What is Ego Death?

While speaking with a friend earlier this week, we came upon a topic that I found very interesting – perhaps a topic that not many have heard before, called “ego death”. When ego death occurs, it is considered the loss of subjective ego, a person’s sense of self-esteem, self-importance and self-identity. In Psychology, ego death may be called a psychic death, a term coined by Carl Jung, the man behind Jungian psychology.

Ego death is often referred to as an enlightening, yet potentially terrifying experience which may be brought forward in many different ways. More often than not, it is considered a spiritual experience, one where you experience the cessation of sense and feeling of control living your life. The feeling of being in control is replaced by feelings of being helpless or powerless as you go about the motions of life, with a sense that the thoughts you’re experiencing are somehow being inserted into your mind. While it sounds like a terrifying experience, many individuals who experience it often regard it as a very humbling transition into the next stage of their life, allowing them to harmonize with things they were unable to harmonize with before.

In Jungian psychology, ego death is often referred to as the death of consciousness, which may be accompanied by panic. Jungian psychology refers to ego death as psychic death, and goes on to explain it as a “shift back to the existential position of the natural self”. It is thought that after one experiences the death of consciousness, the consciousness is then resurrected. Carl Jung called this process the “the transcendent function”, which he believed led to a more “inclusive and synthetic consciousness”. It is believed that this process is a fundamental transformation of the psyche as it allows individuals to develop further understanding and peace of mind with the world and its inhabitants.

While ego death may be experienced through spirituality or rigorous introspection, it may also be experienced through the use of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD. Individuals who experience ego death through this method often are looking to experience what lies in the recesses of the human mind or to experience spiritual liberation. The early stages of ego death induced by a psychedelic may be terrifying, but those who experience it say that it is a liberating feeling, one that gives them a feeling of unity with other individuals, nature, the universe and God.

While the experience itself seems quite foreign and terrifying, it is something that I, coming from a mindful perspective, whole-heartedly believe is beneficial for personal development. Putting aside one’s subjective views is an important skill – one that allows individuals to view the themselves and the world around them objectively. We are all characters in this world we inhabit, and as such, we should try and make the world and our characters better each and every day.

If you would like to read more about ego death, I suggest checking out this page for more information.

 

 

The Importance of Sharing

The story of the telling of my story.

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As a lazy college student, I don’t get out too much. I don’t go to extracurricular events,  join clubs, rarely go out with friends…to be honest it’s stretching the limits just going to class. Knowing this, I hope the reader will be impressed that I actually got out and did something. Something that I found very frightening, but that instantly made me feel better after I did it. I told my story.

I have told you all my story before, but, in real life, never have I told anyone outside my family, close friends, and mental health professionals what happened to me over a year ago now. What tortured me for nearly 6 months until I finally got into the right psychiatrist and on the right medication. Last week I got a message about a group on campus called Active Minds, which was having an event in which people who struggled with mental illness talked about their struggles. I knew I had to go.

I can’t quite explain why I needed to go so badly. Perhaps I wanted to see that I wasn’t alone, as I had never met someone that openly had a mental illness before. Perhaps I wanted to inspire other people on the edge to make that push to get help. I’m not sure exactly why I had to go, but next thing I know I was emailing the secretary of Active Minds asking if I could come speak.

The moment I emailed her I instantly became filled with fear. What if they didn’t believe me? What if they didn’t think my story was that big of a deal? What if they laughed at me? What if they thought I was crazy? Still, I knew I at least had to try, besides, I never had cared what people thought of me.

The terror built right up until I walked into the door to the meeting. After meeting the people I was going to be speaking to my fear vanished. I knew instantly that these were good, kind people who would never judge me or think ill of me for telling my story. I knew I had made the right decision.

After a brief icebreaker, we all began telling our stories. It was truly humbling hearing  everyone’s struggles, and as soon as I heard them I knew I was not alone. No one had quite the issues I had, but some symptoms were definitely familiar to me.  Most importantly, I felt safe and supported.

Finally, the turn came for me to speak. I told them everything. About staying in my room for three days straight, about the voices, about wanting to kill myself, about almost getting hospitalized. I told them about the feelings of depersonalization I experienced, and my intense inability to focus that crippled my mind, and how I was originally misdiagnosed, causing me to suffer for even longer. I also told them about the good things, about my great therapist and psychiatrist, about how the voices and other symptoms are gone now, and how I came out of the entire ordeal stronger than ever.

It was a relief to get my story out there, and more of a relief to know I was not alone. I think it’s important for everyone, whether it be struggles with mental illness or just with everyday life, know that they are not alone. We all struggle, and with 7 billion people on this earth, you know someone else is struggling with the exact same thing. If you are struggling, please reach out for help, and know you are not alone. If you have overcome your struggles, please reach out to others who may be struggling with the exact same thing. Let them know they are not alone, let them know you are there for them.

