I think I was about eight years old when I first heard the term “mental break down”.
I was watching TV with my family, and right in front of our eyes (and the eyes of the whole country), the news anchor hosting the show we were watching just…stopped. As we watched her blankly staring into the camera with unblinking eyes, mouth agape and unmoving for what seemed like an eternity before they cut to a commercial, my nanna – who was in the lounge room doing the ironing – clicked her tongue and said “oh dear. I think that poor woman might have just had a mental break down – on national TV!”
The TV show resumed after the ad with a shiny, new, unfrozen anchor, and nanna went back to her ironing, while I sat and pondered what the hell I’d just witnessed.
Whether or not it WAS a break down, I don’t actually know. But I do remember thinking that if that was what a break down was, it seemed to be an awful thing for someone to have to go through.
A quick google of the term “break down” will yield a few different results: Impaired function due to mechanical wear and tear, and damaged parts. Dissolution of communication or relationships, due to tensions, hurt or dispute. And of course, the stereotypical impaired and dysfunctional mental state that can either stand alone, or perhaps present as a result of the previous two definitions.
It all sounds a little bit relatable, doesn’t it?
Have a think about how most of us live our lives today. The amount of stressors present in every single day is phenomenal. Between paid and unpaid work commitments, raising kids, supporting family members, health concerns, financial pressures, and of course, “keeping up with the Jones’s in any multitude of ways, is it any wonder there are more than a few people showing some signs of wear and tear?
Yet, so many insist on trying to tackle it all alone – trying to be everything, to everyone, all the time.
I guarantee you that looking around a room at any given time, you’ll see someone who is slowly being eroded by all of the stuff going on in their life. But how many will actually verbalise any of it?
You see, most of us are exceptionally good at helping others – often when they’ve hit their breaking point – and do so without judgement. But when it comes to calling for similar support for ourselves, we’re more inclined to stay silent, seeking out other stuff to make us feel better: exercise, retail therapy, social media, maybe alcohol, or the old classic of just staying REALLY busy.
And all of that stuff works well, until it doesn’t. At the end of the day, we still need to talk through our shit, but….we don’t.
All of a sudden, unexpectedly, but unsurprisingly, we find ourselves worn, and torn, with broken parts, flailing amidst the chaos of a world that feels as though it’s crumbling.
After sifting through the quagmire of postnatal depression TWICE (my very own break downs, if you will), I realised the exceptional importance of talking before things get big. Of being open about what’s happening, and what the struggles are, and strategising with someone as a sounding board to keep me on track.
I learned that sometimes the people you least expect will show up as absolute angels when things get dicey, and that in nearly every instance there will be SOMEONE who gets it. And that someone may not be who you expect.
And once I was through the worst of it, I learned to watch others closely, because I realised there were probably many others out there camouflaging their own wear and tear, and hiding cleverly in amongst their to-do lists.
I certainly wasn’t on national TV when my break downs happened, but they were just as horrifying as what I remember witnessing as a kid. And I hate the thought that there are others out there going through similar things, because I know for certain that there are many.
I talk a lot in my posts about self-care, because there isn’t a single person out there who isn’t going to hit an element of struggle at some point. And if we are in the practice of valuing ourselves, taking the time to do things that make us feel good, and prioritising our need to talk things through honestly, we might just find that we are able to work through another month of bills, and sick kids, and cranky relationships, without dropping the bundle all together.
If you’re feeling flat, and someone asks how you’re going, be honest! If someone asks if you’re ok and you’re NOT, try answering truthfully. If you can’t say it verbally, text it. If you can’t text it, email it. Just start the conversation any way you can.
You don’t need to be at the point of break down to be worthy of love and support. You don’t need to be eroded beyond recognition before you qualify for some good old-fashioned care.
You’re worthy, regardless.
Start talking, and gather your people. Despite what your self-doubt might tell you, your feelings are valid and important, and there is nothing trivial or selfish about needing to talk your stuff through.
Tackle the small stuff before it gets big.
Believe me, you’ll thank yourself for it later.
Jump onto http://www.lifeline.org.au if you’re needing a confidential conversation to get some stuff off your chest x.