A few thoughts on having Mental Health

My life has been something of a struggle the past couple of months. Online friends may have noticed a silently decreased presence. I’ve been struggling with my health. The problems have been mainly emotional, however, there have been physical issues as well. I won’t go too deep into the reeds with this one; suffice it to say, I’ve been suffering deeply.

It started with a few nights in a row getting poor sleep. If it wasn’t one thing it was another: I was too hot, I ate too much, I mismanaged my intake of substances, something upset me before bed, something excited me before bed, I was too cold, ect. I have posted about this issue in the past.

At any rate, a few nights in a row of disturbed sleep was all it really took. Eventually I reached a point where my circadian rhythm was completely disrupted and my life spun out of control. At that point it didn’t even take a sleep-disruption anymore to result in a poor night’s sleep. I was going weeks on end with maybe 2-4 hours of sleep a night. Completely insufficient for maintaining health, and my body and mind were deteriorating.

I wish I could say I’ve made a complete recovery, but unfortunately I’m not there yet. In order to kick-start my circadian rhythm I needed to resort to daily sleeping pill use. At first, that didn’t cut it, and I had to add antidepressant use as well. I’m currently taking an antidepressant called mirtazipine, which in addition to being an antidepressant, also causes sedation (which helps falling asleep). Right now I’m off the sleeping pills but I am still taking the antidepressants and melatonin supplement nightly.

I don’t like being on antidepressants, but they are helping. The thing is, I don’t feel clinically depressed right now. I actually went through a short period of hypomania on them that I needed to suppress. I suffered from clinical depression previously, in my teenage; I guess you could say I’m in remission. I’m reluctant to stop using the antidepressants, because I was suffering deeply from lack of sleep. But now, everything feels kind of fake. The medication has given my waking life a vaguely-unpleasant dream-like quality, whilst also being… not happy, but anti-depressed. It sucks, it feels unwholesome.

Worst is, the antidepressants blunt my feelings of metta, or loving-kindness. I’m still able to practice, but the feeling is distinctly less pronounced. It requires more effort to produce a feeling with half the intensity. Which, in of it self, makes me feel… not depressed, but wistful.

At least its way better than the anti-psychotics I tried for off-label use as a sleep aid. Those made me feel like I was drowning in a stupor of mental dullness. And they also didn’t work to get me to sleep. One night was all I needed to know that I never want to take that mind-poison ever again.

At any rate, my aunt, who is a psychiatrist, encouraged me to take the somewhat-helpful antidepressants and the thoroughly unhelpful anti-psychotics. She termed what she observed me having as a kind of “lucid depression” wherein I had the physical symptoms of depression without the affective (emotional) symptoms. This seems to be a word she made up on the spot, because a web search returned nothing. If this is the case, I chalk up the maintenance of my lucidity within the depths of chronic suffering to my dharma/meditation practice. So even though I’m not doing great, this experience has been confidence boosting for me. Dharma practice really has fortified me with indispensable mental tools.

I really hope to re-invigorate my practice after this episode of poor health has blown over.

Meditation on Death

18-Jun-2016

Instructions: Read the italics text silently to yourself and do as instructed. Read the bold text out loud. Remain mindful of your emotional state throughout the reading. Carry forward the principles of previous instructions into subsequent lines, unless directly instructed otherwise. If a specific line becomes overwhelming, return to the previous line until the feeling-tone becomes neutral, and try it again. If the practice as a whole becomes overwhelming, switch to a samatha practice (calming meditation), and try again at a later time. Be persistent.

Enter a place of solitude and guard your thoughts. Examine how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. Next, consider the death of beings, with mind undistracted, thus: “I shall die; I shall enter the realm of death; I shall not escape death.” Remain mindful of the feeling-tone in your mind and body as you contemplate this phrase over and over, and do so until the felling-tone becomes neutral.

Consider in inevitability of death by repeating “My death is inevitable. There is no skill or cause that can make my life immortal. Just as when the sun and the moon rise, no skill or cause can make them turn back, so to can no skill or cause stop my own death.”

Next consider the timeliness of your death, by repeating the following phrases until the feeling-tone becomes neutral:

  • I may die in old age
  • I may die in a decade
  • I may die in a year
  • I may die in a month
  • I may die in a week
  • I may die within the day
  • I may die within the hour
  • I may die in the next breath
  • There is no sign of death. There is no fixed time when death will occur. The time of my death is impossible to predict.

Contemplate the manner of your death suchly:

  • I may die from infectious or parasitic diseases
  • I may die from wearing out of the body
  • I may die from lack of food or drink
  • I may die from fire or drowning
  • I may die from heat or cold
  • I may die from being attacked by an animal
  • I may be murdered, or die in violence, or war
  • I may die from an accident
  • I may die from dementia
  • I may die spontaneously, from no assignable cause

Consider the non-discriminating universality of death:

  • Kings who possessed great treasures, and beings who were of great social power, and all other kings, entered the state of death
  • The many sages of old, who possessed great supernormal power, and who caused fire and water to issue forth from their bodies, also entered the state of death.
  • The great hearers of old, the Venerable Elders, who were possessed of immense wisdom and power, also entered the state of death.
  • The many Buddhas and arahants who attained enlightenment, and who were endowed with all virtue, also entered the state of death
  • The Consummate, Supremely Enlightened, Matchless One, who manifested boundless compassion, purity, and wisdom, also entered the state of death.
  • All beings who were before my time died, all beings who are alive now will die, and all those who are born in the future, will also enter the state of death.
  • All those who I am close to, all those who I am far from, and all those who I don’t know, will also enter the state of death.
  • All animals, all plants, all fungi, all microorganisms, all that which lives will enter the state of death. Death is the final condition for all beings.

Next, be mindful of death in the impermanence of the moment, in the same manner: “In the past conscious moment, one did not live, one is not living, one will not live. In the future conscious moment, one did not live, one is not living, one will not live. In the present conscious moment, one did not live, one will not live, only one is living”

Take some time to examine how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. Finally, contemplate the benefits of this practice, once: “The practitioner who practises mindfulness of death is possessed of diligence as regards the higher meritorious states, and of dislike as regards the demeritorious. The practitioner who practises mindfulness of death is not greedy or stingy, does not cling to things, and is endowed with the perception of impermanence and the perception of not-self. The practitioner who practises mindfulness of death fares well and approaches the ambrosial. When this practitioner comes to die, there is no bewilderment. The practitioner, through steadfast mindfulness of death, develops the perception of disagreeableness. But owing to facility in the perception of disagreeableness with facility in steadfast mindfulness, the mind grows to be undisturbed. When the mind is undisturbed, the practitioner is able to destroy the hindrances and cause the arising of the meditation factors”