You could also call it an emotional breakdown or perhaps a mental breakdown, but in essence a “breakdown” has occurred when someone becomes unable to deal with normal day-to-day life.
A breakdown generally occurs when your circuits become overloaded. Your brain, heart, soul, emotions – whatever – are under so much stress that they short circuit, and then shut off, and then you can’t find a nice clean unbroken fuse to mend them.
The day I realised something was seriously wrong was the Tuesday I spent walking around the sleepy hamlet of Port Fairy talking to myself at an audibly obvious level for six continuous hours before sitting on a beach and burning myself with a flaming stick. Now I had wanted to phone someone at this point, I knew something was brewing and I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to stop myself…but no working public phone box anywhere close and…dammit…mobile phone battery was dead!
I literally felt nothing. I literally could do nothing. There was all this stuff I needed to do, all this stuff I wanted to do, but I just – couldn’t – I literally could not do any of it. My brain was not functioning on any level, all I could do for a few days was lie there watching other seasons of 24 (as this had helped the week before) trying not to harm myself.
Like with all forms of mental illness there is only so much help you can garner from other people. You can see doctors and psychologists and MH professionals but you still have to do a hell of a lot of work yourself. I saw my GP regularly and fought for months for professional mental health care, which even after two suicide attempts only really came a few weeks ago.
So how can you help yourself fight an emotional breakdown? These are some of the things I tried:
- Be kind to yourself!
You are going to have bad days and you are going to have good days. Don’t berate yourself for the bad days and think of yourself as a failure as this will only feed the breakdown demons.
- Find ways to reduce your stress level…
– Eat healthily; brown rice, fruit, vegetables, natural foods…
– Find ways for regular relaxation (I used to walk, play in parks in the night-time, sit under trees, watch movies, write [we’ll get to that in a minute])
– Have baths!
– Try to socialise with friends and do things you enjoy (trivia nights, movies, coffee and tea, pizza lunches)
– Do regular relaxation exercises.
– Keep a daily ‘things to do list’ to refer to.
- Be physical
Regular exercise and activity helps relieve stress and tension and keeps your body fit and active, in can be hard to do this after having a breakdown or going through a depressive phase, but it is important. Walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, pilates…if you do something you enjoy it will make things easier.
- Research and learn about what is happening to you.
Understanding your problems/illness better may make it easier to cope.
- Find your own coping strategy
Everyone is different, what works for one person will not work for another. So find your own ways to deal with what you are feeling and your own techniques to get you through your bad days.
– Writing is something I did, the vast majority of my novel “The Ghosts that Haunt Us” was written during this period. However, in order for me to achieve the state of mind I needed to be in, in order to write, I had to self-harm (sometimes severely) in order to get there.
– Other people find art, music, drawing or poetry effective.
– To get through the bad periods I would play video games. I’m a Zelda aficionado so would replay my Gameboy Zelda games to occupy my mind.
– Meditation and yoga can help.
– Although I was unable to write a journal (still can’t to this day, won’t go into why), I did keep a mood diary to help identify and chart what I was feeling.
There are lots of ways you can find to cope with what is happening. I would be interested in hearing your own coping strategies as they may help other people.
One of the hardest things I had to deal with was being told repeatedly that who I thought were my friends were not really my friends (an example of being isolated by my abuser) and wouldn’t be there for me. Thus I was unable to talk to them about what I was going through as I was afraid of pushing them away – which was inevitably going to happen anyway – so had to fight my breakdown alone. They knew I had had a breakdown, and self harmed to some extent, but were not aware of the full extent of what I was dealing with.
The breakdown I experienced earlier this year was singularly the most painful, distressing, chaotic and fear inducing period of my life. I literally just could think straight in any way, my brain shut down and wasn’t functioning on any level. It was a constant daily fight to get through each conversation, each hour, each day.
But it can be done, never lose hope of that.