Consultant Psychologist MPsych (Clin) Tugun Clinic, Gold Coast
I stumbled into meditation quite by accident when I was 35. I had just broken up with a lawyer boyfriend who I thought was my knight in shining armour, only a year after I had divorced my first husband. It was a turbulent period. I probably cried more during this time than any other time in my life. And I didn’t just cry in those days. When I got upset, I would cry, scream and vehemently attack my partner with the nastiest words. It was like my anger, fear and sorrow weren’t mine at all but some powerful thing from outer space that would suddenly hijack my consciousness and drive my body to do all the deeds.
On that day I discovered meditation, I was lying on my bed wailing helplessly because I didn’t know what else to do as the memories of my lawyer boyfriend came and went. I wailed for what seemed like all morning and then stopped. I was simply exhausted. I closed my eyes and started to do some deep breathing, something my first husband had taught me but I never practised. Suddenly, I noticed myself free from the anguish – so completely free that it was as though I was floating far above the problems and questions which I was sure were still unresolved. I soaked up the blissful serenity, and when I opened my eyes I cried – because I then saw hope.
Looking back, the experience was probably closer to dissociation than meditation. But I thought I had found enlightenment and enthusiastically began following a path of self-discovery. I continued practising meditation every day. I read many popular psychology books and saw psychotherapists. I wanted to know why I was like this. I wanted to know where all that intense, unwanted energy came from.
The psychotherapists I saw weren’t much help, and I decided that I could do a better job if I knew how. I enrolled myself in a clinical psychology program at a nearby university. When I studied CBT, I thought I had found the cure for myself. When I learned about borderline personality disorder, I thought there were others like me. And when I learned about Asperger syndrome, I thought I had found the explanation to how I was. I drafted detailed conceptualisations of myself and tried one CBT technique after another to ‘fix’ myself.
I resolved many of my difficulties this way. For example, I managed to distance and differentiate myself from my well-meaning but erratic mother and learned to accept myself for who I was. I slowly but steadily began leading a life which others may envy. I bought a house, fell pregnant to my architect boyfriend, married him, had a beautiful baby daughter, finished my degree, got a job, and subsequently started my private practice.
But I was keenly aware that a portion of my everyday life hadn’t changed since my most dysfunctional days. I frequently got angry and shouted at my young daughter. My anger got so intense that I wasn’t able to feel any love, compassion or remorse until much later. It got intense so quickly that I didn’t know that I was angry until after I had shouted. It terrified my daughter, and it tormented me, but no amount of CBT and meditation seemed to really help. My anger was almost always around violations of the rules I had created – to keep my house clean, to get things done on time and to do these things efficiently. To me these rules were perfectly natural, logical and necessary, but my husband and daughter failed to appreciate them. I knew that my rules were the main source of our conflicts, but I wasn’t able to let go of the rules for fear of losing my identity and sense of belonging.
I attended Bruno’s 1-day and 8-week courses without much expectation because nothing else had really worked. But I began to notice the difference after about three weeks of twice-daily MiCBT mindfulness practice. I began to detect my anger at a very early stage and to monitor its gradual increase as though it were in slow motion, which allowed me to actually ask myself the crucial questions, “Should I shout or just talk? If talk, what should I say? And how and when should I say it?” The questions I preached to my clients to ask themselves and yet was never able to do myself. In other words, a miracle has happened.
MiCBT bipolar exposure has also got me used to my anxiety, which I didn’t know I had because I avoided it so well. I now spend much less time on keeping my house clean, and instead I often manage to squeeze some fun things in a day – like going to a park or hosting an impromptu play-day after school. And this is the big part, I do it smilingly. The notion of equanimity has filtered into our family life so much that our 6-year old daughter told me the other day, “Mummy, you need to be more equanimous.”
On the second session of the 8-week course, when I told Bruno I did not have time for two mindfulness practices in a day, he gently but firmly persuaded me to get up at 5 am to do the first practice of the day. It was one of the most significant turning points in my life because it would have taken a very different path if he did not succeed then. It is my hope that I make turning points like that in others’ lives too. MiCBT has already helped many of my clients, some of whom have shown dramatic improvement. I am committed to continue learning and growing as a MiCBT practitioner – through the regular meetings with my fellow MiCBT course graduates on the Gold Coast, Queensland, monthly supervisions by Bruno, upcoming advanced MiCBT courses, and, of course, my daily practice.
I accept referrals of clients and I can be contacted by phone: (07) 5559 5391 or email: [email protected]