How to survive a nervous breakdown

The truth about mental breakdowns and how they are often a breakthrough in disguise

Having a so-called ‘nervous breakdown’ can carry a lot of negative stigma: losing your marbles is usually seen as detrimental (damaging to the mental) rather than positive event. But what if it were actually a good thing?  A greater understanding of what a mental breakdown often is could change your perspective, and therefore the entire experience.

The signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown include not feeling able to cope, overwhelm and the feeling of ‘losing one’s mind’. And actually, this might be truer than you think.

As we grow up, without realizing it, we are conditioned with many beliefs, mental patterns and paradigms about the world. It is through these concepts that we operate and view life. As we evolve and grow as human beings, these paradigms and beliefs are going to be challenged, become outdated and will no longer serve us. And so naturally, just like civilizations come and go, the mental concepts are going to have to break down to make way for new ones. I liken this to having to demolish a multi-story building and clear away the rubble in order to make space for a new building. Once the old building is pulled down and cleared away, then the new foundations can be laid and a new building built on top.

The thing is, often, as our mental concepts are being broken down, we do not understand what is happening with our rational mind because it no longer has concepts to hang on to, as the old is being swept away to make way for the new. This can feel very disorientating and scary. It’s like we’ve left point A on one shore, and we’re on our way to point B over the other side of the river, and we’re in the boat going across, but we don’t actually know we’re taking the journey. And it’s often not until we get to the other side and have settled into our new house that we start to piece together what has actually just happened.

So the first step is to recognize what is happening and be ok with it, although it can feel very uncomfortable at the time. If we know we are literally ‘losing our mind’ while a new and better one is being built in its place, even though it feels uncomfortable we can at least relax a little and accept the situation better. This is the time we need to be extra gentle and caring with ourselves. And let go of any expectation of how long this procedure is going to take – it could be a few days, a few weeks or a few months. Just accept that right now it feels like there is nothing for the mind to grab onto as you find yourself falling into the abyss. It’s ok – let go. You will be caught. The fear comes from the mind or ego fighting its demise.

As you come through the other side, you will discover new realms in your mind, new perspectives, new ways of thinking, which will serve you much better. It’s a bit like a computer upgrade. This is why I like to think of  a nervous breakdown as a ‘breakthrough’ – a breakthrough to a new you.

As the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’, so sit back and as much as possible enjoy the ride.

Rumi – The Guesthouse

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

For more inspiration from the Art of Health, click here to see our inspiration pages

The Art of Health

 

Nervous Breakdown or Breakthrough?

THE REAL MEANING BEHIND (SOME) MENTAL BREAKDOWN

by Pranada www.spiritualemergence.co.nz

Early days

“I grew up in the UK, living a fairly average English life: school, sports, family holidays in Ireland and Greece, visits to the Grandparents at weekends etc. My understanding of life was that you went to school, then university, then got a job, got married, 2.2 kids, white picket fence, worked for 40 years, then retired… Life, however, had other plans.

After leaving university, I found work in the world of tourism, firstly working as a tour guide escorting people around Europe, then a stint in Switzerland as a resort rep, followed by a year as a croupier on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, finally basing myself in London as a marketing manager for a major travel company. By this time I was travelling in style every month visiting luxury hotels in Paris, Frankfurt and Vienna.

In theory I should have been happy (or so I thought): I had a great job, great flat, nice car, lovely friends. I was proud of reading my name and title on my business cards, felt important as I sat in airports every other week with my briefcase full of work, and special as I checked into 5 star hotels week after week.

The journey starts

But unbeknowns to me something was stirring inside. Gradually over a period of time I started to feel unhappy, not even really recognizing it at first. It took my Mother to point out to me that I wasn’t happy and I should see a psychiatrist. So off I went. I can’t quite remember the details of those meetings, what we spoke about, what I learnt, as looking back I can see I was way too unaware of myself to notice what was really going on. I changed pyschiatrists and started another round of introspection and digging into my past…unhappy childhood due to the strain on my parents of my brother’s mental health problems…

I was still working at this time, and I remember clearly dragging myself into work, sitting at my desk not wanting to be there at all, somehow forcing myself to get going for the rest of the day. And this continued day after day. Why wasn’t I happy? I had this fantastic job, had realized my dream of jetsetting around the world, and yet I felt so depressed?

The depression continued for a few more months, then insomnia set in, and somehow or other I found myself spinning further of control into a deep, dark vortex of unhappiness and negativity. There just didn’t seem to be anything I could do to stop it or make it better. At some point I became too depressed to work and on my psychiatrist’s advice took a leave of absence for a month. I remember feeling how extraordinary it was to take a month off work. Me? Take time off work? Don’t be ridiculous – I’d worked since I was 16 years old.

