Vets find Wellness in (Transcendental) Meditation

Just found this. A short CNN clip where they talk about transcendental meditation as a technique bringing relief to patients suffering from post traumatic stress. It even proves to be beneficial for severe cases like veterans of war suffering from symptoms of PTSD. I’m about to attend an info night on this in my vicinity. Sounds very promising!

Vets find wellness in meditation – CNN Video.

P.S. Here’s a fairly brief, but still comprehensive, very easy to follow introduction into the benefits of TM and its healing effects on the body for everyone,  not just survivors of post traumatic stress.

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The Vagus Nerve and the Healing Promise of The Sudarshan Kriya – Waking Times : Waking Times

This breathing technique sounds like a powerful tool to relieve depression, anxiety and stress responses – all three being diseases or disorders associated with the outcomes of (C-) PTSD (listed under so-called co-morbidities, i.e. diseases that are secondary outcomes of the primary one). I have posted about Dr. Stephen Porges’ seminal work before, concluding from the linked article that his approach and findings might have the potential to cure a person who has been suffering from PTSD and C-PTSD for a long time. As we all know and as researchers now confirm, symptoms of PTSD worsen over time as the fear-related responses get “engraved” deeper and deeper in the system with every triggering situation and every flash-back that affected individuals experience.

I personally haven’t done SK&P yet, but I did some holothropic breathing for a while. The effects of an hour of non-stop breathing at varying pace and the ensuing rest and relaxation with scented candles and meditation music in a light-dimmed room and someone to talk to when needed are often described as “rebirthing”. I must admit that some powerful emotions came up – not as powerful as I know them from my own “treatments” of self-medicating with alcohol and then watching a drama movie, where trauma – or overcoming trauma – runs as a central theme of the movie. But they were powerful enough.

As far as that – admitted: questionable – approach I found myself, i.e. binge-eating, binge-drinking and watching movies that seemed to have a fair amount of potential to trigger me, I think it helped me to at least access and feel emotions I seem to have repressed forever. In other words: I wouldn’t underestimate the healing potential of a good cry – even if it borders into a breakdown lasting several hours (they did a few times, yes). After all, if we were supposed to be tough all the time, evolution probably wouldn’t have bothered to provide our species with tear glands, right? Now I’ve said it: I’m a crybaby, hahaha! 😀 But seriously: I’d deem reconnecting with bottled up emotions and for once giving yourself permission to feel them and even let them overpower you not too small a therapeutic value (might sound overbearing on my part, but I do know that I felt a good deal of relief and “inner clarity” and calmness when those crying fits were over; a few times might do, I don’t think you need to go through an entire series of re-experiencing.)

Anyway, without further ado on my part, find the article on SK&P here:  The Vagus Nerve and the Healing Promise of The Sudarshan Kriya – Waking Times : Waking Times.

Sleep 2.0 – On Fatigue, Depression and How It Relates to (C-) PTSD

Watched a documentary on sleep research tonight. The link points to a show in German, but I’m sure it’s syndicated from something on Discovery Channel or something. So I have to ask you to dig deep(er) for yourself for an English version of the show. Anyway, here’s the gist of things: The entire show confirmed everything I’ve empirically experienced and analyzed over the past years. Bottomline: Sleep is an essential basic need. As such, it’s non-negotiable, as in: You’ve got to have enough restorative sleep. Period. Even a healthy person does. As soon as sleep deprivation occurs – the reasons are manifold, sleep apnea due to e.g. being overweighed is one -, health and normal functioning deteriorate – and very quickly so!

In the past years, I’ve done a lot of reading and experimenting in regards to improving my overall health situation. That is, after – and even before – I got my diagnosis of (C-) PTSD. I sank my teeth into getting better, into healing, into recovering as much as possible. (Luckily I now know that it can absolutely be done, as amongst others, like. e.g. Amber Lyon, Michele Rosenthal says on her blog and in her upcoming book). That’s the good news.

