Most of us use the term “I am having a mental breakdown” to describe a tough day or just when something isn’t going right, resulting in frustration.
I will never use the phrase loosely again, because I had actually did have a mental breakdown and it lasted months. The most scary part of having a nervous breakdown is that the person experiencing it has no idea they are actually having one. Well, at least I had no idea, I honestly thought I was going insane towards the end.
It had built up over years, my psychical and mental health slowly but steadily declined. I became extremely depressed, but at the same time I found ways to cope, grit my teeth and bare it. It is for this reason I did not seek professional help, I thought I was fine and I thought I was strong enough to beat it on my own.
I am strong, I pushed through the constant thoughts of suicide that entered my mind, I found happiness in the company of a dog and kept sane by my love of outdoors. When I felt my thoughts going to that dark corner of my mind, I knew it was time to saddle up my dog and go bush walking. I say saddle because he was huge, and I quite small so it always felt like I was tacking up a pony, there is no other way to describe getting my dog ready for a walk.
I went in labor at 19 weeks into a previous pregnancy, the thoughts from that night still haunt me and my brain has blocked out a lot of the trauma for me, but of course it’s still there, deep down those memories hide. It was a warm night, I remember that much, I was feeling unwell and thinking I was just over heating. The pain grew, and I knew something was very wrong. We were far from help, far from a town, even to call an ambulance I would still need to wait, and time wasn’t on my side. It was so quick and before I knew it I needed to push, I gave birth to a tiny baby girl in the car that night on the side of the road. Too fragile, too undeveloped to survive on her own. My brain was still logical at that point and I had to accept fate. She couldn’t breathe on her own, her lungs hadn’t developed to be able to do so. The world just could not take her, and she was born just to turn into an angel, at least that’s how my mother puts it.
I was only 23, at that age we never would guess how cruel the world can be until it decides to show us.
This was the starting point for my depression, but denial made it worse. I don’t remember much that happened in the weeks after, it seems like a blurred dream. Sometimes I think to myself “Did that really happen, or am I imagining it?” my psychiatrist said flashbacks are usually caused by the brain remembering a suppressed memory that is triggered by a certain situation, or even a sound or smell.
I have been told I would pace, I vaguely remember the pacing. I remember the soothing but odd feeling it bought me, as if I could pass time really quickly if I kept moving.
I spoke to various doctors, psychiatrists, and lots of other people after it happened but my brain wasn’t taking anything in, the lights were on but no one was home so to speak.
Just because a traumatic event happens to someone, does not mean they are going to immediately have a breakdown, or become severely depressed right away. It took almost 3 years for everything to catch up with me, and when it did, it hit me hard.
Unfortunately I dragged someone down with me, someone who really had no idea what he was getting himself into. He wanted to help, but he wasn’t a professional, he wasn’t psychically with me either, we was overseas but we spoke daily and at the time I thought it was enough. When I met him, well just before I met him I was at rock bottom, I had been in an abusive relationship with my former partner, the one I had the baby girl too. Even though him and I had separated about a year and half after the miscarriage I was free from his narcissistic abusive behavior but I was still struggling.
Then I met this other person, who held out their hand to me, little did he know at the time but he was a lifeline. Little did I know that I couldn’t be saved from the breakdown that was edging closer.
So what are the signs you could possibly be having a mental breakdown, keep in mind they don’t all come at once, symptoms include anxiety, depression, memory loss, distorted reality, flashbacks, unable to stop crying or stop yourself randomly bursting into tears, restlessness, dramatic change in mood, and a strong desire to self harm. There are many other symptoms because we are all different and all experience things at a different level of intensity but my psychiatrist said anything out of the ordinary that you wouldn’t normally be doing can contribute.
It is easy to believe you are insane, you forget the person you were before the depression even started, it becomes harder to imagine what it would be like to return to your former self because it’s been so long you have actually forgotten who that person was.
Pressure and stress makes it worse, unfortunately my quest to desperately recover added to it all. I need to get better, I need to be stronger, was the worse thing I could possibly tell myself as it added more pressure than I could handle. It adds pressure on others as well, those trying to help but are unsuccessful can’t understand what they’re doing wrong. This starts a whole vicious cycle of self blame as well as looking for others to blame.
There is hope yet, I started to receive professional help, I got to know and trust the people I talk to and my psychiatrist put me on medication before tackling my past trauma to make sure I had a more stable mind to avoid anything like this happening again.
Guess what? It is working, I am still very sad, I have lost a lot in the last year and I still have a lot of grieving to do but being able to freely grieve and know exactly what it is I am sad about, which is such a relief than being distraught and not entirely knowing why.
Having a mental breakdown does not mean you’re crazy. It means something is wrong and we are unable to help ourselves in that moment. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness and neither is going on medication. I have heard or even been told myself, that you do not need medication. Well sometimes you do if it helps.
Never let anyone else tell you what they think you might need because it could lead to a tragic ending, and if you or someone you know is suffering from depression seek medical advice because trying to tackle it on your own is a difficult and dangerious journey.