The relationship between depression and chronic pain are so close as to be difficult to distinguish. It’s another of those chicken-and-egg dilemmas. Which came first?
More than half of fibromyalgia patients have suffered from depression at some point in their lifetimes, according to Psychiatry Advisor, citing a recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. I’m one of them. When the topic comes up in discussion, the most common question asked is, “What are you depressed about?” As any depressive will tell you, depression isn’t “about anything.” Rather, it’s just a form of feeling bad mentally.
I’ve heard depression described as an absence of all feeling. That hasn’t been my experience. For me, it’s more like the worst grief I’ve ever suffered — times 10. At depression’s peak, it’s difficult to function. Even routine activities, such as bathing, brushing my teeth, and preparing meals, become major struggles.
The worst part for me is the inability to concentrate. That means reading is out of the question. I can’t remember the last sentence I read, so the current sentence makes no sense. To a constant reader and researcher, this is a difficult symptom to tolerate.
Having suffered from this malady for much of my life, I’ve sought many different treatments. Because I was unable to tolerate the side effects of medications, I’ve had to seek alternative treatments. Over the years, meditation has been the most commonly recommended one for me. It was the main subject of a three-month stress management program I attended many decades ago.
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Full Catastrophe Living” was our textbook. His technique is all about observing the breath, which means watching it coming into and leaving the body without making it happen. It’s not as easy as it sounds. For a control freak like me, it was particularly challenging. But I persevered.
For many months, I woke up 15 minutes earlier each morning — which is a huge sacrifice on my part — so that I could meditate before going to work. I was less depressed and felt more in control. Equally important, I was doing something to help myself, so I felt more in control. In time, I either got bored or lazy, and my practice dwindled away.
So here I am, decades later, still suffering from depression. Fortunately, it’s not a constant ailment. I suppose it has become more severe lately because my pain has worsened.
As is my practice, I turned to the internet for information about how to help myself. I knew other forms of meditation existed, and I was determined to find one that would work for me.
My search unveiled a very different type of meditation that was totally new to me, called Kirtan Kriya. Basically, it consists of repeating a mantra and using your fingers to count out the syllables you’re reciting. This YouTube video is a great way to learn the technique. Once you’ve learned it, you can do it on your own wherever and whenever you wish.
I’ve recently used it to begin my day, especially the really bad ones. Sitting in a cross-legged pose is recommended while doing this, but I find it equally effective in a prone position.
I begin as soon as I’m aware that I’m awake. My experience is that the 12 minutes of meditation go by in a flash. Once my meditation is complete, any feelings of depression I might have had are greatly reduced. I feel capable of beginning my day. I’m more focused on life, and less focused on mental or physical pain. It feels like I’ve been given a gift.
If you’ve tried and failed at meditation in the past, I urge you to experiment with another form. Kirtan Kriya is only one of many that exist. Remember that meditation is 1 percent technique and 99 percent you. It costs nothing and has no side effects. What do you have to lose?
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.