“Though stigma is shared and learned, it is internalized individually.”
Three years ago I went through a bad spell. A decade of anxiety resulted in an eating disorder which quickly dismantled my health and wellbeing. After a difficult year and with the support of some amazing friends, I was able to overcome the eating disorder, but continued to suffer with severe anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. I also had to try and rebuild my social circle – not easy when you’re constantly miserable, tired, panicking and anything but the life of the party.
My doctor recommended I try mindfulness. Initially I was pretty pessimistic about the idea. I hated just sitting alone in my flat with books, DVDs and dozens of distractions. There was no way I could cope with sitting alone, quietly, with my negative thoughts. Frankly, the idea scared me.
However, after reading more about the practice and dipping my toes into some beginner meditations, I found Headspace. I was curious enough to be intrigued by the science behind the meditation, especially about neuroplasticity – how our brain can literally change shape through meditation. I figured if no wizard would give me a new brain, maybe remaking the old one would do. So I loaded up Take10 and got started.
Initially it was as difficult as I expected. My brain was more frantic than a box of caffeinated frogs. I clung to my thoughts and saw them as ME, which, when your thoughts are negative and self-loathing, is a rather uncomfortable experience. But even before I got to the end of Take10, I was starting to have periods, just fifteen or twenty seconds at a time, where I could detach from my thoughts and take a breather. I was starting to notice the world around me more, which distracted me from my anxiety.
Before I’d been dependent on video games and books and other people to keep me distracted, but slowly I became more comfortable with my own mind. The meditation helped me realize that nothing dreadful would happen if I let the thoughts roll over me, which made it easier to detach from them in real life, too. It wasn’t a miracle cure, but slowly and surely I began to notice that my anxiety had less power over me. More and more often I could let go of negative thoughts.
It’s been nearly two years now since I started with Headspace, and I’ve clocked up over 114 hours of meditation. Headspace’s constant stream of articles, blog entries and even Pinterest boards have kept me fascinated and committed to my practice during times when my anxiety made it difficult. I still have bad days when sitting for twenty minutes feels impossible, but even then, going back to the basics of just focusing on my breath helps.
Mindfulness meditation is a fantastic and empowering way for many people to take responsibility for their own mental wellbeing. It’s helped give me control over my mind again, and it’s given me the ability to sit with my own thoughts, for which I’ll be eternally grateful.
Thank you Headspace!