How to survive a nervous breakdown

The truth about mental breakdowns and how they are often a breakthrough in disguise

Having a so-called ‘nervous breakdown’ can carry a lot of negative stigma: losing your marbles is usually seen as detrimental (damaging to the mental) rather than positive event. But what if it were actually a good thing?  A greater understanding of what a mental breakdown often is could change your perspective, and therefore the entire experience.

The signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown include not feeling able to cope, overwhelm and the feeling of ‘losing one’s mind’. And actually, this might be truer than you think.

As we grow up, without realizing it, we are conditioned with many beliefs, mental patterns and paradigms about the world. It is through these concepts that we operate and view life. As we evolve and grow as human beings, these paradigms and beliefs are going to be challenged, become outdated and will no longer serve us. And so naturally, just like civilizations come and go, the mental concepts are going to have to break down to make way for new ones. I liken this to having to demolish a multi-story building and clear away the rubble in order to make space for a new building. Once the old building is pulled down and cleared away, then the new foundations can be laid and a new building built on top.

The thing is, often, as our mental concepts are being broken down, we do not understand what is happening with our rational mind because it no longer has concepts to hang on to, as the old is being swept away to make way for the new. This can feel very disorientating and scary. It’s like we’ve left point A on one shore, and we’re on our way to point B over the other side of the river, and we’re in the boat going across, but we don’t actually know we’re taking the journey. And it’s often not until we get to the other side and have settled into our new house that we start to piece together what has actually just happened.

So the first step is to recognize what is happening and be ok with it, although it can feel very uncomfortable at the time. If we know we are literally ‘losing our mind’ while a new and better one is being built in its place, even though it feels uncomfortable we can at least relax a little and accept the situation better. This is the time we need to be extra gentle and caring with ourselves. And let go of any expectation of how long this procedure is going to take – it could be a few days, a few weeks or a few months. Just accept that right now it feels like there is nothing for the mind to grab onto as you find yourself falling into the abyss. It’s ok – let go. You will be caught. The fear comes from the mind or ego fighting its demise.

As you come through the other side, you will discover new realms in your mind, new perspectives, new ways of thinking, which will serve you much better. It’s a bit like a computer upgrade. This is why I like to think of  a nervous breakdown as a ‘breakthrough’ – a breakthrough to a new you.

As the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’, so sit back and as much as possible enjoy the ride.

Rumi – The Guesthouse

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

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