Believe you are worthy in experiencing amazing things. It’s important to believe. As Ram Dass said, “The problem is you are too busy holding on to your unworthiness.” I’ve found this to be absolutely true. There is so much that plays into this… whether people are too focused on their own shortcomings or dulled down by certain things that shape us in the society we live in, or simply strings of negative experiences. This is why faith is so important…faith that you can experience amazing, beautiful, positive things right here on earth. Faith is what will keep your mind open and the gates unlocked to actually be able to experience things beyond what you might have imagined. If you are closed to these things, whatever they may be (or just are generally cynical and skeptical) then they are more likely to pass you by. In this way it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In this world we will continually experience battles between the ego and the “soul” or higher self parts of us, whether we realize it or not.
Personally, my first most obvious battle in this way happened when I was 21, when I reached a very crucial point in my meditation sessions (I had been meditating constantly at this age). I had been spending two hours per day, five days per week, at a Zen Buddhist center in New Mexico where I had been living. I had been doing this for months.
Later on that year, I went on a camping trip where I camped out at a music festival for a week with my mom. I was dedicated to my meditation at this point, so I really didn’t do much except meditate there. It became kind of like a meditation retreat, meditating for most of the entire days I was there.
The more I meditated, the more I began to progress into this higher awareness state. This is when everything began to change.
For one thing, my senses were greatly heightened. I remember being able to hear a cat’s footsteps as it was walking around outside, and I could hear them so insanely acutely. The cat wasn’t even that close to me.
I began to sleep in a completely different way. I didn’t like this at all, because I could never tell if I was actually sleeping or not. Some part of me always felt really awake even while asleep, and this was maddening. It was nothing like a lucid dream, in fact I’m not sure I was dreaming at all during this time. If anything I would probably say I was constantly awake, and this worried me as I truly didn’t know if I was ever getting any real sleep whatsoever.
The pressure in my forehead (which I guess would be called the “third eye” area) would become so overwhelming at times that it would practically force my eyes shut, and I would often then fall into those sleep states.
I also became hyper-aware of the concepts we understand ourselves and the world through, and how limiting those can be. They literally serve as a box that keep us from experiencing the true expansiveness of ourselves and the world.
When I talked to people, I felt myself responding with my whole self, rather than just my mind. This is difficult to explain. But usually when we are talking with someone, our mind is conjuring up in the background how we want to respond, or how we want to word it, or just feeling out the response conceptually in general. With the constant meditation I was doing, my mind was not in the way nearly as much as usual, and it was like the responses to people came from the depth of my being without my mind in the way at all. It’s almost as though I had no awareness of myself as I responded to people. I just responded. I was one with the response.
I also began to be able to see all of my mental states happening simultaneously, as though I were watching a movie where these “worlds” were being created. There was a world that my speech created, a world that my thoughts created, and a world that my actions created. Then, there was the pure awareness state outside of all of these, that I was merging with more and more.
I felt intuitively that I needed to have the world of my speech, thoughts, and actions completely in tune. It felt extraordinarily important for these to be completely in harmony, or else I would not be able to maintain higher awareness.
However, as I kept myself in this awareness state through meditation, I also began to become increasingly dissociated. Thoughts felt slower, and I began to feel very disconnected from my body. And the more that I became disconnected from my prior concept of myself, the more I felt like I was walking on air, and not the ground. I was becoming ungrounded. This went on for days. I told myself this was my new mode of being, a new experience of love and expansiveness. The problem was I realized over time that I was becoming out of balance.
I started to feel anxious, and like I was playing with fire. The anxiety spiraled with the pressure of knowing that the fear-filled thoughts I was having was keeping everything out of harmony, and I wouldn’t be able to keep higher awareness this way. But I couldn’t control it. I was beginning to experience a world where I didn’t know the rules or what anything was anymore. I also didn’t know how to consistently operate in a world where my conceptual understanding of things was falling away.
My ego felt the need to cling, to hold on to my prior understanding of myself and the world.
I got to a point where I got a very clear intuitive message that told me in order to continue, I would have to abandon everything I “knew to be real.” I literally had to abandon my understanding of my self, and any conceptual frameworks I had developed of things. Because ultimately, these concepts were limiting me.
