Many times throughout my treatment for BPD, I have been “encouraged” to use mindfulness. So much so, that I started to hate the word.
“How is mindfulness going to help me? Sounds like some mental health buzzword shit.”
I reluctantly sat through breathing exercises, silently feeling my chest tighten, and wondering how the fuck anyone could possibly find this helpful.
Then one day at group therapy, we were asked to pick an object from outside. I chose a stone. Others chose a leaf, a pinecone, a feather, and so on.
We returned inside with our chosen objects, and the group leader asked us to follow along as she walked us through the exercise.
First, we were asked to focus on our object. If other thoughts arose, we were to notice them, then bring our attention back to our object. Then she slowly directed us:
Describe your object by what you can see. What colour is it? How big is it? Does it have any marks or patterns? List every detail you can see.
Next, describe your object by how it feels in your hands. Is it cold to the touch? Is it rough or smooth? Can you feel any bumps or indents?
Moving on to smell. Does your object have a smell? Is it a pleasant smell? If it doesn’t smell of anything, just acknowledge that.
Next, hearing. Does your object make a noise? What about when you squeeze it? When you tap it against the table? When you shake it? Is it a loud noise? Is it barely audible?
And finally, taste. If safe to do so, taste your object. If it’s dirty or unsafe to taste, just notice that – no judgment, just acknowledge it. If you can taste your object, how does it taste? Is it bitter? Does it taste of anything? Does it taste like you expected it to?
The group leader brought the exercise to a close, and we returned our attention to the room.
Then it hit me. For the first time, I’d actually focused for the entire exercise. I actually did feel calmer. My brain felt less foggy. I felt at least a little bit connected to the physical world – a sensation with which I had not been familiar for a long time.
I tried the exercise a few times by myself at home over the next week, particularly when I felt anxious or I was dissociating, and it really helped. It didn’t work every time, of course. I’m not going to bullshit you and tell you it’s the magic cure to all your problems. But it honestly helped the majority of the times that I used it.
I found that unlike the breathing mindfulness exercises, or the observing your emotions exercises, I was actually able to focus because I had something physical, something tangible to lock on to.
I tried the exercise with a pen. With a necklace. With a cup of tea. I started making a list of things I could use in the future.
For the first time, I’d found mindfulness helpful. For the first time, I thought it might not just be a mental health buzzword.
Maybe it won’t work for you. Maybe it will. All I know is, it gives me something to which I can anchor my mind when it’s trying to float away into the fog. So maybe it’s worth a try?
What is your experience with mindfulness? Have you tried this method? What do you find helpful to deal with anxiety, dissociation, or brain fog? Let me know in the comments below!