So a new study just came out saying how mindfulness and meditation can make depression and anxiety Worse (  My immediate response is “well yeah, because they get all woo woo happy newage about it, they’re teaching it wrong”
Upon reflection I strongly suspect the people who have negative effects, discover they’ve just blown up the coping mechanisms they had unconsciously put in place, and discover they had been doing pretty good managing a far worse mental/emotional state than they thought they had.  Most of that, I would guess, is avoidance, and not thinking about it, and mindfulness introduces the “Don’t think about white elephants” problem, and lacking the mental and emotional tools, discipline, and experience, they get a headfull of white elephants, on a rampage  through their happy place.

(I’m sure some also encounter some spiritual elements they were unprepared for, but that’s another matter)

I’ve been meaning for a while to lay out an examination of my own struggle with mental health, and how I managed to mitigate (or at least survive) about 3 decades of severe, and at times debilitating depression, most of which went untreated, in hopes that the ways I found to cope with it might be helpful to someone else, particularly as they are not depression/anxiety specific.

(here is the obligatory note that I am not a medical professional,  I’m just some way out there wackadoo, telling a story of personal experience with mental illness, and how I handle it.  Mileage, may of course, vary.  It should be noted, and I am fierce on this point, all my observations and how I arrived at them are My Own.  Any points at which what I have to say aligns with anybody else’s “official” findings on the matter, I found them coming up from the back side of the proverbial mountain, as it were, and it was a hard climb with no handrails and no ropes and beyond a loving family and friends, by myself, in the dark, in a close quarters knife fight with a shadow that looked and sounded like me… I digress.)

Let us begin.
Not only do I have a family history of depression/weird mental health,  I’m Also non-neurotypical.    “Aspie as fuck”, autism spectrum, whatever you’d like to call that.
Around age 11, when the wonderful world of “kids being kids, the little weirdos”  starts turning to the social world of “You, weirdo, are Not acceptable” with increasing vehemence with each passing year until adulthood and beyond-  it is little wonder I had a rough go of things.  There were hard things before this, which I may examine at some point, but really, 11, is when I became miserable and stayed there, consistently, for the rest of my life.    Not to say there weren’t days or moments that were good- wonderful, even, but after that, dealing with life in general was Not a pleasant experience.
Some of that is my own perception, turned against itself, and corrupted mental and emotional data.  Some of it is that it’s Hard being a sensitive weirdo, who doesn’t fit in this world, isn’t good at it by the prescribed “Rules”, and doesn’t like it.
(some of that is non-neurotypical difficulty.  Some I know to be something *Other.  Add those to the malice of the “normal world” to anything that doesn’t quite fit right and goddamn, it’s a wonder I’m still Here)

Anyway-  Me, Depression, whether hardwired or situational (both, frankly) are just part of my reality experience for the vast majority of my life, and I Knew (or came to recognize), for the most part, I had No Valid Reason to be as miserable as I was for much of that.  At several points, life was functionally FINE, and no different than anyone else was dealing with no problem, so Obviously there had to be something wrong with Me, my perception, my mental/emotional response.    Sure, I could go into all the identified whys and wherefores. They’re subjective so it’s irrelevant. What did I DO about it to cope?

Ok, the point of this piece.

Between (I’m sorry family members) learning to cope with bad LSD trips by ignoring the obviously corrupted perceptional data and relying on what I knew to be true on a “normal day”, I could remove my Observational perspective from the experience, ignore the cop’s nose wandering round his face, and deal with the world from an observational perspective that was not, in fact, tripping my everloving balls off.  It was just getting bad sense data.
Which I then later equated to the corrupted perception experience of Depression, and thereby employed the same tactics of ignoring any mental/emotional data that did not line up with my general “Normal” state (which wasn’t happy, but also wasn’t full bore breakdown that sees EVERYTHING through a corrupted lens of negative perception)  ((another point of note- every trip while in the grips of severe depression is a bad trip.  I thought that “getting you and your roommate through a crushing existential despair” was just a part of how that went for quite some time.  I’ve had more “bad trips” than anyone I’ve heard of.  Severe Depression is just one of Those that doesn’t end in 8 hours or so.  The same coping mechanisms apply, for anybody who groks what I just said))

And, later, the movie “A Beautiful Mind”- wherein a Schizophrenic MIT professor manages to Think his way around schizophrenia and back to functional, While still having the experience- touched off one of those cascading revelations where a lot of dominoes fall at once and click into place.

With any adverse mental/emotional state- normal, abnormal, doesn’t matter, I find, you first have to be able to recognize you are IN one, or one is Imminent.  This requires an observational perspective on your experience as you live it.    We all have (I shouldn’t say all.  Many of us), inside, the person this experience is happening TO.   We have “Second Thoughts” we can think about thinking. And thus we don’t have to accept our Direct perception.

For instance- Say I know I’m tripping my nuts off.   I also know, that my experience of reality is different when I’m NOT tripping my nuts off- taking that knowledge as a baseline, I can then deduce that I have not, in fact, been eaten by the couch, that’s just corrupted data.
By the same token, with Depression which paints EVERYTHING in it’s most horrendous possible colors-  my mother who loves me more than anything, still does, and the perception that she hates me and all that I am can be chalked up to Corrupted Data.  Because my perceptional filters are fucked, I Know they’re fucked.  Same way you know that you ate a ten strip, and most of this shit ain’t real, you’re just trippin.  Any deviation from “Normal Reality” can be safely ignored, pretty much.   You roll with what you Knew to be true, Before you got fucked up.    You still get to Experience it all, same as you do a dream.  It doesn’t help much with that.  It just helps keep “Not fucked up You” in charge, and not acting or believing, poor assumptions based on corrupted data.

