Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Long Slow Road

Well it has been a month since last I wrote. Not much has changed. I still find it incredible what has happened to me this year. Going crazy just isn't any fun at all. I'm on three lots of drugs now, having just started lithium. I'm on an anti depressant (in the morning), lithium over dinner, and an anti-psychotic just before bed. Delicious combination. Everyone should try it ;)

It's so weird this going crazy business. I had no idea you could meditate yourself crazy. I've tried meditating a handful of times since becoming manic on the Vipassana course, but I have been a little scared (understandably I feel!) to try too hard. It's a shame really 'cos I'm sure Vipassana is a powerful technique which can have positive effects.

Still wondering about what career I want to follow. I'm really not feeling the love for software any more... I think though my basic problem is that, fundamentally, I'm lazy! I'd just rather not have to work at all :) I suppose I'm not alone in this.

I think I'll also write a small piece on just what depression is like. Depression is the worst feeling I have ever had. Though I was talking to a friend the other day and she said her psychologist had said that he thought (with no scientific basis it must be said) that there must be an evolutionary reason for depression - and maybe it was that it helps us be more empathic. I must admit, I had no idea just what it was possible to go through.

For me I had a manic episode on the last day of my 10 day Vipassana course. In the course you concentrate on feeling sensations on your body. You're supposed to feel (At least this is my understanding) waves coming through your body as negative cravings & aversions are washed out of your subconscious. What happened to me was that as I was meditating I felt wave after wave coming through me, and then when I went to sleep that continued for a couple of hours. I have no idea whatsoever what was actually going on in my brain.

Then I had what felt like a chat with God in my tent where he told me a few things that he wanted to happen, before starting on about an hour and a half of chiropractic manouvers on myself in my tent. Most weird.

I then had about three days where I could (or felt like I could) feel vibrations / energy between people. For example I'd be talking to you and I'd be just sending out happy feelings - and getting them back (for the most part). It was a most wonderful (if unreal) time.

Finally I came back down to my home & job and that was where things all fell apart. I think the problem was going into my job and was obviously unable to do it. In the end my boss (correctly) called the police and I was taken into a psychictric hospital.

I stayed in there (still having visions of time & space etc) for a week in the closed ward, and a further 10 days in the open ward. Lots of fun.

After I was released (back into the wild!) I had about a month or so where I was probably still a little manic. I had days where I would make connections where there weren't any. It's so depressing not to have them any more! though I know it really means I'm being healed. I dunno, maybe I did touch reality?!?! Maybe I was in touch with something Bigger Than Us. I dunno.

Anyways.. on with the story... after all that I then progressivly sank lower and lower into depression. And depression sucks completely. If when you're manic you think you can do anything - when you're depressed it's the exact opposite. I found myself at times clenched in a ball on my bed unable to get up and face the day. I couldn't think positively about work - or life in general. While I admit I did think about suicide, I was lucky in that I never really seriously contemplated doing it. I only had mild depression. I dread to think what serious depression is like. Hardly bears thinking of really.

So I went on the anti-depressants, and that has helped things immensely. I still don't quite feel right. I'm not my usual buoyant self, but I'm definitely on the road to recovery. It's hard to know whether the Vipassana course will turn out (eventually) to have been a positive thing.. but at the moment I would say not.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there.
Your story has a lot of similarities with mine. I also did a Vipassana course (while travelling in Oz), and had a manic/psychotic episode lasting a week. What a fantastic and horrible time. I hallucinated, had delusions (messiah complex, telepathy), visions, and emotional highs and lows that I can't even describe, along with intense bodily sensations like you mentioned. I admitted myself to hospital about three times, once because I was close to suicide. They let me out each time. Finally I had an incident with the police and they brought me to hospital again, where I was put on anti-psychotics. Then I returned to my parents in the UK, and then the hard times really began! I've been through a horrible depression, and now seem to be in a state of shock, since I can't really feel any emotions. The road to recovery is painfully slow, but progress is good.

What you say about feeling energy between people, that happened to me as well. What an amazing feeling! For me it was as if I could sense the emotional state of whoever I was close to. Part of me longs for that experience again...I wonder if it's possible to have that without all the other stuff...?

If you'd like to get in touch, you can reach me on

Either way, I hope things continue to improve for you.


2:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May you recover well :)

3:10 AM  
Blogger moy power said...

"You're supposed to feel (At least this is my understanding) waves coming through your body as negative cravings & aversions are washed out of your subconscious."

There is nothing in particular one is "supposed" to feel. You simply arrive at a part of your body and observe the sensation that is apparant at that particular part.. maybe a tickling sensation, a crawling sensation, a touch of air etc etc.. One doesn't 'look' for any specific type of sensation to arise eg waves..

Anyway, I really feel what you've been through.. It's been some time since you last wrote.. It would be good to hear an update.

be well.


8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you are describing sounds like a typical kundalini awakening experience. These occasionally happen spontaneously while people do intense meditation and other spiritual practices. If it was it means it was in fact a true spiritual experience and just too out-there for you to know what to do with it. A head of any major vipassana retreat centre would likely be able to help you create a practice to balance it out. There are many self help networks for people going through kundalini online, but I have found that a gentle basic vipassana (observing all the weirdness without getting caught up in the symptoms) is the most effective. At least it was for me. The problems come when you indulge in the experiences (heightened feelings, sights, sounds or get caught in the fear etc.). If it is the kundalini energy then drugs will not fix it so it's good to get some spiritual guidance so you don't get stuck on the journey. Kundalini can be beautiful--it's a gift that moves you quickly on your path--but without the proper guidance can make a mess of your life. All the best to you. Hang in there.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi All,

Thanks for the comments - as you've probably seen from the rest of the blog - all is well now.

