Chris got another “you’ve got to up your game” talk from me a couple of nights ago. This time, I strongly suggested yoga and meditation. My pushing yoga and meditation will come as no surprise to anybody reading my past two posts.
I’m getting a little tired suggesting things my twenty-seven year old son should already have thought about for himself, but there you are. I’m used to pushing and prodding, after all, I’m a wife. Lucky for me, Chris is usually appreciative of my motherly suggestions. Left to his own devices, he’d continue to read Marcel Pagnol in the original French, take voice lessons, cook our dinner, and be a generally fabulous and conscientious guy. But, he has yet to earn a paycheck nor is he pursuing full time or part time studies. He’s going to have to up his game.
To move him to the next level, to get the next breakthrough experience, (he’s had several, all of which have upped his game in some way) I think introducing him to yoga and meditation is what is needed. We may not have to journey to Outer Mongolia for healing by shamans, we can take a mind and body journey right at home. Some of you might be offended that I would equate yoga and meditation to upping one’s game, but what is underlying this is the wish that Chris’s resilience continue to increase.
I gave Chris an assignment: Find three yoga courses that he might want to enroll in and check back with me by COB today. I told him I would take care of finding the meditation. On Sunday I went to a most interesting talk about a certain kind of meditation that made me realize that this may be what we are looking for. I’m going to a meditation tonight, and will see how it goes.
I have yet to write about yoga on this blog, and I realized driving home today that this was going to change. Practicing yoga should be part of everybody’s holistic lifestyle.
When Ian and I were in the depths of our despair over Chris a few years ago, we signed up for a yoga class one night a week after work. This is the first hobby (can yoga be considered a hobby?) we have actually done together in all our years of marriage. I like going to flea markets on Saturdays, Ian prefers to have a massage. Ian likes working on week-ends. I find other ways to amuse myself. We used to take our sons camping when they were little, but that doesn’t count because it was a family activity, like going to church.
So, here we were in our mid fifties, starting out in yoga. It seemed that everybody else in the class had been doing yoga for years. But we persevered and grew to love it. It’s been three years.
At the same time as the yoga, we began to dabble in meditation, just a night here and there with a group. Occasionally during both the yoga and the meditation classes, silent tears would stream down my cheeks. I was letting the sadness and the tension go.
I haven’t cried for a long time in either of these classes. Something happened. I felt stronger, more at peace and I grew to understand that there was really no need to cry because what both Chris and I were going through was a spiritual transformation. The tears were important for me in letting go of old habits and attitudes.
In Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic there is no mention of alternative mental health remedies. This, I suppose, is understandable given that the book is about how pharma and her willing handmaidens have contributed to the epidemic of mental illness. However, from a consumer point of view it would be instructive to know if the people whose stories are told in the book ever seriously tried some form of psychotherapy or took vitamin supplements to help them get off the drugs.
It is clear even if you haven’t read this book that psychiatry has been hijacked by drug prescription and that psychiatrists (American ones, anyway) are handsomely remunerated for prescribing not listening. Psychiatrists have convinced themselves that the drugs are needed to help them do their job better, but their patients aren’t at all convinced. If they were, why is drug compliance such a problem? Why are people so fed up with their psychiatrists not listening to them?
Drug based psychiatry seems to be one area where the customer is always wrong. If manufacturers noticed that people were failing to use their products in they way they were intended, would they blame the customer? Of course not! Many psychiatrists, however, have this patronizing view that their clients are mentally ill and incapable of making rational choices when it comes to how they feel about what they are swallowing.
There is another way and people shouldn’t lose hope.
Taking vitamins, undergoing certain psychotherapies, practicing yoga and changing your belief system is not a quick fix, but it does work over time. As a relative, I can vouch that this also works for me. We all can benefit from the experience. Vitamin support should be a first line of defence if you are trying to get off your meds. Some people may not need this, but many do. Not everybody is going to have a hard time withdrawing from the drugs, but they will be the exception, not the rule. The drugs change your biochemistry. Your biochemistry is not changed because you are depressed or schizophrenic. For every study that claims it is, there is a study that refutes this. So why buy into the former claim? It makes you worse off in the long term, as Anatomy of an Epidemic so rightly points out.
When “the crisis” unfolded several years ago, I went to my family doctor and asked him to give me something to help me get through this. I got Paxil. At first I was grateful for it making my mind less like a stuck record, endlessly obsessing about how awful life must be for Chris. I gained a lot of weight, but I also gained a certain distance from my own thoughts. I could maintain a stoicism that I didn’t feel I otherwise posessed. In the interim, I needed this crutch.
When I then tried to get off the Paxil, the haunting fears came rushing back. I thought I was going to be a “lifer” on an antidepressant because I obviously couldn’t handle life as it was. To make a long story short, I found a homeopath, took some natural products and weaned myself off the Paxil very slowly. (The weight loss was more stubborn.) I also took up yoga and meditation. That was three years ago. Yoga is the first “hobby” that Ian and I have done together in our close to thirty years of marriage. Ian and I are no spring chickens, we were both overweight and I couldn’t move one arm above my head for some mysterious reason.
The yoga was both wonderful and difficult. We knew it was the answer to our stress, so we perservered. Doing yoga is like letting the air out of our psychic balloon. Sometimes tears would roll down my face, not from the exercise, but from the spiritual release. The music in combination with the poses got to me in ways that organized religion up to that point had not been able to, regular church goer that I am. Ian and I also dabbled a bit in meditation, althogh not as consistently as the yoga. Today, I feel I can handle whatever it was that I couldn’t manage before. I understand spirituality better because I feel I have lived it. I am at peace.