The other news and aspect I’ve only recently identified as an absolute must-have is healthy sleep. The documentary made this crystal-clear – not only to me. You see, with PTSD and the nightmares and flashbacks and hypervigilance as some of the most pressing symptoms, sleep is a “scarce commodity” as Michele Rosenthal says in her blog entry. And according to above mentioned and linked documentary, sleep deprivation alone brings on a lot of dysfunction like microsleep in your waking hours – which is among the highest ranking reasons for fatal car accidents, b.t.w. and which is also mentioned in the international handbook of war, torture and terrorism as a basic method of torturing detainees….  -, mood swings and – depression. You heard that right: Only a few nights of insufficient sleep increase the risk for developing depression in its aftermath by a factor of 5 to one! (It’s even higher for children and another overlooked side effect is for them to be falsely diagnosed with ADHD – because children become hyperactive from lack of sleep).

Why would I go at lengths of writing a blog about this? You see, in trying to sort out the symptoms that made my life a living hell at times and in making an attempt of tracking them back to their potential cause one by one and then eliminating that cause if possible, I often arrived at the seemingly insurmountable conundrum of fatigue and depression. In simple words: Which came first? Fatigue or depression? Was I feeling tired because the physical aspects of depression had their grip on me? Or was I being depressed because I never found good sleep? Which was it? Which was I supposed to target first?

Above mentioned show seems to have given a very clear answer: (Good) Sleep can’t be rated highly enough! And since the documentary also made a strong point about the correlation of sleep and eating habits, lack of sleep sets off a cascade of other symptoms often manifesting so-called co-morbidities like e.g. eating disorders. To be more specific: If you’re feeling fatigued, chances are you develop food cravings for not exactly healthy foods (like fatty, sugary ones, often resulting in diabetes type II ). There’s also a tendency to binge-eat (overeat) on those foods as you’re dying to replenish your personal energy level. I can personally attest to this vicious cycle totally kicking in if I haven’t gotten enough sleep: The brain’s signals for being hungry are all out of bounds and have you hungry almost all day. When you do eat, the perceived prior craving often results in totally overeating (binge eating) as the consumption of fatty and sugary foods sets of a surge of dopamine in the brain (the “reward” neurotransmitter), which then counters the feeling of being depressed from perceived low energy. And sure enough, eating too much at inappropriate times – ruins your sleep, of course! I had almost arrived at this insight from simply observing myself. And now there’s total affirmation on all these interdependencies from researchers!

So, in closing, my personal conclusing for starting the healing process from (C-) PTSD is this: Make it your top priority to find enough restorative, healthy sleep! (ideally 8 hours, 7 at the very least according to the documentary). You are going to feel totally self-empowered per se after waking up from a good night’s sleep! How do you do that? Move to a quieter place, if you have to. Find CDs, radio channels or recordings with relaxing, meditative music (spoken words or mantras are counterproductive from my experience – make sure, it’s instrumental music only, such as ambient, meditative, sleep inducing music. For some, binaureal beats may work – but maybe only until some time further into the process. And use with caution! If you have e.g. ever suffered from epilepsy or suffered a stroke, binaureal beats may trigger those – ask your doctor first in this case!). Make time for being outdoors as much and as often as you can! (Depending on your personal shape and considering other conditions, I’d suggest a medium- to fast-paced walk for some 30 mins. during your lunch-break and after having had a small, healthy meal; add another 30-60 mins. of moderate workout after work – not in a gym, but outdoors in a park or something! Get appropriate clothing if you have to. Nothing beats working out in a natural environment and a walk does wonders to your body and your psyche!).

Also, see Michele’s blog on nutrition and what works (better) for individuals recovering from (C-)PTSD and what are the “no-no’s” in regards to that. (I’m still working on that… 😉 )

However, the most important thing to keep in mind is this – and I owe it to Michele’s work and the many kind supporters and co-travellers along the way: You can eliminate PTSD-symptoms 100% and you can have a rewarding, meaningful, successful life! (In my darkest hours, I never thought I’d stand a chance to get there. I’m glad I didn’t fold then, because now I know there are people who managed to totally overcome and heal their PTSD).

