New: ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Dealing with Symptoms with Meditation and Medication

Jack Bragen
Friday August 15, 2014 - 03:43:00 PM

It is 7:30 in the morning and my thoughts have started on a negative tangent. It occurred to me that I ought to stop what I'm doing, take a step back, and reset my thought processes.  

Buddhist-type practices probably were never intended to combat schizophrenia and other disorders. However, I find that mindfulness techniques along with the standard treatment for mental illness are both valuable. Even an incomplete and possibly feeble attempt at meditation can help point me in a better direction. 

At the point of realizing that my mind is behaving errantly, I will try to fix it by sitting in a chair, looking at the inside of my consciousness, and pinpointing the exact thoughts that are getting to me, as well as what part of my body holds the discomfort.  

Some of the time, if I forget for a few hours to take medication, I am reminded to do so by the symptoms and emotional ache that will inevitably arise.  

I have learned usually not to be guided by the 'crazy' part of my mind. My perspective is partly outside the level on which my mind is subject to delusions.  

Meditation isn’t a substitute for treatment; going off medication would lead to a completely psychotic state of mind. (This psychosis is very severe because the brain has become used to being medicated.) This would also wipe out most of the progress that was made when meditating.  

If I were then fortunate enough to be reinstated on medication (rather than the disastrous alternatives to that) then I would have to start at square one; I would need to relearn meditation and clarity of thought from the very beginning. A psychotic episode can wipe out years of progress.  

Progress toward feeling better is built upon a foundation of being medicated.  

Merely taking medication without also being able to meditate might be hellish for many persons with mental illness. I recommend reading books about meditation, experimenting with your own meditation methods, and eventually establishing meditation as a legitimate route for relief from mental and physical pain. Doing this can provide hope and may possibly prevent addiction to illicit drugs and alcohol.  

This is not to say that while medicated and with knowledge of meditation, I don't make errors—I do. However, I have the ability to reflect and to ultimately put myself on what I believe is my correct path.  

If there is a typical life of a meditation practitioner, doubtless I wouldn't fit the criteria. Mornings are spent drinking coffee, taking medication and spacing out.  

At some point, I will either write something if I feel well enough to do so, or I might practice meditation if I am anguished and if at that time I possess the faculty necessary to meditate.  

I am fortunate that I receive Social Security which makes it possible for me to survive without working at a “real job.” Trying to fit into a job situation at this point would be an extreme hardship for me. 

My faculties can't be taken for granted. I have a tendency to fall into a fairly unconscious mode in which I am unaware that I am unaware. If, at the same time, I experience agitation or some other difficult emotions, it is time to either take extra medication which has been prescribed as a “PRN.” The alternative is to spend an hour or so looking at thoughts and feelings. Despite a lot of meditation, I do not always control my mind.