I don’t really get on with mindfulness: especially mindfulness-based meditation. I still advocate for other people to try out their techniques to see if they’ll work for them, but for me, they don’t work. To Make matters worse, in some cases they trigger my anxiety disorders, causing them to escalate extremely rapidly. My anxiety disorders and mindfulness just don’t go together.
What Is Mindfulness?
Simply put, being mindful is to be completely in the moment (Mindful). We’re meant to do this without judging our thoughts so as to not distract our attention from being in the present moment (PickTheBrain). To achieve this mindfulness state, you can do simple activities and exercises that will help you focus on the moment, such as mindfulness meditation.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation involves sitting somewhere quiet, being silent, and focusing your attention on your thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body while being sure to bring your mind back if it starts to wander (NHS).
My Experience With Mindful Meditation
Meditation has never been something that has worked for me, my brain goes crazy when I try to clear my mind, and it will annoy me with thoughts of my past, singing songs, or just making random noises to feel the silencing of my thoughts. But it can get worse if it’s a meditation that requires you to focus on your senses and bodily sensations because these aspects make up a lot of my triggers for my anxiety disorders.
My anxiety disorders are rooted in my body sensations and my senses, and as such, they’re oversensitive, and I have to do my best to tune them out the best I can in order to avoid having psychotic episodes.
When I first developed my anxiety disorders, I used to fight my thoughts by trying to rationalise everything, but that didn’t help, instead, I learnt to let my thoughts run their course and ignore my bodily sensations, which has helped quite a lot.
Doing something that requires the opposite, to focus on the very bodily sensations that can cause me to have a psychotic break, invites only disaster.
As part of my postgraduate degree (addiction psychology and counselling) course, we were required to practise some mindfulness-based meditation, which of course I was reluctant to do, but tried it anyway: I can hardly try a technique out with a client if I have no experience of it.
As we were going through the experience of guided meditation, I had an anxiety attack. My anxiety was triggered once we moved to the parts where we were meant to be focusing in on our bodily sensations, and it happened within seconds of me starting to do as we were guided.
I’d not had an anxiety attack like this in a very long time. Nowadays I can plough through it and endure the torture of it. This time, however, it was so bad that I was given permission to leave and go home because I was experiencing mild hallucinations.
The person guiding us in our class was so confused; they subscribed to the idea that mindfulness-based meditation only helps people with anxiety, and there was no way it should do the opposite. But what they don’t factor in is how each person’s anxiety is different and will have individualised triggers for that person. For me, that was focusing on my bodily senses.
Thus, the grounding techniques that were part of this meditation basically just singled out the worst aspects of my anxiety and ramped it up to near full psychotic episode in seconds, all because the practitioner didn’t realise it might be a good idea to at least check if anyone had an anxiety disorder (or PTSD), and what the triggers are for said disorder(s).
To add a bit of context to why this was such an unpleasant experience, here are a few of my bodily sensation triggers: wetness perception; temperature perception; pain perception; and tactile sensations such as pressure and texture. My brain starts to process these incorrectly when I start to pay too much attention to them and as my anxiety levels increase, the processing of these senses gets worse. This will lead to me experiencing sensory hallucinations, which, if they get out of hand, cause me to have a psychotic break as my sense of reality shatters.
This is never a fun experience, and this time was no exception.
So personally and professionally (when I return to work within the field again), I can never do mindfulness, or, for that matter, use any grounding technique, which is kind of ironic given that they’re meant to help people with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I will still recommend it to others to try, and if in a professional setting I’ll refer them to someone else to try the techniques with, although I would check first if they have similar bodily sensation triggers for their anxiety disorder as I do. Because they could end up having the same unpleasant experience as I did otherwise.
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Unwanted Life readers.