When not to use meditation

Wood Carved BuddhaAlthough meditation can be very helpful in relieving depression or in preventing depression from arising, the act of focusing inwards can actually heighten feelings of despair. I would suggest not trying to meditate when you are extremely depressed, and especially not at times that you are having any thoughts of self-harm.

It’s also best even if you are feeling mildly depressed that you try to find a teacher with whom you can work closely. By this I mean someone that you can have close to daily contact with, either by phone or email. Even when someone’s not depressed it can be challenging to learn new skills, and the depressive tendency to focus on what’s wrong can lead to feelings that the meditation isn’t working, even when it is. You may need an experienced coach to help you work with your frustration.

Although such opportunities are unfortunately very rare, an experienced meditation teacher who is on hand to give you step by step guidance can probably help you even when you are experiencing severe depression.

One woman recently wrote to me saying that she’d experienced profound anxiety and depression all her life, and that she’d recently tried meditating with the help of a CD. She went on to say, “I feel great when I have done about 20 minutes of meditation but it lasts maybe an hour or so then I feel just the same. Am I hopeless at meditation? Am I doing something wrong?”

This kind of response is not unusual when someone is depressed. A lifetime of mental habit is shifting, but only for an hour. Rather than focus on the positive (things are changing) she ends up homing in on the negative (it only lasts for an hour). This is where a teacher is indispensable, because without guidance the benefits of meditation can end up being ignored, while a positive is turned into a negative.

As one experienced meditator said, “Meditation while clinically depressed can result in intensification of feelings of despondency, hopelessness, and negativity generally. The metta practice is theoretically a good thing, but in practice it can be a nightmare if all you feel is self-hatred!”

I agree, and if meditation seems to be making things worse, then I would advise you to stop immediately.

However, I have worked with several extremely depressed students who have benefited from meditation when they have had constant guidance and feedback from an experienced teacher to make sure that they are using meditative techniques in a helpful way.

51 Comments. Leave new

I would advice anyone with serious depression or other mental turbulence to not go at it alone! You always need a friend, teacher… a refuge! Meditation done wrong can unravel you, throw you into groundlessness.

Any teacher will tell you that to meditate to achieve anything is a senseless activity anyway… Meditation is not a pill. And you can not learn proper meditation from a book. Just like you can’t learn how to swim or ride a bike from a book or CD alone.

But on the other hand, if you know how to meditate, and you know your illness, it is always good to meditate. You can just observe your mind turning against itself, and see it fall apart. It is very useful. How incredible real and serious it appears, and than how ridiculous and absurd it actually is when you look at it later. I am not saying it is easy… not all… it is amazing how you keep falling into the same traps. But it is extremely useful to get to know your crazy mind (especially if you have to live with it anyway… I am a long-time sufferer from severe depression and anxiety)


I am wondering if anyone can recommend an experienced meditation teacher who would be on hand to give me guidance as needed. I am currently in counselling with a gentle, warm and buddhist practicing therapy, but I can only converse with her in our 50 minute sessions, weekly or less. It would also be wonderful if this person was female, and local to me (Greater Portland, ME, USA area), so that I could meet them face to face sometimes.
Thank you~


Sure. I have a friend, Dharmasuri, who teaches at Nagaloka Buddhist Center. You can find them at http://www.nagalokabuddhistcenter.org. She’s a lovely woman, although she’s in Georgia for a few months. I believe Karunasara, a woman who happens to be a neighbor of mine, may be teaching at Nagaloka as well. I’d suggest contacting the center through their website.

All the best,


Hi Bodhipaksa,

This was a really interesting and helpful post.

At the moment I am suffering from what I think is depression, and I have had anxiety problems for as long as I can remember! I also have OCD. I have been meditating for just over a year, and in the last few months have had a fairly regular practice.

I can see / feel that I have got some benefits from it, but it is true to say that I have come closer to my depression and negative feelings than ever before, and this has been very frightening at times. There have been times where I was scared I might do something awful, to myself or others.

It is very, very difficult to say whether this is caused by my external circumstances (which haven’t been easy recently – financial and job-related stress, as well as living in a foreign country away from family and friends), my underlying genetic / biochemical problems, or the meditation. Probably a combination of the first two, somewhat exacerbated by the third.