Then one day, after 3 days without sleep, I started to experience myself literally ‘spiraling out of my mind’ and at that moment I knew I had a choice: I could continue and let it happen, or I could stop it. The feeling of letting go was terrifying, and I chose to stop it. I had no idea what was happening. (Now with more experience I feel I was being given the opportunity to ‘lose my mind’ so that I could merge into Oneness, but at the time I was just not ready to surrender).

When I told my psychiatrist, she recommended I admit myself voluntarily into a mental hospital for proper rest and care. So I did.

Hitting rock bottom

Lying in my bed in my private room (I was lucky, I had health insurance) I just did not want to do anything at all. Nothing. I wanted to feel better but just didn’t know how. The doctors wanted to give me anti-depressants – I took them for a day and felt ten times worse, and refused to take anymore. They tried to get to me to go art class, this class, that class, I had to interest whatsover. The most interesting thing was observing the other inmates – there were all sorts: manic-depressives claiming they could see fried eggs on the ceiling, bulemics eating a stick of celery and saying they were full, epileptics throwing fits here and there…it was fascinating. But most of the time, I was in my bed, in my room, spiralling deeper and deeper into an unknown vortex.

One of the things I noticed was I was unable to read anything, I looked at the words but nothing made sense, I could have been looking at Russian or Chinese for all my mind could make of the words on the page. I could hardly talk, speaking was a mammoth effort and seemed quite pointless. And I could not watch television, somehow my eyes were far too sensitive to look at the pictures. So I just lay in bed, hour after hour, feeling very strange as I continued to go down the rabbit hole.

And then at some point, I don’t remember when, I just sort of gave up, surrendered to the process, and let myself go to the bottom. I let go of the resistance of trying to not feel how I was feeling, and sank to the bottom. Strangely, rather than finding myself stuck at the bottom of a pit, lost for eternity, somehow I felt myself rising up again, imperceptably, very slowly. And I even started to feel a smidgen better. How extraordinary! Surrendering doesn’t mean the end!

Re-born

One day I decided to go back to my apartment to collect some clothes, and I distinctly remember sitting on the underground train feeling like I was a new-born baby. It was the strangest feeling. Here I was an adult, feeling like I was literally a baby, a new-born baby. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other and make it to my home. But somehow I did, and made it back to the hospital. I stayed another week, slowly feeling a bit better and stronger each day. Until one day I decided to discharge myself.

I was still far from able to work, and fortunately due to work insurance was able to have more time off. Initially I re-adjusted to being back in my apartment, taking care of the daily essentials, and a few weeks later was given the opportunity to help deliver a yacht from Greece to France. The trip did me the world of good, and I grew stronger every day. And after a few months I felt well enough to return to work ( a new job, however, as I had quite my previous in the meantime). And not long after that I came to New Zealand with my then partner.

Resolution

It took another 7 years or so to really understand what had happened in that experience. At the time I just classified it, as the doctors had, as a ‘nervous breakdown’. But later I started to discover what that actually meant. What was really taking place was a breakdown of old mental patterning which was no longer serving me.

I had been living a lie without even realizing it. I had been living my life of go to school, go to university, get a job, make your way up the ladder, hopefully meet a nice husband…without even realizing that I was living it out of pure cultural and familial conditioning. I was living what I thought I ‘should’ be doing rather than what my soul really wanted me to be doing. And it took a huge breakdown of that paradigm to show me that this was not for me.

And what I eventually learnt was that a mental breakdown can actually be a mental breakthrough. A breakthrough to a new level of consciousness, a new world view, a new perception of reality. And in order for that to happen, the old has to be demolished, just like an old building has to be demolished before a new one can be built.

The shame of it is that in our society a mental or nervous breakdown is often perceived as a ‘taboo’ event, a negative thing not to be spoken of. Mostly this comes out of fear and lack of understanding – in other words, we fear what we do not understand. But this is not the case! It can be a great and actually much needed event! What if people had a different understanding of nervous breakdown?

For one thing, it would help the person going through it to feel a lot better, to at least get a glimpse of the positive potential within the experience. How many people today are stuck in hospital thinking they are going nuts when really they are just going through a necessary shift of consciousness? How many people could be given fresh hope by knowing that what is happening is OK?

I’m not saying that every person with mental problems is having a shift of consciousness or mental ‘breakthrough’, but that in some cases this may be what is happening and that it is a positive happening. So I hope to give people fresh hope. To know that they will come out the other side and that they are not weird or strange. They are just being upgraded!