Breaking the cycle
I’ve been away from my blog for a while as I have been through various life events. I got engaged last month, which was an amazing and surprising experience! I had my first breakdown due to sleeplessness, from which I recovered successfully. And I was on holiday. This all means that in a fairly short amount of time, I experienced several life changing events, making it a bit difficult to focus on writing.
For the purposes of this blog post, I want to focus on the second event: my emotional breakdown. It’s taken me a while to gather the strength to talk about it as dwelling on the details can be really painful and difficult. Basically I had 3 nights in a row when I was unable to sleep well. On the morning of the third day I was so tired that I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided I’m going to work from home that day, because I felt physically unable to get myself to the office. I started doing work and there was an urgent request that I had to deal with for a couple of hours that morning. After I completed the urgent task, which required a lot of concentration and will that I didn’t necessarily have at that moment, I felt so drained and decided I couldn’t take it anymore.
That’s when I made a big mistake – I went back to bed. I pulled the covers over my head and I started crying. I felt like I would I never feel happy again, like living was no fun and I would never be able to deal with it. I cried and cried for a good hour,lamenting my inability to cope with it, my partner next to me repeating over and over again that “Yes, you can do it” and “No, things are not as bad as you see them, you will see, it will pass”. I told him over and over that I couldn’t take it anymore, that not being able to sleep will be the end of me.
What I didn’t realise was that he was right and I was wrong, even though I was positive he couldn’t be right at the time. It did pass and it was me who managed to break the cycle. Me, and no one else.
So I wanted to share how I did it, in the hope that it might help some of you. I want to share how I tool the journey from feeling hopeless to feeling like a superhero! The journey took about 2 weeks.
That (very dark) day, I cried and cried to a point where I didn’t have strength to cry anymore so I just lay there motionless and distracted, my partner’s words not making any sense anymore. That was the first time I can say I truly felt depressed in my life. I don’t like using the word “depressed” because I know that I wouldn’t strike people who deal with the condition day in and day out as someone who is depressed, but I did feel hopeless, as if I’d never be happy again and demotivated to get out of bed and do anything. Something inside of me felt broken and different, I did not feel like myself anymore. I was so anxious and sad, the world felt unreal and I felt detached from it.
I lay in that state for some time (I have no idea how long, the whole experience is a blur) and after a while I had to start thinking again. I couldn’t NOT think, I couldn’t ignore what I had gone through. My mind had to examine it and decide what to do next. That first bit happened naturally – I just couldn’t lay there forever, I knew that wasn’t an option. My sleep deprived brain was trying to trick me by viewing things through an “only negative” lens. I am grateful that my brain was healthy enough to take that first step towards realisation naturally. I didn’t have to do much, except allow myself to think. So I did.
I thought about how I couldn’t spend my life in bed and how I didn’t want to spend my life in bed. I thought about how the world is not this grim, scary place that my brain was trying to make me believe it is. I thought about critical thinking, which my university education had induced in me, and how I should be using that skill instead of allowing myself to overgeneralise and only see things from a single perspective. I tried – and this was hard – to listen to my partner, rather than resist his help (because there is something sweet about letting yourself feel awful, just for a bit) and to see his point, rather than ignore it. Then I was able, more with each passing moment, to analyse the situation which had led me to this horrible state – not being able to sleep. I started thinking about the external factors that were preventing me from sleeping and I realised, there weren’t any! I didn’t have any major issues in my life, external to me as a being, that might be causing my anxiety. And that is when the big realisation striked me: if there are no external factors causing my anxiety, they must all be internal, it must all be in my head and therefore I have full control over it! Feeling like I don’t have control was an illusion that sleep deprivation and anxiety had bestowed upon me. I had to take a step back, I had to think critically, I had to do something, I had to make a change to how I view the world, I had to at least try. I had to, I had to, I had to!
So I got out of bed, and I got into the shower. I took a very long shower, letting myself feel my body, feel how tired I was and how my eyes were swollen from all the crying. Feel that I was actually thirsty and hungry and I wanted to get out of the flat and go to that dinner I had planned 2 weeks ago. I wanted to walk, I wanted fresh air, my body was telling me what I had to do to feel better. I never realised that taking a shower could be such a life changing experience! I decided I wanted to feel different, I was sick of being in the anxious cycle, sick of feeling scared, then not being to sleep, then being more scared, and not being able to sleep even more. I needed a sharp abrupt change, I needed to feel a difference to my current state – both physical and mental.
And following that realisation – that I am in control and I have the power to change my behaviour and thus my feelings and eventually my thoughts – I was able to break the cycle. I decided I would call the national service for mental health and ask about what support was available to me. Within a few days I started working through an online tool aimed at helping people manage anxiety and depression. The decision was made – I was a superhero and I was going to save myself first before I could save the world!
So this is the story of how I broke the cycle of anxiety. I realise it will be more helpful to some of you than others, as these things are often easier said than done. If you are depressed, your brain probably won’t start rationalising your experience on its own and looking for a way out the way mine did, you might need some help getting there. And that’s ok, asking for help is ok. Take small steps. think about who you can ask for help and that can be your mini-goal number one. Spend 5 minutes just evaluating which person in your life is most suited for you to turn to. And if you feel alone, and that’s why you’re depressed, your mini-goal could be to think about how you can begin the search for this person. Could that be a therapist, or a doctor, for example? Then you can move to the next mini-goal and so on. Until you actually start feeling motivated to do things. Don’t wait for motivation before you start being active, be active and motivation will come later.
Let me know if you found this helpful and I hope you can be a superhero too!