In my opinion, we as a society dont like to feel ‘negative’ emotions. In fact we all try and run away from them to some sort of degree, whether it’s constantly keeping active by working, exercising or hanging out with friends. There’s also the route of taking antidepressants in the hope that it changes the way we feel inside our heads. A lot of us use therapy as a form of avoidance because the way we feel is just too much. And then there’s people who use certain substances like drugs and alcohol to just avoid their emotions. These things mentioned are just a few of many that are used to try and change how we feel.
In the last eight years, I have taken around six different antidepressants as well as paying hundreds of pounds on different types of therapy. Why did I choose these options? Well because I wanted to feel good inside and I wanted my negative emotions to be gone. There’s nothing wrong with these two options, because they can have a real positive impact on an individual who finds it hard to regulate their emotions. That’s not the problem. The problem is when we perceive life as a constant flow of feeling good, and anything other than ‘good’ is a disaster that needs to be changed. But that’s just not possible.
Luckily for me I came to a place in my life that I was taught that emotions and how I feel are totally out of my control. Emotions, whether they be ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ are actually not ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, they’re just emotions and have no control over our actions. Somehow we’ve managed to label these emotions ‘good’ and ‘bad’, but in reality they’re just emotions.
Once you’ve realised what I realised, that an emotion or a feeling is just a ‘happening’ and not something that can control your actions, or get in the way of the life you’ve pictured for yourself, you finally start to feel this easing peace within despite your mind experiencing ‘negative’ or ‘bad’ emotions. You can finally let go and allow yourself to feel anything your mind desires and carry on with your day, because after all there’s nothing for you to do other than just allow the ‘happening’ to happen and watch it go. And the best part is, if you’re like me who’s mind doesn’t stop feeling, you can actually have a break for the first time ever by just watching what goes on inside your head for a change, rather than getting involved trying to stop the feeling process.
Today, May 12th is a date many people around the world will celebrate as International ME/CFS Awareness Day. It’s also the birthday of Florence Nightingale, and it is believed that she also suffered from this illness, hence the date being chosen for International ME/CFS Awareness Day is on the same day.
As I suffer this illness and have done for nearly 3 years, I have found myself doing intense research, and I am compelled to share some of my research and insights on what I think is the most controversial illness around.
M.E./CFS According to Medical Specialists
M.E. stands for ‘Myalgic Encephalomyelitis‘ and CFS stands for ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome‘. According to actionforme.org.uk, this illness is “a long-term (chronic), fluctuating, neurological condition that causes symptoms affecting many body systems, more commonly the nervous and immune systems”.
nice.org.uksays that “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy) (ME) is a relatively common illness. The physical symptoms can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure and other chronic conditions. CFS/ME places a substantial burden on people with the condition, their families and carers, and hence on society”.
Just a few of many symptoms include;
. muscular pain/fatigue, joint pain and severe headaches
. poor short-term memory and concentration, and difficulty organising thoughts and finding the right words (“brain fog”)
. painful lymph nodes (small glands of the immune system)
. stomach pain and other problems similar to irritable bowel syndrome, such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and nausea
. sore throat
. sleeping problems, such as insomnia and feeling that sleep isn’t refreshing
. sensitivity or intolerance to light, loud noise, alcohol and certain foods
. psychological difficulties, such as anxiety, depression, irritability and panic attacks
. less common symptoms, such as dizziness, excess sweating, balance problems and difficulty controlling body temperature.
Controversy, Confusion and Stigma
As M.E/CFS can be traced all the way back to 1750, it didn’t really become accepted as a “genuine illness” until the 1980’s. Although M.E/CFS has become more widespread with an estimated 17 million worldwide suffering from this disease (2011), it’s baffled the best of speacialists as to where this illness has come from. In 2011, a survey took place, and 84% of members of the Association of British Neurologists didn’t view M.E./CFS as a neurological condition. To this day, it’s still considered not a disease by many being labelled “all in the head”.
Reasons why I think people become confused about M.E/CFS and regard it as not a genuine illness are;
. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – The word ‘fatigue’ is such a common word nowadays, being present in almost every disease. Also, a lot of people refer to fatigue as tiredness. That’s why someone who has M.E./CFS will hear responses like “I’ve had that“,“We all get tired“, “You’ll be okay. A bit of rest will do the trick“, and the best one of all, “You just have to push through it“. I don’t think you can blame people for thinking and saying these things. After all, they’ve looked past the ‘Syndrome’ part.