 

Concerning the Tragedy in Roseburg, Oregon…

With the recent events of October 1st, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon, I felt obligated to write an article pertaining to the media portrayal of these types of events, as well as it’s relation to mental illness. The tragic event started at about 10:30am PDT, resulting in the loss of 10 people, including the gunman himself. This event marks yet another school shooting in the United States, which are averaging about 1 per week, with the total now being 142 since the events at Sandy Hook. While America as a whole is starting to become safer, these events are starting to become commonplace in the United States, which, in itself, should never be the case. It has gotten to the point where the United States hasn’t gone 8 days without an incident of this caliber.

When it comes to law enforcement handling the situation, they are trying to prevent the glorification of the perpetrator by not releasing their name or even focusing on their crime, but rather focusing on what happened to the victims, which I feel is the way this situation should be approached. The media, however, passionately disagrees. In relation to the event in Oregon, we’re starting to see articles pop up like these:

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This type of identification and glorification does not add anything constructive to the situation. Yes, it may provide information, but at the same time, it’s giving the individual recognition for what they’ve done – precisely what they are wanting. This type of “anti-hero” glorification may encourage other individuals to repeat these type of events. We, specifically the media, should not be encouraging these events to occur. We should focus on those who were impacted by the event – the victims, not the perpetrator who brought the event to fruition.

In addition to media portrayal of these events, there are other concerns that come to light when events like these happen. Mental illness is one of the major concerns that come to mind, more specifically, a lack of treatment for an individual suffering from a mental illness, or a mental illness that an individual has been living with that hasn’t been identified. There’s a lot of debate over some other concerns among society, such as guns being too easy to obtain in the United States, as well as the security of institutions where these events take place. However, we should be focusing on the first point.

Mental illness is a large factor in whether or not people have these types of thoughts. Treatment for mental illness should be more streamlined – individuals should be able to get the help they need to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring. With the general ignorance toward mental illness in addition to the stigma surrounding it, individuals suffering often feel like they’re insane or alone in the world, exacerbating the underlying illness. It allows them to be alone with all the negative thoughts they may have, which is upsetting and terrifying in itself, but, as we can see from the tragic event from October 1st, if an individual is left alone without external help or support, this is what may happen.

We as a society need to educate ourselves about the myriad of mental illnesses out there. Know the warning signs that are present when someone is suffering from a mental illness. Help them seek help, in whatever way you possibly can. Offer your support to them. Show them that they aren’t alone in regard to how they’re feeling. Furthermore, we need to address and reduce the stigma towards those who are suffering from a mental illness. Instead, we must start treating it exactly as such – an illness.

I will leave you all with a video I saw yesterday relating to the subject matter at hand. I feel that it touches upon the subject quite well.

Guest Post: Carousel Conversations

“Today I would like to present to you all a poem from a spoken word artist born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. The following poem sheds light on their experience with mental illness after having received a diagnosis and starting dialectic behavioral therapy – a form of cognitive behavioral therapy. This poem is a great representation of how difficult life can be for those combating mental illness.”

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Carousel Conversations

By: Cat Abenstein

(The following is inspired after achieving a diagnosis and starting Dialectic Behavioural Therapy.)

How can you hide from your thoughts?

The kind that probe and dig and break and demand and maim…

Thoughts like a leaky faucet,

drip, drip, drip,

steadily.

Some small and quick and mostly painless.

Gone before they’re even registered.

Others are big fat globs of water droplets that splash

down into the sink,

sending water flying up and around in

equally spaced,

equally wet,

runway lines of water.

“Remember your self soothing techniques we worked on.”

My therapist’s voice pops in my head.

She’s soft spoken,

and trained so well.

She nods and validates and leaves space for my words and doesn’t judge my actions,

but empathizes with how they make me feel.

She says things like,

“That must be hard.”

And,

“Do you think these rules you create are fair to you?”

And,

“You described your anger as feeling hot and tight. What else can make you feel hot and tight. Arousal? Exactly. Arousals not bad, is it?”

No, doc.

Arousal isn’t bad.

Turning my all too familiar rage into a watered down versions of itself,

is helpful when I realize my body reacts in just a few ways to so many different emotions.

My body feels the same when it’s angry

as it does when I’m horny,

as it does when I’m stressed,

as it does when I’m excited…

And knowledge is power.

Knowing is half the battle.

But now these answers:

Major depressive disorder

Borderline personality disorder

Leave me with so many questions.

Overwhelming

Grief inducing

Lip quivering

Shoulder heaving

Bargaining types of questions.

Like:

“Please. Not again. Why again?”

And,

“Make it stop. Will anything make this stop?”

And,

A splitting calm of dried tears tie these words to a bitter acceptance:

It won’t stop.

“It’s never going to end. I can literally never see a life without this pain. Even though I have more good days than bad, the bad far outweigh the good. This will keep happening. All the progress I’ve made will crumble under the weight of my expectation. I will constantly flip back and forth between enthusiasm for life and crawling on my living room floor, watering the floor boards with my pathetic tears. Begging like a stray for love scraps.”

