Before I got ill in 2010, I had no clue about meditation. If you had asked me what it was back then, I would have shown you a blank bemused face, and said “someone cross legged on the floor with the two fingers together humming?”. I had no idea that I would be getting into it a few years on! If you had told me that I would have laughed in your face.
Before I got ill, I was a very happy, party goer, confident, carefree person. Loved shopping, lighting never bother me then (did not even give it a second thought), loved driving, loved climbing mountains, walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics, I loved working at my job, loved socialising, loved everything I did, I was a very active person mentally and physically. Life was good. I was never ill, hardly went to the Drs.
Then it all seemed to go very wrong after I had my twin girls in 2009. The symptoms slowly crept up on me over a few months and got steadily worse over the years. Come 2013 I was not in a good way mentally and my symptoms were causing me big issues, I was using a walking stick my father gave me (embarrassingly) quite often throughout the days. I was bashing holes in doors, I was curled up in foetal positions in my garage, I was driving my car to country lanes and sitting in it crying my eyes out for hours on end, wanting to end it all, just wanting it all to go away and stop. I couldn’t get away from the symptoms, that were 24/7. When you are like that you feel there is no point in going on, how can life continue like that. This is not a life. Things had to change….and very quickly, and they did…..
After my diagnosis of Vestibular Migraines in 2012 (due to hormonal changes) and Vestibular Neuritis in 2013 (due to antibiotic/viral nerve damage), I started VRT in 2013 at the hospital, going every week for a review with my balance manager tweaking the exercises. Every week she would say to me “you need to practice mindfulness”, “maybe try some meditation to ease your mind, clear it down” my response was always….”but I don’t know how” and “really, does it really work?” and “I am not sure about it”. I think she could tell I was not in to that sort of thing, I think she thought she was not going to get through to me, but she persisted. She then advised I saw a CBT therapist, as my anxiety and depression was getting worse and worse as my vestibular symptoms triggered it off.
I had hit rock bottom, mentally I was exhausted by the relentless symptoms. My depression was bad, I was already on Amitryptaline 20mg for my migraines. Because my depression and anxiety got so bad as a result of the 24/7 debilitating symptoms I had to increase my dosage to 75mg then to 100mg. I was a total Zombie, like a cast member of the walking dead! Yes I slept very well but I was jaded every morning, how I even functioned on that dosage I have no idea, as at the time I had very young twin girls (4 years old) and I was working.
The Amitryptaline increased dosage never got rid of my vertigo or 24/7 dizziness, it did dampen my headaches a little and also helped a little with the anxiety and depression but it was not the magic pill, it was not working that effectively. So I had to decrease it back down to 40mg and that is the dosage I stayed at for some time after (until 2015 when I moved to Propranolol). So I knew I had to try something alternative to help with my anxiety and depression. After a year of doing VRT with my balance manager, she was still harking on about mediation and mindfulness and CBT.
So I got a referral from my GP for CBT, I did it privately as I had private insurance and I needed to be seen very quickly. I was very lucky that my insurance company paid for a 18 months worth of CBT sessions! Unheard of, but I was not in a good way and needed more then the allotted 10 sessions! Even my CBT therapist went on about mediation and mindfulness, so I was getting it from both sides! So I gave in, I decided to download a few meditation videos from YouTube. They were good but they were not structured enough at the time, a bit all over the place plus I had no clue what the hell I was doing! One of my friends, who was going through a very tough period in his life, recommended an App on my phone called Headspace. I downloaded it and started the sessions straight away, they were doable for me, only 10 mins.
Instantly I felt it worked. I find calming my hectic dizzy mind, very very hard, as lots of thoughts jump into my mind, plus I have fading in and out Tinitus sometimes and it disturbs my peaceful mind. I also find closing my eyes was a challenge, as I need my vision to keep me balanced, so that took some training! I did it most nights but some weeks went by that I would do 1 session, some I would do 5. As time went on I felt a bit calmer, but back then I had to really force myself to do it. Headspace was a great start and introduction into meditation, it taught me the foundations of what its all about. I then knew that it was not all about crossing your legs on the floor and putting two fingers together on each hand and humming, it was more then that. It was deeper, trying to clear your mind down of negative thoughts, zoning out, turning negative thoughts into positives, controlled breathing, listening to your body, grounding and changing your mindset. Getting closer to nature is another important part of meditation for me. It could be looking at nature through a window even, or going outside bare foot and feeling the grass in-between your toes. Lying in the garden, listening to the sounds, smelling different smells, seeing the light hit trees/leaves or making pretty patterns on fences etc.
Fast forward a few years and we get to me now practicing the art of meditation. I am no expert! But I have my own way of doing it. Yes I have apps to assist me, Insight Timer, Headspace etc but actually sometimes I just put on some mediation music or some music I like and zone out and meditate to that. Yes my mind and body fight it, this is why I have titled this blog “Love hate relationship with meditation”. I find that some days I just cannot meditate no matter how hard I try, my mind is just too dizzy, too symptom heavy. But some days I am more receptive to it. I do have to force myself still, its not something that comes automatically natural to me like some people. My mind is a racing type of mind, where thoughts fly around in it all the time, it is never clear! I have a very bogged down, heavy foggy headed mind. Minds like mine are not easy to meditate, they are stubborn. But I persist and I do find I feel so much better after I have done it.
I used to do meditation every evening, I would rather go up to my bedroom and be calm and meditate in bed then be downstairs watching TV and filling my head with more input and thoughts. But recently I have been getting up very early over the last few months, so have found meditating in the mornings very effective and good use of the early start to the day.
I also add in a few other elements to my meditations, I put on my essential oils diffuser, I use Frankincense mostly with lavender as both good for de-stressing and anxiety. I also might light a incense stick. I also sometimes massage the essential oils into my temples or forehead. I have a Tibetan too that I chime with the meditation is starting and also when I have finished.
So my tips to anyone thinking of meditating or people reading this thinking “but my mind cannot be mindful, relaxed etc” “I have no time to meditate” and lots of other reasons not to……
TRY IT, it takes time, embrace it, PERSIST. I did and I am so glad I did. It is one of the things that has made a big difference to my symptoms. If I don’t practice it I sure soon know about it! Try apps like Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer or go on to YouTube as there are loads and loads of meditation guided sessions now. I also do Danette May meditations as part of my pilates with positive affirmations. There are lots of other famous people that do videos/audios too.
Knowing how powerful it is and how effective it can be to patients, I think it is something everyone should try. So many people are so busy living their busy lives and complaining that they have no time. There is always time! When I was full swing into my meditating, I was working full time, a governor at my local school, helping my dad with his business, I had 4 year old twin girls running riot, busy housewife trying to run the household etc. It only takes 8-10 mins a day. Get up a bit earlier or go to bed a bit later or do it whilst the kids nap, or if you are at work do it on your lunch break. No excuses! Make time for it. I did and you have nothing to loose.
I would love to hear how you meditate, or what you find effective? Has it helped you with your symptoms? have you got completely better through meditation? I know some people have. Any tips or advice most welcome as I am always learning.