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What to do if you’re at risk of a mental breakdown

You deserve help (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In 2018, I experienced a mental breakdown.

It wasn’t like anything I’d experienced before. I have bipolar disorder and I have experienced many depressive episodes, where I feel in crisis, incredibly distressed and like the world is ending.

But I didn’t feel like that this time. It was different. I felt numb, empty, alone, and almost like my body was floating above me while the world carried on spinning around me.

It was a completely unique experience, and one that I can only describe as… quiet.

Laura McDonald is a BWRT psychotherapist from London, based west Ireland. She tells Metro.co.uk that a mental health breakdown can be described as ‘when one feels like they can no longer cope with life as they know it’.

She explains ‘Things that many of us take for granted, such as getting out of bed in the morning, can become totally unbearable.

‘Some sufferers describe a numb feeling – no happiness, no sadness, but a sense of overwhelm at the day ahead. In extreme cases, someone can go as far as to lose touch with reality completely.’

You might first realise you are experiencing a breakdown when things that you usually find to be quite a normal, routine part of your day, suddenly become unbearably difficult or exhausting. The prospect of organising the evening meal and cooking may be tiring, overwhelming, and too much to think of.

Laura says: ‘Conversations with those close to them may feel exhausting. Listening to the children, listening to a spouse, parent or friend, might just sound like noise and there’s a sense of wanting the talking to just stop.

‘Avoiding friends and family when it is completely out of character to do so. Seeing other people can be overwhelming, it may be hard to follow conversations, and to avoid questions such as “what have you been up to?” or “How are you?”

‘Concentration can be affected. They might forget things, for example, being given a task at work, noting it, and completely forgetting they were asked, until they’re asked where the assignment is. Following that, they may feel worried or scared and know that it isn’t like them to be like that at work.

‘Feelings of helplessness and isolation. Feeling you are the only person who “can’t cope” or who is feeling this way. Feeling under pressure to keep going and do things perfectly.

‘Not looking forward to things they once would have enjoyed. Stopping taking part in things they enjoy.

‘Neglecting themselves or doing things that can be seen as self-harm or punishment – drinking too much, eating too much/too little, depriving themselves of rest or basic self-care.’

I can attest to this — having a mental breakdown makes you feel completely hopeless. It’s like your whole body and brain is constantly tired. Like everything is a blur. It can lead you to experiencing intrusive thoughts and suicidal ideation.

This is why it’s always important to seek help if you feel like you are experiencing a mental health breakdown. But that’s not always easy; especially when you’ve been suffering in silence for a long time.

But, there are things that you can do to seek help. We’re here to talk you through it.

The first thing you should do is consult your GP or mental health professional

The first thing you should do is to consult your GP. Talk to a family member or someone close to you, too.

Your GP will ask questions and make a necessary diagnosis, and prescribe medication if needed, as well as therapeutic interventions.

Ask to be referred for therapeutic treatments…

…or seek them out privately if you can afford to. Therapeutic treatments may include ‘talking therapies’, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). There are also newer therapies which can act quicker such as brain working recursive therapy.

Invest in a programme of self-care

When someone experiences a mental breakdown, the whole mind and body is affected.

Be compassionate with yourself and take care of yourself the way you would a child or someone else in great need of care.

Look at your diet

Laura says: ‘Eat well. It sounds obvious, but again, it is so important. There is a direct link between the health of the gut and the health of the mind.

‘A nutritional therapist can help you to find a good probiotic along with any other supplements you may need, to nurture the whole system.’

Make yourself a priority

If you want to sit at home watching Netflix but feel pressured to attend a big night out, allow yourself to stay at home. If you want to have a hot bath but there are dishes in the sink, have the hot bath; do the dishes later or let someone else do it, if you can.

Let others help

Laura adds: ‘Again, this isn’t a possibility for everyone, but if it is, take the help. Let someone else do some housework, mind the family if you have one, do the food shop, and so on.’

Get lost in the things you love

For instance, books. This can even be a CBT helpbook.

Reading is an amazing way to take the focus away from our own minds and into a different world. They also help give us something to look forward to.

Plan ahead

The anticipation of an event can often be more exciting than the event itself. Each morning write a ‘timetable’ for yourself for after work.

Have a nice meal to look forward to, an invigorating exercise session, a grounding yoga practice, a book, a film, and don’t forget the yoga nidra before sleep.

Steer clear of social media

Laura says: ‘Steer clear of ‘perfect’ social media posts of people living perfect lives. If you wish, take a break from social media completely.’

Contact a mental health helpline

Mental health helplines — like Samaritans — are for anyone, at any time. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Samaritans can help by listening to you.

They don’t offer advice, instead they offer you a safe space to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Sometimes, talking to a stranger knowing you can hang up at any time and never talk to them again is a comfort — because it allows you to be completely vulnerable.

Seek help from your local Crisis Team

Make sure you know the number for your local Mental Health Helpline or Crisis Team. They are the best people to advise you on what to do with how you’re feeling.

If all else fails, attend A&E

A&E isn’t just there for physical emergencies — but mental health emergencies, too.

Seeking help from A&E, you will likely be referred to the on duty mental health team, who you will be able to talk to in person about how you’re feeling.

Don’t be scared to go to A&E for your mental health. Your mental health is just as important as your physical — and they have a designated mental health team for exactly this reason.

Laura also has some great tips on how to talk to your family, friends, and your GP about how you’re feeling without feeling too vulnerable.

She tells us: ‘It may be the people around you who notice it first.

‘I experienced a breakdown and it was actually my husband who spotted it before me. He suggested we visit the GP and it was a welcome relief.

‘I had been worried that I was failing and not coping the way “everyone else” does. I didn’t recognise/believe what was actually happening, even though I was a practicing therapist at the time.

‘Tell your person of choice exactly what a typical day feels like for you. Tell them how much the housework/shopping/commute to work/role at work/parent affects you. Tell them how things you once did without thinking, now feel.

‘Don’t be afraid to let it all out – this way you can get the right help for you. Your GP will monitor your progress and your family/friends will be mindful and respect your need for healing.

‘Let them know when you want to talk and when you’d rather stay quiet.’

If you are struggling right now and need to talk, call Samaritans on 116 123. Alternatively, source your local mental health team, and if you are in crisis, go straight to A&E. Do not delay it. You deserve support for how you’re feeling — please don’t forget this.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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