About 7 years ago, I found myself having a mental breakdown. I couldn’t function in my day-to-day life, I could hardly get out of bed, I couldn’t face the outside world without falling apart and I nearly attempted suicide for the second time.
I sat on my kitchen floor one day, having hurt myself almost to the point of no return and realised that I needed help ASAP.
A mixture of my social anxiety disorder, depression and an unhappy living environment had pushed me to this point. I spent the evening in A&E wondering if things would ever get better for me.
Things did get better but just like any kind of progress, it didn’t happen in a straight line. I had to wait months for therapy despite being suicidal and I had a LOT of things to figure out and changes in my life to make. None of that is ever easy.
You learn a lot about yourself from having a mental breakdown, here are just 5 of those things…
Who your support system is
You learn very quickly after having a mental breakdown, who your true support system is.
You may find that people who you thought you were close to, suddenly stop contacting you and move on and people who you didn’t think would be there for you are the ones showing up and supporting you.
I remember always being there for my friends, even if it was a walk at 2am so they could vent about their feelings over a breakup. Yet when I asked for help, not many of them did.
I realised which friends were using me for their own benefit and which ones actually cared about me.
That you need to want to get better
This was the biggest realisation for me. I’d already done a fuck ton of therapy during my teenage years and assumed it didn’t really work because I’d still found myself anxious, depressed and having a mental breakdown.
After my breakdown, I was offered a second go at CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and even though I had to wait quite a long time for it, it was worth every minute of the not-so-exciting anticipation.
The reason it worked so well this time was that I was 100% ready to get better and probably because I’d laid so much of the groundwork with previous therapies and treatments.
In the past, I’d pretend I did the homework set out for me and I’d pretend I was doing better than I was, just because I hated going to therapy. It made me more anxious and it was very emotionally draining at the time.
After having a breakdown, you almost feel as if you have absolutely nothing left to lose, so anything is worth a try.
The desperation to get better once you’ve hit rock bottom, gives you a certain determination that you might not have had before.
Happiness isn’t an achievable goal
I used to think that happiness was the goal and everything would be great if only I could be “happy” but happiness isn’t a constant state, it’s not something you can reach one day and then live in forever.
After having a mental breakdown, I realised that no feeling was permanent but that was not necessarily a bad thing.
Because I had felt such a catastrophic low on more than one occasion, I was able to feel the good moments in a much more profound and heightened way.
It helped me to appreciate that life is up and down but also mediocre and that’s okay.
You find out what you really want
Sometimes it takes completely losing control over your life to realise what it is you want and which changes you need to make.
I realised that I had been feeling trapped by my mental illness and my unhappy life at home and the combination of those two things made me feel as if I had nowhere to go to feel like “me”.
When I started to rebuild myself after the breakdown, I didn’t just go to therapy, I also made drastic changes to my personal life.
I finally found the courage to leave the home that I had felt suffocated by and leave the relationship that I no longer felt loved in.
Self-care isn’t selfish
When you’re travelling on a plane, the attendants doing the safety demonstration always tell you to put your own mask on, before helping others, in the event of an emergency.
This advice should be universal.
If you constantly keep putting the needs of others above your own and don’t take any time to look after yourself, you will burn out.
If you discover even just one thing from having a mental breakdown, it’s that self-care isn’t selfish, it’s just absolute necessity!
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