Sarah’s Story: Mindfulness
You guys have helped me so much; from the brink of destruction to being able to find my feet again. There’s a long road ahead but at least I’ve got a pathway.
Sarah, 20, signed up for the Mindfulness course in May 2019.
I signed up for the course because I wanted a bit more ability to be aware and in the moment. I wanted to try and learn some skills to help me see if I could better myself.
I have a tendency with high anxiety to over complicate situations and had anxieties about leaving the house especially. Sometimes I just didn’t leave the house, and spent some of my time just trapped at home. If I had to leave, I’d either sleep through it, or just get to the door and go “no”. I’d get really nervous and start to feel ill every time I thought about leaving and I’d get headaches and stuff and it all became good reasons not to leave the house. It always sounded very sensible “but I can’t leave I’m feeling really ill” but then as soon as you don’t have to go out, it would be: “oh, I’m better now!”
I’ve always been sceptical about meditation and stuff like that. I’d tried an app but it never really worked, but I was in a place where I needed to do something and I thought maybe in a group setting it would help me more. I’d previously been on another course with a smaller group and it had been okay, so after doing that, though groups were still scary, I was less panicked about the idea of being in a group.
[The sessions were] a mixture of meditation and information, and you’d hear other people’s experiences, which was nice because it makes you feel not as crazy or alone. I particularly liked it in our first session when we set up rules and one of the rules was “nothing’s stupid” and that was really relaxing because you’re often worried about what you say or what you sound like.
It was still a challenge being in a group, but it was a really good way to learn … because it’s the sort of sense of community and the feeling of doing it together. It was nice meditating with others. It’s a bit awkward at first, but everyone feels awkward, so that’s okay. So it’s a safe kind of awkwardness, it’s nice. It becomes a safe space overall. And meditating with others is a lot better than meditating on your own. Even if you didn’t say anything at all, and you just sat there with others, it brought a lot of comfort to me.
The people on the course were amazing. It helped me build confidence and see that even the most ‘normal’ people have issues and struggles, so small hiccups don’t seem as big as they do in your head sometimes.
[What helped was] the combination of attending the group and the home practices. On a week when I didn’t do anything at home, I didn’t feel the benefits as much. And doing it at home – it got better, the more I learned. It’s a skill like any other, so the more I practised, and the more the weeks went on, the easier I found it, to relax and take a few minutes to myself if that’s all I could do and just become aware of my body.
The ability to ground myself through my feet was really amazing for me and I have to admit overall made me very aware of when I’m walking at all! For a few days after [the mindful walking], I was walking in really strange ways! It was shocking to me because of the difference that it very clearly made (the mindful walking).
I use the mindful walking to this day if I feel anxious upon leaving the house. My mind would tend to race around and panic about a thousand things, situations which could happen and just concentrating on the energy in my body, how the body moves, helps take the pressure off. I feel more grounded. That not to say I’m not having those thoughts or feeling a bit panicked, but it gives me a feeling of being attached to something and not floating off.
I used to have one day a week in which I would leave the house, and even when I came on the course, I’d only be leaving the house about twice a week. But since then, I’ve been able to leave a bit more freely and it’s been quite amazing. Admittedly, I still need someone to walk me to a bus stop or something, but I used to not even be able to have someone walk me there.
I know the five minute meditation so well now, that even if I can’t listen to a guided meditation, anyway, I can be at work and take five minutes to myself and focus on the breath and I relax. I used to get a fair bit of back pain because I was always so tense, but it’s really helped with that. I’m more aware of when I am tensing up. Sometimes your mind can catch up late to what you’ve been doing and being aware of your body let’s you have more of an early warning.
Since the course finished, I’ve felt more confident about starting college. I’ve got an access course in September so I’m studying again, which will hopefully will lead to more things in the future. I’ve felt more relaxed because now I tend not to overthink as much as I used to. If someone’s angry and shouting, I’m not reacting as much. I’m settled more. I’ve been doing driving lessons and it’s helped for not focusing on a mistake “it’s just a mistake, everyone does it” rather than think a mistake makes me a terrible driver. So hopefully I’ll pass my test!
I’m also going to be a mental health ambassador for Manchester Mind. You guys have helped me so much; from the brink of destruction to being able to find my feet again. There’s a long road ahead but at least I’ve got a pathway.
Our next Mindfulness course starts in February. Find out more here