The fear that I was feeling took over. It won. It had felt too much to me like I was traveling into no-man’s land, where I was out of control, and the fear of the unknown progressed into full blown panic attacks. For a year or two. I thought I was going insane at this point, because I felt like I had gone too far into this strange land to even come back the same person (I wish I had known at the time that this was just the fear talking).
A counselor I saw later on that was knowledgeable in spiritual things, told me that because I was so young and my ego had not developed yet, if I had “jumped off the deep end” into the unknown, it may have resulted in massive confusion and psychosis. She said very matter-of-factly, “ironically, you have to have a very stable ego in order to be ready to explore the realms of the soul.”
To this day, I still don’t know if that’s true. It is very clear to me now that the intense fear I was feeling came from the loosening of my entire framework of reality. Honestly most people would be scared shitless if, for example, they were to be thrown into the massiveness of space suddenly, feeling as though they were at the mercy of whatever. I did not know how to trust that process. How to trust that if what I understood as my self died, that I wouldn’t really die. Just my sense of self would.
In the moment, our ego can’t differentiate. We don’t realize how tightly we hold on to our sense of selves, because it is what we use here on Earth to operate as a self. It’s all we really know, unless of course we have a taste of our higher selves, and of higher consciousness states.
It was a very scary battle between who I thought I was and everything that encompasses, and my real, higher self. But, this battle was happening at a very rapid pace. At one moment I was embracing my new experience of life, a higher sense of love and oneness, and a temporary new way of operating. Then the next moment I was cowering in fear, extraordinarily scared I was losing control, and losing myself.
My ego won. I stopped. But that’s okay. Because I felt I did indeed delve too quickly and deeply into this new world, and I needed to take a step back. I think the whole process of loosening ourselves from our clinging to our concept of ourselves and the external world is something that needs to happen slowly, over many, many years of time.
It has also taken me years since that experience to even understand that my inherent desire to reach new heights of awareness was due to having a natural awareness to some degree of the higher self, and longing to return to the richer experiences of life that are available through these higher awareness states.
It’s a part of my self that is consistently wanting to bring my “lower” or ego-self up to the higher self’s level.
Having any awareness and experience of this higher self makes it more difficult to live in the contrast of the “lower” self. Therefore, it creates a sense of longing to return to the higher self’s reality. The reality that is far, far more expansive than the limited reality we typically experience here.
Another very important thing that hit me just recently is how real these higher experiences of love, of existence, of understanding, actually are.
The most unimaginable joy, pure love, and living with a higher level of awareness is very. fucking. real. These are not just dreams, a desire for an escape (though it can serve as that), or a plight of the imagination. It is totally achievable. But here on Earth, it’s very difficult. We have to be in such a place of mental freedom and openness before we can ever experience these things without our clinging to our conceptual understanding of things, as well as other mental obstacles bringing us down.
I also realized intuitively after this particular meditation experience that the different part of my selves were out of harmony. I was trying to experience a reality that I didn’t have the tools to integrate. Kind of like when you go on an acid or shrooms trip (which I haven’t done before), you gain great insights, but then you come back down and ultimately it fades into a memory, with very little or no integration into your daily life.
I had slightly more integration with this consistent meditation I was doing, but I also realized quickly afterwards that it was going to be a long road of developing my own tools and everyday awareness before I could hold and process the intensity of the reality I was experiencing during those temporary states.
Nowadays, as I go through this life, I get to experience that higher sense of joy and love much more consistently than I did before. The more I learn and grow, and the more aware I become, the more my mind expands and naturally allows for this reality to be experienced more regularly.
But all of this is where the battle of the ego lies. You might be lucky enough to be faced with the most unimaginable, otherworldly beauty you have ever seen on this Earth, whether it comes in the form of a higher consciousness state or a pure love, and you may experience it for a moment. But then if you have not worked on overcoming your mental obstacles, this beauty will simultaneously arouse all of your fears and any blockages you have that keep you from realizing higher awareness.
It can be scary. And if you don’t surrender, your ego will win, and you will shrink back down into your normal understanding of things, and you may even pretend what you saw wasn’t real. Or maybe you were just going crazy. You might even feel intense fear, anxiety, and anger, depending on the situation. It will all be your ego kicking and screaming, trying to hold on to what it thinks is real.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
But it’s all okay. It’s all part of the learning process. It takes many years, a lifetime, for us to surrender who we think we are and not allow the ego to have such a hold on ourselves. Some of us may never experience higher awareness states at all, until death. That’s okay too — we are all on our own personal journeys, and we experience the things we need to to help our own growth, at our own pace.