So – I was wondering what you would advise me to do. I have moved back to the UK to live with family and be around friends, and my financial / professional situation is looking up. The depression, anxiety, OCD and severe concerns about meditation persist.

Do you know of any teachers in my area (north east England – Teesside, more specifically) who would be prepared to take me on as a student? I don’t mind if it’s through the FWBO or other groups, as long as the person is a very experienced meditator and teacher.

If you have any other advice about my situation I would be very grateful. I don’t really want to have to give up on meditation, as I am on a fairly intense “spiritual” search and in Buddhism have found some sense. I’m just not sure what to do for the best at the moment.

Best wishes and thank you in advance,

Sarah (not my real name)


Dear Sarah,
I’m sorry to hear of all your difficulties, and at the same time impressed with your determination. That more than anything else will get you through this. I don’t know if you consider taking a course online through Wildmind a viable option. I’m the teacher of those courses. You’d be able to discuss your practice with me via a public discussion forum, plus you’d have one opportunity to write me a private email.

I really don’t know of specific teachers to recommend otherwise, but I can refer you to the FWBO website listing of centers in the UK, here: http://www.fwbo.org/contacts/addresses-uk.html. If you find a center near you, I’m sure they could help point you further.

I wish you all the best in finding something that will be helpful to you.


I have suffered from clinical depression and anxiety in the past, and have also been meditating for around five years. I can say that in my experience, meditating during an episode can definitely make things worse. I find that it can feed negative feelings, and also push one into an introverted and ‘spacey’ head space.

By comparison, meditating when well has only ever brought me benefit.

I think that it is important to really observe whether meditation is helping or harming in these situations, and have the courage to stop. My brother is a Buddhist monk, and his abbot recommends physical exercise, spending time with friends, and ‘wholesome activities’ when depression is severe – and ‘not too much meditation’ – none if it is making things worse. I do find, however, that giving myself Metta through the day is really helpful when depressed. What have other people found re: Metta, mindfulness and mental illness?


I had been depressed for a long time but i’ve managed to get it under control. Recently, i had started meditating again and the depression got worse. This isn’t the first time it has happened to me. So i’m quite confused as i don’t beat myself up during meditation. Instead, i fill myself with light and love and understanding. So the last thing i would think is to get depressed due to meditating. It doesn’t happen immediately after meditation but after a while and it stays constant. Sometimes, it can lead to suicidal thinking which is not where i go to usually.
I know for sure meditation isn’t linked to depression and it had even once helped lessen my depression. How can i get it not to worsen my depression this time since i had already managed to heal a lot of it?


Hi, Cereszal.

It’s very hard to know what’s going on, and it might take a lot of work with a therapist to get to the bottom of it. The kind of thing that can happen sometimes is that we get into a good state when meditating, but our overall sense of wellbeing is dependent upon our experiencing that state. When we face some difficulty, and we no longer feel calm and happy, we react to the change, and our mental states plummet. I’m not saying this is what’s going on, but it’s the kind of thing that can happen. I’ve been there myself. Just to give you an example of how to deal with this sort of thing, it’s important to cultivate not just happiness, but a state of equanimity that allows us to handle life’s ups and downs, neither becoming elated by the ups nor despondent about the downs. And one thing that can help with this is a sense of self-compassion toward the discomfort and suffering that we experience when something pleasant slips away from us.

If you’d like to write to me further, then you can simply reply to the notification email (if you signed up for notifications to replies to your post) or use the contact form. Either of those will reach me.


I would seek advice from a teacher. Meditation in depression is very hard and has so many pitfalls because depression is very crafty in turning things nasty. And in always trying to escape from having to experience depression. Maybe the light and love and understanding are used that way. Wanting to heal where as the meditation is about sitting with it (an impossible task…)

For me it helps to anchor myself by focusing more on (neutral) physical sensations (breath and heart link right into anxiety at those moments in there, although there are very helpful breathing techniques to bring that lower into your abdomen), feel your feet or feeling your butt on the cushion and take that as the object of your meditation. Make sure your back is straight.

