Not a breakdown, but a breakthrough…

Golly, I feel like I have so much to say but have no idea where to begin or if any of it will even make sense. Let me try…

About 2 months ago, I became very, very unwell. I had felt my anxiety progressively getting worse for a while before this, but had shoved it all down and hoped it would just go away. The thing is: when you do that, you get so overfilled and packed with unresolved issues that everything starts to leak out at the seams. I started crying all the time and didn’t know why. It became harder for me to get out of bed in the mornings. I would need to sleep during the day in between shifts just to feel like I could (barely) function. I couldn’t even taste food anymore.

There was something seriously wrong, but I tried my absolute hardest to just ignore it and keep going for the sake of everyone else around me. I couldn’t afford to get sick; my sense of obligation to everyone was driving me at the time (and to be honest, for most of my life up until that point.) I didn’t want to let my mum and Alpal down by letting my anxiety get the better of me and I especially didn’t want to let anyone at work down by needing time off.

But something had to give. During a Tuesday morning shift at work, after dry retching in the toilet for the third time that morning in between sobs that I was desperately trying to keep quiet so I didn’t scare the kids, I fell to my knees and couldn’t get up for what felt like an eternity. “This is it”, I thought. “I’m going to die in here. Every part of me is going to shut down. Someone is going to have to break down this door and discover my lifeless body after I pushed myself to the point where it actually killed me.” I don’t know if you’ve ever had thoughts like that before, but if you haven’t, believe me when I tell you that it is absolutely terrifying.

I knew something had to give. It just had to. I knew I had to take a break; let myself rest; let myself heal. But all the while I was terrified of letting anyone at work see how weak I was; or even worse, that they wouldn’t believe how sick I was. Regardless, I had to take the rest of that week off, even though the guilt of it almost killed me.

That week turned into two weeks. Two weeks where I couldn’t get out of bed; where my mum held me tight every day as I cried into her chest and just kept telling her how much everything hurt; where Alpal would rub my back and stroke my hair as I sobbed every night. Showering was too big of a task. Walking from my bed to the bathroom was exhausting. I was sleeping for at least 16 hours a day. I was well and truly broken.

At the end of the two weeks, I knew I had a huge decision to make. I couldn’t see myself getting better anywhere in the near future. I was in agony over constant thoughts of letting everyone at work down and plagued with fear and immense guilt for the decision I knew I had to make; I had to resign.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. My boss was incredibly lovely about it, but I still felt such immense shame for what I had to do, and the consequences. I let my colleagues down. I lost what I thought were friends over it. I was told I was making the wrong decision by people I was terrified of letting down. I let the kids, who I so dearly cared for, down… And even worse, I knew I’d never get to say the proper goodbye I’d always wanted. It still haunts me to this day and I know it will for months to come. I loved my job but I know now that if I forced myself to go back at the end of those two weeks, it would have killed me.

I realise how dramatic that may sound, but I know with complete certainty that it is unequivocally and absolutely true. I had hit rock bottom emotionally and physically. I was the sickest I’ve ever been.

Before I resigned, I felt that because the decision of having to leave work was making me so incredibly anxious, that I would feel slightly relieved when I finally did resign. I didn’t. I felt heartbroken. I was in such utter despair and couldn’t stop crying. I even thought I would start to get better after I resigned… I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It’s been six weeks since that day, and I’m still unwell. I’ve barely left the house unless it was to see my doctor or my psychologist. I’ve only just started to get my appetite back again. I’m still sleeping a lot, but my doctor said that’s completely expected and necessary after what’s happened.

Of course, I’m a lot better than I was… I know now that resigning was the right and healthiest choice I could’ve made. I’ve been able to smile again. I’ve been able to make myself some toast some mornings. I’ve even been able to go up to the Northern Beaches to see Alex’s family, and, even more amazingly, this past weekend, I went to Perth to visit my family there. It was exhausting; flying with extreme motion sickness, going to the park, the beach and the coffee shop with my family over there… But I did it. And I have to recognise how amazing it is that I did.

Of course, I’m exhausted since being back and have taken a few steps back from where I was before I went, but I’m choosing to be kind to myself and show myself compassion for needing to rest.

On Monday, I saw my psychologist and we had a session that had more light bulb moments than ever before. She helped me come to the realisation that most, if not all of my issues and the root of my anxiety have stemmed from a need to please other people; to make other people happy; to do what others want and expect of me. I’ve always been a people pleaser. I learnt very early on as a child that you should treat others as you would like to be treated… But I’ve only just started to realise that, firstly, not everyone shares the same mindset as me and secondly, that you should treat yourself the way you would like to be treated.

It’s too big to explain in one blog post and I’m still figuring it all out… But I’ve realised that my self worth has never come from within. I’ve always sought it out externally; I’ve always gone above and beyond to make other people happy and make people like me… To the point that for a while there, I became a shell of myself at work. I became a shadow of someone who would do whatever she could to fit in, regardless of whether or not it was in line with her own values.

It’s a long road ahead of me, but I’ve finally been able to realise that what I’ve been through; how sick I am, is a blessing. My psychologist said that a lot of people refer to what I’ve (and countless others have) been through as a breakdown. She told me that she hates that term. She said that I may have hit my personal rock bottom; I may be sicker, more anxious and depressed than I’ve ever been before… But what I’m going through is not a breakdown. It’s a breakthrough.

I’ve let people in my life chip away at me, bit by bit, until there was barely anything left of me; until there was nowhere lower for me to hit than rock bottom. Yes, I’m exhausted. Yes, I’m unemployed now. No, I don’t have as many friends as I thought I did… But I’ve been able to realise that they weren’t friends at all. I’ve been able to realise that so many of my issues come from a place of not loving myself and not caring for myself like I do for the people around me.

That is a blessing.

So what I’ve been through may have been traumatic, but it’s also been incredibly enlightening. A true blessing. Not a breakdown,but a breakthrough.

It’s like I have a blank canvas now… For the first time in what feels like forever, I can see a brightness in my future. A future where I discover what I value; what kind of life I want to live; who I am and who I can be.

Not a breakdown,

but a breakthrough.

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