Mind you, as for the "typical kundalini awakening experience", well, maybe - but it set me back a year or two!

I do think the Vipassana organisers have an absolute duty to warn people that this sort of thing can happen. I was totally unprepared for this. Obviously partly my fault - but there was *no literature* that I could find to suggest this could happen.

Hence making the blog.

Anyway - thanks all for the comments.


6:52 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

I agree with you. In fact, I just emailed the vipassana centre in Ontario to tell them your experience and how they should start talking (with all the centres) about a way to support people who experience this. Perhaps you could email your centre as well?

It's a challenge for them. If they warn people then it creates fear and the mind will create symptoms that don't exist (the mind is tricky!). If they don't warn people, then people like you slip through the cracks. I also had this experience, but I was lucky to find help through online research. Ha, you had one year. I am five years in and still going strong with various levels of insights and challenging experiences. However, the changes in me and my life are phenomenal, so this energy is a gift--it cleans you out, so to speak. Removes anger, fear, etc.--but first you must sit and observe them, plus the realization of impermanence, and that ain't no fun at all!!!! haha.

Be well,

8:12 AM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Oh, I forgot to add that egomania (when you think you can heal people and walk on water) is a common experience for very advanced vipassana meditators, though when observed it generally only lasts a short time as part of a cycle of other experiences. I have not had this experience myself but I've had lots of much crazier ones! You may want to check out This is the map of the Progress of Insight all vipassana meditators go through. As you will see, this Path is not for the feint of heart, it's no walk in the park. And once you step onto it, it's like taking the red pill in the matrix--you will keep on seeing the world as it is, rather than as we all pretend it is. Eventually it leads to great joy and equanimity (as evidenced by monks, people like Amma, and the like) but the transition stage sucks. ;)

Important thing I learned: intention drives everything. So if it comes back, intend for it to be gentle. You can also intend for it not to come back at all, saying you are not ready for this journey (perhaps you've done that already!). But sometimes once you step on that rollercoaster it has its way with you. If that's the case, accept and surrender and observe. It is a gift, even though it doesn't feel like one.

Anyway, I hope you get what you prefer--which I'm guessing in this case is not to go forward on this journey. Do read up on the Stages of Vipassana if you ever intend to practice it again, as it will be helpful. :) As you can see, this path is not about stress reduction or bliss--"vipassana" means to "see things as they are" and that's what this process will give you. It is a doorway, and once you walk through there is usually no turning back.


8:28 AM  
Blogger Suzette Delia Reiss said...

I am so glad to see this blog and comments. My just turned 19 year old son returned from a Vipassana retreat in Massachusetts a few days ago. It was good for him to listen to the first 4 chapters last night. I think it helped him. He was asked to leave after 6 days when he started to speak in tangents and told the assistant teacher that we were all in purgatory. The assistant teacher admitted to me that he probably should have gone to see him or taken him out at that point but didn't call me until the next day after he had missed his appointment for question/answers. This has been a roller coaster nightmare and I'm trying to remain sane too. Praying for my son. Any suggestions will be welcome. Hope he will be able to returning to college next week.

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Ava said...


I have listened to your blog on your experience following the Vipassana retreat. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have had a very similar experience and found it reasurring and informative.

I went on a 10 day silent retreat in July this year and, like you, found the course hard, but I thoroughly applied mysef to it and found it rather enjoyable.
By the end of the course I was totally sold, I felt like it was going to be a massive shift in my lifestyle and even a massive shift in who I was. I was elated and high when I left the course, I wasn't yet in the stage that you were in I think, but within four days of getting off the course my manic behaviour was beginning to be unsafe, I wasn't sleeping properly, I left the house at 6 o'clock in the morning in my pajamas to declare my love for my ex-boyfriend, I was talking to complete strangers about the new belief's I had discovered. I felt invincible and special and in tune with something god-like. I also had some strange physical experieneces whilst I was still practicing the meditaion technique wich really spun me out.
I was feeling very philisophical and thoughtful about the world and love and what life meant. My thoughts became more and more out there. Eventually my ex who I went to see called my mum who came and got me and I was looked after by my family and friends. I was becoming really psychotic and they didn't know how to help me. I thought my mum and dad were capable of smuthering me and killing me.I had a lot of dark thoughts and beliefs. Feeling in terror for my life. I had the experience of being on a loop in my head, like being in ground hog day where every second I was trying to break the loop but I was stuck in the terrifying thought processes.
Within a day or two of not sleeping, struggling to eat and trying to run away from my family the Bristol (uk) Crisis team were called, they gave me olanzopine and lorazepam and some sleeping tablets and I immediately began to come back down to earth. If it hadn't been for the close friends and family who looked after me so well and the strength of my love and trust with them and the support of the professional mental health team who became involed before I became a danger to myself I am sure I would have been sectioned sooner or later.
Since then I have been back to work and have started a foundation degree, I am feeling low and lacking in self confidence, motivation and a sense of perpose or sense of self. It is reasuring to hear that these feelings will pass. Like you said, at times it really feels like a very long black tunnel with no light at the other end. I have been offered anti depressants. I am certainly not ruling them out. I will see my psychiatrist in January again and will review how I am feeling then.

I have yet to contact the Vipassana centre to give them my feedback. I wonder how common it is for people to leave and experience an epsiode like this. Like you, I feel it had completely devistated my life, although I am getting better and I know in the grand sceme of things, this will be an episode that I will, at some point, look back on. I have been waiting until I feel well enough, but I feel concerned for anyone who doesn't have the right people around them who may experince an episode that is more dangerous or prolonged... I have no previous history of mental illness or depression and was in very good emotional and metal health when I went ino the course. What effect could it have for someone less stable.

Thank you for reading my experience and thank you again for taking the time to share yours.


6:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home