A Guided Meditation for Panic and Anxiety Disorders with Hypochondria

Meditation is often touted as a great solution for alleviating anxiety and stress. And it can be, but for those of us who have anxiety disorders, meditation and stillness runs counter-intuitive to our body’s natural desire to run and distract ourselves whenever we’re alone with our thoughts. I wanted to share something that has really helped me be able to use meditation and mindfulness as a tool for relaxation rather than a stimulus for panic.

One of the common threads throughout most meditative practices is the breath. We are to slow down our breathing and concentrate deeply on the in and out cycle. I don’t know about any of you, but as someone who struggles with some hypochondria and health anxiety in general, the last thing I want to do is pay attention to my breathing or heart beat. The hyper focusing on particular sensations in the body can immediately send me into panic mode.

My solution? To imagine breathing not as “breathing” but as air filling up an external object that has nothing to do with keeping you alive. I have found that a balloon is a great object that is easy to visualize. It can be relaxing in itself by evoking a playful memory of childhood. Everyone can remember the fun and wonder of seeing a balloon being filled up by helium. Probably best to think of it as air so you don’t visualize yourself breathing in helium and start imagining you’ve been poisoned, are light-headed, dizzy, and talking in a squeaky voice…Yep, our anxious thoughts can be that messed up. Here are the steps I take:

  1. Start in a comfortable position.
  2. Place your hand or hands on your belly close to your diaphragm.
  3. Begin visualizing your belly as a balloon…flat and void of air at the end of your breath out and being filled up with air and rounded as your stomach expands with each breath.
  4. It helps me to actually picture a helium tank in front of me and sliding an empty balloon on the nozzle and seeing the balloon get bigger as my lungs fill with air.
  5. Once I’ve filled my “balloon”, I pull it off the nozzle and see myself pinch the end of the balloon to make sure no air escapes and hold it there for a second or two (pausing my breath at the same time).
  6. Then, I start to slowly let air out of the balloon (and lungs) with my fingers still pinching slightly so all the air doesn’t come out at once. I even try to hear the sound of a deflating balloon as I’m breathing out to be completely in the moment.
  7. Once my balloon becomes completely empty I spend a second putting the balloon back on the nozzle of the tank (pausing my breath) and repeat the process.

Hopefully, this helps some people that struggle with the breathing portion of meditation or have been avoiding it because it feels like confronting fear rather than a relaxing activity. Your breath is important, but this exercise allows you to breathe correctly but still think about an external object to keep health anxiety at bay.

-Justin Farley

Hello, everyone! I have recently published my first chapbook of Christian poems titled “A Voice in the Wilderness – A Chapbook of Poems about God”. This has been developed and polished over the past six months or so. I am happy with the final product and hope you find encouragement in the poems but also a validation that the spiritual life is not all sunshine and rainbows. We all struggle. We all have periods of questions and/or doubt. But it is the yearning that keeps us coming back for more and allows us to experience joy.
You can purchase either on Amazon or on my own bookstore (it is cheaper and has free shipping on my store) and is available on the Kindle and in paperback.
Amazon: Kindle Paperback
Inkspiration Books (my bookstore): Paperback

Thank you for your support!

The Road to Recovery – A Poem by Justin Farley

The Road to Recovery

I tried walking away from madness,
seeking peace.
But found I was bound and a captive,
unable to retreat.
Astonished, I looked down at shackles
clasped around my hands and feet.
I have hollered until I was hoarse;
solitude is the only company I keep.
What is left now other than to shrink
within my cell and accept defeat?
But wait...what if this freedom I seek
lies juxtaposed to relief?
Maybe I need to start asking why
these feelings run so deep.
Yes, the road to recovery
begins with acceptance
and ends with peace.

Justin Farley

Losing Myself Poem About Mental Illness and Recovery

Losing Myself

I’m losing myself in pieces –
every year fragments of my soul
feel swept away by time.

My identity constantly decreases,
and I’m beginning to feel like a stranger
within the confines of my own mind.

Yes, I’m losing myself in pieces –
the jigsaw puzzle’s lovely image
has jumbled into an abstract mess.

