Excerpts from a CNN report
For more than a decade of my life, I struggled with debilitating anxiety, panic attacks and depression. And, like millions of people around the world, I longed to discover a magic pill to cure my ills and promise me nirvana. But, despite taking many medications, ongoing psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECTs), hospitalizations and failed suicide attempts, wellness remained a distant dream.
The anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants worsened my symptoms, and made me more agitated, depressed and suicidal. And I was utterly confused why the medications that were supposed to alleviate my symptoms exacerbated them instead.
Staring out of the fifth-floor hospital window one day after yet another failed suicide attempt, I promised to take charge of my life and create a life of wellness. I was sick and tired of being a chronically mentally ill patient. I just wanted to be well.
Most of all, I wanted to be able to take my little girl to school, play with her in the park, and tuck her to bed at night with her favourite story.
Somewhere deep in my soul, I was convinced that the medications were making me sicker instead of helping me heal. So, despite my fears and those of my family, I decided to listen to my inner wisdom and wean myself off all medications under the supervision of my psychiatrist and explore holistic pathways to health and wellness.
When a medical resident at the hospital suggested I try Transcendental Meditation to manage my anxiety and depression, I did. Ironically, it was an American teacher, Pat, who taught me this life-affirming practice that had originated in India, my country of birth. While Pat sat still, Buddha-like, eyes closed, breath steady, body relaxed, face serene, my breath was erratic, my eyelids fluttered like the wings of a hummingbird, and my “monkey mind” ran amok.
But, one day, one breath at a time, I learned how to sit still. Despite my mind’s tendency to wander, like a mother lovingly guiding her wayward child back to its task I learned to gently guide my mind back to its still center. There, I discovered an oasis of energy, creativity, and restful calm.
In time, meditation offered me a sacred space to reflect on my life, and taught me to become an observer of my thoughts and emotions instead of getting entangled in them. Eventually, the daily practise of meditation helped me regulate my emotions and live each moment with mindfulness. Ultimately, meditation set me free from the limitations of my suffering, and awakened me to a life filled with eternal possibilities.
Gayathri Ramprasad is the Founder and President of ASHA International, a nonprofit organization promoting personal, organizational, and community wellness. She is the author of “Shadows in the Sun: Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within.”