Throughout my childhood and adolescent years, I was a serious classical musician who played the viola. Because I played well, no one knew that I struggled with depression. I cried uncontrollable tears while practicing, which impeded my capacity to improve on the instrument. My progress was slower than my musician colleagues’, causing me to feel utter fury, jealous that others could practice without such impairment.
It only got worse during my college years at a conservatory. I was surrounded by professional-caliber musicians slated for prestigious careers in top-notch orchestras and chamber ensembles. I wanted so much to work toward these goals myself, but couldn’t muster the energy. Hatred coursed through my veins, which I took as evidence that I was a dark and evil person.
To alleviate my musical grief, I joined a meditation group outside of the conservatory. It was called Sahaj Marg, a term that translates as “Easy Path.” The group was affiliated with a guru in Chennai, India named Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari, affectionately referred to as “Chariji.” (He has since passed away.) Abhyasis (practicants) believed he was a living example of enlightenment and a guide for us to follow so that we, too, could become enlightened. He dictated that we meditate in a specific way that would allow his divine energy to flow through us, thereby making us lighter and more enlightened. This practice included daily meditations at home and group and individual meditation sessions with a preceptor (ordained leader).
I discovered I had a propensity for spiritual seeking, and so I dove headfirst into the practice. Music was no longer the prime focus in my life; instead, I desired enlightenment. Every Sunday, another abhyasi and I drove an hour and a half to attend a group meditation session with about 20 others. Every other week, I’d also have an individual meditation session after group meditation. I made friends, and my competitive nature at conservatory melted away. I also felt cured of depression.
After a year of meditating, I worked with a psychiatrist to get off of the antidepressant medications I’d been taking. It was near the end of the school year. I had a brief fling with a classmate and held hopes that it would become something more serious. Unfortunately, he was a meek dude who had a couple of bossy female friends, and he told me once that they did not like me. I figured it was just as well, because I was a dark and evil person. When we parted ways for the summer, I traveled to Texas to play in a six-week music festival. Memories of the fling burned in my mind, and he was all I could think of. I feared greatly that he “hated me” because of his friends’ influence. That made me hate myself.
After leaving Texas, I traveled to the south of India to meditate with the Master himself. With more than 50,000 abhyasis present, it was a surreal experience. The daytime air was hot, the sun shone more brightly than I was used to, the ground was made of dusty terra cotta-hued soil, and large, opaque crystals were freely strewn about. Nights were freezing. When Master led our meditation sessions, I felt swept away with the holy energy I absorbed from him.
Back at conservatory in the fall, I was reunited with the fling, but he rejected me. Yet romance no longer concerned me. I now believed I had absorbed magic powers from the Master in India. I felt them coursing through my body and then directed them into playing the viola. I knew this magical power made me the greatest violist ever, and I found I could practice for longer amounts of time. When my viola professor told me my playing was actually getting worse, I lashed out and told him he was a fraud. My feelings of hatred returned with a vengeance.
I continued to obsess over the magic energy, and by the time I returned home to New York for winter break, my behavior had become eccentric. I rubbed olive oil on my body to get more powers. I sensed that inanimate objects had living spirits and were communicating secret messages to me. Messages were everywhere, and the overstimulation stressed me to the point of physical exhaustion. I thought I was immune to heat and cold, so I wore a thin coat in the freezing weather. I sucked on lemons to keep warm. I started having nosebleeds when I meditated, and I thought my heart was crying. These experiences became overwhelming and one day I ended up bawling in a pizza restaurant. Someone must have called 911, because EMS workers suddenly showed up. They drove me to the nearest ER, and I was soon admitted into an inpatient psychiatric unit.
The doctors diagnosed me with schizoaffective disorder, and I was told to stop meditating. This felt like religious persecution at first, but the medications they prescribed got rid of my feeling of having magic powers. Instead, I felt sedated and flat. Upon discharge, I was too fragile to continue with school, so I left and returned home to live with my mother.
On Facebook, I saw former musician colleagues pursuing prodigious careers, buying houses, getting married, and starting families. I couldn’t do any of that. I rarely left the house due to social anxiety and a low tolerance for stress, which supposedly doomed me to a sub-standard existence. Yet the self-deprecating question nagged at me: Why did mental distress affect me and not others? Not my musician colleagues, not my meditation friends….why ME? There was no rational answer to this question, so I figured that I had a spiritual affliction. I was cursed.