Another thing: You are strong! If you weren’t – you wouldn’t be here anymore…

P.S. I should mention that I have managed to sleep quite a bit as of late. Eversince I do, I have not experienced depression. Sadness sometimes, maybe, mostly from feeling isolated, but not depression, which I can safely tell apart from other states of mind and heart by now.

P.P.S. This comes with a strong prior trigger warning! However, if you’re a sceptic (like me), you may find it beneficial to read about Amber Lyon’s complete recovery from severe PTSD!

BBC News – Robin Williams death: Police confirm suicide

BBC News – Robin Williams death: Police confirm suicide.

His death/suicide shakes me up badly. And when looking at this picture, I have chills – because I remember a look like this on my face as well many times in the past when looking in the mirror. Unfortunately, depression is a very mighty demon. May those of us who fight that battle persevere. My heart is broken for him, his family – and for us for this tragic loss. R.I.P. Mr. Williams.

Safe Travels, Mr. Williams!

I feel compelled to share this article written by Elizabeth Hawksworth. She nails it IMHO.

The Death of Robin Williams, And What Suicide Isn’t | BlogHer.

On a different note and from recently having read The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, which – I think – converted me from a lifelong skeptic into a fairly firm believer, I take solace in the idea that he will now be relieved from the agony he – Mr. Williams – endured while on this earthly plane. I marvel at him for the enormous strength he displayed in doing all the things he became famous for and won prizes for. At the end of the day, there is one common denominator that strings us all together: We all need a suffcient amount of unconditional love. If the latter is or was missing or didn’t come in “sufficient” amounts or at a healthy level, there is only one cure IMO: More unconditional love coming from … everyone else we cross paths with. (Maybe not everyone, that’d be unrealistic. But from as many as possible)

R.I.P. Robin Williams. I feel you.

Binges – Each One Another Stab at Slowly Killing Myself

So I have identified two main residual problems: Lack of sleep – or poor quality thereof – and the resulting fatigue can and often does trigger a depressive episode. The other thing: Massive overeating at night. I’m not even all clear on the reasons for that anymore, but I think it’s an ill-conceived attempt at trying to enjoy myself with something that can’t possibly be met with derision, abuse or contempt (earlier in life, whenever I did genuinely become enthusiastic about something, I was met with verbal, emotional and physical abuse of the worst kind to the point that even as a child, I didn’t want to go on living and felt all misplaced and “square”, an accident of life).

Today, I still punish myself whenever things work out well! The better the results, the more I punish myself for them. I can’t seem to escape this brutal pattern at all. There are tiny windows, where I’m o.k. with myself and the world and begin to feel something that others may experience more or less on a constant basis (minus their own daily struggles at the workplace, of course and for example). These windows practically solely happen in the absence of people and the typical interactions with them. Like, when I’m outdoors, alone, riding my bike or swimming in the lake and taking a nap before or after. All these activities I have been doing all by myself in years. For all practical intents and purposes, I guess I’ve firmly arrived at being a loner at most times (and only in part voluntarily so)

I had a fairly productive day today, all things considered. Slept in, did my usual checking on emails and Facebook, made a couple of phone calls I had jotted down to remind me, then went about recording some guitars for a friend’s piece for about 4 hours straight (recording and editing, I should add). Did my shopping, came back, changed clothes, the rain had stopped, I got on the bike and did one of my semi-long laps to the lake, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, had a chat with a professional photographer there, then headed back and fixed myself dinner. That’s when usually all dams break and I give in to a massive binge. Actually, the eating really only happens for needing to reward myself for my self-discipline in some way, rewarding myself for not having given in to the depression, the loneliness, the self-contempt. Somewhere between the first bite and the last, something happens that has me lose all respect and appreciation of the effort that went into structuring my day and going about things one might consider productive. The more contended I feel before pigging out, the harder I annihilate all that with the ensuing binge. It’s like trying to kill myself in a very slow and painful way.

