For the 2020 Watch “RWISA” Write Showcase Tour, I decided to write this poem. This year has been difficult for many of us, but it’s especially challenging for those with anxiety and other mental disorders. As a person who lives with an anxiety disorder, I have spent many years finding ways to manage my anxiety. I have found that a combination of neurofeedback, therapy sessions, meditation, and mindfulness have worked well for me.
Neurofeedback is a therapeutic intervention where a computer program helps retrain the brain to stay within a normal parameter for response to stimuli. Imagine two horizontal bars with a space between them. A “normal” brain would show brainwaves that stay within the high and low bar with few outliers. A brain with certain conditions would show brainwaves that jump higher or lower than the horizontal bars. Neurofeedback retrains the brain to stay within those bars.
In my case, my neurofeedback takes place while I watch a movie at my psychologist’s office. The staff connects electrodes to various spots on my head. Those electrodes connect to a computer that monitors my brain waves. That computer is connected to a program that links to whatever movie I am watching. As I watch the movie, it registers my brain waves. So long as my brain waves stay within the normal parameter, I can see and hear the movie. When my waves jump outside the normal parameter, the volume will lower and/or the screen with get smaller or fade out. Once my brain waves return with the normal limits, the picture and volume return. In this manner, my brain learns it is rewarded when it stays within the normal limits.
It sounds like crazy sci-fi stuff, and I’ll admit I didn’t really believe it would work. It took me getting to the point where my health was suffering to get me to finally try it. At first, I went every week for a few months. It wasn’t a miracle overnight fix, but one day I realized I was sleeping better and not freaking out as much. My energy was returning to me. My sessions were reduced to every other week, and now, I go once a month just for a tune-up. I am not a fan of man-made medicines, so this has been a wonderful alternative to taking pills to reduce my anxiety.
Another thing that has helped me has been therapy sessions. I meet with a psychologist once or twice a month either in person (pre-COVID) or via teleconference. I am a strong believer that every person should meet with a therapist at some point in his/her life. Some days, we just review my days and see what comes up. Other days, I bring something I want to speak about to the “table.” She helps me restructure how I perceive information and process it. It has helped me to understand and accept events in my past and to have more compassion for experiences I have now.
I started meditating as a way to silence my mind. I have a very loud inner voice. For many years, that inner voice was absolutely toxic. I had all the love in the world for everyone around me, but my inner voice made it clear there was no love left for me. It took me a long time to realize that this inner voice was not me, and I could silence her toxicity. Meditation helped me to do that.
It also showed me how to embrace a loving-kindness mentality toward myself. Those who know me casually will find this information a bit shocking because I always present myself as calm and kind and relaxed, but a cover doesn’t always reveal the inner layers within the book. It took me years to be kind to myself, and it is a journey I am still experiencing.
My meditation journey led me to mindfulness. I think of meditation and mindfulness as sisters in the same family. They are similar but distinct. Meditation is a practice where one uses a technique to train himself to become more aware or improve his attention. Mindfulness is the quality of awareness that one attains simply by purposefully paying attention without judgement. This is a great article to better understand them: https://positivepsychology.com/differences-between-mindfulness-meditation/.
Meditation helped me to silence the toxicity of my inner voice. Mindfulness helped me to become more aware of the patterns in my thoughts, see them, accept them, and let them pass through without permanence or judgment. I treasure the layer of peace it has brought me.When I think back to the person I was six years ago, I can share loving-kindness with her and embrace the trials and tribulations she/I went through. Had I known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have suffered for so many years without seeking help. I now focus on today’s journey, knowing time is fluid and the only moment that exists is this one. I practice focusing on the here and now. It isn’t always easy, but this journey is about practice and awareness. We, as humans, will never reach perfection, and I find a certain beauty in that. We are, and always will be, a living work of heart. 😊
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