurmountable. It feels hopeless because you look at other people and think, ''Oh, everybody else is coping so well!'' and you just don't have the answers.
I would have a job for a while, but then the anxiety and depression would start to build up. I would be angry and miserable and constantly in pain. Headaches, neck aches, back aches and stomach aches. It seemed endless. I would get to the point where I couldn't or wouldn't get out of bed - hardly an employable trait.
I would go and see psychologists and psychiatrists. They'd talk to me, prescribe me pills, convince me things weren't so bad. I'd get myself back to feeling well enough to find another job. The stress would build back up. The cycle would start again.
It got to the point that my anxiety was so bad, I was so stuck in my own head, that for a few years I couldn't leave my house. I was 25 years old and my dad had to take me grocery shopping because I couldn't do it alone.
During the time my anxiety had me locked inside my home, I started listening to The Howard Stern Show. Once, he spoke about his mother's depression and anxiety and how Transcendental Meditation (TM) had transformed her mental health. I could relate so well to how his mom had been feeling that I wondered if TM could help me as well.
I looked into TM a bit, but at that time I chose to spend my money on alcohol. For over two years Howard's story about his mother was stuck in my head and I did nothing about it.
Then, one day, I just got the urge to call the TM Centre. I still don't really know why the fear didn't stop me. I called up and I learned TM less than a month later.
How I felt after I learned TM
I once read someone describe depression as like having a wet blanket around you all the time. When I meditated, it was like somebody took that blanket off for the first time, and I thought, 'Oh, this is what the world is supposed to feel like!'
I could not believe it. It was that profound.
When you are depressed, it feels like there's no answer. It can be so defeating: ''What's wrong with me that I can't just feel better?'' So many people who have depression just want to give up because it is so exhausting, and you feel like you can never have a break.
With TM you can have a break twice a day.
The first time I meditated I had no problem sitting down and doing the 20 minutes. It was quite the opposite! It was the feeling I had always been trying to achieve with all the pills, weed, and alcohol. I was calm. I was happy. I was perfect.
Then, that calm started to come into the world with me. It was so gradual that I didn't notice until I looked back and thought of how anxious I had used to feel. After a while I was able to go out without having a panic attack. Because I was no longer so anxious, I was smiling at people and they were smiling back. The world was not such a scary place anymore.
My new outlook
After learning TM I started getting out of the house and doing more things, and so inevitably these new activities brought about new challenges and stresses. I started to feel anxious again.
Before TM this would have taken me back to the very beginning. I would have felt so defeated. I would have got drunk.
Now I was able to just take a step back and say, ''I need to approach things differently.''
For the first time I wasn't just carried away by my feelings, I was able to think about my experience: Why I felt this way, why I was experiencing these things.
Now the real work could begin.
And no matter how difficult this work was, it was much harder before, when I felt there was no end to how I was feeling.
With TM I have the perspective that even if things are bad, this is not permanent. There is always another moment, another day. Before, even happy feelings used to be overwhelming.
Now I am able to appreciate the ups and downs, to experience and observe them. I sometimes still feel fear when I go outside, but now I can feel the fear and do it anyway. Before, the fear was everything, and now it's just a background thing. Before, the fear was me. Now I feel I am something much greater. I no longer define myself through my reaction to the moment.
Once I was able to feel some calm, I had the clarity to make better decisions. Once I was making better decisions, I really started to feel better. I used to think that alcohol made things better, but that was because things felt so bad I wanted to be numb. Now I no longer need to feel numb.
It was a learned response to grab at whatever made me feel better temporarily in the moment: the drugs, the alcohol, the junk food, my phone, video games, the Internet, anything I could find. Now I have the freedom to unlearn that response. When I am in a supermarket now, instead of craving sugar and fat, I want nutrition, something easy to digest. I naturally gravitate towards better food. Now that I'm not so afraid, I'm able to go to the park and get some exercise. I want to go to the park to get some exercise.
Just enough . . .
Funnily, I feel lucky in a way to have felt so depressed that I needed to give meditation a try. I learned TM out of desperation. I had tried everything else. When I tell people about how much meditation has helped me it seems too simple to most. I try to explain to them that I spent years looking for the more complex answer and did not find it.
There are so many people in my life whom I've told about TM and they say, ''Oh, I don't need that.''
They have just enough stimulants to get them through the day. Just enough coffee, just enough chocolate, and their phone beeps at them just enough.
But why is ''just enough'' enough?
Nowadays we are so often overstimulated and undernourished. Our hearts and minds are disconnected. We're told that to be happy we have to be like the people on TV—dress like them, act like them. But even they are not happy! People are so brainwashed with ''this is how you get happiness'' that they don't want to hear that change begins within.
For me, TM has been much more than stress relief. It's helped me understand my place in the universe. Before, I used to feel so lost and alone, like it was me against the world. Now I feel like a part of the world. My only purpose is just to be and try to understand, grow, and learn what I am and what all of this is and not to worry if I don't. This feeling has been the most helpful.
I spent so many hours with psychiatrists and psychologists, arguing that being happy was something that was impossible for me. That I was just an anxious, depressed person and that this was all I'd ever be. I couldn't ever imagine feeling otherwise. All the talking in the world couldn't make me change my mind. I needed to feel it to believe it. I needed to feel the unified nature of our reality to understand that finding happiness isn't impossible, it's within.
TM did that for me.
* Out of concern for privacy, Martin is identified by his first name only.
His full name is known to TMhome.com
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