“In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
Everything in life gives us an opportunity to learn something new. Every new experience, both the positive and the negative, tests us in some way or allows us to learn more about ourselves. We just have to look, and listen.
One thing I’ve noticed is that not always do my mental habits or reactions change, but my awareness of them does. Just having awareness of what’s going on and an idea of how it will play out gives me more peace of mind and allows me to understand the true nature of what’s happening, without necessarily trying to control it. And that’s the main goal. We don’t have to judge ourselves about what’s happening in our minds and getting frustrated if it doesn’t go one way or another. Just accepting it first and letting it play out makes us less involved in it to begin with.
And that’s another thing, control: we are not as in control as we think we are, so much of awareness is surrendering to thinking we can/should control an outcome and letting things unfold as they will.
“You can’t teach a flower how to grow, you can only learn from it.”
— Akiane Kramarik
Take it from an introvert, conversation can be difficult with people you don’t know well, as you may not know how to relate to them and social skills may not come to you naturally. In general though, social skills are learned and get easier the more exposed to conversing with people that you are over time, even if at first it feels uncomfortable.
I personally used to hate talking on the phone, especially with people I didn’t really know. It felt so awkward to me and I didn’t want to have to think about what to say or talk about. Even just calling companies to talk about my bill or something mundane was uncomfortable and I would seriously put it off for days.
Eventually though, the more you do it, the more it just becomes second nature and you don’t feel anything about it. I think most of the fear or discomfort stems from lack of self-confidence in some way or worrying that you are going to make a fool of yourself, or seem one way or another that you don’t intend. I’m just prone to be a worrier in general, so over-thinking about what I should say or what will happen can be the norm for me.
Keeping Yourself Open
Conversation can also be difficult for anyone who is not comfortable sharing what they’re really feeling, and the other person might be able to sense that you’re guarded or hiding something. Then that creates this sense that they aren’t really getting through to you.
Sometimes, we have to learn to let go of our fears a little bit (easier said than done). Try to open up a little bit at a time and see what happens. We also have to attempt to be polite and say things in the right ways, and this can be difficult for someone that doesn’t feel the right words come easily to them.
However what usually really trips us up is just over-focusing on what to say. The more we focus on how or what to say, the more calculated and unnatural it feels and becomes.
So aside from exposing yourself more to the fear, one thing that can really help is to try to take the focus off of yourself and what you’re thinking.
Here are a few general tips to remember:
- Really try to listen to what the other person is saying and see where they are coming from. Put yourself in their shoes, and imagine yourself in their situation. This will help you be able to give them the best feedback and will help you stop thinking about what you’re doing. Remember it is more important to listen than it is to talk.
- Always attempt to come from a place of respect, even if you disagree with the person you’re talking with. Otherwise, you may never get through to each other if one feels like the other is not willing to understand.
- If you’re talking in a group of people, it is important to make eye contact with multiple people in the group rather than just looking at one person while you talk. People notice this and it will allow them to not feel left out or like the message is directed only at one person.
- Being particular about what you talk about in a conversation or not being open to everything someone says may give you the impression of being closed off or egocentric. It is best to try to focus on the other person in a conversation and not make it about you.
- Remember that although the conversation may not always be interesting to you, having a respectful conversation regardless can open the door to many other things with that person, even if you don’t plan on keeping them in your life. It allows you to keep a good impression which is good for keeping connections.
- Be mindful of when you are talking too much and not allowing the other person to have their say. Again this can make you appear egocentric and not wanting to hear what they have to say.
- If you’re feeling nervous, try to take a mindful approach by letting go of thoughts about how you’re sounding and just focus on the sounds of their words and what they are saying. This will help it be easier to respond naturally, and not like you’re trying too hard.
Overall, making a conversation be more about the other person and less focused on yourself will almost always make the other person feel good and will naturally lead them to feel more desire to know about you, rather than if you are too focused on yourself the whole time (whether through thoughts or words).
“Life would be a lot easier if conversations were rewindable and erasable, like videos. Or if you could instruct people to disregard what you just said, like in a courtroom.”