Although I have also had times when I was just rolled up in a ball of misery, surrendering and crying out to Buddha’s and teachers to please help me, guide me. And it always helped, not right away and not in the way expected, but I always found later something had moved. Praying really helps me, but I guess that only came for me after having trained and understood the meaning of devotion a bit.

I find that a very precious and helpful ‘replacement/alternative’ of meditation is listening to teachings on buddha nature, as well as powerful teachings on the absolute. I can’t always grasp them, but the voice and energy of my teacher do inevitably create some space between me and my depression and can serve very well as an inspiration for meditation.

(for now you’d probably should stay away from the ones about karma, precious human birth, and perhaps even bodhichitta, because your depression is very crafty on using these as a tool to punish yourself with!)

Many short meditations through the day are usually better than one long one. And personally reading/listening to Pema Chodron especially always makes me unworry some of my worries.


I am wondering if anyone can recommend a centre in/near Sydney, Australia. My partner suffers major clinical depression and often uses meditation in an attempt to ease her suffering. She is desperate for any help she can find.


Hi, Dave.

Your partner would probably benefit from a course in MBSR or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression. If you Google those you’ll hopefully find a program in your area. The only meditation center I know of is the Sydney Buddhist Center (http://www.sydneybuddhistcentre.org.au/), which is part of the same Buddhist community I’m a member of. But not all Buddhists understand clinical depression, so that may or may not be a good option for her. You might want to talk to them and see if anyone teaching there has experience in the mental healthy field.


Some helpful comments here.
I am a novice meditator with mild depression and low self-esteem. I find that sometimes meditation can ruin my day. Other times it makes me euphoric.
Yesterday I did it and felt like I was being sucked physically into a vortex – quite disturbing. This made me suddenly come out of the meditation with elevated heartbeat. It was like the exact opposite of observing my thoughts. It was more like something grabbed me and pulled me deeper. Almost like a separate entity did it, although I am not superstitious. This most extreme reaction has happened to me 3 times before, but not often.
I am a strong believer in the healing power of mindfulness and I know I will eventually learn to enjoy my life. However, sometimes I wonder if meditation is the best thing right now. I tried prozac twice but I don’t take it now because I am sure it is a placebo with side affects and not good for the brain.
Good luck to all depressed people here trying to help themselves :-)


Hi, Ben.

I notice that you talk about “meditation” almost as if it’s something separate from you that’s doing something to you. I’d suggest talking about “meditating” instead. Meditating is something you do, so the question changes from whether this “thing” called “meditation” is a good thing to whether the way you’re meditating is helpful or unhelpful.

All the best,


Whenever i meditate,after a couple of days i start feeling depressed and slow.so i have many a times begun but later left meditation.i have a past history of prophylactic lithium therapy for bipolar disorder..really confused..please guide ..


Hi, Nischaie.

I really can’t give advice in this case. If you have a tendency to experience depression then I’d strongly suggest meditating under the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Good luck!


I can also talk from experience – have a long history of depression with a very severe and acute bout of depression recently. Problem is that in the area where I live people are staunch Christians with very few Buddhists around and no teachers to talk of. So I have to choose: either I learn to meditate with the depression or not at all.
What I have found is that listening to a gentle and skillful teacher online works wonders when I feel particularly low. Another wonder is guided meditation.
There are incredible recordings available online. Try Audiodharma. One of the many good teachers on the site will be right for you.


Depression runs in the family; so does suicidal ideation. And yet I am a teacher/facilitator/inspirational speaker that a lot of people look up to. That makes it very difficult for me to be public about any of my own problems, and even more difficult to find a teacher (shouldn’t I know all this already? After all, I teach all about changing your thoughts, courage, authenticity, etc.). Just sitting down to try to meditate makes me want to cry, yet my old mentor says that I should just wallow in the pain and get rid of it. Not helpful.

What do we do when we teach and are so public and our work is so consuming that we have no safe space to be vulnerable?


I think the best type of teaching comes from us, as teachers, honestly discussing what we’re working with and how we’re working with it. Teaching that comes from wanting to pretend we have all the answers isn’t the most helpful. It’s not useless, but it doesn’t touch lives in the same way as honest communication.


Can you suggest teacher in sydney, Australia.Suffering with deep depression and thoughts of self harm. regular meditator from many years.


