Clinical Depression, and How Meditation Saved My Life
In February 2019, my world crashed into a life-shattering wall of all-consuming clinical depression. Following 6 months of increasingly poor mental health, I could go no further in any direction. I feared that I had plunged so deep into the well of despair and hopelessness that perhaps life was simply to painful to carry on.
Sitting in the assessment room at the mental health crisis unit, I vaguely remember the psychiatric nurse saying , 'Steve, I think you need to be admitted into hospital, wait here whilst I do the paper work. The nurse returned some time later and told me that there were no available beds in the mental health unit, and that instead, I would be sent to a residential crisis unit where I would remain for 2 weeks. The following morning I arrived at the unit. It was a big house in a busy North London street, staffed by psychiatric nurses, visiting psychiatrists, and mental health workers.. Of all the low points in my life, the 2 weeks I spent in that unit will forever rank among the worst. I was prescribed Lithium, Diazepam, and Mirtazapine, and had just enough mental clarity to engage in daily one to one discussion sessions with my key worker. It was a grim existence, and I would certainly not wish to ever go back there again.
The one thing I had a lot of in the crisis unit was time to think. And I began to wonder how my mental health would be if my life circumstance were different– if I had achieved my goals in life and could afford to live somewhere quiet and stress free in the countryside, or by the ocean? Would I be as depressed? Almost certainly no. And then it really hit me, my current bout of major depression was caused by frustration. The frustration of living in that yawning gap between what I knew I could achieve in life, and what I actually had achieved. I've always been an ambitious person, but never really had the emotional strength to fulfill my true potential. I concluded that, somehow, I had to find a way to change the negative way I viewed life. To avoid the mighty emotional wrecking ball that seemed to crash through everything I dared to dream. I was 59 years of age, time was running out, and my hopes of financial abundance and success were more distant than ever.
But what was the answer? Over the years I'd tried everything from various meditation techniques, yoga, neuro linguistic programming (NLP) spiritual healing, clinical hypnotherapy, exercise, Buddhist chanting, mindfulness, and positive thinking. Each practice had it's benefits, and would reduce my depression for a day or two, but then I would quickly sink back into the same old familiar dark mindset as before. In addition to some of these alternative therapies, it was abundantly clear that all the medication and talking therapy in the world was not going to fix me. In fact, this was not my first experience of Lithium and Diazepam. These are drugs I had taken 50 years earlier as a child. They didn't heal me then, and there was no reason to suppose they would do now. During the course of my life, I had been prescribed practically every anti depressant and anti psychotic medication on the market, and yet here I was in my late 50's in a mental health unit, and at quite possibly, the lowest point in my life...
'From The Deepest Earth Grows The Tallest Orchid.'
I'd first heard about Transcendental Meditation in the late 1970's. It was that thing the Beatles learnt to do when they traveled to India in the 1960's. Along with a number of other celebs, they helped popularize the movement founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – an Indian physicist adept in the ancient Vedic style of meditation.
From my bed in the mental health unit, I began to watch video after video about Transcendental Meditation, and why it was different from other meditation techniques – the science behind it, and how people were using it to recover from PTSD and depression. And how people like me with autism, and others with ADHD benefited from the positive effects of regularly practicing Transcendental Meditation. In addition, I must admit to being partially swayed by the dozens of wildly successful people who swore by this particular meditation technique. People like Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, Russell Brand, Ray Dalio and Ringo Starr, Hugh Jackman, Jim Carey, Moby, Jerry Seinfeld and Cameron Diaz, to name just a few. If it worked for them, I concluded, it may just work for me. And even though it was going to cost a few hundred pounds to learn the technique, I was determined to give it a try. For the first time in years I felt hopeful and excited. I called my wife, and – like an over excited child attempting to convince a parent to buy them a new toy – told her all about it. To her credit, she agreed that we would both sign up to study Transcendental Meditation as soon as I was released from the unit.
Within days of being discharged, my wife and I attended the first of 4 sessions with our TM teacher in Central London. And despite my heavy daily intake of Lithium, Diazepam and Mirtazapine (to keep my mood stable) I quickly began to feel the positive effects of my new meditation practice. Within the first week, I informed my doctor that the Lithium was having a detrimental effect on my meditation practice, and my dose was gradually reduced to zero, and I also stopped taking the Diazepam.
At the time of writing, It has been around 5 weeks since I left the mental health unit and took up Transcendental Meditation. And I know it's still early day's, but honestly, I cannot describe just how TM has impacted my life in a positive way. My wife and I have both committed to meditating twice daily for twenty minutes – morning and evening, and I can also see an incredible transformation in her. She looks younger, happier, more energetic and more able to cope with the stresses of life. Incredible after only a month of meditating. As for me, I still have some dark times. But then only a few weeks ago (at the time of writing) I was in a mental health unit being asked daily whether I had any plans to end my life! I think that all things considered, my personal transformation has been nothing short of miraculous. Now I cannot imagine not having Transcendental Meditation in my life. On a good day, I now feel as though I can achieve absolutely anything, and on a bad day, I don't sink quite as low as I once did. If I continue to practice TM, I have little doubt that my future will be a good deal happier and free from depression than my past.
Ever since my autism diagnosis in 2008, I've wondered about how much better my life would had been if I'd known about my autism when I was a lot younger. Likewise, I now ponder how utterly amazing my life could have been if only I'd signed up for Transcendental Meditation when I was a teenager. Forty years of bliss, confidence, and excellent mental health would, at least in my opinion, qualify as a successful, abundant life.