― Sophie Kinsella,
“The most important thing in all human relationships is conversation, but people don’t talk anymore, they don’t sit down to talk and listen. They go to the theater, the cinema, watch television, listen to the radio, read books, but they almost never talk. If we want to change the world, we have to go back to a time when warriors would gather around a fire and tell stories.”
― Paulo Coelho
“Everyone has their own ways of expression. I believe we all have a lot to say, but finding ways to say it is more than half the battle.”
― Criss Jami,
The more life experiences I gather as the years go by, the more I realize how many of us are underneath the surface, very dominated by fear in many ways.
For example, we might be dominated by fear of looking different, fear of being alone, fear of silence, fear of our lives ending early, fear of being hurt/rejection, fear of anything bad happening at any moment, etc…
One of the greatest challenges in our lives is to try to overcome these fears. Partly because a lot of the time it’s always there in the background, to the point where we might not even notice it anymore, until at some point it rears its ugly head.
Sometimes we don’t even understand that the basis of our fear is different than what we might think it is. Part of learning to dissolve our fears is learning how our minds work, and how our perceptions can work to build up this image of ourselves and the world that underlies the fear.
I too have a lot of fear in my life just because I have a predisposition to anxiety (with my “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” and all).
Here are some quotes on fear that I personally love and that might help you feel more inspired to face them, or just feel more at ease.
“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”
― Lao Tzu,
― Marianne Williamson
― Alan W. Watts,
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.,
― Erica Jong
― Veronica Roth,
― Gautama Buddha
― Sigmund Freud,
― Alan W. Watts
― Jiddu Krishnamurti
― Alan W. Watts
― Gerald G. Jampolsky
Being a long-time user of a number of different anti-depressants, I thought I’d list some of the most common questions here regarding them that I know I can answer with confidence. Keep in mind that everyone reacts to anti-depressants completely differently, and relying on someone else’s experience on them is almost useless.
However, there are some general questions I feel I can answer that would help people.
Just a reminder that I’m not a medical practitioner and always consult with your doctor on all of your questions as well. These answer are not intended to be medical advice. I do feel my first-hand experience being on these medications and getting feedback from multiple doctors along the way myself may be able to help people feel more at ease.
Q: How long does Prozac (fluoxetine) take to work?
A: It takes a while (at least a month) to get the full therapeutic effects. I found that many people who have used Prozac, including myself, notice something on the first day or two of taking it, and I feel this is not likely due to a placebo effect, as none of us were expecting it to work in any way immediately. This isn’t to say its full effects are taking place right away, but that it may begin to start helping in some way.
Q: Does Prozac treat anxiety?
A: In general, SSRIs tend to be helpful for anxiety. This is because anxiety and depression are said to be two sides of the same coin, so to speak. They both stem from a combination of either chemical issues in the brain and/or consistent negative thought loops, and involve distorted ways of thinking. They also often exist together.
When you treat anxiety with an anti-depressant, it often takes the edge off of the anxiety and it makes it easier to deal with. Prozac in particular really almost entirely muted my brain’s tendency towards obsessive thinking, which in turn made it that much easier to get out of any thought loops that were perpetuating an anxious (or depressive) response.
Lexapro or Zoloft did not affect my obsessive thoughts quite in this way. You can feel when you take different anti-depressants that they tend to all work a little differently.
SSRIs can also give you a buffer on your emotions, so your tendency to overreact is lesser as well.
Lexapro (escitalopram) is said to be an SSRI that targets anxiety really well, which for me was a plus since my main problem tends to be my anxiety.
Q: How long does Prozac take to leave your body?
A: I don’t actually know the answer to this, except I do know that Prozac has a longer half life than many other SSRIs, so it stays in your system longer. If you happen to miss a dose, you likely may not feel anything. I used to accidentally miss my Prozac doses all the time and not feel any different, but if I miss a Lexapro dose, I do feel a difference.
For this reason I think that Prozac can be easier to get off of than other SSRIs, as it will leave your system more slowly than others.
Q: Was it hard for you to get off of Prozac?
A: It wasn’t. Even though I was on it for 9 years, I tapered off slowly like you should do. Everyone’s experience in getting of the drug may be different, primarily because the nature of their problem(s) may likely differ from others’.
I did notice some things as my brain was getting used to not being on the drug anymore (primarily a bit more aggression in my personality — not to a bothersome degree). It may depend on how long you’re on Prozac, but I did notice that it took a few months for my system to feel completely back to normal after being on it for so long.
