I have a person in my life who is currently in crisis, a breakdown at the intersection of environment and predisposition. A brain hijacked and a life on stutter.
For the sake of brevity and anonymity, I’m going to refer to this person as A.
But this isn’t really about A.
It’s about all of us.
Because at some point, all of us break.
And the stronger we are, the harder we fall.
As I sat listening to A replay the scene in a deadened and distant voice, I heard my own voice telling and retelling the story of the text. As I listened to A’s fears about losing self and the possibility of the loss being permanent, I recalled my own similar fears. As I heard the desperation to simply survive each day, I felt an echo of my own panic each dawn. And, as is so often the case with ones we care about, I wished I could take on A’s pain rather than watch A endure. I wanted to be able to fix it, to make it okay again.
I wanted to hold A’s hand and escort A to the other side.
To where the pain and fear are a memory, not reality.
Here is some of what I told A and what I want to tell all of you who are also in the breakdown lane:
Understand Your Brain
I remember my fear and frustration one morning soon after the text when I tried to make an answer key for my class. I sat and stared at an equation for twenty minutes, unsure how to proceed. I had been solving similar with no issues for 20 years. But that morning, my brain was not working. In fact, it didn’t really work right for almost a year. When anxiety and depression move in, they displace normal functioning. Your brain won’t function correctly until the interlopers have been removed.
Call in the professionals. If medication is suggested, take it. Your friends and family want to help. Allow them. Recognize that they each will help in different ways. I resisted medication at first, believing that I was strong enough to go at it alone. But I wasn’t. And that’s okay.
Trust in the Help
Give the medication time to work. Have faith that therapy will start to unravel your stuck mind and help you make sense of it all. Trust that your loved ones want what’s best for you, even when they struggle to show it. It’s easy to get frustrated that progress isn’t happening. It is; it’s just slow going at first.
Live Breath by Breath
I remember looking down the horizon to the divorce being final and it felt like untreadable terrain. So I stopped looking at the “end” and just focused on the next step. And then the next. Progress is progress, no matter how small.
Shame, often hand-in-hand with guilt, is a favored weapon of the malfunctioning brain. Try to see it for what it is and leave it behind.
When your brain isn’t functioning properly, it is difficult to make decisions and plans. That’s okay. Table them for a while. But in the meantime, allow yourself to dream. Brainstorm. Even if none of it actually comes to fruition, it is not wasted energy.
The way you feel right now is not the way you will always feel.
You will make it to the other side.