A syndrome is “a group of symptoms which consistently occur together, or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms”. (Oxford dictionary). So as you can see, fatigue is just a little part of this illness so to speak. And when one includes the ‘syndrome’ part to the ‘fatigue’, they should see the larger picture.
Also, you’ll find there’s confusion when it comes to Chronic Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
I’ve come across titles on the internet and YouTube such as, “How I Healed My Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, when ideally they should’ve used ‘Chronic Fatigue‘ or something more clear that separates M.E./CFS from the other.
In the scenario of Chronic Fatigue, the individual has probably suffered a state of ‘burnout’ or ‘extreme tiredness’ caused by a prolonged state of stress. So what’s happened, the stress (physical, environmental or emotional) has become too demanding on the adrenal glands, and therefore the adrenal glands can’t produce enough vital hormones to maintain homeostasis, causing fatigue and other symptoms related to the fatigue. This is called Adrenal Fatigue or Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. (Hasn’t been scientifically proven).
In this case, it is advised that good rest and as much stress removed as possible should see the individual regain vitality and energy. Techniques such as mindfulness/meditation, plenty of sleep and a ‘good diet’ would play a part in this recovery/healing process.
As you can see it’s quite simple for people to think they’ve had M.E./CFS, when in fact they haven’t. There’s a total difference between M.E/CFS and Chronic Fatigue or Adrenal Fatigue.
However, I believe that rest is absolute paramount and mindfulness/meditation could be applied as an outlet for someone with M.E/CFS to regain some sort of mental clarity and possible relief of physical symptoms. But it’s such a complexed illness, that I believe there’s not one protocol that fits all.
. “You don’t look ill” – I was watching a programme on TV the other day, and there was this young man who presented himself in nice clothes with a clean shaven face. More importantly, this young man was vibrant, happy and always had a smile on his face. Not so long after, I came across a heartbreaking statement from this man’s family, stating that he had taken his own life. He never recovered from his mother’s death at a young age.
I really didn’t expect to see this awful news. It just goes to show that suffering and illnesses more often than not can not be seen by the naked eye. The same goes for people with M.E/CFS. For those who are fortunate enough not to be bed-bound, they tend to ‘look themselves’ and somewhat ‘act themselves’. But the truth is, inside there are multiple organs and systems that aren’t working like they should be, and the individual is affected dramatically that others won’t see.
. There’s no single blood test to diagnose M.E./CFS – Getting a diagnosis for M.E./CFS can often be a lengthy and frustrating process. Majority of people find that their blood tests come back within the ‘normal range’, and because the symptoms of M.E/CFS are alike other symptoms of different illnesses, the healthcare provider has to rule out other possible illnesses or conditions first in order to get a diagnosis for M.E./CFS.
The Cause and Affect of M.E/CFS
What exactly causes this illness is unknown, however there is a lot scientific evidence of multiple abnormalities which then causes a ‘loopeffect‘ on other vital organs/systems,or otherwise known as ‘secondary symptoms‘.
Below are a few abnormalities found in multiple tests done regarding the M.E/CFS;
. Brain abnormalities – “Brain scans have demonstrated a range of abnormalities including changes in blood flow to key parts of the brain, which could help to explain the cognitive dysfunction (= problems with short-term memory, concentration, etc), as well as other brain-related symptoms such as poor temperature control and pain”. (meassociation.org.uk)
. Muscle abnormalities – “Abnormalities involving skeletal muscle biochemistry in ME/CFS, where there’s an abnormally prolonged production of lactic acid following exercise in some people, were first described over 30 years ago in The Lancet. This research, in which I was involved and used my own leg muscle, was carried out in Oxford. It examined what happened at a biochemical level during exercise using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).
Since then, structural and functional abnormalities involving the mitochondria – a key part of the cell where nutrients are converted into an energy-carrying molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – have been reported in a number of research studies”. (meassociation.org.uk)
. Endocrine abnormalities – “One of the most consistent research abnormalities to be seen in ME/CFS involves what is termed a down- regulation of the hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The hypothalamus and pituitary are tiny glands inside the brain that play a key role in the control and production of hormones elsewhere in the body.
In the case of ME/CFS, there seems to be a defect in the output of the hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands, which sit above the kidneys. This lowered level of cortisol (= hypocortisolaemia) could be related to symptoms such as fatigue and low blood pressure.