But my search for meaning never ceases.
I continue holding the lantern,
calling out to myself in the darkness.

I’m searching for the lost pieces –
putting myself back together
one discovery at a time.

With faith, hope increases,
and despite being far from perfect,
I’m able to begin recovery’s climb.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

girl-564460_640

Poem about Depression, Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder

Wavering Emotions

What pulls me out of bed in the morning?
What lies beyond the break of day?
Some days find me bouncing to work,
others a struggle to summon the energy to play.

How do I slay this elusive dragon
that renders me depressed and without drive?
My heart longs and desires to flourish,
but my mind is merely trying to survive.

There’s scenes of prosperity
but always followed by a pauper’s act.
My heart always seems to know where it’s going,
but my mind constantly derails me off the tracks.

How do I muzzle the black dog’s barking?
How do I train him to submit by my side?
Some days find me rejoicing at life’s invitation,
others a constant desire to lock my doors and hide.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

How Anxiety Distracts Us From God

woman-1030920_1280

 

 The Noticer

Let me be a noticer of things in your world
instead of a dweller of my inner thoughts,
worries, and selfish longings
that only keep me distracted from you.

For when I uproot myself out of the present moment
and plant my focus on myself,
I rob myself of the joy
of witnessing your glory and beauty
all around me.

I have always been a highly observant person, picking out minor details that others often miss. On my morning walk in the woods today I noticed an old, wooden beam with rusted barbwire wrapped around the edges that had clearly once been a fence post. The problem was that I’d walked this path dozens of times before. Worse, it only stood a few inches off the trail.

What may seem an unimportant observation worried me. I should have noticed this a long time ago. But then again, maybe I’m not quite as observant as I once was…not since anxiety and worry have become a constant companion.

I sat there looking at that fence post, noticing for the first time the rotting wood and the crumbling decay of age. In my perifocal view I then noticed a bee hovering around a flower and insects crawling along the earth. I was struck with the realization that I have formed a habit of being so stuck inside my head observing my anxieties and worries that I have lost an awareness of the world around me.

I’ve decided I’m still a highly observant person; I’ve just been preoccupied with the wrong details. Anxiety and worry cause us to retreat inward, focusing on only our thoughts and feelings, preparing for the “what ifs” of the future. In the process they rob us of the joy and experience of life in the present moment.

God dwells in the here and now. God speaks in the present. God walks with us in this moment. When we try to place ourselves in the future, we make no room for God. For the future is determined by His will, not ours. And that is what anxiety and fear inspire us to do, don’t they? To just sprint past God and try to prepare, plan, and control what happens next. We lack faith in God’s providence, so we seek out our own providence. We are finite creatures who are not built to withstand that kind of responsibility. When we put ourselves in control of managing our future, we collapse under the weight of worry.

Even more importantly, when we are constantly distracted by our worries and removed from the here and now, we miss out on the wonderful experience of witnessing God’s glory and beauty all around us.  The beauty of a sunset, the feeling of the wind against your skin, the magic of the leaves changing colors, the love in another’s eyes, the wisdom God passes on in seemingly unimportant things.

It’s a hard fight to pull yourself out of your own head and leave all the worrying behind. It’s maybe an even harder fight to trust in God. But there are opportunities for redemption all around us, yet we have to be attentive to the present moment to recognize them. If we remain focused on the incessant cycle of self-centered thoughts, we deny ourselves the gift of seeing God’s divine presence right here, right now.

-Post and Poem Written by Justin Farley

Internal Fire – A Poem

fire-2911041_640

Smoke fills the lungs.
Warning signals run in desperation to alert the mind
in a race that’s become all too familiar.
Flames engulf my entrails
like dry twigs thrown on a campfire on an August night.
In frantic panic, eyes search for aid,
but people pass by as if nothing were amiss.
Surely someone must feel the heat…
Can’t anyone see the fire that burns bright in these eyes?
Doesn’t anyone know the smell of the human spirit
cooking in the oven of fear or hear it’s cry,
wailing when touched by the torch
like a colonial witch burned at the stake?