I know, it’s all based on an erroneous concept of self, of self-worth, actually. I am completely aware of that. And yet – I don’t seem able to reclaim control over this process, this pattern. I had had better control over this previously – or at least, I’d like to think so. But now I feel completely helpless in terms of that. What’s worse: I don’t believe in therapy helping at all in this regard. Why? Simple: Because no therapy, no doctor and much less any medication can quench the thirst for genuine love and appreciation, the kind of which I was denied from early on. Ironically, trying to fill that void literally by stuffing all kinds of food into myself doesn’t help any more, either. It should be easy to just let it go then. But it’s not. I am at a loss as to explaining why and how that is. I mean, yes, I’m aware of the chemical reward system in the brain, the dynamics of cravings and their satisfaction and such. I know all that. But knowing that doesn’t seem to help, either. Maybe I’m just burning out on willpower, the one thing that has kept me here in the first place. Maybe I’m burning out on having to struggle so hard 24/7. Maybe I’m all burnt out on life and haven’t really realized it yet.

P.S. It’s kind of uncanny that right after having completed this blog, I find the news percolating about Robin Williams seemingly having committed suicide this noon. Reports say he had been suffering from severe depression as of late with a history of earlier alcohol and drug abuse. Looks as if there is no cure to lack of love, in particular when that lack of love happens at the most vulnerable times in our lives…

Amber Lyon – Investigative Reporter turned Natural Health Researcher and Advocate

The following URL points to Amber Lyon’s public Facebook page. I’d like to bring this to my followers’ general attention as I find Amber’s new work focus relevant to our struggles and underlying conditions, be they C-/PTSD anxiety, depression or so called “mental” disorders of any kind. Interestingly, Amber Lyon is an award-winning, renowned investigative reporter turned natural health and alternative healing researcher and advocate. While she continues to do investigative reporting on select matters, her new career path seems to focus more on researching and reporting on natural/alternative healing knowledge as known and passed down among indigenous people of e.g. the Amazon. In particular, Amber’s more recent work revolves around the possibilities of natural medicines like Ayahuasca, a powerful brew from a variety of plants with hallucinogenous/psychedelic properties. Even the wording is problematic here, as it is a typical Western, materialistic one. The shamans of those indigenous peoples themselves rather refer to those “miracle drugs” as plant spirits, who teach shaman and patient about their ailments and communicate a healing trajectory back to the shaman, who then performs whatever healing advice is revealed to him on the patient.

If this sounds odd or spooky to you – I can’t blame you. Maybe it all makes better sense after having watched Christian Moran’s documentary Ayahuasca Diary he shot while participating in an Ayahuasca retreat. The short term results of the participants are nothing short of spectacular, including one person who arrived with prostate cancer and after returning home and getting diagnostics from his oncologist was pronounced cancer free. While I’m truly impressed by those results, the skeptic in me would like to see some long term reports as well, of course (including details on how patients possibly changed their lifestyles, diet etc.). But regardless of that, the movie is definitely worthwhile watching. Some warning as to graphic content. A lot of “purging” occurs and is being caught on tape. If you’re sensitive in that area, be warned that some scenes may not be suitable for you. Oh, and last, not least, find a podcast of Amber Lyon’s account of her own Ayahuasca experience.

A Bounty of Truths

The truth is: I am lonely. The truth is that I have too much time to contemplate. The truth is that I can only self-motivate for so long. When I fail, depression is ready to kick in to a lesser or larger degree. The truth is, analyzing and researching my condition and its possible causes has brought only a few new insights, but not to the effect where I have an all new, all efficient angle to alter it. The truth is, only taking action can change things and along with it change perception, feelings, outcomes and thus state of mind and heart. And the devastating truth is that I simply lack the means and the budget to do so as my situation impoverished me very quickly. I can’t socialize any longer to an extent, where my life becomes less solitary confinement with my small cell a.k.a. appartment, equipped with bathroom, kitchen, heating, internet, TV, where the latter two have become my primary sources of communicating with the outside world.