After several months of staying home, I landed a part-time job at a music store giving private violin lessons to children. I enjoyed the cerebral approach of teaching and decided to pursue it further. The next fall, I enrolled in a music education program at a nearby college to become a certified K-12 public-school music teacher. I lightly befriended my classmates in “brass tech” and “woodwind tech,” four-week crash courses in trumpet, trombone, oboe, clarinet, and flute. We attended lectures on teaching methods and ensemble conducting.
During a dinner hour, I sat in the school cafeteria with my classmate James, someone about 12 years my senior. In getting to know him, I’d learned that he was a freelance music producer with a recording studio who sold his work to production companies. I shared some about my past as a violist, and then something unexpected occurred. We started talking about our spiritual journeys, how we each fell on the path as seekers. James told me that he was a reiki master and that he offered spiritual healings. A seed was planted within me. Even though my previous meditation practice did not work out, I still had spiritual longings and wanted to try again.
During the following winter semester of classes, I started visiting James at his home for weekly reiki sessions. I remember how frightened I was of that first session. As I lay on the table, I felt the old “magic energy” from college coursing through my body. I told James about it, and he directed energy into my body to heal it. The discomfort immediately disappeared, and it never came back.
Week after week I had sessions, and reiki became something safe and neutral in my life. Unlike religious or spiritual practices, reiki makes no demands. Reiki channels energy of a benign and benevolent source, intended to serve a healing purpose. I just had to lie on the table and soak up that healing energy. Pursuing spiritual enlightenment through receiving reiki led me to a realization:
I am looking for healing from mental illness. I am not an evil musician looking for powers.
It’s been 10 years since I had my first reiki session, and so much healing commenced thereafter. James and I have had numerous conversations, in which I have learned about my chakras and how to sense their presence in my body. I have come to understand chakras as seven energy centers in my body, each of which governs different aspects of my being. Healing my chakras allows me to feel less stuck in my life’s circumstances. I have more energy to pursue my goals and I have become more grounded, less depressed, and more clear-headed. I’ve become confident in my inner voice, and no longer feel inferior to others. I have transformed from being very introverted to more balanced between introversion and extroversion.
My schizophrenia has never been cured, nor do I expect it ever will be. Yet my positive traits developed through reiki have allowed me to navigate the repercussions of my illness skillfully. While hospitalized numerous times for weeks and months on end, I became physically self-aware of how different medications felt in my body. This body intelligence was cultivated through receiving reiki, where I feel my chakras being stimulated. If a medication didn’t feel right in its early stages, I confidently told my doctors about it. When they honored my requests, medications helped and I improved.
I now take effective medications that, along with reiki, give me that “healing” from schizophrenia that have desired for many years. My pursuit of healing proves to me that I am not an evil or dark person. I merely suffer from mental distress, and self-awareness enables me to walk the path of recovery.
I never returned to the Sahaj Marg meditation practice, but I have adopted my own set of spiritual practices that enrich my life. I keep countless crystals in my home, which I use for mindfulness purposes. I now perform reiki myself and use crystals to make the practice my own. In terms of my spiritual beliefs, I mostly don’t share them with other people. I don’t want to be seen as a kooky New Ager who is trying to “find her bliss.” My mental sufferings have put me on this path of life, and I am merely continuing on toward healing and recovery.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
What a shame. What disturbs me the most is that someone who believes in “mental illness” and is current taking neurotoxins she considers “medications” would be considered a “peer specialist.” The entire concept needs to go. I wish Neesa a good life.
Imagine that miner coming to a job and say that “I work only on a smooth surfaces”.
It would be a psychosis of course.
“This coal is mining-resistant.”
If so then it can trigger psychosis, in case of ignoring important safety rules
Absolutely, in which case, the owners of the coal mine can be absolved from any responsibility – after all, it’s a “biological brain disease.”
Neesa, thanks for your story.
I’ve heard a few people talk about meditations triggering ‘psychosis’ and its not too surprising when you think about it. I also know from my own experience that antidepressants and different psychiatric drugs can trigger “lunacy”, and quitting them can also trigger “lunacy”.
I was only able to come off “my own schizophrenic drugs” (very slowly); when I learned how to cope with my very severe “drug withdrawal anxiety”.
I wish you Good Luck in the future.
(I must check out the Reiki)
Perhaps don’t judge yourself to harshly for having emotions to situations.
Sometimes we are in situations that cause stress, the answer to that is to learn to cope, OR, move away from the thing that activates stress.
I’m so glad you discovered Reiki. I have been a Reiki Master for 8 yrs now and find it a wonderful way to heal and connect. It is gentle enough, as you have found, to allow the process without great discomfort.