My mind is already alight,
pulsing in agony,
raging like a wounded animal hobbling through the forest,
flapping my wings like a madman trying to put out invisible flames.
I wait out the blaze until every drop of fuel
has been burnt up within me.
My mind is now only simmering instead of boiling.
My brain’s fire has had it’s excess oxygen removed and dwindles.
But the coals of Hell have taken their toll.
I have been branded,
internally marked as different from society –
part man, part beast,
forced to carry these hideous scars,
these burns that have been seared upon my soul,
feeling like a traveling circus on display for all to see.

The internal fire is felt,
but remains unseen.
Daily situations necessary for living in modern society
are tiny sparks that land upon the mind’s kindling,
never knowing when flames will roar up
and engulf my essence once again,
always burning with too much heat,
and I never have enough water.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

Deep Poem About Depression and Feeling Emptiness

Deep Poem About Depression and Feeling Empty, Nothing, and Alone

moon-2933976_640

 

“The Nothing”

Desire eludes me like an admirable foe
in a game of hide-and-seek.
I know it’s somewhere close,
but always feels out of reach.

I call out and question this vast nothingness
that often settles in my soul,
but its mute tongue remains silent and never speaks.

I wander through the trees,
searching the ground for the inspirational feelings
that I lost somewhere along the way.
I track their footprints across past progress,
but lately find nothing to push me through the day.

Depression’s misunderstood bane is not sadness,
on display for all with sobs and sudden tears,
but the emptiness that keeps your heart hidden from yourself –
the absence of feeling when excitement speaks in your ears.

To stare at beauty and recognize it with the mind alone
breaks the gates between life and death.
The numbness tugs you towards the boundary
until you feel like a ghost, with no part of yourself left.

Desire, motivation, and inspiration –
they all snub me and leave me slumped in this chair
feeling half-dead and without the energy to get up into life.
Depression begins as a teardrop,
but ends as a restless phantom sucking at what’s left of your soul
in a seemingly endless cold, dark night.

– Poem Written by Justin Farley

Beyond the Poetry

For a great deal of my life I never thought I was depressed because I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t cry, wasn’t suicidal, or have suicidal thoughts. But I failed to see that I often didn’t feel happy, motivated, inspired, ambitious, or love either. Depression has become more accepted and recognized by people, but I believe that the general public accepts or only recognizes one side of depression – the side they can relate to.

Everyone has felt sad, lonely, “depressed”, or grief at some point. They can relate to depression in that way. Few people have felt emptiness or nothing at all for an extended period of time. At least when you feel sorrow, you feel something. A bad something is often better than nothing. Nothing feels not human. Nothing claws at the thing that makes you “you”, until you can’t find it anymore.

When someone is visibly crying and obviously distressed, it’s easy to get sympathy or at least provide real evidence why you can’t do something. Emptiness, however, can’t be seen. You still look the same. It doesn’t appear anything is wrong with you, but inside of you there is something cripplingly wrong.

How do you explain depression when you don’t really even know how to describe it? You may be labeled lazy by people who can’t understand, but you can feel lazy. Nothing is nothing. No desire. No motivation. No ambition. No feeling to do anything. Because feelings and emotions are one of the key elements that define us as humans, it’s too abstract for people that have never been clinically depressed to understand. It’s hard enough for us that deal with it to understand…

Sometimes you must act regardless of how you feel. I understand that. But behind acting for something you don’t want to do is feeling for something you do what. You may not want to clean the kitchen, but you do it anyways not because you have to, but because you desire a clean house. You may hate the temporary job you have, but you do it because you desire to work your way up in the company or because you desire money. And that’s why depression is hard to explain and hard to comprehend by others.

When you’re depressed, often there is NO desire. You don’t want to clean the kitchen and you don’t desire a clean house, even when you want to desire a clean house. You hate the temporary job and have no desire to show up, to make money, or the ambition to move up in a company, even though you want those desires. Humans do just about everything because of some desire, whether it’s directly or indirectly connected. The mundane work gets done because you have a greater desire for something else that requires it to be completed. People that are depressed often have no desire to do anything.

