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When I Learned a Second Mental Breakdown Didn't Mean I Was Back at Square One

I was first diagnosed 14 years ago. A lot of stressful things were going on in my life, which led to a mental breakdown. It was an awful year. When I look back at my life, I always view that year as the low point. And then I think about how I have spent the last 14 years becoming healthy. I look at the person I was 14 years ago, and I look at all the hard work I have done since then in therapy, in relationships and in work and school settings — I see a person who is becoming more and more healthy. I like sharing my story to inspire people to believe things do get better.

But then there was last year. I had a really stressful summer. Many things happened all at once, it was incredibly overwhelming. The pressure kept building and building, and I had another mental breakdown. In the aftermath I wondered, Does this mean I’m back at square one? Does this mean the 14 years I spent recovering from the first breakdown are all wasted? How long will it take to heal this time?

I can answer those questions now. No, I wasn’t back at square one. It was a crisis, but since my coping skills are so much better now and I am so self-aware, I dealt with everything much better this time.

In 2002, a mental breakdown for me meant hospitalizations, a halfway house, intensive outpatient treatment, time off school and losing all of my friends.

In 2016, a mental breakdown meant I wasn’t a threat to myself or others and didn’t need to be hospitalized. My mind just stopped working right. I called together a group of a few close friends to help me deal with my mental crisis. I went to see my counselor and made up a game plan on how to cope. I spent a lot of time in nature to heal. I rested a lot. I emailed my friends updates on my progress. I still aced my final exam and didn’t miss a day of work.

In 2002, a mental breakdown meant I was diagnosed with several mental illnesses, and was overwhelmed with trying to figure out what the diagnoses meant and who I was with these new diagnoses.

In 2016, I knew myself. I was aware of my symptoms and had coping skills for my problems. I certainly didn’t expect another breakdown, but I knew how to deal with mental crises and was able to cope while still keeping my head above water.

In 2002, a mental breakdown meant it would take me years to be stable again.

In 2016, I struggled for about five months. Then I came out of it and started to feel like myself again.

In 2002, I thought a breakdown meant my mind was broken and I would never be the same again — that I would never be whole again.

In 2016, a breakdown was just yet another obstacle for me to overcome. Now, several months later, I feel like it has only made me stronger.

2016 was a pretty awful year for me. I didn’t expect to have a second mental breakdown. It took a tremendous amount of work to recover. But now that I have recovered, I feel more confident than before. If I can handle a second mental breakdown, still ace my classes, do well at work, get along with my friends and husband, then I feel I can accomplish anything.

I’ve discovered a second mental breakdown doesn’t mean I’m back at square one. I am such a stronger person now than before. My first mental breakdown meant my life was turned upside down. My second breakdown was a painful obstacle on my journey to wholeness. But it didn’t end the journey. I’m still going forward and I feel stronger than ever.

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Unsplash photo via Sergey Zolkin.