Recently I made a trip to the doctors because I was feeling physical symptoms that I suspected were due to a stressful situation I was navigating. The doctor suggested counselling and medication. I asked what kind of medication. She described a couple options. Both were for anxiety. I said I didn’t have anxiety. I knew what I was navigating was situational. She agreed. She said the medication would help take the edge off feeling the emotions from the experience.
What? Has it come to that? Let’s just stop feeling life. That’s our answer?
Let me be clear, I appreciate and respect my doctor — all doctors for that matter. Many people get angry with the medical system; however, it is filled with hardworking, caring individuals who are doing their job. They are trained to take symptoms and find a diagnosis. From there they treat that diagnosis within the scope of the medical system: medication. That is their job. When we go to the doctor we rely on this. The biggest problem we make as a collective is that we give the responsibility of our health to the doctor. That is not okay. That is a lot of pressure we put on our doctors. Our health is our responsibility. We need to address our health on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Going to the doctor is an experience to receive information so we can explore our options and choose how to address our health concerns. We are the manager of our health. We can consult doctors, Ayurvedic doctors, psychologists, counsellors, chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, osteopaths, naturopaths, nutritionists, reflexologists, acupuncturists, energy healers, Ensofic Reiki practitioners, psychotherapists, hairdressers, and the list goes on and on.
Have you explored that list? Do you engage in one perspective and assume that’s the only option for your health? Have you even considered the different aspects of your health?
Are you physically healthy? Are you emotionally balanced? How is your mental wellness? Are you spiritually fulfilled?
My doctor told me medications would help raise my serotonin levels. I thanked her for the option and said no. Instead I focused on enhancing my nutrition, implementing meditation and medical chi gong, taking time to listen to my body and doing things that I knew brought me joy to help me come back to my own balance. I made it a priority in my life and focused on my health. It took time, effort and devotion to myself; however, it was far more worth it to me than a “quick fix” pill. I wanted to address physical symptoms to assure that I wasn’t missing anything, while I addressed my mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. I knew I did not have a mental illness and so did my doctor.
What is mental illness anyway? A list of symptoms with a name attached to it? There is rarely a brain scan to determine the illness. In fact, it’s the only illness a doctor will diagnose and medicate without any form of technological scan of the body. Well it’s emotional, you could argue. But where’s the line of feeling life and labelling it with a diagnosis? We do actually have the technology, by the way, to scan a brain and see a specific image of the brain that results in depression. Brain damage and chemical imbalances do exist. Depression does exist. Not liking the way your life is and feeling depressed about it doesn’t necessarily need to be labelled depression. Feeling down and in the gutter, but not knowing why, also doesn’t need to be labelled depression. There are many mental, emotional, physical, nutritional, and energetic factors to consider.
When someone goes to the doctor and feels chest pain or a dis-ease in the body, the doctor typically sends that person for tests. Blood work, heart monitors, MRIs, other scans and/or tests. More information is required. Filling out questionnaires is not comparable information like the results of scans or tests. Instead of receiving a diagnosis, a person needs to receive an empowering question, like, what are you going to do about it? Not a question to rank the misery. In that moment life sucks. That is why a person is reaching out. Of course a questionnaire will reflect that.
Receiving a mental illness diagnosis can be a relief that people lean on. The reason for misery can be blamed on the mental illness. That’s much more freeing than taking responsibility of the feelings.
Or is it?
The mental illness movement has been great, because it has brought awareness to health beyond the physical and brought attention to what is needed for mental, emotional and physical wellness. Self-care is a fantastic thing. We just need the pendulum to swing back to balance. Not everything is a mental illness. Having a mental illness is not a badge of honour.
How could I, as a Registered Psychotherapist, possibly speak so coldly about mental illness?
It’s easy actually. When you work in the mental health field, especially with children and youth, it’s quite easy to see that people are truly struggling. I’m not at a lack of compassion, I promise you. I simply challenge the speed in which we name life experience, thoughts and feelings with a quick diagnosis and medication treatment when we have so many options to consider as well.
Life happens and sometimes it really sucks and sometimes it’s really hard. That’s a fact. Feeling sad, angry, frustrated, hopeless or overwhelmed are real feelings. These can be a result of just living life. Even sensitivity to others, witnessing and empathizing what others are feeling, is a real thing. This doesn’t need a diagnosis or medication. Dealing with life requires coping skills and strategies. That’s the true medication. We need to be educated on ways to manage and navigate life, not turn it off with medication.
I often misspell medication with meditation. I think that can elaborate into a practice in life. Can we attempt to do meditation before medication?
