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Having been engaged in the mental health system as a youth and going on to become an addiction/mental health worker myself, I feel I have a duty to share my story in hopes of empowering others who may be suffering. Having taken many different psychiatric medications as well as having learned to meditate at a young age, I want to be a voice for promoting empowering messages in this community where people can often feel labeled, stigmatized, and alone in a world that may place undue pressure on them.
I remember asking a doctor, "Have you ever taken this antidepressant?" He looked at me like I should probably see a psychiatrist, which (un)fortunately for me, I was. He answered that he had never suffered from depression or any mental illness so would have no need to take any of the pills he was prescribing people. I then asked him how he could put his faith in something he had never personally experienced or benefited from. Obviously we did not see eye-to-eye, and fortunately, I was able to pursue a spiritual path and eventually let go of all medications. I feel I can "prescribe" meditation to clients today because it is something I am familiar with and have benefited from immensely.
As a disclaimer, I am not discouraging people from taking medication that they honestly feel is helping them. This is just a humble sharing of my own personal experience in overcoming mental illness through my own mind, heart, and consciousness as well as the grace of a Higher Power.
Much has been said about the power held by Big Pharma in the modern world and the over-medication of people in general. In terms of so-called mental illness, things are thankfully beginning to shift to a more self-empowered and progressive way of thinking. For example, there have been schools across the world that have utilized meditation techniques to help kids with stress, anger, depression, anxiety, and as a replacement for punishment or detention.
If young children learn how to handle difficult emotions and mental states early on, it is less likely they will get to a point of ever having a problem for which they may consider psychiatric treatment. In my own case, I had let my own unhappiness build inside until it got to a point where I needed something to cope with daily life. Had I learned and practiced self-regulation techniques earlier, I may not have had to reach a "crisis point" that warranted conventional mental health treatment.
Solving the mental health crisis has to address the systemic root causes in our society in a proactive way. Giving people medication is a sort of reactionary or emergency response. Somebody has an anxiety attack because they lost their job, so they are given pills to calm them down. If I am depressed about the state of the world I may be given an antidepressant so I can keep working. When we begin an introspective journey we get down to the root causes and beliefs of our unhappiness and find the courage to go through our inner experience and find the answers within ourselves, rather than relying on something external to make us feel better temporarily.
The key thing to realize is that these so-called mental disorders are actually revealing things that need to be addressed on a societal level. We need to create a world that is slower-paced, less stressful, more compassionate, and so on. That is why teaching young children meditation techniques provides a firm foundation to build this type of society. Kids can more easily learn to be compassionate with themselves, let go of stress, overcome difficult feelings, and help their friends do the same. If young people are taught to be loving and empowered in the world, they will naturally begin to address societal issues that need changing.
I've seen how something like meditation can have immense benefits even on those dealing with schizophrenia. After facilitating a short session that just involved focusing on the breath, a client who had only spoken to me in sentence fragments about religious fears suddenly had a moment of clarity. He told me how good he felt, just from being guided to follow his breath. This was only a small moment of lucidity and he was soon back to his old trains of thought. The small moment stuck with me, however, and I went on to continue practicing and facilitating these techniques on a consistent basis.
Looking back, I realize part of me was hoping I would find a pill that could instantly give me what I was starting to cultivate through my spiritual disciplines. If only Big Pharma could come up with an enlightenment pill that could take away all pain and bring about endless bliss. The sobering fact is that meditation takes a lot of practice and commitment. It isn't like taking a handful of pills in the morning and evening. It's like sitting with ourselves in the morning and evening and experiencing all the pain, discomfort, fear, and random stuff floating around in our minds. It's getting real and raw with ourselves, with no buffer zone to be found. It's taking ourselves by the hand and travelling through the maze of our minds and back into the heart of who we are, and who we are meant to become.
I currently offer counseling sessions as well as meditation instruction and guidance. Feel free to contact me at any time here.