Sally D – sleeping pills led to depression and anxiety
I would like to share something of my experience of working with Adaptation Practice for the last two years to encourage anyone who wants to try but has reservations or feels hesitant.
Three years ago I began to have difficulty sleeping. I was not aware of being particularly worried about anything; I just lay wide awake sometimes for the whole night unable to drop off and then the same the next night even though I was exhausted. Gradually a pattern of not sleeping became established and I became more and more anxious and irritable.
After some months of trying herbal remedies to help me to sleep I went to my GP for help. As sleeping pills were not a long-term solution I was prescribed antidepressants with a focus on anxiety and was diagnosed as having ‘generalised anxiety syndrome’.
The pills helped me to sleep a little more but didn’t touch my levels of anxiety and by now days of depression and lack of energy that I had not experienced before. My world was shrinking more and more as I was increasingly preoccupied with myself and my state during most of my waking hours (day and night). All blood tests were normal so there was no apparent hormone imbalance.
What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I sleep? Who could help me to escape from this terrible situation? What if I was like this for the rest of my life? I felt that I had fallen into a black hole. During the day I began to experience increasing levels of anxiety and depression also feeling physically ill and at night so much heat and restlessness that I could not sleep.
I tried psychotherapy for a year and though there were reasonable suggestions of recognisable childhood emotions that had been suppressed, these suppositions didn’t touch my physical and emotional state – talking about them wasn’t enough. They were no longer immediate. There was nothing that I could remember in my past that merited this level of fear. I was terrified of the energies and feelings that overwhelmed me and that I had no control over.
When I heard about Clive and Adaptation Practice I was pretty desperate and willing to try. The approach seemed very wholesome though I still felt that there must be something physically wrong with me that couldn’t be changed by any kind of practice or therapy. I recognised in Clive someone I could trust, who had experienced what he was proposing. He had helped people in even worse states than me. His firmness, support and kindness gave me the confidence to take one day at a time, to try to live in the present moment, listening to my body and senses trying not to pay attention to the invasion of worried thoughts.
When I felt like curling up and thinking about myself I cooked a meal, made a loaf of bread, felt my feet on the floor while anxious energies contracted my whole body. I failed, gave up and started again. I learned slowly to allow these painful energies and feelings to exist and to bear them rather than get rid of them – first for a few seconds and gradually for longer. My body felt like a pressure cooker or volcano – so much hot energy! The practice asks that you do not indulge or entertain worried discursive thought. Instead I would walk, dig, hoover, run up and down the stairs, with as much attention as possible and listening to my body allowing the feelings that were rising to fill me when all I wanted was to get rid of them.
When filled with fear or destructive anger I would be reminded often by Clive to repeat to myself ‘this will pass’. I am not so strong that I could manage without any physical help and certainly have received great help from both deep pressure massage and acupuncture. However this seemingly bottomless well of turbulent energy/feelings needed to be allowed in and I had to recognise my wish to escape and push them away – which I could no longer do.
Slowly almost without realising it the capacity to ‘stay with’ what was happening increased. Gradually the energies have transformed into recognisable feelings of anger and pain and sadness, which I can allow. Tensions in the body are much less allowing more space inside. I still do not know what precipitated this breakthrough of feelings; in a way it no longer matters. It seems more important now to live them. Clive says ‘they are your lifeblood’.
The process is still continuing and I can feel changes taking place in me that I am witnessing and trying more and more to allow. I trust more in an intelligence in the body that is greater than my mind and I am beginning to feel more whole, less judgemental and afraid. This struggle with difficulty brings energy and meaning to life. New feelings arise; gratitude, a willingness to try, compassion for the suffering of others. I would not wish for further difficulties of this kind but I understand better now that attitude is all-important. I see that I had felt myself to be a victim of what was happening. I wanted someone to take it away and never realised that I had to find the capacity to bear little by little – to learn how to suffer. This I believe brings inner strength.
I wholeheartedly recommend the practice to anyone who feels the need to live more fully and accept the challenge – not just choosing the good bits in life and escaping from the ‘bad’. With the right help a crisis can be become a real turning point towards facing the unknown in ourselves. This helps to see things as they are and not as I would like them to be. There has been change – but not of my doing – only as a result of staying with what I thought I could not bear. I now feel more alive and more whole than I did three years ago and am so grateful for the help I have received.
Sally D – Penzance 7 January 2001