This is part of a series of blog posts in which I share 13 of the (many!) lessons I learned when I fell apart and put myself back together again. The post starts here
When I finished my teaching degree in 2001 after 4 challenging years, I returned to the Rhondda Valley, the place where I grew up, to recover from the stress of it all before exploring and changing the world through primary school teaching. I “joked” that I was coming back to have the breakdown I had earned through my study, and then I’d be off, exploringthe world and living a life of adventure.
I am still here!
The breakdown took somewhat longer to arrive than anticipated, not arriving until 2013, although I sometimes wonder I was actually experiencing a slow burning breakdown for those years.
Throughout those 12 years I was in almost constant emotional turmoil, and in absolute self destruct mode. Despite this, I was more or less functioning, able to work full time, ostensibly having a lot of fun (getting very drunk, laughing, and listening to loud music a lot!). I was obviously chaotic, troubled and full of drama, but “ok”.
In 2013, when I had my ‘I Appear Missing‘ moment, I realised that I was, in fact, anything but ok. I was falling apart, now rapidly, and needed to allow myself time to do so. I quit my job and fell head first into a meltdown.
My path out of this pit of misery was Yoga teacher training. It is no exaggeration to say that this training saved my life. I dread to think what I would be now had I not taken this step along the path.
This decision was, at the time I made it, a desire to have a different way to earn money than to sit at a desk from 9-5 every day. I had no idea that it would transform my life so much, improving my view of myself, my health, my future.
Swami Gitananda, whose teachings I was trained in, said many things in his writings that impacted me greatly. As my training progressed, I started to become more comfortable in my skin, and to look forward to a future that didn’t involve constant and determined self destruction.
These words became more and more meaningful to me.
“A nervous breakdown is actually an opportunity for a spiritual breakthrough if we can realise the positive implications in our moment of despair and dejection”
Now, it is not always possible to see the positive implications when you are in the depths of despair and dejection, but it is worth remembering that when you emerge from the depths, you will be able to see those positive implications.
When you look back at a tough time in life that you got through, you can see the gifts it offered to you. You will appreciate the lessons you learned, the opportunities for growth and change it presented, the experiences that wouldn’t have come your way if not for that experience. Some of the worst moments in my life have brought with them some of the greatest lessons and gifts. As Lisa Nicholls says, some of our greatest gifts come “wrapped in sandpaper”
The recovery community knows very well about this. The rooms of AA and the other ‘Anonymous’ movements are filled on a daily basis with stories of people’s moments of realisation of the extent of the destruction they are creating in their lives, and how that realisation gave them the push to walk on the path to recovery.
Life changing or threatening illness often gives people the push they need to change their lives and start living again. Owen Morgan, founder of World Health Heroes, *should* have died from severe health problems. After years of deep depression and fear of interacting with the world, Owen took his brush with death and used it as fuel to transform his life, and to make his mark on the world. He daily breaks through his fears and is creating a powerful movement to help and heal others.
My good friend Alice Smith was left with PTSD so severe following years of domestic abuse that she could not speak, but she was able to write poetry and plays. She used her poetry to express herself, and has found her creative outlet for her pain. Her third play, The Child Who Said No, opens in Birmingham on July 28. Alice also lives with a burning desire to help others, and is a powerful and impassioned activist, fighting for women’s safety, and fundraising for a school in India.
Norma Jean Bauerschmidt was diagnosed with stage 4 uterine cancer at 90, and was offered chemo but said “I’m 90 years old, I’m not interested in going through that. I’m hitting the road.”. Norma embarked on an ‘epic road trip’, and had what seems to have been, an amazing experience before she died. I bet she had no regrets for her decision at the end of her life!
All of these people could have seen what happened to them as ‘the end’, and chosen to feel sorry for themselves and stay down, but they all refused to do so, making their lives and the world a better place for it. All inspire people on a daily basis, and show us what can be done when you refuse to lie down and be beaten by life.
It might be the end of a chapter, it is not the end of the book
If life is feeling tough right now, hold on. Breathe deeply. Be kind to yourself. Reach out for support. Eat and sleep well, and get some exercise. Make lists of things that you are grateful for every day.
Hold on to the knowledge that this will pass, and that there will be an end to the pain and unhappiness you feel. Take small actions every day that help you to feel stronger when you can, and when you can’t, accept that you can’t and love yourself.
In tomorrow’s post I am going to look at how you can beat the fears that might be holding you back. Because they can be beaten. You can get through this.
Who has inspired you with their ‘it’s not going to beat me’ approach to life? Share in the comments below, and please share this post if you think it will help others.