I’m afraid I don’t have any personal connections in Sydney, Meera who have the kind of expertise you need. I do know of meditation teachers there, but I doubt they have experience in working with depression and thoughts of self-harm. You might want to look for a therapist skilled in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which has much in common with meditation and Buddhism.

All the best,


Hi, I have always toyed with taking up meditation and have been to one session at a local run meditation centre. I enjoyed it. My mum died 6yrs ago and I have battled with coming to terms with it. I slip in and out of depression and right now I’m probably feeling lower than I have ever felt, so looked towards getting back into it. I was all set to until reading this and now I am really confused, I was expecting meditation to be my saviour the doorway to a more calm existence but I’m scared as I hadn’t realised it actually could be harmful for me. I’ve never had suicidal thoughts but I don’t want to trigger them if I pursue meditation, should I think twice?


No, I think you’re fine, Kathryn. It’s only when people are very seriously depressed that meditation might be unhelpful — and even then, perhaps not for everyone.


I meditated and did tai chi for over thirty yrs and stopped because of life conditions, illness, pain, depression, lack of time or space, but miss it. I am old, disabled and in pain. I have little or no money. My volunteer work constantly disrupted chances to find a space to be still, and my volunteer work is as important to me as breathing. It is perhaps valid that one should not meditate when depressed, or should seek a teacher, but many do not have money, and teachers need payment or donations. It’s big business, which was not the way it was traditionally in the past. There also is a paucity of valid, close centers where I live. Basically what I am getting from you directly and indirectly is that I’m screwed, which isn’t fair. It would be as if a physician tells you that he won’t see you unless you only have minor medical issues. There’s got to be a way around this. Yes, my depression interfered with meditation, making it so messy that I stopped. But I cannot access a teacher and your advice excludes people like myself. It just doesn’t feel right.


Hi, Mary.

I’m sorry to hear of your difficulties. My advice, though, is just advice. I’m not stopping anyone from doing anything, but simply giving my opinion. What I said what “I would suggest not trying to meditate when you are extremely depressed, and especially not at times that you are having any thoughts of self-harm.” So if you’re not suffering from intense depression, and aren’t having suicidal thoughts, then go right ahead.

I did also say it’s “best,” if you have mild depression, to work with a teacher, but we don’t have to only do things when conditions are ideal. And anyway, I’m spending an entire morning writing to people (yourself included) who are neither paying me nor making donations. You’re already availing yourself of a teacher :)


I just want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you…


I have been doing meditation for 3-4 mnths but had anxiety attack recently then I realized prehaps I was doing it wrong can you please help me out I don’t know where I am going with this


Hi, Mani.

You don’t say if you’ve had panic attacks before, or whether this was your first time. If you are prone to them, it may be that you should start with something like walking meditation, and then gradually introduce sitting meditation. If this was your first time, then it may have just been a freak incident. But if it recurs, then again I’d suggest trying walking meditation in order to become more grounded in the body, and then perhaps trying lovingkindness meditation while walking, and then gradually introducing shorter sits. The trouble with panic is that it can become a habit — the anticipation of a panic attack can induce one… Moving to walking meditation might help in breaking the habit.


Thanks for your advice it was actually first time I had this attack I will try walking meditation as you adviced


Please do let me know how you get on, Mani.


Anxiety attacks can happen when practicing meditation. I have experienced them several times myself. From my own personal experience with this, I believe the primitive, emotional, unconcous part of the mind can become alarmed during meditation. Possibly by a disturbing thought, or simply by the sensation of letting go – of surrendering. It reacts by attempting to regain control, causing adrenalin to kick in and this in turn, triggers anxiety. No idea if this is scientifically correct, just my own experience. I wish good luck to everyone here who is sufferring depression and persevering with their meditation practice.


Open eyes can be a distraction in walking meditation can you suggest something else?


Doing walking meditation with your eyes closed isn’t recommended, Mani :) [Just joking!]

In what way is it a distraction to have your eyes open during walking meditation? People have been doing this practice for thousands of years.


Mind gets a bit confused while watching things in front and feeling the feet and it ends up being blank and stressed afterwards.


