Sometimes You Have To Completely Break Before Breaking Through


I read in Psychology Today this quote, “Sometimes you have to break down before you break through,” and though I can’t totally take credit for it, I can say it’s honestly changed my life.

And if I can help one person with my story, it will all be worth it.

It probably all started with this train wreck of an election season. Or maybe it was earlier; I can’t remember. Anyway, for the first time in my life, politics became so personal, and I couldn’t figure out why. (I promise this article is about mental health, not politics – I’ll save that for an angry letter to Washington.)

I was rooting for the underdog and deeply offended by the frontrunners. They reminded me of things I most hate – bullying, disingenuousness, corruption… It seemed deeply unfair that those qualities equal success. That’s politics – you win by fearmongering and making the best deals with the right people. Who knew? Most people. Most people knew. (You could say I was a bit late to the game.)

Anyway, after losing faith in the world; after feeling like I had wasted the last three (long) years pursuing a degree at night in something I had no desire to do; after crying in front of my bosses while trying to ask for a raise… It finally happened. I had a complete mental breakdown. I became unhinged, went rogue, the screws in my head became too loose, whatever you want to call it. I frantically googled “mental breakdown” and found the “breakthrough” quote.

I went on a “mental sabbatical”, and didn’t return to work for four days. I spent those four days sitting on the couch eating tortilla chips and watching Curb Your Enthusiasm (I have a special relationship with the show, which got me through a rough time. That and Xanax, of course).

Anyway, I had my breakthrough. I had spent months drowning in my thoughts, some of which were existential – but most were crises about the career I was moving toward – a career which was totally wrong for me.

I was trying to pursue something related to my studies because I was unwilling to accept that I had wasted all that time. But the thought of working in the public sector, entrenched in the politics and bureaucracy that I hate; the type of methodical work that I dislike most; jobs where creative thinking is typically frowned upon; it made me feel nauseous. (By the way, I have the utmost respect for people who work in the public sector, but it’s just not for me.)

See, I’m quirky. Some might say I am a bit weird and a little crazy, but I totally own it. I thrive on creative thinking; I spend my free time diving into visual design, staining wood, and writing. I always wanted to pursue creative jobs, but I felt discouraged. I took people’s opinions too seriously and didn’t realize that I needed to listen to myself. Because at the end of the day, you are the only one that has to live with your decisions.

I promise my intention here is not to be self-serving. I want to provide you with some hope: It DOES get better.

I can say that not as your perfect friend; but as someone who has been mentally broken and come out on the other side.

You have every right to be depressed, frustrated and angry. The bottom line, though, is you HAVE to follow your gut when something doesn’t feel right.

Everything happens for a reason. I promise. Your breakdown could very likely be the start of something amazing.

Whether you’re unhappy with your job, your marriage; angry about genocide; frustrated with your country; whatever it is, these are only thoughts, and will not forever consume your life.

Life is so messy. You might meet the love of your life while you’re mentally crashing. It may start out as the complete opposite of romantic. (By the way, the ones who stick by you are the ones worth keeping.) Maybe you feel like you wasted so much time, or invested so much, that you can’t make a change even when you are unhappy…

Remember: everything happens for a reason. And this might be exactly what you need. If you do whatever you can to get through it, you will come out on the other side, and probably with a complete breakthrough.

I promise – there is a light at the end of the forest. And until you find it, there’s always Netflix.