How Neglecting My Self-Care Led to a Mental Breakdown
Stop apologizing for taking care of yourself.
The past two years have been filled with a constant battle for my wellbeing. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Before my massive mental breakdown in 2016, I did a very poor job of taking care of my body and soul. In fact, it didn’t even cross my mind. The reason for that (I’ve learned now) is that I never truly felt worthy enough to take care of myself. That mentality was due to my upbringing and tough childhood... but that’s a story for another day.
In the years leading up to what would be my mental breakdown I remember living life superficially. What I mean by that is that I was just getting by, doing what had to get done... like a robot. I was focused on doing well school, while carrying a full time job, trying to get along with my dysfunctional family, and dealing with a new, complicated relationship.
I’ll spare you the details of all those situations to not get sidetracked. But, my point is that I was completely neglecting my well being. I thought that when I graduated things will be less hectic, when I fixed my relationship with my parents I’d feel better, when my romantic relationship improved I’d be happy, etc. Those things happened every day... but I was left confused when I still felt like sh**. What I didn’t recognize was that the true problem was that I hadn’t been doing anything for my own wellbeing. I had been too focused on pleasing everyone around me instead.
The Mental Breakdown
Fast forward to 2016, and boom! Massive mental breakdown. I didn’t understand why. How did I get there? Why did I feel so destroyed? After all; I finally graduated, I had a job, I was newly engaged, my relationship with my family was looking up. Why was I so sad and broken?
Well, my friends... it came down to the fact that I had not been taking care of my mind, body, or soul ,because I felt like I didn’t have the time, resources, and honestly didn’t even know how. I also felt like other people, including my family, had so much on their plates that MY problems were simply water under the bridge. I had convinced myself that I was taken care of “enough.” That was NOT the case. Yes, I had a roof over my head, food on my plate, and some good friends. For that, I was, and still am, eternally grateful. But newsflash! That’s not always enough. Especially if you’re anything like me, and you're hypersensitive to everything.
My mental breakdown and the months afterwards are really a big blur. After being taken to the emergency room by my very concerned family, being medicated by a psychiatrist, and forced to go into therapy, I was left two choices: either I was going to continue down the path of self destruction by ignoring my well-being, or I was going to take action, even if it hurts. I didn’t know where to start.
For a while I continued down the path of self destruction. Not because I wanted to, but because I was a MESS. I was mentally and emotionally drained, and couldn’t escape my own suffering. I tried. But I didn’t try hard enough. I showed up for therapy (sometimes), I went out for walks to breathe fresh air (when I felt like it), and I reached out to others for help (when they asked me to). I started to realize that none of that was enough. I was digging myself up in the same way I had months before.
For a while after this season in my life I kept going through phases of practicing self care and phases of not giving a crap, because, “what was the point?” I convinced myself nothing was going to make me better. I was always going to be anxious and depressed. It took me a long time to accept that I needed help. I needed professional help, the support of my family, and friends. But ultimately, I need to help MYSELF.
And so I started to find ways to do just that. It took me a long time, and I’d be lying if I said I have it down today. I still struggle with taking responsibility for my well-being, and making time for self-care. But I’m doing much better than before. I’ve chosen to make my well-being a priority. Just because we choose to take care of ourselves first doesn’t mean we are being selfish. It means we are helping ourselves, so that we can do a better job of helping those around us.
I started being mindful about what I watched on TV. Is it making me feel bad about myself? Is it making me anxious? Is it causing me to have horrible nightmares? I started limiting myself on the time I spent on social media. In fact, I went completely off of it for a whole 6 months (it was great!) I try to step out of my house to get some fresh air, even if I have nowhere to go in particular. I try to go to sleep at a decent hour, and do some yoga before bed instead of watching endless hours of YouTube.
Self-care is for everyone.
These may sound like small steps, but we all have to start somewhere. Especially if you’ve been neglecting your well-being for as long as I have. Self-care takes practice. We get so caught up in our daily responsibilities, keeping up with our work, our relationships, and the state of our home (if you’re a clean freak like me) that we forget that we need to be taken care of, as well. It’s okay to let others take care of you when you need it, but being able to care for yourself in even the smallest aspects of your life is something nobody can take away from you. Self-care isn’t only for those those of us who struggle with mental health. It’s for everyone. So, remember... take care of yourself.