I just started regularly meditating a few weeks ago, and I found that it helps and then it doesn’t. I’ve recently started taking medication for OCD/Panic Disorder/Anxiety. My psychiatrist hasn’t given me an exact diagnosis, but my panic comes from having suicidal ideation and thoughts of self-harm. I’ve never experienced these things before going to graduate school, so they’ve been a really big challenge. And I was nearly raped a few months ago, which made everything worse. I’m trying meditation, and I’ve noticed that, while meditating, I experience more anxiety/suicidal ideation. I’m wondering if I should just push through and keep doing it–despite these thoughts–because I’ve NEVER been depressed in 25 years of living, or if I should stop. These comments have been very helpful, and they make me feel like I’m not alone! XOXO


Hi, Ann.

You don’t say what kind of meditation you’re doing. I’d very much encourage you to do some form of lovingkindness meditation along with whatever you’re currently doing. And if anxious or suicidal thoughts arise, step back from them and recognize that they’re just stories that a frightened part of your mind is creating. Sometimes when I have catastrophizing thoughts (for example a couple of weeks ago I had a cancerous growth removed from inside my ear, and there was a tendency to create stories around that) I’d find it useful to say, “Yeah, right!” in a wry, skeptical, kind of a way — just to let the anxious part of my mind know that I’m not prepared to buy into its stories.


Yeah ,It is true .From my experience i can say ,meditating during a period of depression can harm you.


I think I might be suffering from mild depression or
Biopolar and I can get quite neurotic at time. It’s difficult for me to express myself and I’m struggling to find out what it is The cause me to feel so unhappy although I know I have a lot of undealt issues it’s difficult to get to the root of it and probably need. Therapist for that.I’ve been getting bursts of violent outrage where I’m slapping and pushing my boyfriend because I just get so upset with him and it scares me just as it scares me that I want to end my life. I get good days but the bad oness eare much more.
I thought. Of starting meditation but am now unsure and think I should rather do it with a teacher do you have someone to recommend for me in Cape Town. Please.


Hi, Ansie.

If you’re only suffering from mild depression, I think you should go ahead and get started. I’d recommend beginning with lovingkindness practice, and then maybe a couple of weeks later, learning mindfulness of breathing.

As you’re learning lovingkindness meditation, I’d suggest that you become more aware of the pain you’re experiencing around the heart and solar plexus. Regard that as a part of you that is suffering, and send it your love.

And please stop hitting your boyfriend. I know you’re in pain, but domestic violence is not a way to do anything but make your problems worse, and it’s unfair to him. May you both be well and happy.


I feel as though I have meditated incorrectly for too long and it has caused me to feel as though I am in a detached state with high anxiety and feeling as though I have no thoughts which is almost unbearable to live with. My time perception is completely warped and I don’t know what to do anymore. Has anyone heard of this happening or know of any way to get my mental clarity back!?


Hi, Jay.

I’m sorry to hear about the detached state in which you find yourself. I’d be interested in hearing more about what you were doing in your practice.

I’d highly recommend a few things:

  • Working more on heart-based meditations like the cultivation of lovingkindness, compassion, and appreciation. (Some of our online events work with these practices.)
  • Exercise, walking meditation, and physical meditations like yoga or tai chi.
  • Doing things that might bring you pleasure, like watching comedy shows or listening to pleasant music.

I doubt if there’s anything that’s happened to you that’s permanent. It’s just that you’ve over-developed some parts of your brain and left others under-developed.

Please do feel free to check in with me in order to let me know how you’re getting on.

All the best,


Hello Bodhipaksha.

First, thank you for being there. I did not think this query needs to be addressed but i am simply grateful that i can share my current state of mind without the need to get into intricate detail.

The last five years have been spent with the single aim of questioning and understanding things. For this, I am just enormously grateful that my mind has been the friend I need it to be. When finally the point of taking the leap across was reached, I found I did not know how. Then I discovered the technique of Vipassana and knew that for me, it was the way to be.Once again, there was just immense gratitude to have understood what needs to be done.

There has however been a break in the discipline. The mind has been a beautifully steadfast companion in my journey so far, barring the occasions where I get totally sapped into a situation and unable to then differentiate between the mind and the observer within which then needs that internal talk of an incredulous “really now?”. However this time around,it has been resisting the idea of going back into the discipline of meditation. I have taken it easy so far and let the mind rest but finally I also knew the time has come to enroll into the discipline again. So I applied for another 10-day session of Vipassana.

