Climbing Out of The Abyss.
While staring at the walls in my small office, bombs kept going off in my head. I was under attack. Fear-driven thoughts were pummeling my mind faster than I could deflect them. My emotions were boiling over.
Despite, the fact that the company I worked for had survived the recession of 2009, no major life stressors, and the holidays were upon us; I was falling deeper into the abyss. Feeling anxious, depressed, and worried, I could not shake the feeling of impending doom.
“Am I going to lose my job?”
“My boss never communicates with me.”
“I don’t know his expectations.”
“He never says anything about my performance.”
“Do I provide the value that they need?”
“Is the owner selling the company?”
“They might try to outsource my job.”
“What will I do?”
“I am in my fifties.”
“Jobs are harder to find at my age.”
Thought after thought rushing at me with no relief.
Tension building in the back of my neck.
My breathing increasingly shallower.
If I had checked, my blood pressure was probably high.
That was about five years ago. I was not laid off. They did not outsource IT. Life did not come to a crumbling halt though I felt like everything was falling apart.
Despite no basis in reality, my emotions and body reacted as though every paranoid, anxious, negative thought were the absolute truth.
Eventually, the owner did sell the company in 2016. I am still sitting at the same desk, staring at the same walls, yet my attitude toward life has changed for the better.
A different company but the same responsibilities.
For years, depression lingered over me like a cloud of smoke in a crowded bar. I became so accustomed to the stench that I had become numb and did not recognize the signs.
If you asked most people, they would probably tell you I was an easygoing, happy-go-lucky guy. I am adept at hiding my feelings.
When alone and not preoccupied with the busyness of life, a hole would open, and swallow me into the abyss. I might be in the abyss for hours, days, or weeks.
Perhaps, the depression never ended. It was like a sinkhole beneath the surface hidden under a thin layer. Under the stress, the layer collapsed and I fell into the abyss.
At age fifty, I began practicing Yoga and meditation.
That day at work, the day I was in depths of the abyss, became my turning point. I found my way to climb out.
While sitting in my office that afternoon, I asked myself a series of questions challenging all the negative thoughts that kept bubbling to the surface.
“Is what you are worrying about true?”
“Are you going to be let go?”
“Even if in the future you were laid off, are you not okay right now?”
“Why are you worrying about something that may never come to pass?”
“Live in the peace you have right now.”
From that point, instead of engaging with the thoughts I just observed them. I had started practicing being the observer during meditation.
This day I brought my meditation practice into the everyday where we live world and climbed out of the abyss. The observer had helped me relax and become calm.
The questions challenging my negative self-talk were like the rungs of a ladder. One step at a time, I climbed out of the abyss that day.
After many futile years of succumbing to depression in defeat, I had discovered a tool to overcome it. I practice this technique as often as needed.
The unshakable, raw, buzzing, uncomfortable, anxious, chatter, just below the surface of my conscious mind is usually the indication that the hole is about to open and swallow me. When I sense that, I start by focusing on my breath. Slow even breaths for as many rounds as necessary. I draw my attention to the present and begin attentively observing what is coming to mind. Sometimes minutes, sometimes longer but I become calm. I have climbed out of the abyss once again.
As a side note: I am not saying that what has worked for me is THE CURE-ALL. I am not a trained physician, psychotherapist, or counselor. People struggle with anxiety and depression for different reasons. I am offering this as something that has helped me.