Thoughts Behind the Breakdown

So you’re probably wondering why I had a mental breakdown.

These are the events that took place over several years and combined to create the perfect storm for a breakdown, because they don’t just happen in a day.

Physical Distress

Food and I are not friends.

For over 8 years, food has made me nauseous and I haven’t had an appetite. No matter what I would eat, shortly after, I would feel stomach pressure, pain, and nausea.

I saw countless doctors and specialists, underwent endless testing for intestinal diseases, and was in the ER for cyclical vomiting and dehydration on more than one occasion.

No one could figure out what was wrong.

In 2014 I was put on Remeron to stimulate my appetite, (two of its main side effects are increased appetite and weight gain,) and it worked. But I quickly gained over 60 pounds, (it’s very effective for me) so I stopped taking it in 2016. Not long after, my appetite disappeared again, and my weight started to drop.

Then on my wedding day (still 2016) food started making me sick again. It’s a long story that deserves it’s own post, but long story short, I couldn’t eat the entire day, and it was all downhill from there. A few months after the wedding, I was back to being underweight.

Later in 2016 I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), because as one Gastroenterologist told me, “that’s how we diagnose people when everything else has been ruled out.”

Unfortunately, the treatment for IBS involves stress reduction, (I’m stressed almost always) relaxation, (I have a severe anxiety disorder) and diet modification (it was already hard enough for me to eat…)

On average I would barely consume 1,000 calories in a day. So naturally I was underweight, malnourished, often dehydrated, and suffering the consequences.

I was tired all the time and looked thin and sickly; I was physically in pain, and often shook uncontrollably. I was growing fearful I would never be healthy, never be able to eat a normal diet, never be able to go out to eat again…

Feeling physically distressed every day for almost a decade can really take a toll on your mental health. It’s also hard for people to understand why I often can’t eat.

I grew tired of hearing “just eat more, it’s all in your head.”

Sure it might be partially in my head, but I sure as hell feel it physically, and if it was as easy as simply eating more, trust me, I would have.

As we all know, eating is necessary to stay alive, and it was torture for me. This is when I started thinking (on occasion) it would just be easier to be dead. Those are terrifying thoughts, and I tried not to focus on them, but they cropped up here and again in the months before my breakdown.

Divorce

Expect a full post about my divorce down the road, but for now I’ll only reference it in the framework of my breakdown.

On April 26th 2017, after only seven months of marriage, my husband left me.

A large part of what I experienced leading up to the breakdown was due to a lack of grounding, or a lack of roots and connections.

In terms of my divorce, we may have only been married for seven months, but we were together for seven years; then all of a sudden, one day, he was gone. The relationship roots that had grown over our time together were stripped away in an instant.

Seven years of seeing and/or talking to him almost every single day, then zero communication, with no intention to ever start again.

It was shocking to say the least.

Of course I cried and grieved the loss of love, the dreams I had for the future; of course I was angry, ashamed, and embarrassed. I felt like a failure.

It was scary to still be in my 20’s and already divorced; it was like my life had taken a wrong turn, and it all felt like a bad dream. Growing up I never imagined I would be divorced, yet here I was, 27 years old, and I hadn’t even lasted a full year in my marriage.

I’d lost my partner in life, and for the first time in a long time, I felt true loneliness. Sure, I dated people after the divorce, but nothing lasted very long, and in reality dating just made things worse. I was not in a good place emotionally (clearly), and online dating especially, is a shallow, superficial game. I’ve never experienced so much rejection in such a short amount of time.

With the failure of my divorce and discouragement from dating, I started feeling hopeless, and felt like I was destined to be alone forever.

Not sleeping

This is mostly due to my mental health disorders, but also some personal choices.

On occasion, I experience phases where I get very limited sleep. During these times, I only sleep 3 to 4 hours a night, but I don’t feel tired; it’s like I just don’t need sleep.

In addition to not sleeping, these phases induce frenzied thoughts, irritability, impulse control, and rage (remember those temper tantrums I mentioned?). For weeks my thoughts had been racing, and I was increasingly impulsive and distracted. My mood was all over the place, and I was growing more alarmed at my inability to stabilize my own emotions.

Other times I would stay up late watching TV or scrolling mindlessly through social media in an attempt to escape my own thoughts. On these nights I would only get 5 or 6 hours of sleep, at most.

For my body and mind to function correctly I need at least 7 hours of sleep, and I was consistently missing that mark.

My emotional stability continued to unravel as I got less and less sleep.

My Family Left

By left, I mean left the country.

Over the past year my parents have been traveling a lot. Right before my breakdown they left for Eastern Europe and would be gone about a month. In addition to my parents being out of the country, my sister also left to spend a week in Paris shortly before my breakdown.

So it would be 7 days with my entire family out of the country. Now I went to college out of state for months at a time, so being away from my family was nothing new. But back then I at least had a roommate or a boyfriend, and I’m single now. I live alone and don’t have very many close friends, so this time I felt like I would be totally alone if something really serious happened.

At this point my mental health had been spiraling for months, and I was more and more aware of it. Now my family would be gone, and I was scared. I started having irrational fears about their absence, and felt rootless and alone.

This is when I first started researching psychiatrists, as my fears were building, my thoughts growing more frenzied, and I started suspecting I was more than just anxious and depressed.

My Tattoo

The last contributing factor before my breakdown was my newest tattoo. Bear with me here…

This is not my first tattoo; in fact it’s technically my fourth, and I’d been planning this one for almost a year to cover up a different tattoo that I got right after my divorce. (Did I mention I’m impulsive?) It was the Chiron symbol, but everyone thought it was a key, it symbolized the pain of my divorce, and it wasn’t particularly pretty…so I wanted it covered.