Stop those thoughts.

Stop those thoughts.                            Stop those thoughts.

Stop those thoughts.

At what point do your suicidal and self harming thoughts become too much?

After the first thought? The first cut?

Even though you’re (pretty) sure you actually wouldn’t…

I used to hide from my thoughts

With cocaine

Speed

MDMA

…uppers that pulled me out of delusion into drug induced fantasies of superiority

Success

Friendships.

If not that,

Then sex

Shoplifting

Red line driving

Going bankrupt

Severing ties

Feeling alone.

So alone.

Now I embrace these thoughts.

Give faces to the impulses,

Call out the delusions…

But it doesn’t necessarily make it easier

every time I find myself back here.

I forget how hard the trip is.

How confusing this carousel ride is.

I hate how my seat stayed warm.

I hate my old shadow friends and how eager they are  to pick up where we left off, regardless if I can name them now, or not.

Spinning

Take me out

Spinning

Get me off

Spinning

Get me out

Spinning

And take me away.

Giving Thanks: Appreciating What We Take For Granted

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This week is one of the best I’ve had in a long time. No, I didn’t win the lottery, or get a surprise inheritance, or even get a piece of really good news. I am happy because, for the first time in 6 months, I have gone an entire week being able to study whenever I want to. It was amazing, and I am so terribly happy. I won’t lie, I even started to tear up with joy when I finished reading that first chapter.

But now, of course, I’m sure I’ve confused some of you. After all, since when is studying worth celebration? Well, when you’ve been through what I have, it’s worth a full on party. You see, about eight months ago, I had a problem. That problem was that I simply could not study. I am not talking about lack of focus or not wanting to study. I literally could not understand the words I tried to read, my textbooks suddenly became unreadable tomes before my eyes, the words indecipherable. I would try to do math problems and instead end up sitting there staring at the paper for thirty minutes, unable to do something so simple as adding two numbers together. Chapters of reading piled on as I was unable to keep up, unable to understand the words on the page in front of me.

This went on for hours a day, every day, as I struggled in vain to get my mounting schoolwork done. Nothing I did worked, and I felt useless and stupid for my perceived failure as a student. In addition, voices haunted me at night. When things were at their worst, I found myself frozen, immobile, and thoughtless, a state called catatonia. Even with these frightening symptoms though, the inability to process was still the one I found most troubling.

After weeks of being this way, some days being unable to do so much as read a sentence, I reached out for help. Even after I took the first step to fix my problem, it took months to get the right diagnosis, and to get me on the proper medication. With the cognitive setbacks, catatonia, and auditory hallucinations, the diagnosis I was given was rather dark; prodromal schizophrenia (which I talk more about here), the early stage of the disease.

It took four long weeks for my medication to take full effect. The entire thing was a crapshoot. There was a chance that the medication would not even help ease my symptoms, or the side effects would be too severe to tolerate. There were even chances that I might die or suffer permanent nerve damage due to rare reactions to the atypical anti-psychotic I was on. During this time I eagerly awaited signs of improvement. Slowly they appeared as I was able to study longer and longer each week, and the screaming, tormenting voices subsided. Luckily, I suffered no adverse reactions, and my symptoms were much improved. I was unbelievably happy.

Two weeks ago now, the dosage for my anti-psychotic was raised to help manage my symptoms even better. With the increase of the dose, my ability to concentrate has also increased, and my other symptoms have all but disappeared. I credit my medication, amazing mental health workers,  and my strong family support system, for my recovery. Looking back from where I am today, I can see that I was one of the lucky ones, my psychosis is not severe, I did not have to be hospitalized, and I have a supporting family with the will and means to get me the help I need. Many in my shoes are not half so fortunate.

Through all I’ve been through, I think my favorite memory is, and shall remain, that first time after starting the anti-psychotic that I could actually sit down and study. It’s easy to take something like this for granted, something so simple as reading a book or answering a question. You never expect to lose something like that, something so base and fundamental as thinking or understanding. I know I never did. We all take things for granted. But nothing lasts forever, and what you have now may not be there tomorrow, even life is not a sure bet.

I encourage everyone reading this to take a day, just a day would suffice, and set it aside to think of the things and people that you may now take for granted, and to take the time to appreciate them in a way you may not have before. Take time to appreciate a walk in the park, the sound of a bird singing, the warmth of a fire, the comfort of a good book. Especially take time to appreciate the people in your life; they mean the most of all.

Remember that the current is only a snapshot in your life, and it is a beautiful one. To truly appreciate the current is not to take anything for granted, and that’s something that’s as important for me as it is for anyone else.  I’m not sure what my future will bring, I might get worse, I might have a breakdown, I might end up spending my entire life in a mental hospital. That doesn’t matter right now, because in the current, I can pick up a book and study as hard as I damn well want, I can do things that please me, and I am happy.  That is the current, and that is what matters the most.