You can't stop the first dagger
10th October 2018
by one of our young students
There is much more understanding and greater publicity than ever before of the real human cost behind the mental health issues that so many of us deal with everyday.
Our young student's powerful blog of her mindfulness classes last year, gives us another dimension to the power of friendship, the need for perseverence and her courage.
Thoughts from a Sceptic
When my best friend asked me if I wanted to go on a mindfulness course, I was immediately doubtful.
I'm the type of person who can't ever mentally switch off. Add to that a lot of external factors - an intense relationship breakdown, debt, stresses at work, an upcoming house move and a masters dissertation and you're left with extreme insomnia and severe depression. I was at a point in my life where I did not want to live my life, my thoughts were a constant stream of self criticism and on several occasions I tried to end this.
I never wanted to die, because I knew my life was worth living, but I couldn't cope with the thoughts. I wanted the negative thoughts to stop.
For a few months over Christmas/ New year I was working with the Crisis team. I became addicted to sleeping tablets, tablets that I was only supposed to take three times a week for approximately 2-3 weeks, but took them every day for 5 months. I was also on antidepressants. I was asked if I wanted to stay at a Crisis respite house, where for a week I would be surrounded by support and therapists as an attempt to stop my suicidal thoughts. I declined because of my pride.
I have always been a strong advocate of self change, being that you cannot change until you truly want to. I don't know at which point I realised that I no longer wanted to be unhappy, but it came just before the mindfulness course began.
As I say, I was extremely doubtful. I did not believe that I would be able to keep my thoughts at peace for even just a few minutes in order to be able to meditate. Yet, I knew that my best friend was in a similar position. She had already been on the course before, and praised it. I saw her visibly change. It was something worth giving a go. Worst case would be that the course wouldn't be effective; even if this was true, I wouldn't be in a worse position. Nothing could be as bad as it had been.
I told my friend that I would go with her, and when the first Thursday of the course arrived I was so nervous. She drove us, and I was shaking the whole way.
As soon as I walked in, I knew I had made the right decision. The atmosphere felt calm, and I happily obliged in taking off my shoes and settling in a chair with a blanket.
I listened. I listened to Suryacitta, and I listened to students. I realised that I wasn't battling through life on my own, and that not everyone was as happy as they sometimes perceive to be. The first session flew by, and I felt hooked.
I downloaded the app, and practised meditating at home. I couldn't last for longer than 5 minutes to begin with, before my mind refocused on my stresses, but it was a start. With time, this extended to lengthier periods of time, and I would find myself meditating on my daily commute surrounded by a buzz of conversation.
I began to look forward to my Thursday sessions. For me, it was a respite. I knew that for even just a few hours each week, I would be at peace. I began to open up during the sessions, as did everyone else, and felt comfortable addressing my flaws.
Each week focused on a new teaching. One of my favourite sessions was about a concept of two daggers. The first dagger is the initial worry. The second dagger is the consequential worry - the 'what ifs' and the false predictions of negative outcomes that may (but most likely may not) happen as a result of the first dagger. I found myself doing this in almost every aspect of my life. A perfect example had actually happened on the way to this session. I was driving my car, and hit the curb. First dagger. I then spent the rest of the journey worrying about the cost of a new tyre, of being able to get to work the next morning, of breaking down on a country road on the way back or not being able to drive my car at all. Second dagger. These negative thoughts flooded my mind, to the point where I felt physically sick with nerves. Whenever I find myself in this situation, even now several months after the course has ended, I remember the two daggers.
8 months ago I was severely depressed. I was suicidal. I never thought I would be happy again. But I am. I am truly happy. I am content with my life, and I genuinely feel that mindfulness played a key factor in this. It changed my way of thinking, and helped me to recognise that our thoughts do not have to be our own worst enemy. I am no longer on any medication, and my old personality, my happy and outgoing personality, has returned.
Guaranteed, life isn't easy. I still have bad days. We all do. But the difference is that now, it's a bad day. It's not a bad week, or a bad month. If a bad day comes, I simply remember the two daggers. You cannot stop the first dagger, but you can stop the second.
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