Reclaiming your Life after a Breakdown by Kathryn Kitto
Significant and challenging events can have a huge impact on one’s life, and this article focuses how to recover from them when you feel overwhelmed, depressed or that you are falling apart. I will use both my own personal experiences, information from the book Falling Apart (1992) by Dr Michael Epstein and Sue Hosking (unfortunately out of print), and my knowledge from my work as a hypno-psychotherapist to give readers some tools to begin to pick up the pieces and come back from falling apart, and to reclaim their lives if faced with such a situation.
Some experiences in life can have a huge impact on one’s life, and can lead to severe stress, depression, and even breakdown. And sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be just one event which triggers a breakdown. Instead, it can be a build up of factors or events, where suddenly you get to a point of just not coping with anything anymore.
And so breakdown in this context is to describe the sudden change in someone who has coped well before but, after a period of strain, has reached or passed a point of collapse, and can no longer cope with their lives.
This type of stress breakdown is a condition in which the capacity for coping with life is damaged, not just strained but really damaged. This damage is shown by a number of symptoms and the damage takes a long time to mend.
Jobs can be lost, health can be shattered, and families can split. A stress breakdown can be a lonely and exhausting battle to survive and overcome. Because of the stigma many attach to mental illness, depression or stress breakdown, those who suffer a breakdown often try to hide the breakdown and go to great lengths to cover it up, to put on a mask of coping.
But generally the facade only works with outsiders, and generally not family or close friends. And it can happen to anyone, from all walks of life.
It could also be caused from fear, loss of someone close to them, or from exhaustion. The fear may come from life-threatening situations, car accidents, assaults, or disasters, like floods or bushfires.
The loss may have come from personal tragedy, bankruptcy or a serious illness.
Some might crash from exhaustion, often following a long period of mild or overwhelming pressure, frustration, disappointment, and a sense of powerlessness.
Some people recognise that they have had a breakdown immediately. Others may only realise after weeks, months sometimes years.
Some fight it until they are totally exhausted; others find a peace in letting go and allowing themselves to crumble.
All those who go through breakdown find their lives have changed irretrievably. Some find their breakdown has forced changes in their lives, and in some cases, make their existence richer and more rewarding than before.
The following are Ten Signs of Stress, as well as, Ten Ways to Cope, as listed in Epstein & Hosking’s book under the Publisher’s note. After both, I have also added my own personal comments.
Ten Signs of Stress
– Crying easily;
– Low confidence;
– Poor memory;
– Muddled thoughts;
– Loss of interest in sex;
– Sleeping problems; and
– Fear of social situations.
I would personally like to also add: Feeling overwhelmed; Feeling like you just want to stay in a corner and tell the world to go away; and Feeling a sense of powerlessness.
Ten Ways to Cope
– Time off work;
– Counselling, and medication can sometimes be useful for sleep problems, anxiety and
– Make your diet more nutritious, with an emphasis on vegetables;
– Cut out alcohol and cigarettes;
– Keep a diary of how you’re feeling;
– Avoid anything upsetting, which may include television and newspapers;
– Only spend time with people who accept you;
– Pace yourself; use your body’s symtoms as a guide. For example, if gardening make you
– Think positively – people get better.
Again, I would also like to add that Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy and Hypnotherapy are also fantastic in helping to reduce sleep problems, anxiety and depression, and to increase feelings of positivity and well-being.
However, as part of the recovery process and taking baby steps towards a full life again, what are the changes that people may have to go through in order to cope with their lives again? For example, for some it means changes at the workplace, or even changing to a completely different workplace and starting a new career. So this is also why at times you might find that people have a complete change in career. Your local fireman might become a taxi driver, or a Manager in a good, stable government job might resign and instead become a Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist, just as I did.
So even though a breakdown is awful at the time, it is important when a person is recovered a little, to assess:
– what is really important to them;
– what do they really want in their lives;
– what is it that causes them pain or anxiety; and
– what is it that brings them joy.
By using a combination of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy and Hypnotherapy, assessing what our anxiety triggers are, and what is really going on in our lives, and then by empowering ourselves to make choices and changes, it is then that we journey towards happier lives. It is then that we also find we can reclaim our lives.
And lastly, I just wish to share with you this quote which really resonated with me. It is again from Falling Apart by Dr Michael Epstein and Sue Hosking.
“My breakdown was the climax of a very bad period in my life. It was a terrible time for me but, in a way, I don’t regret it. It has been the strongest factor in determining the person I’ve become.”
For further help in coping with depression or breakdown, please make an appointment at the Healing Souls Clinic.