It probably doesn’t surprise you to know that I, the Queen of Self-Destructive Behaviours and Bad Decisions, have had my fair share of mental breakdowns.
My first mental breakdown happened when I was 14 years old. It wasn’t the worst breakdown I’ve had by far, but it’s the one that pains me the most when I think about it.
I remember it as clear as day: me and my best friend walking through our high school gates, laughing and bitching about some trivial teenage drama. My depression was forcibly hidden underneath my over-enthusiastic engagement in the conversation, as was my budding codependency issues, intensely fluctuating mood swings and unstable sense of self.
To the outside world, I was still a normal teenage girl. Inside, a monster was festering, a demon I did not yet know the name of.
Me and my best friend walked through the gates and all I remember is being suddenly surrounded by other kids. No, not surrounded — swamped. Stampeded. Suffocated. Confident, carefree, normal kids who jostled and joked around me, their effortless, high-pitched laughter like a fire drill in my ears.
Something about their authenticity made my mind snap.
My memory of the next couple of hours is presented to me like a series of old photographs. I don’t remember turning around, walking away or travelling home, though I do remember my friend calling out my name as I fled.
I don’t remember raiding my mom’s medicine box and I only vaguely remember taking the pills. What I can vividly recall is the panic. The blinding fear. The feeling of reality splintering open and my worst nightmares wriggling out through the cracks.
My first suicide attempt warranted a short stay in hospital, where I managed to bullshit my way out of being admitted to a psychiatric unit. I felt weak and ashamed for so long, angry at myself for letting this nameless monster get the better of me, but after a while I was able to turn my first mental breakdown into a valuable life lesson.
If I have one goal in life, it’s to always find some purpose in my pain. In order to heal, I had to find something beautiful in all of my darkest times – and my very first mental breakdown was a good place to start.
I hope this inspires and encourages you to find purpose in your own pain too ❤️
Things I Learnt From My Teenage Mental Breakdown
It taught me that ‘ignoring it’ isn’t an effective coping strategy
My first mental breakdown felt so traumatic because it seemed to descend upon me out of nowhere. It was only afterwards that I realised I’d been subconsciously ignoring all of the warning signs for months.
Unfortunately, ‘ignoring it’ was the first in a long line of self-destructive coping mechanisms. However, this breakdown really opened my eyes to how dangerous ignoring your mental health can be.
It encouraged me to open up to my friends
OK, so I may have bullshitted the mental health professionals but I really began to open up to my friends. I didn’t tell them that I had depression – I mean, what even was depression – but instead of always saying “I’m fine”, I would tell them that I felt low and give them surface-levels reasons why.
This experience really enlightened me to the importance of having a good support network. As some of us know too well, depression has a habit of driving people away – but it also shows you who your true friends are.
It gave me a lot more self-awareness
Self-awareness is vital for mental health. At 14-years-old, I lacked any shred of emotional intuition or regulation. When my first mental breakdown happened, I honestly didn’t see it coming which made its impact so much more devastating.
To this day, the thought of being hit by an unsuspecting mental breakdown scares the living shit out of me.
Luckily, I am now almost too self-aware of my pre-breakdown behaviour. I can usually see when a breakdown is on the horizon and manage to shoot it down before it reaches the shore. Of course, it took a long time for it to be this way but my first mental breakdown was the catalyst for my increased self-awareness.
It introduced me to the beauty of growth
Look, as cliché and horribly romanticised as it sounds, whenever I hit rock bottom I become empowered by the fact that there is nowhere else to go but up.
I know, I know. Just hear me out.
So, the actual impact of hitting rock bottom is pretty brutal. However, if I survive the fall, I know that there is nowhere else for me to go but up – and I am pretty good at getting up! In fact, the months after I’ve had a mental breakdown are often the most motivational, inspiring and productive for me. I always learn something new about my mental health, whether it be a new symptom or an unhealthy reaction. It also enlightens me to new coping strategies, which is why I have so many.
It opened my eyes to my BPD tendencies
I wouldn’t get a BPD diagnosis for another 10 years. However, even my first mental breakdown highlighted some troubling issues.
I became vaguely aware of my self-identity issues, the toxicity of my relationships and the self-destructiveness of my reactions to trivial things. I may not have done anything productive to change them, but my awareness made me contemplate whether or not my behaviour was normal – something I had never really thought about before my first mental breakdown.
I have my first mental breakdown to thank for a lot of changes in my life. Some of them are bad, but ultimately it has led me down this delightful path of positive hippie vibes and self-discovery. I’d love to hear stories of how your first mental breakdown affected you, or things that you’ve learnt from hitting rock bottom.
If you’re in a crisis, please seek professional help, speak to someone you trust or contact Samaritans here.