Today one year ago I suffered a full-on mental breakdown and this is the first time I´m talking about it on my blog. I remember so clearly how it started. I went out to buy the Christmas tree with my mother and my sister, it was the first Christmas season we bought a tree without my father who had died one year and seven months prior to this.
We were driving there when I started feeling depressed. After buying the Christmas tree we went for dinner, as it was the tradition we had followed for many years. I couldn’t eat because I was feeling heavily depressed by then. It all broke down in a matter of hours, but the truth is it had been building up for a very long time.
I got home and I started feeling even more depressed and depersonalized, then a huge panic attack kicked in and it became absolute hell after that for the next eight months.
I think I hadn’t written about this out of fear and shame that mental illness carries in our society and also because I didn´t feel ready to express the absolute hell I went through. Words will forever fail to express the agony I went through, a pain that no human being should ever have to suffer but an experience that I hope can be of help to someone else.
These are some of the major things my mental breakdown taught me:
It´s OK to seek psychiatric help
It took me one whole month of absolute agony to seek psychiatric help. The emotional distress would come in waves and so I thought it would fade away. During this time I looked for help in spiritual healers and even shamans, anyone but a psychiatrist. Psychiatric intervention is so stigmatized that I refused to even consider it. I didn´t want to be labeled “crazy” but the truth is that I had lost my mind and I needed medical intervention. One month later I was put on a long list of pharmaceutical medications which has helped A LOT! To be honest I don´t think I would be here writing this right now if it wasn’t for the stigmatized pharmaceutical medication I was prescribed.
It takes psychotherapy as well
Psychiatric help was just one the tools I needed to get better, I also started seeing a psychotherapist to talk things over. Its been during psychotherapy that all the filth that I had been carrying with me came out. It wasn’t just my father´s death that lead me to a mental breakdown, but a long list of unfortunate events that happened before and after his death but all in the course of a short time. Events that my mind didn´t know how to handle and that emotionally tore me apart. I am now learning how to deal with emotional trauma, stress and pretty much life.
It takes a lot of trial and error
I went to three psychiatrists, a neurologist, one acupuncturist and seven psychotherapists until I finally found the right help for me. If I would have stayed with the first psychiatrist, I probably wouldn’t have gotten better because he was ignoring a lot of important symptoms that needed addressing and attention. Finding a psychotherapist with whom I felt comfortable with took even more work. It took a lot of exploration, trial and error to finally find the help and the doctors that I needed. Same goes with the psychiatric medication, I´ve been on four different antidepressants and three different anxiolytics to find what works for me.
I remember asking the first psychiatrist: “When will I get better?” and he said: “Right away, in a couple of weeks”. I remember asking the third psychiatrist after six months of emotional torture the same question and he said: “It will take time, so don´t rush this because you can´t. It will require a lot of patience.” Its been one year today and I´m still not back to “normal”. I´m much better but I still find myself fighting to stay on track, to stay well, it doesn’t happen naturally anymore. Depression and anxiety is what I´m fighting and it´s a daily battle.
Ignoring is not the answer
For nearly two years before I suffered my mental breakdown I ignored important signs that were telling me that I wasn’t on the right track. I wasn’t addressing the problems in my life, I was ignoring them and trying to survive them instead of addressing them and facing them. That created a lot of emotional clutter that ended up completely destroying my psyche.
Accepting is crucial
For the first few months I subconsciously rejected the fact that I was sick. My mind was sick but I didn´t want to accept it. I refused to accept that I had depression and anxiety. I took my meds but always with a grain of salt thinking that maybe I wasn’t sick and it was just the doctors who wanted to make a buck out of me. But I was sick, I was very sick and very close to suicide several times. I remember crying uncontrollably, hidden in my closet, for what felt like the one millionth time when it finally hit me. “You´re sick Caroline”. This is when I really pushed myself to keep seeking help, to find a good psychotherapist, another psychiatrist, another medication… Anything to stay in the race. It was about fighting and not giving up, no settling with the miserable emotions that were consuming my life. Accepting them and learning to fight back.
Most people won´t understand it
I now speak more openly about my battle with mental illness and I see that many friends and family still have a hard time understanding it or even accepting it. The words mental illness scare a lot of people which is why they automatically reject it. The world needs a lot of education regarding mental illness. I can´t deny the fact that if mental illness would be more accepted it probably wouldn’t have taken me one whole month to seek psychiatric help.
It is the worst pain I have ever experience
My mind ached, my soul burned and my hearth wrenched in the most painful way. It was like the moment when they told me my father had died but multiplied by one million. An emotional agony I didn´t know was possible, in moments it hurt so much I really thought I would die. The psychiatrist I´m seeing now explained how mental illness is one of the worst illnesses to have simply because it is so misunderstood by the world which means that it gets little empathy but it creates an excruciating agony for those who suffer it. I really didn’t get chocolate or candy from friends and family who would come and visit to see how I was; it was actually pretty lonely.
Support is crucial
I can´t deny the fact that I still had a very strong support system and I have to thank them for pulling me through. I wouldn’t have been able to survive this ordeal without the unconditional support of my boyfriend and close family members like my mother and my sister amongst others who never left my side. Support is crucial, so if anyone close to you is mentally ill please don´t leave them alone. I pushed a lot of people away but the truth is that I needed them a lot. I had never needed others as much as I did during this process.
It will pass
It´s been one year and it´s not completely gone but I´m getting better every passing day, some days I take a step back but I can admit and I´m proud of saying that I´m getting better. I´m glad I didn’t quit the race a few months ago and stuck around for a bit longer. I kept listening: “this too shall pass” but when you´re stuck in the darkness of your own mind that seems impossible and eternal, it will pass, but when?? I don´t know, for some people it takes longer than for others. Which is why is important to accept it, seek help, find support and face it with everything that you´ve got.