How to break through from a mental health breakdown
Thanks to a hugely successful mental health awareness campaign, we all know the ‘1 in 4’ statistic; a quarter of us experience mental health issues every year. We’ve seen countless social posts and memes on depression, anxiety and suicide but what about those who ‘come out the other side’? We rarely hear of people whose anxiety and depression are catalysts for positive change.
For some, these issues force extreme lifestyle transformations and result in previously unimagined happiness. Their inspirational stories could well bring many of us hope and perhaps even expedite the first steps to recovery.
‘It’s sad that mental health in the media is all about the “epidemic” of depression and anxiety’ says psychologist Lorna Denton. ‘It’s never about the success stories or what we can do to change things’.
GET LOW TO GET HIGH
Mental health charity Mind says rather than our state of mind deteriorating in recent years, we find it harder to cope with our everyday worries about things such as money, jobs and benefits.
The extra curveballs life throws – bereavement, divorce and redundancy – compound these worries and negatively impact us. On top of all that, 2.1 million women and 0.7 million men suffer domestic abuse annually in the UK, and, according to the TUC, an astonishing one in three of us are bullied at work. It’s hardly surprising so many hit rock bottom.
But according to Lorna, rock bottom is not necessarily a bad place to land. ‘We need to reach our lowest point before we are forced to make lasting life changes. It’s easier not to face things, to plod along just being “OK”. Rock bottom gives us a base from which to change’.
It’s something I know all too well. Years of mentally abusive relationships and being bullied at work culminated in a nervous breakdown. My symptoms consumed me and lasted for years. Depression, anxiety and disassociation from life rendered me unable to function on a day-to-day basis, but my daughter was a constant source of inspiration to get well. I was lucky enough to have incredibly supportive family and friends, too. My recovery was long and punctuated with relapses, but two psychologists and a life coach later, I’m fighting fit.
Lack of self-care is another a huge factor in our failure to cope. ‘Protect yourself by recognising when you need to stop or slow down’ Lorna advises. ‘Being busy all the time isn’t a badge of honour; it’s important to take time out for yourself once a week’.
Mark Griffiths was estranged from his family when he suffered a series of events that left him severely depressed, unable to work and completely broke. ‘Then I had a moment where I didn’t feel numb or detached. I’d helped an elderly lady with her shopping and made her a cup of tea and I could see how much it meant to her. So I asked myself: if I helped a lot more people, would it make me even happier?’
The answer was “absolutely”. Mark is CEO of Real Life Coaching International, and helps clients reach their potential. If that’s not happily-ever-after enough, he trains others to become life coaches.
‘When you’re in a low place, it’s hard to admit you have a problem’ says Mark. ‘But by owning up to it, you have taken a huge first step towards resolution, and with support, hard work and determination, you can achieve the life you want and deserve’.
Like Mark, I viewed my own breakdown as a breakthrough. I’ve worked out a ‘proper’ job and ‘regular’ hours aren’t for me and I’ve found my perfect employment.
Above all, my journey has taught me how to love the skin I’m in, and that ultimately, our mental state really creates our world for all of us.
A professional will help you make sense of your reality, recognise negative patterns, re-frame your thoughts and suggest coping strategies. Your GP is a good place to start, but you’ll get a quicker, bespoke appointment via numerous therapists and online coaches. Most offer a complimentary session to ensure they’re right for you.
Get support. Surround yourself with understanding family and friends, ask for help when you need it and talk it out. Be open and honest about how you’re feeling and if you think they just won’t get it, direct them to Mind’s website (mind.org.uk) for guidance on how best to be there for you.
Self-care is the last thing you can be bothered with when you’re low, but it’s essential for recovery. Even just getting up, washing and dressing can seem impossible, but forcing yourself to do so will help go some way towards positivity that can be built upon. Ensure you’re getting good nutrition and plenty of exercise, however gentle. A walk in nature, getting out in the fresh air, can lift the mood for hours.
Lorna Denton is a practising psychologist. For more information, visit yourmindsetcoach.co.uk. Mark Griffiths is CEO of Real Life Coaching. Find out more at rlcinternational.com