The hypothalamus also acts as the body’s thermostat in relation to appetite, sleep and temperature control – all of which are affected in ME/CFS”. (meassociation.org.uk)
. Mitochondria dysfunction – “Our observations strongly implicate mitochondrial dysfunction as the immediate cause of CFS symptoms. However, we cannot tell whether the damage to mitochondrial function is a primary effect, or a secondary effect to one or more of a number of primary conditions, for example cellular hypoxia or oxidative stress including excessive peroxynitrite. Mitochondrial dysfunction is also associated with several other diseases and this is not surprising in view of the important role of mitochondria in almost every cell of the body, but this fact appears to have been recognised only in recent years”. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
. Mental health issues – Many patients find that their congnitive and mental state become worse due to many complexed factors. Hormone imbalances and mitochondria dysfunction can cause one to feel worse mentally and emotionally.
Also a variety of emotions such as confusion and hopelessness can arise due to sudden onset of the illness. It’s important that the healthcare provider/GP is made aware of any changes regarding mental health.
Treatment and Management Options
There’s no known cure for M.E./CFS, although there have been occasions when people have become “well” or “cured“. Even though there’s no known cure, there are multiple options such as certain types of therapy and medication that relieves certain symptoms and enables the individual to cope or manage with daily symptoms;
. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
. GED (Graded Exercise Therapy)
. Painkillers (prescribed or over the counter)
. Allergy treatments
. Antiviral drugs
. Hydrocortisone and other hormonal treatments
. Immunological treatments
. Supplements(Vitamins and minerals).
My Thoughts Towards M.E./CFS
Coming to the end of what’s been quite a long post, I’m sure that you can see that M.E./CFS is a complexed and more often than not a confusing illness.
As I’ve mentioned in the beginning of this blogpost, I’ve spent a large quantity of time digging deep into the science of the human body, and I’d like to finish off where I provide my own opinions and insights towards M.E./CFS.
Mind/Body = Whole Being
I’ve always been drawn to the mind/body connection. In fact, I don’t think it’s a ‘connection’, because in order for something to connect, they must be separate. And when the human body (mind included) is looked upon properly, one will find that there is no separateness within the human body. The body only becomes separate when the preferred language is labelling different parts of the human body.
I feel as science has advanced and the focus is more on treating singular parts of the body, the mind has been left behind. I haven’t come across many specialists or doctors that speak about the importance of the mind, even though research and evidence proves that one’s emotional state has profound effects not just on the mind itself, but also on the physical body;
“And we’re spending billions of dollars on researches into cancer and so on that are never going to get us anywhere, because we ignore the life stresses that very often, if they don’t by themselves cause, they certainly contribute in a major way to the onset of disease. But we’re not looking at them. We’re not dealing with them. And we’re leaving people without the appropriate tools to restore their own health”. – Dr. Gabor Maté
“The separation of mind and body is an erroneous view, incompatible with science. Personality traits—that is, psychological patterns—conduce to disease because the brain circuits and systems that process emotions not only exert a profound influence on our autonomic nerves, as well as our cardiovascular, hormonal, and immune systems: In reality, they are all conjoined. The recent, but no longer new, discipline of psychoneuroimmunology has delineated the many neurological and biochemical mechanisms that unite all these seemingly disparate systems into one super-system“. – Journal of Pediatrics
In summary, therapy treatments, medication, rest and other approaches are really important and can be vital in individuals who suffer from M.E./CFS. But I believe that emotional well-being is just as important as physical well-being, and that’s why I think specialists and doctors are found puzzled by this illness. If only they incorporated a relationship with the patient where the emotional state is explored just like the physical body is explored, I think we’d see success in M.E./CFS.
Every now and then I get one of them days where I just look at my life and ask myself the question, “Why am I still here? What is the point?”.
I ask myself that question not in the sense that I am going to harm myself or compromise my life in any way, shape or form. I ask myself that question because I’m having ‘one of those days’ where all the baggage in my life has outweighed the goodness and has brought me to a place where I just think what’s the purpose of being alive when you’re not actually living.
When you think of it, it’s a pretty depressing question, and I know there’s people out there who would read this and would have a lot to say to me. “Get a grip and get on with it” or “You should be feeling lucky you got a life, there’s many out there who have it worse than you” are the popular phrases I hear when it comes to people who struggle with a mental illness. And that’s okay. I’m so pleased they have a mentality that works for them. But for a lot of people, myself included, that type of mentality and thought process just doesn’t work.