The truth is: I have gotten singled out. I’m no longer part of the game and the system seems designed in a way that says: “We don’t want you back here. You’ve had your shot and you blew it. Go away, stay away, and if possible at all: Die silently and do it fast.” The truth is that most of my anxiety is from realizing this last part, this reality. The truth is: I am scared shitless.

I can compartmentalize. I can calm myself down, tell myself that I still have some options and freedoms left. I can deceive myself in this way, when I don’t have any real options left that can make a crucial difference as in: A road back to self-sustained living. I’ve been employing all options I’ve had or found. I’ve knocked on every possible door. I haven’t taken no for an answer, when “No! Not you!” was the only answer I ever got. I have fought, I have battled, I have not given in. And I keep fighting and battling with an overpowering opponent, who’s controlling all the cogs in the wheel. I’ve deliberated anything from camouflage as in: flying under the radar to openly resisting the legally allowed pathways. In whichever way I look at my situation, the answer is the same: Defeat! “You’re defeated, son!” I have taken my talents, my life force, my willpower and applied them to the challenges at hand. I’ve done so like anyone else for my entire adult life. I have even managed to conceal a debilitating condition from the public eye and function as best as I could nonetheless. And I even won a few battles, inspite of it all. But ultimately – or so it seems – I’ve lost out. The constantly dripping leakage from that hole in my soul seems to have drained all personal reservoirs of resilience. Exactly July 2007 was the time, when something ran out on me. Was it willpower, was it the energy to uphold a put-on act, was it quite simply youth that had elapsed? Whatever it was, after that I was unable to continue to function. Tentatively speaking, I think it was the latent frustration of fighting so hard without getting anywhere, of rolling the proverbial Sisyphean rock uphill, only for it to slip and roll back down only inches away from the mountain top. And in part, it was probably and quite simply the collapsing strength of going against seeing myself rejected and getting singled out time and time again.

I have now become a ghost for all practical purposes. The phone never rings. The influx of messages is wilting. The feedback on postings is vanishing. All channels of communications are drying out, drip by drip by drip. At the end of this process is a mind slowly getting choked to death, with an ever decreasing number of moments in which I wonder, what the fuck went wrong and when… I can’t seem to find any other clue than this: It is me who is wrong. I don’t belong here.

P.S. One truth I forgot to mention: I’m mad. I’m raving mad. At everyone, including “god”. And myself, of course.

Dodging A Depression

Tonight, I met a friend I have been knowing for some time, whom I see every now and then. She was somehow disturbed by feeling “nothing” as she reported. I interpreted this as a mild bout of depression on her part. Feeling “removed”, “nothing” or “empty” – I have come to understand all these as precursors or actual onset of a depression. When it hits, it can last from a few hours to days to weeks or months. I never know. What I do know, though, is that it sucks to feel helpless. It sucks to feel like a victim. I’ve been there too many times to feel any need to revisit this place. So I thought of ways of keeping depression in check withouth the need to (self-) medicate.

One thing that’s pretty efficient is to keep myself active and at a mildly accelerated pace. Whenever I can be active, that’s the preferred thing to do, where I’d place physical activities slightly above all other (but not necessarily always so. Researching something of personal significance or contemplating on it can be a rewarding and efficiently distracting and eventually engaging, exciting thing). Mildly socializing is another one, even at times when I don’t think anyone wants anything to do with me. I used to lock myself up and think “no, you’re not in good spirits, noone wants to see you.” I’m no longer placing that restriction on myself, but go out in spite of it. So far, noone told me to get lost, even on less “high spirits” days.

The simplest thing, though, is this: When I wake up and still feel “exhausted”, I remind myself of this (and have been using it as my morning “mantra”): “Get up, you’re looking forward to doing some manifesting”. It takes a moment of effort of overcoming residual fatigue. But when I do it – and the key is to not falter, but get up in a resolved manner – then I usually get to keep that energy for many hours, often throughout the day. I’ve been practicing this for a while. It’s imperative to a) keep at it and b) afford yourself some treats and slackening here and there.

What are your ideas or experiences with this? Feel free to add and comment.