I’ve always loved tattoos and thought that if I could afford them, I would be covered in them, and this was the perfect opportunity to get a bigger tattoo.

When I finally found the time and funding to have the cover up done, I nervously told my parents about my plans. You see, they don’t like tattoos, and were naturally disappointed to hear I would be getting a new one, especially one so large. My Dad even said, “What man is going to want to marry you with all these tattoos?”

After explaining why I wanted it, however, they understood. More or less, I don’t like my body because it so often betrays me, and I don’t like the way it looks. But tattoos are something I can add to my body that I do like. I also have a history of self harm, and tattooing my forearm is a way to prevent myself from doing that again.

Now after I first got the tattoo, I loved it; and I love it now. But there were a few days in between where I didn’t feel that way.

The morning after I got the tattoo, it was shocking to wake up and see so much darkness where my forearm used to be. My parents had seen pictures, and my Dad told me it was pretty, but I hadn’t heard a word from my Mom.

I started to feel anxious about the permanent change I had just made to my body, and wondered if I had gone too far. Was it too big? Did my Mom hate me now? Was my Dad right, would no one want to date me now that I had this giant forearm tattoo?

Later that day I messaged my mom, saying she must not like the tattoo since I hadn’t heard from her, but I was happy with it. She said the artistry was pretty and she was glad I liked it. I half-jokingly said, “hopefully you don’t love me any less!” to which she replied, “I could never love you less, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times where I like you less or like what you do less.”

I was devastated. To me, that meant she liked me less now because of my tattoo, confirming my fears.

*I tend to take things very literally and personally.

I wanted it gone.

I’d never had a reaction like this to a tattoo before, but then again, my other large tattoo is on my back where I can’t see it every day. If I didn’t want to see this new tattoo, I would have to wear long sleeves or makeup, or save thousands of dollars for laser removal. People (myself included,) would think I was an idiot for getting a tattoo removed so soon after getting it.

Then I thought this was crazy. Literally, crazy.

I love my tattoo and it was only a day old. I’d always wanted a full sleeve, and this was just one side of my forearm. I reminded myself that I still have plenty of blank skin on the rest of my body; other people had told me it was beautiful, and they loved it. I tried to tell myself this was nothing, and I would be fine tomorrow.

If I hadn’t already been faltering mentally, I don’t think this tattoo would have phased me. But my mind was already in a weak place, I had just made a permanent, prominent change to my body, and one of the most important people in my life didn’t like it.

It was the straw that broke the damn-near-dead-already camels back.

The following morning was my breakdown.

The Perfect Storm 

So now hopefully you have an idea of what was happening in the months and years leading up to my breakdown. The divorce, my mental and physical health problems, lack of close relationships, and the shock of a permanent, physical change, all combined to create the perfect storm.

Essentially my breakdown boils down to roots, relationships, physical distress, and not knowing who I am.

If we want to go WAY back, I’m adopted, which has caused a core sense of “rootlessness” or lack of belonging. Please don’t mistake me, I was (and am) an incredibly loved child on all angles. This has nothing to do with any of my parents, and everything to do with other peoples perception of what a “real” family is. I’ll address this further in the future.

I’ve also never been good at making or keeping friends; I don’t have a best friend anymore (it was my husband) and I always assume people don’t like me. Then the roots of my closest relationship were ripped apart by my divorce.

Physical distress has always been an anxiety trigger for me. As mentioned, feeling sick every day for almost a decade can take a serious toll on your mental health, and so can consistent sleep deprivation. I no longer trusted my body, and was afraid of what it was doing to me. As a result, my anxiety skyrocketed and my emotional stability slipped away.

Finally, I’ve always struggled with the idea of knowing who I am. Sure, I know what I like and don’t like, and what my moral values are, but who I am at my core? How do you even define that?

I’m a quiet, introverted person without a strong sense of self. Not knowing who you are and being too shy to speak out is a sure fire way to feel lost in the world, or in this case, my own mind.

And there you have it: my thoughts behind the events that lead to my breakdown.

 

PS: In a way, I love my tattoo even more now, because it was the catalyst that finally got me help. And my mom is fine with it now too 🙂

10 thoughts on “Thoughts Behind the Breakdown

  1. So insightful Mary. You are such a talented writer and that talent and you willingness to share your painful experiences are going to help so many. Good work girl!

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Sweet Mary I hope you are so very proud of yourself for standing up and reaching out for assistance. No one can take better care if you than you! You are amazing, stronger than you believe and so very insightful. Sharing your thoughtful, honest blog will not only help you but countless others. Love you 😘

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  3. What a beautiful post and such a deeply, personal account of yourself. I’m so proud of you for being so transparent in your writing and not holding back your thoughts and feelings. We love you for YOU, which is a pretty darn amazing person. For the record, I happen to love the color of your tattoo….. and I will be your best friend forever. xxoo AA

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  4. You and I had several personal and mutually insightful discussions today, for which I am very appreciative and grateful. I look forward to your next post and the light you shine on yourself, from within. Keep writing sweetheart! You are an incredible wordsmith!
    PS I have always and will always love you unconditionally, tattoo and all! ❤️

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  5. Mary,

    All of your posts show a strength and vulnerability that are quite honestly inspiring. This one spoke to me on so many and varied levels and I thank you for your courage in sharing!

    I can relate to so many things you speak of and am very open and willing to discuss any of it if you should ever want to reach out.

    XO!
    Jami

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