Being depressed is like trying to be in a relationship with someone that you don’t like, love, and find very unattractive. You try to will yourself to love them. You try over and over, but no matter what you do, you can’t force yourself to suddenly be attracted them them and love them. Sooner or later you hit a brick wall and give up because it’s draining you inside and nothing is changing despite all your attempts. Depression is like that, except life is your relationship and you want nothing to do with it, despite how much you want it to change. It makes you feel something other than being human and utterly alone.

I didn’t write this poem on depression to produce feelings of hopelessness or sadness. I think it’s important for those who suffer from mental illness to see other people’s struggles, so that they know that they are not alone. Mental illness isn’t fun and sometimes “trying to stay positive” is exhausting and self-defeating. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a core part of getting better. But some days you just need to know that there is someone out there that is like you. That you’re not the only of your kind and can still relate to someone of the human race.

You may not ever be able to express what depression feels like or get others to understand. That’s not your fault or theirs. It’s just not possible because unless you’ve felt it, you can’t comprehend it. But you’re not alone, and there are thousands of people feeling just like you. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re depressed, but it does give you comfort knowing that you’re not the only one dealing with it. Hope only ceases when we decide we’re going to quit looking for it. Keep looking. Keep searching for a way out of your cold, dark night and back into the warmth of life.

 

Life is in the Eye of the Beholder Poem

Life is in the Eye of the Beholder

Life is in the eye of the beholder.
It remains constant through the ages,
But changes with each person’s view.
The pixels of your life’s image
Are formed and determined by you.

The lens we choose to look through
Is the filter that determines our fate.
Blessings abound for those with humble hearts;
Misfortune for the proud awaits.

Curses and gifts are wrapped in the same packages;
Their contents are named when opened.
Curses will find those who feel entitled;
Gifts will present themselves when chosen.

Be patient in judgments.
Let the season pass before crying out your dismay.
What often begins as terrible weather
Ends as part of a beautiful day.

Trust that there’s meaning in the madness
Or mad you will become.
A glass is either half-full or half-empty,
And your happiness to bound to either one.

Life is in the eye of the beholder.
Its blessings are as numerous as the stars,
And its scars outnumber the droplets of the sea.
The choice is given in the pair of glasses
From which you decide to see.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

About the Poem

There are events in life that are clearly tragedies and others that are clearly blessings, but most of what happens to us is determined by our expectations and our viewpoint. In my life, I’ve dealt and deal with many things that could be considered misfortunes – addiction,anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder. At the beginning of this week, my anxiety was very high, and I found myself in pity mode, asking, “Why me? Why does it have to be so hard? Why has my life been robbed by mental illness?”

The only person I could seem to find blame with was God. If God is in control, he is the one to blame. Sometimes when you’re brought so low by something outside of your control, it’s hard to trust and believe in a God of goodness and mercy. But one of the blessings of Christianity is that He knows that. There is no shame for us at times to feel abandoned and confused, for Christ himself shouted, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But the danger is staying in that place too long and not looking at the big picture of life. The danger is turning away and not seeking council through prayer and patience. I received an answer when a thought popped into my head asking who I would be without the struggles I have had in life.

There’s no doubt that I would have more worldly success without mental illness and addiction. But when I thought about the type of person I would have become, I had to admit that I would likely be extremely arrogant, prideful, hateful, feel no need for God, and have none of the good qualities and values that I’m grateful for. I am quick to blame God for pain; yet know, as stubborn as I am, often times it’s the only way to get me to listen.

The pain in life is not enjoyable and often feels hard to bear. For me, the error lies in my assumption that I’m entitled to feel no pain. I’m entitled to have complete control over my life with no consequences. I’m entitled to have a smooth life with no struggles or battles.  The reality is that our character is formed by those hardships. The hardships are what force us to do the things we don’t want to do, but know we need to do. What we label as “misfortune” is often a blessing that stirs within us the question of “why”, calling us back towards God and off the dangerous path we’re on.

There are times too when there is no answer and our circumstance is too terrible to see anything good in it. The only thing we are called to do is to wait, be patient, and trust that God will work goodness out of darkness. Often, what seems like unbearable tragedy is looked upon as saving grace years down the road.