Also, since I’m someone who has a chronic problem with anxiety, things that would normally induce anxiety in me when being off of medication did start to do so again, which resulted in me going back on medication eventually. This likely might not be the case for someone going through something more temporary.
Q: Can you take anti-depressants for life?
A: The simple answer is yes. If you really need them, then the pros of being on the medication long-term will likely outweigh the cons. I know many people in my family who have been on them most of their lives with very little issues.
On the other hand, if you feel you aren’t someone with a truly chronic problem, it would be worth trying to get off them at some point and work on exercising regularly, paying attention to your nutrition, meeting with a therapist, and so on. You cannot underestimate the power of that. There are a great deal of variables that can affect why you feel anxiety and depression, and it takes a lot of trial and error before you can really determine whether it’s something that your brain has a tendency towards naturally, versus something situational or circumstantial that can be worked out over time.
Q: Should I be on an anti-anxiety drug for my anxiety, or stick with an anti-depressant?
A: This is also a difficult question for me to answer as it likely depends on the nature of your anxiety disorder. If you are someone having panic attacks every once in a great while and this is a relatively recent occurrence, you may benefit more from taking an anti-anxiety drug only upon the onset of a panic attack, and not daily. Many anti-anxiety medications such as Ativan or Xanax are very strong drugs and very addictive (along with unpleasant long-term side effects), so it is something you’d ideally only want to take only occasionally and not daily.
I, however, have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and my anxiety, when it hits, tends to be nearly constant for sometimes months. I also have recurring anxiety and depression without necessarily having a trigger. In other words, it’s not the trigger itself that really sets me off — it’s how my brain handles these triggers in the first place (a trigger for me could be something like big life changes of any sort, or anything that my brain is perceiving as a threat at the moment). For me, it makes more sense to have something that regulates my brain chemistry on a daily basis. I believe that people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can do really well on SSRIs.
Q: Does being on a low dose of Prozac (10mg) or Lexapro (10mg) do anything?
A: This will depend on you and the nature of your issue (and your own body’s reaction to things) — but for me, it certainly does. I’ve been on 10mg and 20mg doses of both Prozac and Lexapro. I found 20mg Lexapro to work better for me. I feel that Prozac is a stronger drug and a 10mg dose of Prozac affected me more than a 10mg dose of Lexapro.
Q: How is Lexapro different than Prozac?
A: I wrote an article on my experience with both here. In a nutshell, Lexapro can be more effective for anxiety than Prozac is, for some people. Prozac seems to be a stronger drug, and can also treat OCD. If your primary problem is generalized anxiety and/or mild depression, maybe you can start with Lexapro and see how it works for you.
It really is a matter of trial and error to see what works best for you. A couple doctors have told me that Lexapro tends to be better tolerated, and I would agree that I have had less side effects on Lexapro than on Prozac. However, I also know a few people who have been on both and preferred the Prozac.
Q: Can Prozac or Lexapro make you anxious?
A: If you find yourself MORE anxious on Prozac or Lexapro, it could be a few things. Either:
1) you just started taking one of the medications and your system is getting used to it, and the anxiety will go away after a week or two.
2) You are nervous about what the medications are going to do to you, and it’s creating anxiety while being on it, or
3) your system isn’t reacting to the medication well. You’ll have to determine what is causing the anxiety and switch to another med if needed.
Q: What’s the best time to take Prozac?
A: Prozac tends to be an energizing drug for some, so for those it is best taken in the morning. I did not get any energizing effects from Prozac and took it in the early evening with no issues. You can start by taking it first thing in the morning and see how that works.
Q: What’s the best time to take Lexapro?
A: Lexapro (as it states right on the bottle) may actually make you drowsy, but I didn’t feel this from Lexapro myself. But for that reason, many medical practitioners will advise to try taking it in the evening first.
Q: I’m having really insane dreams on Prozac. Is this normal?
A: Yes! This is a very common side effect of Prozac. Doctors have suggested taking it first in the morning to potentially help with this as well. I did not have this side effect myself, but I have heard that the crazy dreams can subside after a while of being on the medication.
There you have it — some of the most common questions I see about taking anti-depressants. If you have any other questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I may add more questions and answers to this article over time to make it even more complete. Best of luck and hang in there!