I was held within the grips of the deepest depression of my life. I felt overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, comparisons to my peers and the fear of being unable to accomplish my aspirations. I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning and I slept constantly to avoid the constant anxiety and stress of existence. My health took a turn for the worse; I gained weight, drank too much and lost connections with close friends. At my lowest point, I felt truly helpless and alone.
I have heard too many similar stories from close friends. The internet is ripe with feelings of hopeless, loneliness and the pointlessness of existence. This culture of depression has pervaded society so deeply that it is now considered a viable marketing strategy for branded accounts to make suicidal jokes on Twitter.
Depression is a vicious cycle. Often times the actions that occur as a result of a poor mindset feed into the very monster that is causing you such sadness. I stopped going to class, I brushed off my responsibilities and I pushed away the people close to me as a result of my mental state. These choices only further degraded my mental wellbeing over time, despite often offering a temporary reprieve in the form of sleep, video games or other such forms of escapism.
I did not write this story to dwell on the past. My goal in publishing this experience is to offer you hope and share the steps I took to overcome the prison of my mind.
The power of living in the moment.
What does this statement mean? I spent a long time debating the best title for this story and I think this encapsulates my feelings in the most succinct way possible. For years I existed within the past and the future; I was never satisfied, never present. I constantly worried about the actions of the past and I fooled myself into thinking that at some time in the future after purchasing some new electronic, achieving some goal or taking some action I would be fulfilled. I existed in a stream of constant thought, the voice in my head overcame my consciousness and I had no control over my own mind.
This is what lead me into the darkest moment of my life. The fear that I would never live up to the mental picture I painted of my ideal life. The worry of past actions of which I had no control over. The desire for material goods, wealth and influence. And the inability to disable the constant stream of thoughts, judgment, and anxiety within my head.
I decided that enough was enough. I deserve to be happy, every human being deserves to be happy. So I decided to regain control of my mind and my life.
How I regained control.
I knew that in order to regain control of my mind I would need to become deeply introspective. I began to meditate every day. Meditation is often recommended but not explained, so I will try to put to words what it means to me. You have a voice inside of your head, this voice is judgemental, it is childish and it is also extremely powerful (when used correctly). Many of us are slaves to this voice, unable to control it and forced to act as watchers and listeners of the mental movies, anxieties, worries, fears, and future possibilities created within our minds.
The first step to finding happiness, and the goal of meditation, is learning to control this voice. I have reached a state of being where I exist purely in the “now”. I am hyper-conscious of what exists around me, the people I am with and the experience I am currently having. Thoughts of the past and the future have vanished and I can focus on simply being present. It took me several years to reach this point, however, the benefits of meditation became apparent very early into my journey.
How to control your thoughts.
Start to observe your thoughts and your mind as if you are an outside observer. Listen to the voice in your head, become aware of this stream of constant thought. Now try to focus on nothing. It is difficult to put to words the feeling of “nothingness” but the best way I can describe it is by eliciting the feeling you get right before you fall asleep at night.
There is a brief moment before you slip out of consciousness where you are not worried about the past, not stressed about the future and you simply become aware.
Learn to control this ability, push your mind as if it is a muscle you are working out in the gym. Perhaps you can only focus on pure nothingness for a brief second before you succumb to a stream of thoughts. If this is the case, don’t worry! The practice of meditation is difficult and takes time. I promise it is a worthwhile pursuit.
The benefits of “Nothing”
Apply this practice of stopping thought to your everyday life. Attempt to become hyper-conscious of what exists around you now, find awe in the infinitely detailed world you are a part of and do not give in to the tempting offer of thought. Whenever a thought attempts to force itself into your mind to distract you from the present, try your best to stop it. Eventually, you will get to a point where you no longer exist in a state of constant internal battle. With enough practice and will-power, you will reach a state where your default existence is purely in the present.
Once I reached this state my happiness returned more vehemently than I had ever experienced in my life. I feel a great sense of peace, of unity with the cosmos and my fellow humans, and awareness of the world around me. I no longer stress about my finances, the past, a fictional picture of what my life could be or the infinite “what-ifs”.
Applying these principles to improve your life.
Once you learn to control your thoughts and your mind, you will realize how powerful a tool thought can be. I am capable now of applying my mind to tasks with more focus and determination than ever before. I no longer view work and learning as a grueling task but rather a fun challenge that I am excited to take on.
As a result of meditation and introspection, I have become happier than ever before. I have gained financial security, reconnected with friends, developed new relationships and learned new skills. I did not achieve these things by the desire for future fulfillment, rather, the complete opposite. I achieved them by focusing purely on the present.
If you are feeling down, lost, hopeless and alone I want you to know that you are loved, and you are not alone. You deserve fulfillment and peace and the ability to find these is within you. The journey ahead of you is less difficult than you think. Learn how to become conscious without thought, be open-minded to new experiences, talk with others and share your experiences. You may feel as if the future is hopeless, as if the glass is half empty but these feelings are a mirage. I wish you the best of luck on your journey.
If you want to speak to me personally I would love to hear your thoughts. Talking your feelings through can be great therapy and help you a lot! My email is email@example.com (Disclaimer: I am not a therapist, if you are suicidal please seek professional help, your life is worthwhile.)