Please note, I am not suggesting that no one should be diagnosed or not to implement a medication treatment. These things are real and needed. Implement these tools from a conscious, empowering decision to address your health and wellness. I will suggest whatever health or wellness state you are in that meditation will support you, your growth and your overall health. Meditation will also support you if you feel medication is a needed option for your health. It does not need to be a this or that decision. It can be this AND that; medication AND meditation. As the manager of your health, it is up to you to discern what is best for you in any given moment.
Consider meditation a peace-scription.
A quick-fix pill may sound enticing in the moment of great hardship, struggle or challenge, but don’t be fooled. There is no such thing as a quick fix. You might quickly turn off the feelings, but is that what you really want? Going numb to the pain is also putting yourself in the position to go numb to the joy in life.
For me, in that moment of struggle, it was an easy answer. Absolutely not! I will not turn off my emotions to turn off the pain. My joy is worth the fight. Joy can still exist during the greatest of challenges in life. I know this to be true because I lived it. This isn’t a theory article or a hypothesis. I share about meditation because it has been my saving grace and I welcome you to explore it as well.
Real growth comes from discomfort. It always has and it always will.
Just look at it from a physical perspective. When you go to the gym and start working out, you start with a lower weight. You build from there, work your way up to more weight. Once it becomes easy or comfortable, you’re not growing anymore. This is a sure sign to increase the weight. Yet, what happens? When you increase the weight, you actually tear the muscle. The muscle rips. It can be painful. However, it needs to do that in order to grow.
That’s just the physical.
Growing mentally, emotionally and spiritually works just the same. It can be a stretch. It can be painful. It can be uncomfortable. These are signs you are growing. Rather than turn that pain off and numb how you feel, go into it. Get excited for the other side and the growth!
Let yourself be present in it.
The magick of meditation is typically overlooked because it requires people to truly see, to really hear, to fully feel, to smell, and to taste life. This is typically overlooked because it requires a person to be present in their life. Often being present in a life you are feeling unhappy or dissatisfied or unfulfilled in some way is not an easy thing to do.
It’s much easier to reflect or get lost in the past or to think of the future or worry about what’s coming or what could happen. Of course when we do this, the brain doesn’t know the difference between past, present or future. It responds accordingly, as if it is happening now. So that worry thing, which tends to be diagnosed as anxiety, generates a complete physical, mental, emotional and spiritual result. When people worry about something coming in the future; for example, a test, social event or something at work, they tend to imagine the worst case scenario.
If you worry, you likely have one of the best imaginations.
People who worry tend to use their brain to imagine what’s said, what happens, all the horrible things to great detail. They focus their brain so much on the scenario in which they are imagining that they begin to feel that stress run through the body. Perhaps feel a knot or nervousness in the stomach. Maybe sweaty palms or tightness in the body. It could manifest as a headache or tight throat. Of course, if you went to the doctor at that moment and described these physical symptoms and worry, it would likely get diagnosed as ANXIETY.
The person used their brain to imagine the worst case scenario.
This created a feeling in the body.
It manifested as physical symptoms.
Is that really the best use of one of our greatest tools: the imagination?
We are manifesting all the time, whether we are conscious of it or not. When physical symptoms show up in the body from stress, this is an opportunity, not a problem. This is the body getting your attention so you can pay attention to your life. Stress can sneak up in very subtle, quiet ways. You might not even realize you are stressed until your body communicates with you.
I live a fairly joyful life. I am surrounded by amazing people, I do what I love and I feel a sense of purpose. However, this experience presented itself to me to help me bring even more awareness into my life and to address an area of my life that I knew was generating stress. It gave me the time and space to re-evaluate things and navigate my life differently. It was a gift. If I decided to shut off my feelings with medication, I would not be able to access my intuition and internal guidance to find that navigation. Meditation, exercise, nutrition, chi gong, breathing, Empower Thyself rituals, stillness and journaling were keys for me.
What are your keys?
Are you listening to your body?
What are you imagining for yourself?
I mentioned one of our greatest tools is the imagination. How are you using your imagination? Do you direct it towards worry or are you directing it to create what you want for yourself in life?
Meditation is the most overlooked tool we have in the Modern Mystery School; yet it is the foundation to everything. It is also the most inexpensive.
“I don’t have time to meditate.”
Okay, than you don’t have time to create a fulfilling life. Keep going through the motions. Go, go, go, until your body makes you stop. Then go to the doctor, get your information and remember this article.
Meditation before medication.
If you implement meditation now, perhaps you can even avoid the medication and begin playing with your imagination in a whole new way.