Goodness and blessings occur everyday, but it is up to us to find them. It’s so much easier to notice all things that are wrong with our lives instead of cherishing the abundance of blessings and goodness. Our outlook on life isn’t going to prevent us from ever going through pain, but does keep things in perspective and allows us to have joy even when we’re not happy temporarily, knowing that our joy is not bound by the ups and downs of this world.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like my poem, “Everyday Miracles”, about finding the presence of God everyday in ordinary things.

Poem About Bipolar Disorder Manic Depression – Roller Coaster

Roller Coaster – A Poem About Bipolar Disorder / Manic Depression

 

No waiting lines.
No ticket fees.
I was born strapped in your seat.

You took me up.
You took me down.
No choice in where I was bound.

But you soared me too high.
You crashed me too low.
I fried in Hell’s fiery furnace, writhed in winter’s snow.

A thrilling ride
for a moment’s time,
but now no way to stop this racing mind.

For a moment’s time
A slow, quiet rest,
but now bleak, cold, and dead inside my chest.

No way to curb the madness.
No way to calm the fear.
No way to halt this ride and get out of here.

Corkscrews and loops.
Falls and climbs.
I spend my life riding the moods of my mind.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

About the Poem

Anyone who has dealt with bipolar disorder knows what it’s like to feel like your life is a constant roller coaster. You click up the tracks and reach the summit, feeling on top of the world. But soon come crashing down, picking up speed and racing through tunnels, curves, and loops. It may be exciting to feel out of control for a few minutes on a ride, but when it becomes the way you describe your life, enjoyment isn’t one of the words that comes to mind.

It’s exhausting living with bipolar, not knowing which “you” is going to wake up the next day. Are you going to be racing with energy, crazy in an episode of mania? Or are you going to wake without enough energy to even get out of bed and struggle to make it through the day filled with depression? Mental illness, and specifically bipolar disorder, can make you feel like your whole life is one long roller coaster ride you can’t get off of.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like my poem “The Clouds of Mourning”

A Post-Modern Portrait – A Poem

“But I like the inconveniences.”
“We don’t,” said the Controller. “We prefer to do things comfortably.”
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.” There was a long silence.
“I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.
Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. “You’re welcome,” he said.

-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 

8272791771_062aa727a7_b

A Post-Modern Portrait

Steel covered sky.
Gun-stock gray rays.
Metallic molten moon.

Where do you turn when the hovering dome
That covers your head is sucked void of joy
Like an eternal vacuum, gasping for breath?

Is this really all there is left –
Empty shells consisting of robotic movements,
Resembling humans, but without hearts beating in their chest?

Why are the pure at heart so easily discarded as trash,
But the deceivers received as gold?
What kind of world do we live in when all meaning has been lost –
A heirloom remembered, but regarded as ancient and old?

I’m afraid the heart seeks a treasure that doesn’t exist,
Washed out by the waves of progress
And swallowed by the deluded ideals of feminists.

Woman, do you want to know why there’s no longer
Knights in shinning armor walking the streets?
Because you have become accustomed to the darkness,
Mated with the dragon, and your pride refuses to admit you’re in need.

Independence and self-reliance have paved the death of the soul.
Romantics lay in anguish,
Lost in a world gone cold.

When the Self becomes king,
Selfishness reigns supreme.
Love is shackled and silenced When “ME” “MY”, and “MINE”
Are the passions and desires the heart screams.

Gun-stock gray flock
Of unfulfilled passionate yearnings
Flutter across the cold, metallic sky.
Heartless, inhumane existence clatters
With each footstep of people passing by.

And I am lost in this game.
I don’t know how to join in the delusions.
I have no desire to come to your miscalculated conclusions.

I don’t know how to still the warm heart beating in my chest.
I have no desire to walk like a lamb to the slaughter
And watch my soul shrivel like all the rest.

I have no desire to play by the rules
Of this revised edition of the Game of Life.
I’ll boldly wait in my alienated prism reflecting the light
Rather than sell my soul and vulnerability for the sake of safety
And step out into that dark night.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley