Today, I want to talk about a subject that, in all honesty, frightens me to talk about: nervous breakdowns, also sometimes known as burn out or psychotic break.
As of last Friday, I have had five since 1990. I have not discussed details of these episodes before other than briefly touching on the topic in my book, “Emerging from the Chrysalis” & on my website, because, quite frankly, it’s embarrassing. I always have been “the strong one,” & admitting that is not necessarily true is embarrassing. Not to mention, I don’t want people thinking I’m crazy. All my life, my mother has said comments implying I was crazy, & in my teen years, threatened to have me committed. I’m sure this is why I am overly sensitive to this.
However, I feel as if God wants me to be more open about my experiences with nervous breakdowns, so that it may help others out there who have experienced them. My prayer is that is exactly what happens- others will be helped by me finally opening up. I also think it needs to be known that this is the type of thing that can happen by being abused. Not only physical abuse can cause this- emotional, verbal & mental abuse can, too. My first nervous breakdown came about after years of emotional & verbal abuse.
Also, I want to stress that I am NOT a doctor, nurse nor any employee in the medical or psychiatric field. I am just someone who has plenty of personal experience, & I would like to share it in the hopes of helping others. Hopefully even helping myself overcome the shame I have felt because I have had nervous breakdowns. I believe that being open about something you’re ashamed of means that thing loses its power over you. Remember the legends of vampires? In the darkness, they are incredibly strong, but in the light they turn to dust. That is how shameful things are- hide them in the dark, they have immeasurable strength. But, bring them into the light, & they lose their power!
To start with, a nervous breakdown is not just a simple crying jag, like some people think it is. It is much more involved than that. It happens when your brain is so stressed & overwhelmed, it has to find some way to release that stress. You reach a point where you simply cannot handle one more thing. A nervous breakdown may involve crying, elevated blood pressure, panic attack, even temporary paralysis. Before or after the breakdown, you may be exceptionally irritable or sensitive. Hospitalization is recommended, so you can be given proper medicine, possibly therapy as well to help you cope.
On to my experiences…
Back in May, 1990, not long after I turned 19, I had my first one. I got home after a date, & my mother began screaming at me as soon as I got home. She called me a “lying little b****” among other things that I can’t recall to this day. This screaming woke my dad, who came into my room to see what was wrong. My parents began to argue. Although I had seen this many, many times before, something about that argument was different for me. I couldn’t handle it, so I pushed past my parents, & locked myself in the bathroom. My mother tried to come in, but I held the lock closed to keep her out. She gave up, & I sat down on the floor. I wrapped my arms around my knees, & sat on the cold tile floor shaking. That was around 2:30 a.m., & I remember very little until close to 7 a.m. During that time, which I thought was only a few minutes, I was unable to move, my thoughts were very muddled, & I could barely remember what drove me to this state, even though the events had just happened. I heard my parents arguing outside the bathroom, but their voices sounded very far away. When I came out of the bathroom, several hours later, I was stunned to see the sun rising. I couldn’t believe I lost so much time! To this day, that still boggles my mind. It took me several days to begin to feel mostly normal again. I had trouble thinking & focusing, even on small tasks. Thankfully, I knew my job well, so I was able to do it in spite of my problem. I moved out of my parents’ home shortly thereafter.
Then in 1996, just after my grandmom died, I had my second one. I lay in bed one night, missing her, & feeling so guilty that I hadn’t said good bye, or gone to her funeral. It was overwhelming! I was also alone in my grief. My husband worked very long hours at that time, & I had few friends, none of whom would have understood my pain. I also couldn’t talk to family or my in-laws, either. It was a lonely & very painful time. As a new Christian at the time, I prayed some, but during my life, I had received the message from several people that I was not allowed to bother anyone with my problems. That made it difficult for me to “burden” God with my feelings. In the silence of the night, the pain & isolation I felt overwhelmed me. I felt a strange feeling in my head, that I can best describe as reminding me of a light bulb before it burns out. Some bulbs get really bright, then suddenly go dark. That is how my mind felt. I knew I had another breakdown then. The light bulb feeling was not as pronounced in my first breakdown, but it was there nonetheless. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but when I thought about it this night, I realized it was there. That one took a bit more time to recover from, but I assume that was because I was also grieving for my grandmom.