The reason why I wrote this post is for the people who are just like myself, who find themselves in a place where they are unable to make themselves feel better using techniques or the ‘get on with it’ approach. It doesn’t matter what type of technique they use, whether it be changing their perception of thought or even using prayer, they just can’t shift their thoughts or feelings, and the more they try, the more they feel like crap. Trust me, I know the feeling!
I just want to say whatever it is you’re thinking or feeling, IT. IS. OKAY. I’m not saying it’s pleasant to think or feel that certain way, because it’s not, and more often than not, it sucks to be caught up in some trail of thought or feeling. I’m just saying for example, that the fact that maybe you’re thinking you’re life sucks or maybe you feel hopeless, it’s okay. They will pass in their own time when whatever it is that’s bothering you is ready to do so.
It’s hard enough going through whatever it is you’re going through. You don’t want added stress by trying to get involved and change a situation when you keep coming up short. Besides, you don’t get involved when you’re feeling happy and having a whale of a time. So why get involved when you feel the opposite?
Relax and let you’re emotional being do what it wants, and the same applies for your thoughts. Tomorrow is another day. And if you can’t relax? That’s okay too.
The first time I learnt that there’s no such thing as “wrong” feelings, it didn’t quite add up to what I have believed my whole life, because after all, feeling “negative” emotions leads to a downward spiral of negative actions… Or does it?
Well that’s what I thought until I came across an article that changed my way of thinking completely. This person said; “There may be wrong actions in the sense of actions contrary to the rules of human communication. But the way you feel towards other people: loving, hating, etc, etc; there aren’t any wrong feelings. And so, to try and force one’s feelings to be other than what they are is absurd. And furthermore: dishonest. But you see: the idea that there are no wrong feelings is an immensely threatening one to people who are afraid to feel. This is one of the peculiar problems of our culture: we are terrified of our feelings. We think that if we give them any scope and if we don’t immediately beat them down, they will lead us down into all kinds of chaotic and destructive actions. But if, for a change, we would allow our feelings and look upon their comings and goings as something as beautiful and necessary as changes in the weather, the going of night and day and the four seasons, we would be at peace with ourselves.”
I find that passage incredibly beautiful and more importantly, accurate. I’ve forever been under the grasp of my emotions and feelings. Whenever I’d feel a tiny bit of emotion that I’d label “bad” or “negative”, I would feel fearful because I believed that feeling them emotions are a recipe for disaster because I would act upon that feeling, and therefore, I would never have any stable kind of relationship nor would I be able to hold down anything that consisted of some sort of commitment. Why? Because I simply believed that what I felt ultimately determined my actions.
I assume it’s rooted into us from a very young age that labelling and separating emotions is healthy and accurate just like there’s “good” and “bad” thoughts, and that also is a false belief. And I think it’s the belief itself that thoughts and emotions control our actions is the true problem, and not actually the thinking or the feeling.
Knowing this has saved me a lot of anxiety and constant stress. Yes, feeling “nice” emotions make me feel good, and yes, I feel uneasy feeling emotions that I consider “not nice”, because I’m only human who’s learning to become “one with himself” on a daily basis. But one thing that is comforting to me, is that I am no longer under the belief that certain thoughts and emotions control me. Nowadays I can feel emotions and look upon their comings and goings as something as beautiful and necessary as changes in the weather.
When overwhelmed with all the distressing emotions that anxiety throws at an individual, I think it’s common for overthinking to be a by-product of the anxiety that’s being felt, and to some sort of degree, I think that’s a normal reaction for anyone who feels bouts of anxiety. However, I believe thinking constantly can not only become habitual or addictive, but it can become one’s new nature or reality. I’m a prime example of this.
Like I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I was fifteen years old when I first started to experience anxiety, and that’s when I started to overthink. Or as I like to call it, ‘living in my head’. I thought so much that continuously thinking became normal for me, and I continued like that for a few years, and continue to do so only until I recently became aware that I am able to stop the thinking by just allowing my mind to be blank, so to speak.
When I say I am thinking constantly, I mean constantly all day-everyday. The only time I can recall not thinking or where my mind is in a place of stillness is when I am eating food, exercising and of course sleeping. Although my mind can be still during these activities, more often than not, I still find myself excessively thinking during these activities. So even though I sometimes get relief of thinking, a lot of the time I don’t get any relief because like I said, overthinking is an addiction believe it or not.