The reaction this time took me by surprise but only because my mind has been pretty docile so far,or so I thought :) It’s been almost 3 days now and I have been unable to sleep, much less do anything else. In all this time, the mind has conjured up some enormous amount of fear. I have been observing it patiently but I just need to know it’s going to be okay. All that experiential knowledge of impermanence seems to have flown out of the window. And even as I write this, I know I am feeling better already but then, who knows?

A few words of advice pls? Thanks much!


Hi, Bharati.

I’ve never experienced a fear that hasn’t resolved itself eventually. Sometimes, in order to get myself through intense periods of anxiety, I’ve fond myself repeating the words of St. Julian of Norwich: “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.” Perhaps that will help you too.


Thank you for your kindness and your reply. I found the fear was rested as soon as it was addressed loud and clear. The mail sent to you was just the right catalyst :)

It’s stupendous that you are out there, just letting anyone access your advice.


You’re welcome, Bharati.

sai krishna
May 10, 2015 5:33 am

i dont feel like doing anything.i am depressed,i feel that nothing is there in this life.i am doing meditation and not feeling any difference.what should i do now?


Hi, Sai Krishna.

You can’t believe the thoughts that arise when you are depressed. Those thoughts are distorted. Try standing back from them and realizing that they are not the truth, but are stories that some unhappy part of your mind is producing. Be bigger than your thoughts

Your meditation may not seem like it’s making any difference, but any meditation you do is bringing about change. The change may be simply too gradual for you to notice, or it may even be that you’re not seeing it. I’ve found that many people can’t see the change that’s taking place in them even though other people can. But change is happening.

You also, like many people who write here, say that you are “meditating,” but you don’t say what kind of meditation you’re doing. It may be that you would benefit more from another form or meditation. I recommend for most people a combination of mindfulness of breathing and lovingkindness meditation.


I completed an 8 week course in Mindfulness in May this year, and yes, when I meditate and perhaps an hour later, I feel at peace. In fact, towards the end of my meditation I do the ‘befriending’, that is, I befriend myself, my loved ones and those I am angry about. But the feelings of anger, irritation and general negativity is still very much there. What is further annoying is that I’ve emailed the tutor of the course I took, telling him about this but I’ve received no reply. I guess I have to surmise that because I’ve finished the course, there is no more and I am responsible for myself. What do you advise I should do regarding the negativity. Many thanks.


You may well be correct, and that your teacher-student relationship ended at the moment you stopped paying for classes. That’s rather unfortunate.

I spend many hours offering advice in these comments, and yet very few people choose to support us, which is also unfortunate. So if you find the work I do here helpful, please click here to make a donation.

Regarding your specific question, there are a couple of things I’d suggest. One is simply to patiently recognize that you’re involved in a long-term process of working with habits which have been with you for almost your whole life. Give it time, and you’ll see change.

Another suggestion is that you do a dedicated practice of lovingkindness and compassion meditation, rather than doing this as an add-on to the mindfulness practice you’re doing. I suggest to all my students that they alternate mindfulness and metta (lovingkindness) on a daily basis. This provides a more balanced approach. Of course you’re still working on long-term habits!

There are other practices that are useful as well, such as writing a daily gratitude list, which will help shift your focus toward the positive and away from the things that irritate you.

Lastly, reflecting on impermanence is helpful. Recognizing that you and everyone you know if only here for a short time tends to put our irritations into perspective. As I like to say, “Life is short: be kind.”

When not to use meditation | A Way in the Woods
July 14, 2015 5:00 pm

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Hello Everyone,

I wanted to add my experience of depression to this feed in the hopes that it may help others. I have been enrolled in a psychology graduate school program for the past two years that has also involved meditation retreats. We do shamata-vippasana style meditation and we train in cultivating loving-kindness. Part of what we work with is learning to tolerate extreme states of mind.

This summer I experienced a very strong bout of depression. This runs in my family, but I had only ever experienced feelings like this before when I was dealing with grief and loss. I have however, had anxiety and panic attacks since my teenage years and have found mindfulness and meditation very helpful for stopping anxious thoughts and grounding in the body.

