A Professional Breakdown
I remember how the day started, I could barely get out of bed. I needed to get out of bed, I had a baby (2 years old) and my mother who has dementia. Both were in diapers and both needed me to change those diapers, to get food for them, to get them both dressed, but here I was in bed barely able to lift my head. A month leading up to this day, I had been feeling more and more exhausted. I was unable to make it through the day without feeling as if I was going to pass out. My chest hurt when I laid down, to the point that I tossed and turned in bed as I tried to get to sleep. I began to feel more and more like the world was collapsing around me, but I trudged on. I am currently in the end stage of my master’s degree and I was finally in the clinical portion, seeing clients on a somewhat regular basis and leading groups at a local recovery program. Still, something was not seeming right. I cried easily. Sure, I am caring for my mother who is declining because of her dementia, but I thought I had that in check. I talked to two of my doctors, had blood test, learned that I have wacky cholesterol, but nothing seemed significant.
I cried because I wanted the pain to stop. My body ached…my heart felt like it was barely pumping. I thought, “if I was not here, I would not feel this pain.”
Here I was, it was a Wednesday. I slept. I tried to keep those who needed me somewhat occupied, but I slept. I woke to things tossed around the house, some from my sweet little girl and some from my mother who tossed things around the kitchen as she normally did when left unattended. I felt heavy, my whole body felt like it was under attack. I cried as I texted my husband, “I am having a terrible day, I feel like I need to go to the emergency room”. To which, I remember him replying that I should go.
I drove myself as soon as my teenage son got home from school because he was able to watch his siblings ( 3 sisters) while I drove myself to the emergency room. I cried, I was exhausted, I was in pain and I knew something was not right but felt like I was unable of getting the help that I needed. Sure, the emergency room was great, they checked all my vitals and did an echocardiogram to check my heart. When the discharge nurse came to go over my discharge orders, I cried when he told me that basically nothing was wrong.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
I sucked up my tears and nodded my head yes. NO! I was not okay. I knew what the lack of results meant. That culmination of stress, which displayed itself in the form of fatigue, the inability to catch my breath, the sharp pain in my chest, the flow of tears meant that I had had a mental break down. I was stretching myself thin, I was trying to be the best counselor I could be, I was trying to be the best student I could be, the best daughter, the best mother, the best wife, but I was FAILING to be the best me that I could be. I am not sure if I could have warded off this mental break down or if I just needed to have that moment to reset my mind and body.
Since then I have become open and honest about what is going on inside my mind and body. I got back into the gym (I still have fatigue due to other issues), but I have been better at making it through the day. My husband, a huge supporter, told me that it made him feel bad that he did not take off work to be there with me, to drive me to the hospital or to hold me as I cried and cried and then cried some more. He took my break down seriously, having the support of someone who takes your mental health seriously is HUGE. I take medication for depression and anxiety, and that is okay. I am working towards making sure my own mental health stays healthy. I share with my clients in group that I had a breakdown and explain that not taking care of yourself is huge and that having someone to come beside you to care about your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health is vital. We are complex human beings, and I am not ashamed of my breakdown. I want to remember what that Wednesday was like, so I do not get there again.
I had a mental breakdown and I am a mental health professional and a Christian. I think that means anyone is susceptible.