Meditation May Not be the Answer

Meditation has become rather trendy, hasn’t it? Touted by yogis, online influencers, the media, and mental health professionals, the practice of meditating seems to have received gold standard status. I mean, it’s cheap, it’s simple…anyone should be able to do it!

I took an entire mindfulness course last winter after being encouraged to go by my psychiatrist and mental health team. I assumed I would figure it out. Show up, breathe deep, close my eyes, and get zen. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?

Right???

But every time I closed my eyes, I either started to fall asleep or I would get triggered and begin to panic. I tried my absolute best with all the breathing, the chanting, the ohm-ing and the aah-ing. I tried guided meditations, music meditations, breathing meditations…so many meditations! And all of them resulted in the same thing: complete and utter panic, or complete and utter shut down. It became clear that I was not cut out for meditating, at least, not at this point in my life.

But mindfulness is such an important part of healing. It’s a core part, I would argue. So not being able to meditate really knocked me down because I so wanted to do the gold standard of mindful work! I wanted the experience of lifting myself up through meditation. I also wanted to completely nail it because I’m a total perfectionist and I don’t like tolerating failure of any kind ever! But I couldn’t do it.

I’ll be honest, I decided to give up on meditating, but I knew that I had to think of an alternative.

In the end, I actually thought of more than one alternative. Because I discovered that there are more ways to be mindful than just doing meditation. There are more ways to get in touch with your emotions and thoughts than sitting on a cushion saying “ohm”. There are more ways to reflect and discover, feel peace and work through feelings, than forcing yourself to meditate when it doesn’t feel authentic.

Writing is a good example. Writing is, for me, a mindful task. Especially the kind of writing I do when the goal is simply to achieve catharsis as opposed to writing for a specific audience or purpose. 

And what about walking? Taking a stroll down the street is often my most meditative time of the day. I zone out with my thoughts, I breathe deeply, and I get a sense of release as I engage my brain and my body in mindful movement.

Yoga or other exercise can be mindful. Or what about cooking? Drawing? Listening to music? Gardening? Taking a bath? Painting your toenails? Eating something delicious?

Can’t all those activities create mindful experiences for us? 

Traditional meditation has proven to be inaccessible for me, but I recognize that I need mindful moments in my life. So I create spaces and find places where I can achieve mindfulness without the pressure of performing a perfect meditation. I use my surroundings, the skills I have available to me, and the kinds of activities I enjoy and feel engaged with to “meditate” and bring more peace to my life. 

Meditation isn’t always the answer, but mindfulness can be. Find what works for you; heal at your own pace. Take moments of peace and focus when you can. And allow yourself to breathe without pressure, but with intent.

xxJ

Capturing mindful moments as I go for a wander…

Too Much Too Much-ness

The strongest message I’ve received in my life is that I am far too much. 

Too sensitive. Too emotional. Too reactive. Too perfectionist. Too excitable. Too shy. Too passive. Too bossy. Too careful. Too paranoid. Too anxious. Too sad. Too hard to love.

I’ve received these messages my entire life, but the abusive relationships I ended up in compounded my sense of being “too much” to the point where I’ve now internalized this narrative so deeply that it’s become a key part of how I define my identity. 

My too much-ness has become so much of who I am now, but honestly, I’m not sure if it’s a good thing. 

Being too much means feeling too much. And feeling too much means being overwhelmed a lot of the time. It also means (I’ve been told) that I’m moody and needy, two things you most definitely DON’T want to be, according to the men I’ve been with, the dating apps I’ve used, the self-help books and articles I’ve read, and the people I’ve interacted with in general. You can’t be too much in this world—being “extra” isn’t actually a good thing.

And I’m SO extra… 

I’m so extra that I live feeling overwhelmed almost all the time. 

I’m so extra that my life is now a game of reigning in my extra-ness, my “too much-ness”, all day every day. My full-time job is holding myself back from being more than I should be.

(Ugh. I just cringed when I wrote that. Because “shoulds” are things you’re told to avoid by counsellors and therapists. “Shoulds” are unfair expectations that you put on yourself. “Shoulds” dictate your sense of self-worth in unhealthy ways. “Shoulds” keep you depressed and anxious. “Shoulds” are not good.)

I have flat-out been told that I’m hard to love. 

First of all, who says that to someone? Who is so fucking selfish and hurtful that they would say to another person that they are less worthy of love because they feel things in big ways? 

Narcissists say things like that. Abusive partners say things like that. Whiny, self-important, indulgent little pricks say things like that. 

And sadly, I still believe them. I just can’t shake this feeling of being more than I should be. 

Here’s a great example: I’ve been dating again in the last year. Dating for me involves a lot of editing and restraining myself from overdoing it. I don’t want to “scare someone off” by being too much for them, so I try to hold back. I try not to text back too quickly, be too needy, give up my time or my body too soon, share about my past and my struggles too openly…I hold all that shit in because I’m afraid that if I put it all out there right away, I’ll lose any chance at finding a partner. 

But it doesn’t feel fair, having to put all this effort in to change myself. And the saddest part is that my needs really do seem to alienate people from me, so whether I edit myself or not, I end up feeling alone and that, of course, solidifies the message I received for so many years from my partners and friends and even family, at times, that I’m always too much and that makes me hard to be with. 