Next- Mindfulness and meditation.  If you have a known mental/emotional glitch, and you know how that manifests, you can keep an eye out for it, and forestall it before you’re too deep down that rabbit hole to not be able to see out of it.     When you’re IN the experience, it’s Hard to pull back and assess.  You can, if you’re good at mental/emotional control, and can think back behind the maelstrom of corrupted mental/emotional data and poor assumptions about it.    It’s far better to learn to keep an eye on your mental/emotional weather-  like there’s “You on a good day”?  You know what that is.  You have to stop that before it slides.   Also, if you become aware of your mental glitch triggers, you can, by actively paying attention to the situations you are IN, And your mental/emotional weather, either steel yourself to endure the coming difficulty, OR remove yourself from the situation Before it goes sideways and you lose your shit.
This takes paying attention, inside and out, so you know what’s going on and can react accordingly Before you’re in a hole.

Meditation- and I don’t mean whatever people say, I mean entering a state that STOPS whatever’s going on.   Stills those waters, so you can Think. That’s all we’re after.  Emotional response? Stop.  Breathe. Turn your attention away.  Now think.
Mental hamster wheel?  Stop.  Breathe. Turn your attention away.  Now think.
You have to… even if your usual mind thinks it makes sense, you have to stop it.
You, Thinking Person, have to remember what “Normal” is, and actively ignore all thoughts that are not That.   Chase it and you’re going down.
You have to Stop it, right or wrong.
You have to put a beast on a leash, and hang on for dear life till it calms down, and much like a beast on a leash, you have to keep a wary eye on it, for when you know it’s about to freak out, and do what you can to prevent it.

One trick I’ve used to great effect is viewing the manifestations of my depression as something imposed Upon me from the outside.  Like a literal assault by a Demon, who speaks in my own voice, inside my head- doesn’t matter if that’s the case or not, it’s a useful Symbol to wrap my head around.  The moment I recognize this is something happening TO me, rather than ME being fucked up, well, that gives my rational mind somewhere to stand and fight from.  Objective distance on the experience with which to critically assess it.
It doesn’t Stop the experience in all its hellishness by any means, it just gives me enough distance from it that I have thought Apart from the experience, and don’t have to accept it, or anything it says, as true or real.  It’s just a bad trip.
I’ve spent more than one long night, in the throes of suicidal depression, battling myself until I was too exhausted to get up off the floor to actually Do anything about it- which was a win.  I figured, if I could actually Do it, I still had will and energy enough to fight about it.   Good thing I’m a “defiant till the end and beyond” sort, I suppose, and will continue just for Spite, because “Fuck off demon in my head trying to kill me”.
(a close examination of exactly How your depression or other mental/emotional glitch manifests is vital to this.  Humility and honesty- much like the Professor would ask, and Listen to, someone he trusted to assess whether somebody new he met was really there or not- So too can we employ this same strategy with our other perceptions or interpretation of mental/emotional data.)

So to recap- what you need:

An Awareness of your mental/emotional glitch and the warning signs of it’s impending manifestation, or, having missed that, a recognition that you’re in the middle of it.

A means to Forestall an impending or ongoing unfavorable mental/emotional reaction- whether through mental control in the face of adverse stimuli, or ignoring all incoming mental/emotional data that lines up with the glitch.  (the “switch focus intentionally” aspect of meditation, to put yourself in control of the mental/emotional state, as much as you’re able, rather than the other way around.  Thinking, rather than Reactive) And Bailing if you have to- removing yourself from stimuli that you cannot handle, ASAP, preferably Before you lose it.

And the ability to think independently of an ongoing reality experience, where your perceptions- whether direct experience, or the assumptions you make about them- are corrupted by a known mental/emotional glitch.    You Can hold your ground till it passes.  I in no way mean to suggest it’s pleasant, or you won’t continue to experience it.  Just that you can gain enough of a grip on your own “Normal state” mind to understand what’s happening to you, and control your reactions to it with considered thought.

I know how easy it is to lose ourselves in there- depression, anxiety, manic episode, wild divergence from objective reality- it Can be done, if you know your mind, pay attention, and take action when it is going somewhere erroneous.  At least long enough to get somewhere safe that you can ride it out.

Find a point of stability, and cling to it like flotsam in a storm tossed sea.  Don’t give up, don’t lash out or believe what you think.  Hold to what you knew to be true before this.  The storm will pass eventually, and you’ll land on shore again.   You will be able to trust what your brain tells you about reality again, eventually.  For a while anyway.  You Can make it.  Recognizing what is happening to you makes you an active participant in the matter rather than a passenger or victim swept away in a deluge of madness.

It’s hard.  I know.  Hope this helps, and that it made sense.  Good luck.

Post Script: I kept my process vague, because How to engage these points are subjective to the individual.  WHAT you have to figure out how to do, I find, is more important to a general audience, than specific How To, as mine, probably, won’t quite work for you.
You have to know Your mind, Your glitch, Your stressors, and figure out Your way to forestall, stop, and redirect,  Your bit of flotsam to cling to till it passes.
The important things are Knowing what it is, Paying attention so you can avoid it, and How to not lose your objective rational mind to the experience as it happens should you fail to avoid it (which happens, as such things are goddamn sneaky).
And who you can listen to, even WAAY down a hole, that you will believe no matter what, when they tell you you’re down a hole, and implement mitigation strategies.  That’s mindfulness. Again, good luck.  This shit is hard.