As you could imagine, in order to think ALL DAY, there has to be some sort of randomness. The thoughts can be anxiety based, but a lot of the times they aren’t, and I just find myself going on and on thinking about a bit of this, a bit of that and a bit of everything. Having done some research on the topic of overthinking, I found that it was similar to someone who has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and experiences what they call ‘ruminating thoughts’.
Having done more in-depth research into ruminating thoughts, the best definition I could find was from Psychology Today, where it said: “‘Rumination’ is called rumination because the act of repetitive thinking is similar to the regurgitation of cud by ‘ruminant’ animals such as goats, sheep, and cows. Depressive rumination is the compulsive focus of attention on thoughts that cause feelings of sadness, anxiety, distress, etc.” I can now see why they name it ‘rumination’, and looking back to when I first started overthinking, I can pinpoint when and how it was caused and how I became addicted to thinking.
I was going through adolescence and literally overnight I changed. One day I was what I’d consider ‘normal’, and the next day I was emotionally overwhelmed, and unfortunate for me, that’s when it all went downhill for me. My mind was filled with intense fear, insecurity, confusion and anxiety. I literally didn’t know what had hit me, but one things for sure, I wasn’t ready for the emotional storm that had blew me away. I was trying to figure out inside my head what it was I was feeling and where had the feelings come from. I was consumed by own mind to the point where I’d be so confused and stressed, that I would seek advice and opinions from friends and family hoping I could find answers. But that wouldn’t be the case for me. I just got worse.
My mental condition got worse because I was constantly living inside my head questioning absolutely everything, over analyzing things and trying to figure out how I had become the way I had. And by constantly living inside my head thinking all day, it then became an addiction. From the moment I’d open my eyes to the moment I’d close them, I was constantly inside my mind thinking not just about my problems, but random things. I remember being in school and I couldn’t concentrate because I would be inside my head constantly thinking. Before now, I’ve been told on multiple occasions by mates that I “wasn’t present” and I was in my own world, and that’s the way it’s been for me right up until this present day.
It’s taken me to get to a really dark place mentally to realize how much of a big problem overthinking has been for me. It’s taken me until now to see that constantly over analyzing things, judging things and applying techniques within the mind has caused me to live in a false sense of reality. When I say “false reality”, I mean when there’s anxiety present, instead of feeling the anxiety or being with the anxiety, I will analyze it, look at the root cause, sometimes judge it and apply a technique to try and make the anxiety go. By thinking all this time consuming stuff, I loose touch with reality (which is the anxiety being felt) and try and come up with a solution in order for the feeling or emotion to be relieved. The sad thing is, the relief is short lived and I find myself back at square one in a state of confusion because of all the over analyzing and thinking. It’s a trap that is so subtle and manipulating.
On the other hand, I have to give the wisdom of thought it’s credit, because without thought, there wouldn’t be creation from the human perspective. Indeed, thinking is very productive and at times healthy, but for me it’s about finding the balance between thought and reality. I’m happy because my mind will let me know if I’m intervening too much when feeling unsettling emotions, because I feel confused and overwhelmed, and I then take that as an indication just to ‘be with’ the emotion, because ultimately the emotion that’s being felt is reality, and to try and get rid of that feeling or say anything to relieve the feeling is ignorant and completely out of touch with reality. Yes my conscious mind likes to question my feelings, and likes to point out the usual anxious questions like “what if?” and “how do you know?”, because anyone who feels anxious wants to know all the answers in order to relieve the anxiety. My job is to then allow my conscious mind to become clear and not bite to the bait, which is questioning and overthinking to the point of sheer confusion and stress.
I have to acknowledge how useful and effective therapy can be especially when it comes to mental health. If one does their research into therapy, they’ll find many types of therapy that are angled at approaching different areas of the clients life. Therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and general counselling or psychotherapy are the most common types of therapy I’ve come across whilst doing my own research. There’s even therapy that’s centred around faith and religion beliefs.
I personally think therapy or seeking therapy is on the rise, and it’s becoming more accepted and encouraged within our society. We’re living in a time where anxiety, depression or mental illnesses are sky-high. We all feel anxious or depressed from time-to-time, and that’s part of life I suppose, but not everyone can cope with their emotional state and therefore seek help from a therapist.
