"Our life is shaped by our mind - for we become what we think."
The first several weeks of being off work were filled with many psychologist appointments, frustration, and ups and downs. The time went by really fast, but I found that I was still in the same spot as where I started. Talking to the psychologist helped me discover what was happening in my brain, and what would be needed to finally get me back to work. Before each appointment, I felt nervous and anxious. During each appointment, I felt clarity on what was happening to me and my emotions. But after the appointment and the days following it, I would revert back to my old ways of suppressing emotions and feeling out-of-control of myself. I didn't know how to begin healing on my own time, and because of this, the progression of my healing was incredibly slow. So, I felt frustrated and disappointed with myself.
My psychologist explained to me that my amygdala was hyperactive, and this was what was causing me the majority of my problems. The amygdala is responsible for the reflexive emotional responses, such as fear and anger. An overactive amygdala causes an inability to approach emotionally triggering situations calmly and appropriately. My anger and anxiety, secondary to PTSD, is largely contributed to my overactive amygdala. In order to begin my recovery, I need to strengthen my prefrontal cortex. Doing this will provide me with the ability to approach emotionally triggering situations with appropriate behaviour and responses, as opposed to an irrational fight or flight reflex.
Although I knew what I needed to do, I was unsure on how to do it. Strengthening a certain part of your brain is extremely difficult and takes a lot of time and patience. Changing your way of thinking is a slow process. I was finding it difficult to "deep breathe" my way through emotionally/anxiety triggering situations, like an argument with a loved one or hearing ambulance sirens outside my window. I was unable to approach situations with a calmness, until I learned the practice of mindfulness and meditation.
Prior to learning how to properly meditate and become more mindful, my thought process in regards to emotions was self-sabotaging. Whenever I felt anger, sadness or any other emotion I didn't like, I would label it as "bad". Becoming more self-aware allowed me to realize that no emotion is "bad", but instead it is human and natural. It is negative to suppress the emotions and feelings you want to avoid, like sadness or loneliness, because they will linger and eventually overwhelm your body. It is important to allow your emotions and thoughts to come, and understand that every emotion will have a peak, and then will leave your mind and body. Unfortunately as a human, you can't choose which emotions to feel and what thoughts to have in your mind, but you can be in control of how you physically react to them. If you react negatively, this can and will have a lasting impact on your relationships. Meditation helps to process emotions, become more self-aware and accepting of your thoughts and emotions, and more importantly, separate your thoughts and reactions from your emotions.
Mindfulness and meditation helps to strengthen the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is exactly what I needed to do. My psychologist taught me how to deep breathe properly by inhaling and exhaling through the abdomen, instead of the chest. This helps to lower your blood pressure and relieve tension. It is important to practice deep abdominal breathing while meditating to help relax the mind and body. There are many meditation methods, however the one that I found works best for me is guided meditation. Having a voice guide me through a meditation helps me to better focus on the practice and calm my mind. Initially, I was annoyed with my brain while meditating because I noticed how it drifted away often. However, I learned that this is a natural, normal and part of the practice of meditation. When your mind drifts, it is important to bring it back to the moment. Every time you do this, it is essentially a "rep" for your prefrontal cortex. This will strengthen it over time, just like any other muscle you would work out in the gym.
Over the last couple of months of practicing mediation and mindfulness, I have noticed a major shift in my mind and body. I am able to appropriately react to triggering situations better than I was able to before, however I still have my moments where I revert back to my old ways of reflexive reactions and negative thoughts. Every day that I work on myself is a step in the right direction, even with the current ups and downs that I still have. Recovery is not a linear progression, and it is slow, but it is still the right direction.
I still have a long way to go, but every day that I work on myself is a successful day.
Feel the feeling, but don't become the emotion. Witness it. Allow it. Release it.