Having a nervous breakdown feels like your mind has literally broken down like a car. No matter how hard you push it, it won’t go any further. It is the body’s way of saying STOP! That’s why it is not unusual for someone to feel like giving up altogether. When this happens, continuing with daily life is overwhelming. The world outside of your head feels like a gargantuan unslayable beast, and it’s going to eat you all up. You are a tiny grain of sand worth dusting away.
So you have two options, you can end it or you can keep going.
I chose to keep going, but apart from sleeping and eating there wasn’t much I wanted to do. Being signed off from work was a necessity but it also lead to feelings of isolation. I felt like I had just dropped out of life, and that everybody knew and would be talking about it. I’ve always been an energetic and motivated person, so to feel broken like this was tricky. I was scared to bump into work friends in the street (which I did on one occasion) and I was worried about going out in case people saw me having fun. Being able bodied and ill in the mind is complicated.
I couldn’t go to work, but I also knew I couldn’t stay in bed. I had to do something. So, I took tiny little steps, and each step made me feel better and better and better. I took care of myself and I followed my nose, there wasn’t much more to it.
Doing these things helped me out of my hole, and I always come back to them when I feel myself slipping.
Step 1: I brushed my teeth and my hair. The simplest bit of self care imaginable, that can work wonders when you’ve been wallowing under your duvet tent for too long.
Step 2: I read ‘Mental Health’ by Yrsa Daley Ward
If you did not get up for work today
If it has been afternoon for hours
And the silence is keeping you awake.
If you only remember how to draw your breath
in and out like waves of thick tar cooling
If you are wishing it later,
pulling the sun down with your prayers, leave the damn bed.
Wash the damn walls. Crack open a window even in the rain, even in the snow.
Listen to the church bells outside.
Know that however many times they chime is half the number of changes you have to make.
Stop trying to die. Serve your time here, do your time.
Clean out the fridge.
Throw away the soya milk. Soya milk is made from children’s tears. Put flowers on the table. Stand them in a measuring jug. Chop raw vegetables if you have them.
Know that if you are hungry for something but you cant think what then you are more often than not only love thirsty, only bored.
When the blood in your body is weary to flow. When your bones are heavy and hollow
if you have made it past thirty celebrate, and if you haven’t yet, rejoice. Know that there is a time on its way when the dirt settles and the patterns form a picture.
Step 3: I listened to this song:
Step 4: I cut pictures and words out of magazines that made me feel something good in my bones, then I stuck them all onto a big piece of paper and hung it on the wall next to my bed. Most of the pictures were of palm trees and bears.
Step 5: I got lost in Oxleas Woods for the day. I used to go there when I was little with my family, I needed to reconnect with a more natural, happier and simpler time.
Step 6: I went to the London Buddhist Centre and I meditated with a room full of friendly strangers. It was beautiful to be anonymous, and to not have to talk.
Step 7: I had a hot bath over flowing with bubbles, and I turned out the lights.
Step 8: I went swimming in London Fields Lido, the water is warm and the sun shines on you as you swim. It’s even nice if it’s raining because steam rises and you feel like you’re in an Icelandic hot pool (kind of.) Anyway, It’s a small piece of paradise in Hackney.
Step 9: I listened to these guys talking about elves in the woods which helped me switch off and sleep at night.
Step 10: I created this blog and I wrote. Probably the most important thing I did was to start writing it all down. There isn’t a cure for anxiety or depression, but there are ways of dealing with it – and this remains the most liberating antidote for me.