Then in early December, 2008, I had my third nervous breakdown. The months leading up to it were extremely challenging for me, among the most painful in my life. It was a very dark & trying time. I knew I had been fighting to prevent another nervous breakdown, & I thought I won the fight. I was wrong. One morning, I woke up, unable to move, & with very muddled thoughts in my mind. I couldn’t focus well, & it scared me until I realized what was happening. I lay in bed for a while, waiting for it to pass. Eventually I was able to move again, & was quite stiff from not being able to move. I was stunned- I realized that I had a nervous breakdown in my sleep! How in the world is that even possible?! I never knew that could happen before, but it happened to me. I called my husband at work, & asked him to come home. Since I had health insurance at the time, I debated using it & going to the hospital. (That was not an option during the first two breakdowns- I had insurance through my work during the first one, but since no one acted like my breakdown happened, I thought I should act that way too. (Don’t you just hate dysfunctional thinking?) During the second one, I didn’t have insurance.) I began to recover pretty quickly, so I opted not to go to the hospital. That day, I could feel I was doing a bit better, which was encouraging. However, I think it was two days later, I had another, much smaller breakdown. It was kind of like an aftershock that earthquakes have. It was not so dramatic as the one that happened two days prior- it was more like the one I had after my grandmom died. Nonetheless, it did set my healing back a bit. Within a week or so, I felt I was about back to normal.
Most recently, on January 18, 2013, I had my fifth nervous breakdown. I was in the process of putting fresh sheets on my bed. A bill collector who constantly calls our home called. I was already stressing because of some other things on my mind, plus I had been fighting another breakdown I could feel wanting to strike. That call just sent me over the edge. I heard the phone ring, & it sounded very far away. I sat on the edge of my bed, crying a little, & unable to move for about half an hour. When I was able to move again, I could tell this was a serious nervous breakdown. My thinking was more confused than usual. My blood pressure had elevated more than usual. That night, I tried to work on an afghan I’ve been making, but I couldn’t figure out how to do what I needed to do. It was terrifying! I love crafts, & have been crafting since I was about five years old! To forget something that had been a part of my life so long scared me. I decided to just relax, get a good night’s sleep, & see what the next day would bring. Thankfully, the next day was better. Not much, but somewhat. Today, it is six days after that breakdown, & I’m still not quite myself, but getting there. I spent this past week trying to relax, except for some writing on my website & this article.
If you are reading this, you may think some of my experiences sound familiar. If you do, please know that you are not alone in your pain! Mental illness has such a nasty stigma attached to it, which is just sad. It seems when people hear the term, “nervous breakdown,” they associate words with it like, “no faith in God,” “weak,” or “crazy.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I can tell you from my own personal experience that I have a great faith in God. I have a good relationship with Him. He is not to blame for my breakdowns, nor is my lack of faith in Him. Maybe their purpose is to help others who have suffered them, I don’t know. I do know that I trust He has a plan, even if I don’t see what it is at the time. As far as being weak or crazy, no. I have been through many, many challenging situations in my life, & come out just fine. I have been in therapy briefly, & been pronounced sane. Wounded, a victim of psychological abuse, but sane. Granted, my coping skills aren’t as good as they once were. After my fourth breakdown, I realized I get uptight easier than I used to. However, I don’t think that makes me weak. It means I have survived a lot!
Chances are, you are on a similar boat. You have been through some nasty things, & even with faith in God, you still had a nervous breakdown or two. Please rest easy knowing you are NOT alone, NOT weak, & not crazy! Maybe this is your body’s way of saying you need to take it easy- not stress about things you can’t fix, or that aren’t your responsibility. Or, maybe you need to re-evaluate some relationships in your life. Being around unhealthy or even abusive people isn’t good for you! Ask God to give you wisdom about who you should or shouldn’t have in your life, & follow what He has to say. And, don’t forget to be good to yourself. Take care of yourself! Do things you enjoy, participate in fun hobbies, get enough sleep, don’t be too busy, & treat your body like the temple it is.
I added a little information on this topic to my website. If you wish to check it out, click on the following link:
God bless you!