I wish that I was told about Mindfulness when I was a child. It would have taught me coping skills I badly needed to deal with my emotional pain. Perhaps my twenties would have been a little nicer to me too! Ha.
I’ve experienced depressive symptoms all of my life (i.e. sadness, isolation, irritability, hopelessness)…And at the age of 24, I was diagnosed with Moderate Major Depressive Disorder. Now, whether I truly believed I had MDD, I’m not entirely sure. As a Mental Health Clinician today, I know that in order for someone to qualify as having medical necessity, one must meet a diagnosis in the DSM-V. One must meet not only some of the various symptoms described, but must also meet the specific time frame and onset of those symptoms. This information can he hard to detect in any one person. My symptoms were on and off, therefore it was really unclear to me whether it was a disorder, or just the lack of proper coping skills to normal feelings that all of us humans experience. What I do know though is that, depression does run through my family, and I have seen it be coped with medication, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, any so many other destructive ways. Being a product of my environment, I adopted some of those very same coping skills.
In college, and throughout grad school, I learned that I did not have to cope as my family members did. I learned about Psychodynamic Therapy, and learned to understand the depressive patterns in my family. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I learned to identify my depressive thought processes and begin to alter them into more positive ways of thinking. However, it was only 3 years ago that I learn about my dear friend, Mindfulness.
Mindfulness practices is rooted in the early teachings of Buddha. It teaches us to be in the “present moment”. To observe our thoughts and feelings without judgement. For all of my life I identified my feelings of sadness, loneliness and hopelessness to be “bad”. And because I was feeling these specific feelings, I truly believed I must be a “bad” or “sad” or “lonely” or “hopeless” person. How sad it that? So you can imagine the relief (and also disbelief) that I no longer had to identify myself as those thoughts. As human, we have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day, this means between 35 and 48 thoughts per minute. And throughout our life, we adopt only a very few of those thousands of thoughts, in which we habitually use to tell ourselves according to the circumstance. And if you really look, you see that perhaps your parents have a similar way of thinking as you, as well as their parents, and their parents! It’s generational.
Mindfulness teaches us to only observe. When we do not identify ourselves with our thoughts, we are free from it’s symptoms. There is no sadness when I don’t choose to dwell on the thought of “I am worthless”. There is no hopelessness when I choose not to dwell on the thought of “I’m never going to be happy.” There is no isolation when I choose not to dwell on the thought of “Nobody likes me.”
Do you get it?
We have this power! Just as our previous ways of thinking were learned, we can replace it with a different, more effective and healthier way of being. I’ve been on this journey of mindfulness for 3 years. It has been a difficult process to change my habitual thinking patterns, because of just that, they’e habits! However, seeing even just the slightest benefits of being present with my thoughts and choosing to see them as just that—a flight of ideas, opinions, feelings, notions, views—it gives me the opportunity to just, be. And that state of being, I’m finding, is where true peace lies.