By learning Reiki and a gentler form of meditation, I was able to discontinue all the meds I was on. Some people are extra sensitive to the world and how others react to you. I know I was one of those and had come to realize that with this awareness I was able to cut the cord of needing other’s approval of my actions.
Becoming aware has been the way I healed. I wish you well on your journey. You are listening to yourself and your needs. That’s a good thing. 🙂
Neesa, if you’re interested in spiritual (or metaphysical) healing, if you want to find real grounded energy in that genre, maybe you might try Charlie Goldsmith. He has had a show called The Healer where he somehow heals people, not to draw attention to himself, but because that’s possible, that there are people born with such a gift, and that should be acknowledged rather than not. He hopes that other people won’t have to go through what he went through, having such a gift. He doesn’t himself get any money for it, because early on in life, when he found he had such an ability, he decided to start his own companies so that he could heal people without asking for money. His gift is simply something that started happening, not something he decided to do; and then he talks about how the first response of people is “that’s been proven to be fraud,” and he jokes that’s the starting point (along with saying it’s pretty rough, while laughing about it), and then he wants to say, just give me a moment of your time and I’ll show otherwise, which he has, and you can see on his show. For a little bit of money you can watch it online several places, and I think it’s completely worthwhile. For ten dollars I bought it on prime video via Amazon, and can watch it anywhere with a computer access. I actually showed some of it to my “therapist” who absolutely loved it. He then also has a facebook site with many videos you can watch, and on many of his healing videos talks about emotional healing. And how in reality we try to push aside feelings, and the discomfort we feel, that we associate with the feeling, is actually us pushing them away. Because we weren’t allowed to feel them growing up, because they don’t fit with the concept of ourselves our ego has concocted, because because. And he talks bout how we take on habits to avoid those feelings, like junk food, like smoking, like all sorts of things, and yes, like Xanax and other psychiatric drugs.
He also has a website called my good habits https://www.mygoodhabits.com/ also something he gets no money from, he only asks a little membership fee, if you can pay it but then also if you can’t you can request it for free, but he needs money to be able to run the website. He has other people come in there to give good advice, and the Internet site, along with all of the rest of stuff, like protection from hackers, costs money. There he talks more about his emotional healing techniques. He also has offered a free membership to that site at times for anyone to try it out, and did when the current pandemic had started, but you would have had to apply for that sometime in the month April, which would have lasted for a month. He has a big bulk mailing list whenever he does a live healing on facebook, and that he also pays for himself, mentioning that it’s 750 dollars a month.
Charlie has helped me more than any therapist, because he simply helps you feel your feelings, he’s not offering some unrealistic escape through who knows what (analyses, drugs, some Utopian community more enlightened than the other, the right to be a victim etc.). And just accepting feelings, I thought, is what music is all about. THAT’S quite different than what so often goes on in a professional setting, where the teacher feels free to get sarcastic if they don’t like something, get really offended that someone doesn’t do things according to his or her ideology; and makes that ideology out to be more important than what music really is about, what it’s true worth comes from.
When Charlie has metaphysically healed people, the responses are quite something, you hear things like: “What the bleeped-out,” then there’s a moment pause and another bleeped-out, or you hear: “that’s freaky, who are you,” or “that’s weird,” or “I’m just weirded out,” what you hear the most is: “that’s crazy,” Well, there you have it….. because something “non-reality-based” happened according to so many people.
What helped me is becoming aware of what I did when I was disassociating from feelings that wouldn’t go away, no matter how much I had an unconscious reflex to just do whatever when push came to shove, and the momentum had brought them back. One of the things would be drinking way too much coffee, which did make me “psychotic,” although even then the scenarios in the “psychosis,” depicted emotional wounds that if I understood them I could let go of rather than keeping them tangled up in my reflexes, which AGAIN breaks down the idea of reality based or not, because if you can change your reflexes, you change your future, which is more objective than anything tangible to people’s idea of reality based or not. But allowing myself to feel those feelings I would have otherwise tried to push away, that gave perspective, even on whether the “psychosis,” was crazy or not.
And now music really is meant to do that too. All the arts are. But that’s not how they are taught is it? They’re made out to be a commodity, a consumption. They’re quite often made out to be more something you do to avoid your feelings, and make yourself “feel” a certain way (like chocolate would, or cheese cake, or a cigarettes, or drugs or having more money etc.) But that’s not really feeling.
People are scared of anything that happens by itself, like say: “psychosis.” Or beyond that imagination itself when it points out what people are trying to avoid seeing. What their feelings might tell them were they given the chance to.