Really, it was about 350 or so days ago, when I realized that I'd managed to sit down and meditate every day for about two weeks straight, that I decided to see what happened if I meditated every day for the next year.
I did it! As of last night.
I have PTSD. Some of my symptoms (and they differ for people) were anxiety around talking to people in person, night terrors, and general jumpiness at vaguely loud noises. It wasn't particularly fun to go through life jumping every time someone said 'hi' with any remote enthusiasm. I was in therapy, reading a lot of books and articles about PTSD, finally taking some good medication, but still not really enjoying life.
A couple of years ago my husband and I had the chance to take a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course that was recommended by my therapist. I recommend it (though I found it a bit ableist). We met with a group of people and a trained instructor once a week for 8 weeks (including a full day retreat). Much of the course is focused on learning to meditate, starting with body scanning. All of the course was useful to me, but the meditation seemed to have a particularly positive effect on my mood and mental health. I stuck with meditating after the course, but not on any regular schedule, just whenever I though about it.
I wanted my goal to be simple. I knew the fewer barriers I put up for myself, the better. So I decided to 'Sit down and meditate every day.' That's it. I didn't set a time limit. I didn't pick a time of day. I wanted to find my own rhythm. What ended up happening is that I meditate for about 10 minutes or so before I sleep every night.
I didn't realize it before I started this journey, but I was apparently really bad at being able to articulate how my body was feeling. After I year of meditation I'm much better at being able to say 'I'm tired' or 'I need to rest.' Which means I've actually gotten a lot more rest this past year. Which means I've been a lot more productive and organized this past year.
I've also slept a whole lot better. I still have nightmares on occasion, but I can't remember the last time I had a night terror. Meditating before sleep has also helped me have better sleep hygiene through a bedtime routine.
For a lack of better way to explain it, I simply have more time to think. When someone asks me a question it no longer feels like it's coming at me like a screaming freight train that I have to dodge.
I can actually talk to doctors and tell them what they need to know to help me. Not knowing how my body felt meant that when I went to talk to doctors I had trouble saying much more than 'I don't feel well.' Which isn't particularly useful, as it turns out.
I'm also enjoying talking to people in general again. For a long time every conversation felt like a battle I was just trying to survive. It was really hard to pay attention to people, innocuous comments felt like knives, and five minutes in I was ready to run.
I have no plans to stop meditating any time soon. There will certainly be more posts to come about the specifics of my meditation. But specifically, I want to start a morning practice in addition to my evening practice.
While my sleep has improved and my days are a lot better, I'm hoping that a morning practice will help me start out my days with a bit more routine.
I'm also looking for work. Full time, part time, contract. - See my website. - www.alilynne.com