There isn’t, and most likely never will be, a straightforward answer to the question “How do I stop myself from falling apart?”. One of the reasons for that is that, and I’m sorry about this, you shouldn’t. That sounds contradictory to the purpose of this post, and possibly a little defeatist but fighting against falling apart just leaves you with more shards to pick up.
There is something in our natural mentality and within those of us that are unlucky enough to suffer from continuous mental health issues, that loves to be fought against. Which is how breakdowns and panic attacks seem to work, or at least for me.
Breakdown’s and panic attacks, first and foremost, are a troubling subject in terms of definition because everyone has different perspectives on them. I’ll give you my own personal definitions and you can make of them what you will. Having a breakdown for me encompasses a lot of things, it means that everything is all happening at once, and all I want to do is be asleep or unconscious. Panic Attacks, which feel as if they are heart attacks, slowly killing me, come with these breakdowns. Simply put, panic attacks are triggered anxiety, and breakdowns are triggered anxiety to the power of a million.
I used to suffer from both a LOT in college, and every so often in secondary school, but my equally annoying foe Depression decided to claim many of those years. But as my Depression got better (by comparison) my anxiety got worse which led to more panic attacks and breakdowns. One of the worse things about that is that it really, really gets in the way of work and studying. Sometimes you have to leave class, sometimes there are interventions, and sometimes you just can’t make it out of bed to even make it to school. It is debilitating and unfathomably exhausting. I had somehow managed to forget the full severity of this exhaustion up until recently, where my breakdowns/panic attacks seem to have made a surprise comeback. A surprise comeback not like a “Oh look its the real Luke Skywalker” kind, but the “okay so what the hell is she doing back here” kind of comeback. But I have been able deal with it better because of my experience with them before.
When a breakdown comes, it will come like a storm and it will be terrifying. It will be terrifying mostly because you can feel it coming on, but you feel useless to control it. Which is an understandable feeling, but a misled one. As soon as you feel your heartbeat pumping a little too fast, or feel it difficult to breath, you need to do a couple of things to claim control. Try to take deep breaths, to avoid hyperventilation, and at the same time attempt to distract yourself. There is a type of meditation that is called Concentration Meditation, it is generally speaking a life saver for me. Essentially, in theory, it’s simple. You focus on one thing, one object, or word. You keep returning to that one word or object, e.g. “Calm” or a candle. Eventually you begin to calm yourself, because your mind is too focused on concentrating on that one thing. THATS THE THEORY. The practice, I will not lie, is a little more difficult, because while you’re suffering a breakdown or panic attack, nothing wants to work with you, only against you. Which is why it is so helpful to try not to fight it too much, if it feels like something is going to happen, start to focus on one thing, return to it, breath, return to it, breath. If nothing else it will help slow everything down and make it even a little easier to handle.
BUT, I’ve written posts before and will most likely write more on how to actually handle them, and how to understand the effects during, but what about after? One of the elements of a breakdown that I struggle(d) with is the aftermath. The lethargy, the lack of motivation etc. It’s hard, especially when you’re busy and are trying to do as many things as you can.
It’s a process of moderation and of, well, not being too hard on yourself.
You can’t go raging in, head first, trying to work because it wont happen. You’ll end up sitting at your desk staring into nothing and checking the clock to see you’ve been doing exactly that for 30 minutes or more. Don’t forget your body has gone through an ordeal, your mind is in all sorts of different places, it doesn’t know how to handle itself, let alone work. Keep this in mind and set up a system, it sounds more complicated than it is. Find a balance between work and rest, and eating and drinking (because eating and drinking do not count as proper rests). Try to work a little while, and then take a break, if you’re still not being productive then try to understand what could be in the way – other than the exhaustion of course. Sometimes, for example, as in my case recently, there are a lot of things your mind is refusing to confront, which spark the attacks and stunt the productivity.
The best thing to do then is to find out what it is in this world that gives you a natural level of calm. Then attempt to do that thing, or go to that place and let your mind be at peace as much as possible and try to avoid worrying about the time you’re taking. In the long run, remember that if you are emptying your brain of these conflicting issues, you’re opening up a space for greater thoughts and for productivity. Some examples include walking, running, going to the gym, drawing, writing poetry. Anything that naturally expresses the angst and stress you’re feeling, and/or rewards your body and mind in some way.
Treat your body and mind with respect and it will slowly learn to do the same for you.
The most important thing to not forget, and unsurprisingly the most cliché of all, is that you can be a wreck, you can let yourself be in pain and still find a way to survive and to do things. One of the most frustrating elements to Depression, to Panic Attacks, to Breakdowns is that you feel as if you literally cannot do anything, that you cannot move, and it really is difficult. Difficult does not mean impossible though. There are still ways to do things, to be social, and to move on with life, while you attempt to fix yourself in the meantime.
To end this I’m going to be a little vain and include the little post I put on Instagram that made me want to expand it into a full blog:
Life is great. Life is shit. Life is arbitrary. Life is calculated. I’ve hand countless breakdowns and I’ve had countless fits of happiness. Sometimes I don’t know how to carry on and the weight of the world is heavier than I can hold. But then sometimes, however rare, I have moments of incomprehensible joy. Regardless of how I felt before, how I felt after. I forgot for a moment and the happiness just existed in its own little world and so did I. When I look back on memories and on photos, it’s these I’ll treasure the most. I won’t forget the bad days, those are valuable too. But I refuse to let myself forget the days that reminded me why I’m still trying to survive.
Keep hopeful and don’t let the bad days stop you in your tracks. They’ve got nothing on you.