I’m scared even writing that, because it feels like a risk to be honest about this feeling, but my anxiety tells me that I will always be alone because of the big feelings I have. That I will always feel lonely because no one can handle me at my fullest. That I am vitally flawed and therefore unworthy or incapable of being loved fully. 

Being a Highly Sensitive Person (LINK) means that I get to experience the world in high-definition; it’s like everything is in bold. It’s soaring and deep and meaningful and gorgeous and terrifying and sometimes this feels like a gift. I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t notice the immense beauty and intense rawness of the world. A lot of the time though, my propensity for perceiving things and experiencing things in full-on technicolour means that I’m on a different level than other people. 

The key thing to this is that feeling more doesn’t mean that I need less; it seems like the opposite, in fact. Feeling more means that I actually need more from the people around me, but I’ve learned that it’s not easy to find people who can meet the needs of someone like me. And thus we return to the belief that I am too much and too hard to love.

So what do I do? Do I give up? Well, that’s virtually impossible for me. Striving is a key component of my life and I try as hard as I can to alleviate this pressure from myself, but I also recognize that it will always be there. 

What else can I do? Keep trying, I guess. It’s harder to resign myself to the idea that I should stop trying than it is to continue seeking the love and fulfilment I crave and need. My greatest wish is to find someone who can handle my “muchness.” A person who understands and accepts my ebb and flow; who may not see the world in super high-definition technicolour, but who can marvel at my ability to do so. Someone who cherishes my superpower of super-awareness; a person who appreciates the fact that I can love them more deeply and with more devotion than they could ever imagine. 

Do you ever feel like you’re too much? Maybe even just from time to time? 

Well, I have room in my life for too much love. I have room in my life for too much appreciation. I can make space for too much-ness because I know how heavy a burden it can be. If I could take a bit of someone else’s “too much” and share some of mine with them, maybe together we would find a better balance and be able to lift each other so that neither of us feels like we can’t be loved as we are.

xxJ

A flower can never be too much, so I want to be like the flowers…

High Hopes

My unintentional mantra in years past turned out to be “high hopes, low expectations.” I continued to hope for the best—and worked my ass off trying to make “the best” happen—but learned to expect unmet expectations. It was a heinous cycle in which I imagined an idealized past, present, and future, but lived a life of perpetual let down. 

Bump the timeline up to now and you’ll now find that I have legitimate issues with managing expectations.

First, because I never learned how to manage them! How could I? My expectations, no matter if I communicated them or not, remained almost entirely unmet. They were either totally ignored or, very occasionally, they were blown out of proportion in grandiose displays of “affection” (read: control/love-bombing/overcompensating).

Second, because I couldn’t tell, and still struggle to tell, whether my expectations were/are reasonable or not. Spend well over a decade being told that you are irrational, hot-headed, dramatic, and “too sensitive” and you would be confused too! 

So my expectations during adolescence and adulthood were sabotaged by wildly unpredictable responses to what I asked for or needed. And I learned to rely on other people to tell me what I wanted or needed instead of developing expectations or ideas on my own. The worst part was that even when I subconsciously resigned to being told what to need and desire, the people telling me those things remained unpredictable and would promise or hint at something and then completely undermine it by doing something different.

And now, despite the years of therapy, the hard work of self-development, and my efforts to become independent, I continue to second-guess myself when it comes to expectations or I remain unaware of what I actually want or need.

I still end up dreaming about having my expectations met. I have hopes and wishes, and not just the truly fantastical ones; ones about building a career, getting off my meds, finding a life partner, and feeling less insecure. My anxiety focuses a lot on my expectations—I want so badly to be affirmed in what I’m thinking and feeling. I require feedback and input and consistency in order to feel even close to secure. This drives me to believe that I’m needy and therefore annoying/undesirable/a nuisance which does wonders for my self-esteem, let me tell you!

I’m trying hard to change my mantra from “I’m needy” to “I have needs that deserve to be met” (Big thanks to my new counsellor for that gem.). 

“I have needs that deserve to be met”

And isn’t that entirely reasonable? Doesn’t it make sense that someone should have their needs met? Isn’t it reasonable to think that anyone who doesn’t or can’t meet those needs is either unworthy or your time or has some legit personal work to do? 

I suppose it might seem unfair to the people around me that I have this high hope of getting my “needy” expectations met, because what *I* need requires more feedback and takes more effort than what other people need. The truth is, that after all I’ve been through, and after all the expectations and hopes I’ve had go unmet, I really do need more validation and engagement than others do.

What expectations do you have for other people or for yourself? Do you see yourself as needy, or can you embrace your needs and communicate them without feeling selfish?

I am quite literally repeating the mantra “I have needs that deserve to be met” a few hundred times a day because I want to internalize it so much that it becomes a key part of who I am. Maybe adopting this new, core belief will make it harder for me to connect with other people…maybe they will think that I’m selfish or overly confident or needy? I’m starting to suspect that won’t be the case though. I think the kind of people I want in my life—those who can offer authentic and connected relationships—will be people who respond positively to me communicating what I want. And perhaps, my hopes won’t seem so high anymore and my expectations will come without guilt or shame.

xxJ

She’s got high hopes… High, apple pie, in the sky hopes.