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.
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).
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.
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.
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.