The Beauty in the Breakdown

That’s a WordPress stock photo. It’s the default image for this blog post, yet it fits perfectly, so here it stays.

Anyway, let’s get started with the story.

The Beginning

It all started years ago. I’ve had Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) since I was a teenager.

But in my early 20’s things took a different turn.

In addition to depression and GAD, I began experiencing what I know now is emotional dysregulation, or what you would most likely call “intense mood swings.”

I would go from anxious, to sad, happy, to irritable, on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. On occasion, one of these emotions would bubble over into blinding rage. We’re talking full blown temper tantrums: scary, uncontrollable, embarrassing stuff.

And all of this was happening from my early 20’s right up until June of 2018.

Several months prior to June, my mental health began its rapid decline. I experienced a significant increase in mood swings, social anxiety, frenzied thoughts, physical discomfort, and a general sense of not feeling like myself.

Then on the morning of June 12th, everything came to a head:

I had a nervous breakdown (except apparently those aren’t a real thing; more on that later).

The Breakdown

I woke up around 5 am and almost immediately things were off.

My stomach was upset, my muscles were tense, my thoughts were anxious and scattered…

Normally I would have just taken a Xanax since I recognized this as anxiety, but I hadn’t picked up my refill yet. So I tried deep breathing and took a hot shower…all while trying to remind myself this was just in my head, I was fine.

But I wasn’t fine, and none of that was working. I’ve had panic attacks plenty of times; deep breathing and a hot shower usually do the trick. This was different.

My thoughts were becoming increasingly frenzied, my nausea intensified, and I started trembling uncontrollably.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t the same anymore; it was like I was watching this happen or was suddenly someone else, with no idea of how to get back to who I was.

I started to get scared: scared to go to work, scared to see anyone in this state, scared I was going to feel sick forever, scared to leave my house…

And the thought of life suddenly became overwhelming.

How could anything make me feel normal again? How would anyone understand what was happening to me? How could I ever be happy again?

Life felt too long, too overwhelming, too difficult.

By now it was close to 6 am and my distress was continuing to climb. I couldn’t imagine getting through the day like this, let alone the rest of my life…and in that moment I thought I would be better off dead.

But I didn’t want to die.

At this point I googled psychiatric emergencies and mental health crisis centers, but none of them opened until at least 8:30. All but one required an appointment, so I tried calling the advice nurse, but the automated voice system kept misdirecting me.

Finally, my mental and physical distress were at an intolerable high. I was fearful this would lead to self harm, so I got in my car and drove to the nearest ER.

Getting Help 

By the time I got to the ER I was crying, my voice was shaking, and I was embarrassed. I went to the intake nurse and told her, “I’m not suicidal, but I’m having a mental crisis and I need to see a psychiatrist as soon as possible.”

She took my vitals, and I asked if I was even in the right place. She replied, “yes, absolutely, you’re right where you should be,” which helped me feel less ridiculous being in the ER for a mental, not physical emergency.

A short while later I was evaluated by the ER doctor. I explained why I was there (extreme anxiety, nausea, uncontrollable thoughts, fear, not feeling like myself…) and he verified I was clear of any serious physical ailments.

Then he paged the on-call psychologist to come speak with me, and when she arrived I explained the same to her.

After her assessment, she reassured me I didn’t meet the criteria to be “5150’d” (aka held against my will for 72 hours). She suggested my depression was most likely polarizing, but I was also showing symptoms of a few different mental health disorders and would need further assessment.

She explained they couldn’t give me anxiety medication in the ER because I drove myself there (fair enough), but she scheduled a follow up psych appointment for further diagnosis that afternoon, and my standard Xanax prescription was filled at the hospital discharge pharmacy.

I still felt anxious and afraid, but I had finally stopped crying, and my shaking was at a minimum. I still felt overwhelmed, but I had the start of a treatment plan, I had my medication, and I only had to make it a few more hours until my next appointment.

I was going to be OK.

The Beauty 

Overall, after my “nervous breakdown” (again, more on that later) I was in the ER for around 4 hours, and experienced intense emotional, physical, and mental distress for close to 7 hours.

Those may have been the longest 7 hours of my life, but they were also the most important.

I’d finally found the strength to ask for help, and got it.

At last I felt relief, knowing I was on a path towards sound mental health and emotional stability.

Now you may be wondering what the hell the title and picture have to do with this post. So here it is: it’s a structure breaking down, but it’s still beautiful.

And that’s what this experience was like for me:

The overwhelming love and support I felt after telling my loved ones what happened, the immediate sympathetic, yet serious attention medical professionals gave me, the treatment I’m finally receiving, and the pride I feel for getting myself help instead of taking a darker path…

Those things are the beauty in my breakdown.

8 thoughts on “The Beauty in the Breakdown

  1. Again my tears flow but this time not from worry and fear for you…but from joy for you, pride in you, and hope for our family and you. You’ve always written so beautifully and to share this journey (past, present and future) openly takes so much courage and strength, to make yourself vulnerable, to show your authentic self. Brave you. Smart you. Strong you. Sweetheart, this is your journey. Dad, Anne and I stand beside you and with you, one hundred percent unconditionally. We’ve loved you the moment you were born and never more than today. Love you always xo xo xo

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    1. Dear Mary,
      I’m arriving late to this blog, but I am so impressed by your courage that I needed to leave a comment ASAP! Thank you for sharing your story and for taking “the next first step” to your health and recovery. I admire your strength and tremendous courage to seek help. I am proud of you and am sending love from So Cal!
      Love,

      Lyndsey

      PS- You are a beautiful writer! Wow! What a gift you have. Keep at it!

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  2. Hi Mary! It’s Patti. Wow!!! How great and courageous of you to take the immense initiative to begin to heal. I have very first hand experience with my Daughter Dana’s struggles. This journey you’re on is hard work, but you have the tools to work through it. You are such a beautiful girl. You will remain in my thoughts and hang in there girl!! You’ve got what it takes💜♥️💜♥️ Much love, Patti

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  3. Mary,
    I just read your post and I’m full of SUCH hope for you! How brave you are ! How wise you were to drive yourself to the ER that morning ? How grateful are you to be in the hands of experts who can really help you?? Really understand you? It’s as if the universe just felt ENOUGH!! You’ve had enough!! And it’s time for Mary to find some solutions to the pain! Mary the blog is a spectacular idea! So many people suffer this hell and need to be understood by someone like you. There will be rough times ahead, of course. But you are without a doubt ON YOUR WAY!! To the solution! I am sending a “good for you” gift to your parents house-just a small token of acknowledgement of your courage and strength! Keep working and writing! Love, Patti Black

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  4. Dearest Mary,
    We had no idea that you were suffering such extreme issues. You hid it very well when we were there for your wedding but I did not feel that everything was right as you just did not seem as happy and excited as most new brides are but not seeing you for several years I did not see it as a major issue. However now that you have had the courage to come forward we understand. As you know we went through a similar situation with Cassi when she was suffering from massive depression and was severely anorexic. Cassi finally asked for help and she wanted to go into a special hospital to be treated. She was there for one month and came out feeling much better about herself and understood the controlling issues that brought her that point. With much therapy and medication she pulled through. Your parents were there for us during that time. There is an old saying that you are never happier than your unhappiest child and it is very true.
    Mary, stepping up and acknowledging your issues is the first step to complete recovery and you have taken that first step. We truly believe that with time and proper help you will come out of this a strong and confident woman and some day there will be a man who recognizes the beauty that you have on the outside and the inside. We love you very much having watched you grow from a little child to a mature and beautiful woman. Stay strong and we will pray for you and your family everyday!!!!

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