This is not a research paper; it is a contemplation. Perhaps it is a plea for all to look around at those in your life who are struggling, and decide to help.
What does it mean to have a break down? Why do people judge a person who experiences this as overdramatic, weak, flaky or crazy? It can happen to anyone, and he or she needs help and support.
When a person breaks his or her emotional state is in turmoil, out of control. One’s mental state is irrational, confused, and distorted. It comes at a point of extreme stress, when one’s personal situation is unbearable and beyond his or her power to control or change. There appears to be no options, no hope. Every individual has his or her own threshold. It is not always predictable-it may be a slow process, or a sudden snap.
I feel that one’s capacity to cope with life’s struggles starts like an empty vessel. Traumas, crises, loss..all the tragic events that one encounters over the years are like drops of pain that slowly fill that vessel. Eventually, the vessel fills to the top and not another drop can enter without something spilling over. If enough time has passed, perhaps some room has been made because of evaporation, but if there is too much stress, there is no way to absorb or accept another drop.
I know what it feels like, because years ago, I was there. I was hospitalized for what was then called a nervous breakdown. I could no longer mask the depression I felt; I could no longer quell the crippling anxiety I felt. I could not function and had basically given up. Luckily, my doctor recognized the symptoms, and I was given the treatment and access to care and change I desperately needed. I could not have fixed myself.
It was not an overnight cure. I had to take meds which I rebelled against, but eventually came to accept as necessary. I sought out counseling, assertiveness training, hypnosis, and made a a conscious effort to reinvent myself. It actually wasn’t reinventing so much as returning to person I knew I really was. I made difficult life choices and changes, taking risks which I had avoided before.
Few people know about this chapter in my life. One day I may write about the events that led up to that devastating point, but for now I just want people to know that there is always a way out. It was scary as hell, and in the moment I felt totally alone in the world. I wasn’t.
One of the people who helped me heal was my sister. She was not the huggy, mushy, rainbows and lollipops sister, but she is exactly what I needed-the get your shit together, you can do this, get your ass out there sister. She did not judge me; she just offered the help, encouragement and direction I needed.
I do not believe people have to reach rock bottom before they turn things around. I was nowhere near that point. It was one chapter of many in my life book, and certainly not the ending. I am not ashamed of my mental illness during that period of my life. I understand it and am thankful for the recovery.
My vessel is no longer full. So much of past pain has dissipated. Life still continues to throw challenges my way, as it does to all people, but at least my vessel will no longer overflow.