Thursday, December 9, 2021

Comments by RosyLeaDNVT

Showing 1 of 1 comments.

  • Hi Everyone,

    I’m a fairly new reader on Mad in America and this is my first time commenting here. This is a hard subject for me to pull all of my thoughts together on since it directly ties in with some deep seated trauma, so bear with me. The practices that fall under the umbrella of “mindfulness” (and “meditation”) are extremely nuanced and can have vastly different effects on the nervous system. Both the mainstream mental health system and alternative mental health entities are almost always naive and occasionaly negligent in how they promote mindfulness and meditation as a support for almost all forms of psychic distress and physical pain. With that in mind, some of the practices under this umbrella can be extremely helpful and empowering for people. My own story is that I came to mindfulness and meditation practice seeking an alternative to medication for anxiety. When I first started in 2010, it was very helpful. At that point I wasn’t using any specific practice, just a mix of guided meditations (some sitting, some walking/moving, breath tracking, open awareness noting, etc) 3 times a week led by one of my professors in grad school for social work who was also a mental health clinician and mindfulness teacher. I drifted away from doing it regularly after I finished the school year, but wanted to get back into it. Fast forward to 2014, I was seeing a trusted integrative medicine MD for some ideas on how to manage anxiety without SSRIs and he recommended a more intense form of meditation via a 10 day residential Vipassana meditation course (Vipassana is usually understood to be very specific and intense category of mindfulness meditation practices). He told me that it was friendly beginners, that there would be plenty of support on site for folks like me who struggled with mild to moderate anxiety, it was secular, and that after finishing it, I’d have a really helpful tool that I could use for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, this was quite far from the truth of what I experienced. During the meditation course, I experienced a swell of fear and insomnia, which was described by the staff on site as a normal upwelling of trauma and a sign of progress. When I returned home, I continued to decompensate to the point where I was in a near constant state of non-referential terror, and was not able to sleep after multiple medication trials over the course of a month. As a result of the stress to my body, I lost 20% of my bodyweight and got a heart arrhythmia among other things. I ended up needing to go inpatient (technically voluntary), which was only helpful in finding the right nasty antipsychotic to get me sleeping again, but other than that mostly harmful, I’m sure does not come as a surprise to most people here on the MIA website. Fast forward to now, I have a diagnosis of PTSD. I am in a much better place than I was in before, but my nervous system has been profoundly altered. Ironically, I still use self-regulation strategies which are technically also mindfulness practices to get through each day, albeit they are radically different from what I was told to use in 2014.

    I’m quite surprised that there aren’t more articles on the adverse effects of mindfulness and meditation here on MIA. I both volunteer for and receive services from a non-profit organization called Cheetah House, which is peer led and provides resources for people like me. I encourage anyone who is interested in this subject to visit the Cheetah House website.

    If you are a nerd like me, or a clinician/researcher, Cheetah House has a comprehensive bibliography of academic literature on the subject of adverse experiences with meditation: