What It's Like To Have A Mental Breakdown At 20
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Health and Wellness

What It's Like To Have A Nervous Breakdown During What Should Be 'The Best Years Of My Life'

Being 20 should mean college parties, not mental behavioral units.

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What It's Like To Have A Nervous Breakdown During What Should Be 'The Best Years Of My Life'

I used to be the girl who could pick up a conversation with anyone. I used to be the girl who could spend hours out with friends, completely oblivious to the passage of time. I used to smile effortlessly.

When I look at old photos of myself — photos from even a few months ago — I feel a lump forming in the back of my throat.

It's painful for me to discuss the events that unfolded just a few months ago. Not a day doesn't pass by that I don't think about a detail regarding my fragile state of being. No matter how much I may try to distract myself, no matter how busy I may try to be, each day I'm always somehow reminded of the confusion and distress that I was in.

According to the discharge paperwork, I have been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. According to my therapist, I have a generalized anxiety disorder. According to the friends and family who know me best, my mental breakdown was a result of a rough transition into a new college in a new state, all the while experiencing Michigan's worst winter on record.

Regardless of what the proper diagnosis may be, I haven't been the same since.

I don't trust that the medication is actually making a positive difference. While the psychiatrist may have prescribed a new medication and changed the dosage on a few occasions, I am still left with underlying feelings of loneliness and dread. Granted, I am in a better place than I was three months ago. However, I've developed anxiety regarding social situations that I never had before. Spending more than an hour with good friends and even family feels like a chore. Excitement for my major and my interests cease to exist. Apathy and indifference have become my default mode. All that really sounds appealing to me is binge-watching mindless TV shows.

I wonder if I would be any better without the medication.

Without previous psychiatric problems, my episode truly baffled me. While in my earlier years, I may have suffered from the typical teenage angst, I never needed to see a therapist or be prescribed medicine. I wasn't given a label.

I went from a returning college student with an internship lined up in D.C. for the summer and making the dean's list to a paranoid and delusional patient at Mercy's Behavioral Health Unit. While I've recouped my sanity, it feels like so much is still lost. My reputation is tainted. Deep meaningful friendships now feel lukewarm. Any social interaction just seems forced. The ability to laugh or experience any strong emotional response seems to have disappeared.

It's easy for me to dwell. It's easy to allow negative thoughts to overpower me. Despite everything, there is so much in my life that I have to be grateful for. I am blessed with a good family, the means to pursue higher education, and overall good health. I remind myself that there are people that genuinely care about me. It's only a matter of time that these feelings will pass. This is all just temporary.

I'm hopeful that a month from now, I will have a different story to tell. I will no longer be the girl who sends phone calls to voicemail or ignores text messages. Nor, will I be the girl that obsessively checks the clock when out with friends — wishing to be home in bed. I won't question the point of my existence.

After some reflection, I believe my situation could have been avoided. The months prior to my hospitalization, I allowed the stresses of school to take precedent over my overall well being. I stopped eating regularly and as a result, I lost 10 pounds. With two large end-of-course papers due, I felt myself slipping. My coping skills were far from healthy, and I was afraid to reach out for help. A week after returning home, everything fell apart.

I didn't suffer from a traumatic event. There is not a single event that I can attribute to my mental breakdown, but rather it is cumulative. I just allowed the stress to get the best of me. I didn't reach out when I was struggling. I didn't take care of myself.

In hindsight, it's easy to point out where I have failed myself. It's easy to say "I've should've done this" or "I could've done that." Looking back is when your most obvious mistakes are revealed. To be very clear, my nervous breakdown is not my fault, nor is it ever anyone's fault. However, I hope others can learn from my experience in the hopes of seeking help before it reaches the point of hospitalization.

I take each day at a time. I try to start every day by praying the Litany of Trust. I give my trust, my fears, my all to the Lord. Every day, I ask for Jesus' help. I know I can't do it alone, and I need help from a higher power.

Regardless of your religious background or lack thereof, don't be afraid to pray. Don't be afraid to meditate. Don't be afraid of silence. Medication can only go so far. Therapy can only so far.

Through my faith, I have been able to find solace for a better tomorrow. For a future where I am not weighed down by my chemical imbalance.

For those suffering from depression, anxiety, or any number of undiagnosed disorders, don't be afraid to seek help, don't be afraid to take a break from school.

Please don't allow your mental health to be an afterthought like I did.

If you get anything out of this, I hope that you realize that you can heal. You can be happy again. You can overcome.

Don't get me wrong, I still suffer from feelings of isolation and loneliness. I still force myself to engage in a number of activities. It's going to take time for me to heal. It's requiring a lot of patience.

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