My depression this summer was a very physical experience. I did not experience a sense of loss of interest or feeling tired and staying in bed. It was more that I felt extremely lost and hopeless, could not sleep or eat, and woke up with a deep deep feeling of dread in my limbs and pain in my chest. I could not focus on anything. In these moments, despite my training, I could not bring any acceptance towards these feelings, and I could not sit still with them. I did a lot of pacing. I also felt pain in my head when I would be thinking anxious thoughts.

What I did find helpful from my training in meditation is the ability to watch my mind. I had the sense that part of my mind was removed from the depression and able to question its thoughts. However, it was still a deeply scary experience because it felt like everything in my life was terrible and would never be good again.

I found that in my darkest moments repeating the mantra- I am loved, I will get through this, was helpful. I also used the mantra from metta, May I be peaceful and happy, may I be safe from inner and outer harm, and may I live with ease and well being. It was also indespensible to be around my friends and family. Although, I have been struggling with issues in my family and I think being around them helped to trigger the depression so be mindful of this.

The first thing I did was to start taking medication. I have found that this can be really helpful when your depression is acute and very physical. For me, it felt like my brain was not “online” in that I could not think or focus properly, and the medication helped me get my sleep and eating back as well as helped my thinking and rational functions come back online. I was able to read books and focus again!

I also saw a therapist who helped me understand that my depression was triggered by my unresolved grief and family issues that had been unearthed through my studies in psychology and the deep meditation I had been doing. We have started to work on these issues and I have worked with reconnecting with my family members and healing the past and this has definitely been a help.

I also think that for me depression was a grounding force and I did have a deep need of rest. I did find that even though I was having trouble focusing I was able to watch serialized tv shows and this was actually very distracting and helpful for me. Getting totally absorbed in a story line would give me respite from the feelings and thoughts.

I do think that diet and exercise help as well, but this may not be possible until some of the acute physical symptoms have lessened. For me I had started taking fish oil, abstaining from alcohol and caffeine and trying to reduce processed carbs and sugar. It was helpful but not immediately.

I am still in a period of coming out of the depression because the issues that triggered it will take time for me to come to terms with it, but I feel that I am at least on a path and am no longer physically debilitated by the depression. A therapist has been really important in helping me navigate this.

I wanted to include a detailed account of my experience here because I do believe that depression is very different for each person. I believe that it is usually triggered by underlying issues and those of us that have a strong genetic disposition for depression will need to be more mindful of working with our issues. I do not think that meditation caused my depression, but it was not possible to meditate during acute depression and I am ok with that. I have found that awareness and mindfulness skills that I learned are helpful but meditating itself is not.

I have found that listening to dharma talks that stress compassion as well as reading about others who have navigated depression is helpful. Parker Palmer is a spiritual teacher that has experienced three major depressive episodes and he has written about his experience.

Lastly, I do want to say for those of you out there who struggle with thoughts of self-harm and suicide as well as hopelessness, that Dialectical Behavior Therapy has been shown to be really helpful with this. It is a mindfulness- based therapy that teaches distress tolerance skills and is often done in groups. I have heard really great things about it and recently read an op ed in the times about a man who had borderline personality disorder and suicidal ideation all of this life, who after three years of DBT was no longer suicidal.

For everyone out there who is suffering from depression I have the utmost compassion for you. I know that when you are in it it takes all of your courage to pick yourself up and keep going. You may feel like you don’t give a shit or that you are worthless but the fact that you have the courage to face this means that you do care and that you are incredibly strong.

May you be peaceful and happy.

Steve, East Riding of Yorkshire
August 4, 2015 4:23 pm

Dear All,
I’ve just come across this site and, as someone who has suffered badly from depression since childhood – I’m now 64 – I have written about and read many thousands of words about this condition over many decades.
I have also been studying Buddhism for about 20 years and, when I’m in a better place emotionally, I find everything about dharma helpful.
But when I’m “down”, as I am now, nothing spiritual or otherwise seems of much value.
Your comments, though, Vanessa, have certainly helped, as have those of other people on this forum. Thanks so much to all of you.
When I’m feeling better I will post again.
May everyone be happy,
May everyone he free from misery…


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