What is therapy good for? I’d say talking about your problems is healthy in general, and just having someone who’s empathically trained to listen in a non-judgemental manor can make it a little easier sharing your concerns or problems. Therapy is also good for identifying past or childhood events that have shaped an individual to feel or act a certain way, or challenging certain beliefs that the individual holds that affects their life. There’s a lot of reasons why therapy in a general sense is healthy and helpful, but I believe it’s down to the wishes and expectations of the individual who’s pursuing therapy.
Talking of expectations, I was fifteen years old when my life changed and I was in an emotional crisis. Overnight my emotional state had become so dysfunctional and I wasn’t the boy that I was before. I just didn’t know where all this stress and anxiety had come from, and it felt like I was fighting a loosing battle. After taking a visit to my local GP and being prescribed with a high dose of antidepressants and being told “You’ll be back to feeling yourself soon”, I knew deep inside that something within my mind had changed, and it wasn’t going to correct itself anytime soon.
After a while of seeing how I was being affected by my mental state, a family member recommended paying privately to go and see a hypnotherapist. This was the first of many attempts of attending therapy. I went along with the hope that I would be cured of all the built-up worry and anxiety that was taking over my life at that time. I was given techniques to use to alleviate the symptoms of whatever emotional distress I was feeling, but it didn’t take me long to realise that the techniques weren’t working and I wasn’t feeling any different, and that scared me even more. After coming to the conclusion with the hypnotherapist that maybe hypnotherapy wasn’t for me, I reached out to the school nurse who had some sort of qualification in counselling. The school nurse was lovely and she listened closely to how I was explaining how I was feeling, but just like the hypnotherapy, I hit a brick wall and nothing was changing the way I felt.
Over the course of eight years, I haven’t given up searching for answers and healing for my emotional state, and have gone to see multiple therapists and tried multiple techniques to try and grasp my mental illness only to come to the same brick wall as before. In all fairness to all the therapists I have seen, they’ve been understanding and empathic to how I felt, but it just wasn’t enough for me. I knew deep inside that my thoughts wouldn’t change the way I felt, neither would other techniques I’d be given like affirmations or mindfulness, because if they could, they would’ve done so a long time ago.
It’s been a very painful, confusing and stressful process because I’ve had to become my own detective in my life and had to do a lot of research into the human mind and body to try and get answers I was looking for, and as you can imagine, I have hit a lot of low times. I thought that if I didn’t take control of what was going on in my life, I would never get well again, but looking back at that time of my life, that’s all I was doing was making things a lot worse for myself.
I can see where I went wrong, and that was the mindset of wanting to be healed or wanting to feel totally different to how I was feeling. Instead of accepting what I was feeling and just let life take control, I was an anxious mess running around looking for a therapist to heal me, and to be honest, I can’t blame myself to how I reacted. I was fifteen years of age and my life had turned upside down and the Moreno was trying to change myself, I was loosing myself bit-by-bit.
As you can see, personally I haven’t had the success that I hoped for out of therapy, but that’s not to say it hasn’t worked for me, because it has. I just believe it’s the mindset one has approaching therapy and what their expectations are. I walked into therapy wanting the therapist to transform me, when in reality that wasn’t going to happen. It’s been a long and what feels like a lonely road on my journey to finding answers and healing, but I believe things happen for a reason, and one thing I’ve learnt is that there are no wrong feelings and it’s 100% okay to feel whatever it is I feel. Just knowing that comforts me now, whereas before I would’ve worried about feeling certain things, and that would’ve produced more worrying. Yes it’s very uncomfortable feeling certain emotions, but they do eventually go away. I’m just glad I’m at this place in my life where I know the control lays in nature’s hands, and if one day I do end up seeking therapy again, I know I can just approach it with no expectations and just allow things to be.
As we grow up and mature, especially around adolescence, life tends to get more serious as we’re given more responsibility. We go to school or college and we have to work hard for what we want out of life. Sooner or later we come to that harsh reality that our caregivers aren’t going to be around forever and nothing is going to be handed to us on a plate, so therefore, we have to work real hard to keep progressing to where we want to end up in life. For some people, they won’t even make it through a full term of college or a single year in a job, let alone go forward and achieve future goals or standards that have been set for their life. I’ll be perfectly honest, currently I am one of ‘those people’, and have been since aged fifteen. As heartbreaking as it is to admit it, it’s true, and I’ve spent eight long and tiring years trying to rectify myself and endlessly take myself out of my life situation and fit in to a better situation.
