my dharma journey to mental healthiness

warning signs

The greatest threat to my daily mental healthiness has always been falling prey to whatever my emotions or thoughs were. Depression had no trouble taking over when I was clueless about the warning signs. This is no longer the case.

I woke up this morning and was immediately thinking what a waste of time it was for me to try to do anything meaningful with my life. I might as well just do whatever was of the least effort, maybe the most enjoyable.

In other words, I woke up with depression ready to take me in its arms and suck the soul out of my day.

Thankfully, I now recognize this as it happens. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have had a clue and would have given in to the thought. This is the healing and strengthening power of mindfulness.

Every thought and emotion we experience are temporary, transitory. No matter how huge and immovable they feel at the time, every single one of them has a limited shelf life. That is simply the nature of the stuff that passes through our brain.

Importantly, no thought or emotion is real. The stuff that goes on in our head is built on what enters our head, and, as the computer programming cliché puts it so aptly: Garbage in, garbage out. We take in so many things in our life, and much of it isn’t even accurate. For example, you “remember” something your friend said once, and it has stuck with you and it niggles endlessly. Over time, you’ve let some bitterness grow. 

But the reality could well be you misheard the words, and you did not understand the context. Perhaps they were speaking in a way that was self-protecting, hiding their true thoughts and emotions. You can’t know that, but you do “know” they said something awful.

This is just one example of how we build our thoughts, memories, and emotions on the basis of something that isn’t even true. Your mother once called you stupid in front of your siblings, and that one incident buried itself in your memories. You never got good at a certain skill and so decided you were inept at many other things, things you never let yourself even explore.

I’ve lived these kinds of experiences for most of my sixty-plus years, and I let them undermine my life endlessly – until, at last, I got the mental health care I needed, including mindfulness training, to recognize what was going on so I could be intentional about how I lived rather than having my chain yanked by a thought or feeling in a moment.

So I woke up, had a thought that was the doorway to a depressive episode, and I walked right past it. I saw the reality of the moment, and have chosen instead to write this post regardless of whether anyone reads it. I am doing something positive, something I want to be the way I live my life: writing. 

I also know this: the only way that writing this post is a waste of time is if I half-ass it. I need to finish it and share it with other people. I know one or two folks will read it, but who knows? Maybe if I keep at it for more than a few days, maybe I’ll build a readership of some kind. Or maybe not. But if recognizing life-diminishing thoughts and emotions turns into doing something positive, however small, then I know my life is far healthier and happier than it was just a few years ago.