What to expect after a mental breakdown and how to begin life again.
Having a mental breakdown is an extraordinarily difficult thing to experience in itself; in some cases, including my own, it can be life-threatening. Then the sufferer has to somehow pick themselves up, dust themselves off and face life again. This is difficult for anyone, but a breakdown in mental health will leave the sufferer feeling dazed, confused, and often incapable of making decisions. Here are some tips that can help a sufferer get back on the rails.
Don’t expect miracles
It is easy to underestimate how much energy is needed to have a mental breakdown. Sufferers are often angry; at themselves, at others, at life in general. Depression may not need much physical energy, but it still wears the sufferer down. Afterwards, you will need time to recover, and I am not talking days here, but months, maybe even years. Accept that it is going to take time. If you need to, take time off work, or maybe even consider not working for a while. Rushing back into life soon after a breakdown doesn’t give the sufferer time to heal, and without that, the chances of another breakdown are increased.
Get your priorities right
It may seem selfish to others, but someone who has had a breakdown does need to concentrate on themselves. Many people feel the urge to go somewhere very quiet and lick their wounds for a while; I know I did. If this is what you want to do, then follow your instincts. Commitments to family and friends may need to be put on hold, but, after all, if you are not mentally strong, what good are you going to be to others?
Share your story
Sufferers often feel completely alone and believe that no-one else can possibly understand how they feel. Part of the healing process is realising that you are not alone, that other people have experience similar feelings. Talking to fellow sufferers can be hugely therapeutic. Talking to non-sufferers can increase awareness of mental health problems and how they can affect the sufferer. If you feel you can’t talk to anyone, write it down, join an Internet forum, do anything but avoid the issue. It may be painful at first, but the benefits of sharing your story are ten-fold.
Seek professional help
Not everyone who has a mental breakdown is able to admit what is happening to them and may choose to hide away rather than seek advice from a doctor. Even after the event, it is not too late to seek help. Don’t be proud; doctors hear similar stories every day and will be able to refer the sufferer on to a therapist. Therapy and/or medication is not a magic pill, but it is worth giving it a try – sometimes just the act of talking to someone about your feelings is enough to raise the spirits. Papering over the cracks without seeking help is quite possibly laying the foundations for another breakdown.
Make life changing decisions
When you are calm enough to be able to do so, take a good, hard look at your life and decide if there are ways that it could be improved. Maybe your breakdown was work-related; if so, consider changing your job. If it involved a relationship, decide if the relationship is worth saving. Is there something you have always wanted to do? Maybe it isn’t too late. Sometimes these are huge steps that seem too much for the sufferer to cope with, but although hard, it will be worth it if it prevents another breakdown.
Of course, everyone is different. Some will recover more quickly than others. Some will react better to medication than others. One thing I am sure of though is that having a breakdown makes a person more sensitive to others’ feelings and ultimately makes them stronger so that they are able to help others in need. Remember that, and hold your head high.