There are many reasons why someone doesn’t fulfill their desires and dreams in life, and my reason is a familiar one to millions. Needing no introduction whatsoever, good old Mental Ilness. I’m not one for statistics, but I can guarantee wherever you go these days, you will come across someone who is battling a mental illness. When I refer to ‘mental illness’, I don’t mean someone who feels depressed or feels anxious. That is part of being human. what I mean is someone who is constantly living their life from a perspective of depression, stress or anxiety to the point where their every day functioning is highly compromised, and knocked off balance so-to-speak.
As I mentioned in my last post, I have approached my illness at many angles trying to knock down this giant in my life, and I have fallen short with every single approach I’ve tried. Not only did I fail, but I made things a whole lot worse being a busybody trying to interfere with how I felt. I could not function properly, and I was upto my eyeballs in distress. My entire life was affected, such as relationships, friendships, hobbies and general day-to-day functioning. I had no drive or desires whatsoever, and I just could not change the way I felt. The more I tried to change, the deeper the hole I was digging for myself. I remember every single day feeling so lonely and just thinking to myself that my life won’t mount to much. I’d feel hopeless and helpless to the point where I’d cry in a confused mess. That’s all I wanted was to be a ‘normal’ functioning person who lives a ‘normal’ life.
If I was asked around a year ago to sum up what I wanted out of life, I would have listed the same things majority of young adults would’ve said. Things like a career, a family, a nice car, a nice home and plenty of money. I mean no one could or can blame us for desiring these things. After all, we live in a society that treasures wealth, status and materialistic things. We have to have the newest, biggest, strongest, fattest and so forth, and anything less is ‘missing the point’. Well that’s what I kind of thought, until something magical happened in my life. That magical thing is called Acceptance.
Acceptance is a word that I’ve regularly seen being thrown around as if it’s such an easy thing to do, when in fact, it took a lot of suffering and pain for me to come to a place of acceptance. That’s not to say that one may find the process of acceptance easier than others, because that can happen. At the end of the day, we are all individually different. But for myself, it was a long process of pain and hopelessness that led me to a place that some may call ‘not caring’. For me it wasn’t really about not caring, because I do care. It was more to do with me coming to a place of realisation that there’s no way out of the mess I was in and that’s all I can do is submit to life itself.
I’ve never wanted to accept my life circumstances because I didn’t want to live the way I was feeling. I always wanted it to go. It wasn’t until I came across a phenomenal philosopher named Alan Watts that something within me changed. In my last post I mentioned the influence and impact this man has had on my life. I can only explain this transition as something that was ‘meant to be’. My entire thinking process was challenged and there were some stuff that had changed within me. One of those things was my perspective on life, and that enabled me to naturally bit-by-bit accept myself and become one with myself.
Alan Watts argued that there’s nothing I can do to change or improve myself. Sounds negative and even more depressing, right? Well it’s not because in a way he’s right, and the reason why he’s right is because I ain’t in control of myself. I may be able to control my actions, but I am not able to control the inner workings of my being. My nervous system, my heart and all marvelous functions of my body work perfectly without me interfering. So what makes my mind any different? I believe the problem lays with the ego, and that’s why I became so anxious and believed I ought to do something about it, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be equipped to live out this life and future I had perceived in my mind.
To this present day the same amount of depression, stress and anxiety are involved in my life just like they were before. But now I can just let it do it’s thing rather than become all worked up because I can’t control the the situation. If I can’t mentally do something, then I can’t do it. Why worry over worrying, right? I’m at more peace with myself living everyday in the ‘present moment’ rather than setting standards for myself that can’t be achieved due to my mental illness. I really hope that one day I can achieve at least a handful of my desires, but the most important thing in my life right now is letting go, slowly accept things for what they are and let nature do its thing. Living my life this way enables change to happen when it pleases. After all, nature has worked out just fine without me intervening.
(Below are just some of the amazing quotes from the late Alan Watts.)
“There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering.” – A. Watts
“No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.” – A. Watts
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” – A.Watts
I have many things I’d like to write about when it comes to the topic of anxiety or any condition/illness where anxiety is present. But for my first post, I want to write about how I’ve got to a place in my life where I can face the anxiety I feel and allow it to be present and then leave when appropriate to do so.
