First and foremost, let me explain a bit about what I’ve been through and where I am in my recovery as I write this post.
I’ve suffered with depression in the past and attempted suicide multiple times when I was younger. This was initially through coming to terms with my sexuality, and later following relationship break-ups; something I have never been able to cope with.
A little over two weeks ago, my wife moved out of our family home with our daughter, 15 months, to move back with her mother following an argument. It has since turned out that the argument was the tipping point for her in terms of living with my progressively worse mental state, which presented itself in the form of both low mood and short temper.
Over the last two weeks, she’s had the time and space she needed to realise that a life without me is what she wants and feels is best. She still loves me, she says, but is not in love with me and no longer sees a future for us as a couple or a family. The fortnight has naturally been a hard one, with ups and downs as signs of reconciliation came and went, but the outcome is now final. I’m no longer what she wants.
The reason I’m telling you all this is so that you can better understand my journey and the cause of what was undoubtedly the lowest point in my life: a mental breakdown.
I hope that my story can help others come to terms with what their going through and find the strength to pull through. It’s also therapeutic to write down your thoughts and feelings, so I figured why write them in a journal when I could write them here and possibly help someone else to recover?
The Peak of my Mental Breakdown
Whether or not the breakdown had already begun, the day that it really occurred for me was last Monday, the 16th March. While the break-up was still raw and space was still necessary (before the aforementioned signs of reconciliation had actually happened), I made the mistake of calling my wife on my lunch break to talk about our future and whether we had one. At that time, we had spent a weekend away from each other, much longer than either of us was used to, and I wanted to start thinking about what was next. Unfortunately I wasn’t prepared for the answer.
It was then that she first suggested that there might not be a future for us. Until that point, I naively thought this was just another argument that would blow over, but it soon became apparent that was not the case. I was so unprepared for what I heard and in such a fragile state that a switch simply flicked and I crumbled into a shadow of my former self. Anger, upset, uncontrollable tears and an overwhelming mix of emotions that launched the all-too-familiar feeling that life would never get better.
But unlike my previous episodes in my younger years, this time I decided to talk. I called my Mum straight away, the only other person who could really understand, and choke out the words that my world was crashing down. I had a colleague bring my belongings out to my car (where I was making the call) and headed straight home in pieces.
It was there I waited, crying painfully non-stop, for both my Mum and my wife (who was concerned about me being alone) to arrive. We tried to talk, but no sense was being made by anyone. All I could feel was pain, my heart beating so hard and fast that it physically hurt to breathe. Everything I knew about my life, my future, my family; it was all caving in.
The Road to Recovery
The next steps were pretty much out of my hands, and a good job too because I couldn’t have got through it alone. My Mum booked me an emergency appointment with my GP and we headed straight there. He was very understanding and recognised the urgency of the situation. My medication was changed and I was given additional pills to help with the anxiety. It was the short-term solution I desperately needed.
“Steps To Wellbeing” – An NHS Mental Healthcare Service
I was also referred to an organisation called Steps To Wellbeing, a service which assesses your situation and provides the most appropriate form of support, whether it be counselling and psycho-therapy or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
In my case, we all agreed that there were deep-rooted issues that have always been present, and that my complete lack of ability to deal with failed relationships was nothing new. The only difference now was that I had a little girl to think of. But this also made matters much more complicated, as I couldn’t just shut my now-ex out completely as one would normally after a break-up. I would see her regularly for the rest of my life.
It was more apparent than ever before that I needed help, and I needed it quickly. I have to learn new ways to cope, and perhaps to identify why I find it so completely impossible to cope with life after a loved one leaves.
There is a 6-8 week waiting list for counselling which I am now on. I’ll keep you posted on my progress there.
The most important steps following a mental breakdown are to realise you’re having one and seek outside intervention immediately, even if that is just from friends and family. However, I would always strongly recommend seeking professional support, even if you feel (as I have done until recently) that it will never work or has never helped before.
Personal Steps to Recovery
Outside help is great, and almost always essential, but they can never provide all the answers. You too need to find your own ways to cope in even the toughest circumstances. This is the part I am struggling with most at this moment in time, with ups where I think “I can do it” and downs when I think “it’s all over”. The roller-coaster ride is constant and even through writing this post I’ve felt my mood and outlook change from positive to terrified several times.
It’s important to do all you can to block the negative thoughts and worry about things that either have not yet happened or are outside of your control. It’s incredibly hard not to think about the fact that my wife has given up on us, given up on me and inadvertently taken my daughter out of my everyday life and our home. It’s just as hard not to think about the reasons why she left and to blame myself completely for her straying emotionally and falling for someone else. It hurts to think of her being with someone else, moving on, not wanting me. But none of those things are within my control and I have to do all I can to keep them away.
It’s not easy, and understanding what a mental breakdown really is helps to shed some light on why all of this is so difficult.
So what is a mental breakdown?
In order to recover or to help someone recover, it’s critical that all parties understand what a mental breakdown actually is. Using a combination of what I’ve learned and what I’ve experienced, I’ve put together a resource that goes into detail about understanding a mental breakdown, in the hope that it can help others avoid some of the darkest experiences I’ve had and can at least help people find a path to recovery.
I feel it’s important for me to highlight that I’ve not by any means recovered from my breakdown as my life remains turned upside-down, but I am taking small steps in the right direction each day. I’m keeping busy and focussed with work, avoiding isolating myself socially and continuing to talk about how I feel to my close friends and family.
The difference is that I can now see the light. I can see a future, albeit not the one I had hoped or planned for. I can see that there are many positive things in my life and that the only way is up now. I know that in time, I will find happiness again. And hopefully true love!
If you’ve had an experience that you’d like to share, it would be great to hear from you. Please feel to leave a comment below.