I remember the day when my anxiety disorder came in to being just like it was yesterday. And for all my adult life, I have been imprisoned by this illness/condition/mindset. I have tried many techniques and strategies to defeat my anxiety and all the pain it has brought with it. I can go into depth on the type of strategies and techniques on how I tried to conquer the anxiety, but it’s a lot of information, and I don’t want to miss the point I’m making about ‘dealing’ with anxiety.
I have been seeking ways to deal with the misery and hopelessness anxiety has caused me and made me feel for just over eight years now. And only within the last year I have become awakened to where I was going wrong in facing this massive giant in my life. For the one’s who read this and have at some point experienced anxiety for short or long durations of time, you will understand how anxiety can infect and impact your life on every level. One massive thing I’ve noticed about feeling anxiety, is if I try and stop it, or consciously try and forget about it, it gets worse. My mind thumps with stress and tension as if it’s making me aware that I’m trying to ‘deal’ with it the wrong way and as if it’s saying “No Frazer, I know what you’re doing and it’s not going to work.”
Like I’ve said, I’ve tried many ways to tackle the anxiety in my mind, but trying time and time again has just caused greater anxiety, stress and that then has made things worse for myself. Just some of the techniques I used were CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), mindfulness and talking therapies. Looking back today, it was a form resistance, and when we try to resist something we fear, it ultimately gets worse. And now I can see why things didn’t get better, but in fact they got worse. Why didn’t these techniques help me when they’ve helped millions of people? Well probably the main reason is because I was attacking the anxiety from the perspective of “I don’t like this feeling. I shouldn’t feel like this and I want it gone.” Instead of just accepting the anxiety and allowing it to come, do its thing and leave, I fed it by worrying more because these emotions and feelings wouldn’t budge, but in fact were getting worse. On top of that, it caused more worry which ultimately had profound affects on my mental well-being.
It wasn’t until I came across a phenomenal English philosopher, Alan Watts that my eyes had opened to where I was going wrong and what I could do to rectify the issue.
Watts, who lectured a lot on the topic of Zen Buddhism, would speak about the ‘eternal here and now’. After listening to his material on YouTube a few times, one day the stuff he’d lecture on just agreed with me, and something inside me just clicked so to speak. I went from trying to work out why my problems were present and where they came from and what type of therapy I needed in order to change the way I felt, to just accepting everysingle anxiety, feeling and emotion and allowing them to come and go. A good analogy I like to remember is just like cars come and pass, so the same applies to thoughts, emotions and any type of anxiety.
One of many things that anxiety is renowned for, is robbing individuals of their ‘here and now’. Why? Because anxiety likes to keep oneself’s mind in a time other than the present moment. It likes to focus on the past or the future, and that’s one thing that Alan Watts would refer to as an ‘illusion’. In so many ways, that is so accurate for myself, and no doubt many others. I get so caught up in the worries of ‘what if’ or things that have happened in the past, or things that would never happen, and ultimately I find myself living in a time or place that doesn’t exist. But like I said previously, whenever I tried or try to intervene and stop the anxiety or the uncomfortable predicament I find myself facing, it only got and gets worse for myself.
So this is where the philosophy teachings of the late Mr Watts would come in handy for me. Whenever I would feel anxiety (which was practically all day) that would originate from thoughts or an unknown source, I would just allow the thoughts and feelings ‘do it’s thing’ and go, just like cars ‘come and go’. So where as before I’d panic, try and question where the anxiety came from and get nowhere but feeling more anxious over feeling anxious in the first place, I just allowed the anxiety to be present, and in a non judgemental way, I watched it ‘do it’s thing’ and then disappear in it’s own timing. By giving the control to the anxiety, the end result consisted of me gaining control because the anxiety would eventually leave.
Even to this day I feel just as much as anxiety and overwhelming emotions as I always have. The intenceity of emotions and anxiety hasn’t budged, and I find myself crippled and stranded with emotions to the point where I am controlled by my fears, anxiety and stresses. The only difference is now, by me not reacting to it by worrying over worrying over worrying (you get the picture) it allows me just to feel that single anxiety rather than being reeled in to questioning situations and overanalysing things that ultimately causes distress, and that isn’t good for my health.
Below I have included a few of my favourite Alan Watts quotes regarding the topic of this post.
“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.” – A. Watts
“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” – A. Watts
“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” – A. Watts