Some posts within this blog will be written for fun, others because I get so annoyed by human stupidity and behavior that I see around me, and a few will be written for the daily post of weekly challenge entries, ; but other posts, and these are the really important posts for me, are written with my heart upon my sleeve.
This is one such post, and it may surprise and disturb a good many bloggers because of it’s content, but in order to prevent just one person going through such an experience, some stories, however unpleasant and disturbing, should be told.
I have recently been in touch with a writer in Germany and she raised the issue of what outwards appearances might a stressed out person show, and how others might see them. I replied she had to be careful if her character was potentially going through a breakdown, as appearances can be so very deceptive, and the sufferer, in a desperate attempt to hold on to some degree of normality, might pull the wool over everybody’s eyes.
I await her reply with interest, but it occurred to me that unless such individuals break cover and attempt to cover such incidences, then nothing can ever be learned.
So it is that, in part, and slightly enlarged for this post, I record what I have written to her, in the hope that others might not fare in the same way
Ok, what insights can I give you about someone going through a nervous breakdown. To begin with the comments I make below are based on my experiences and I am no expert on the subject, but I’ve been lucky. I’ve been there, I’ve tried to commit suicide; and yes, I meant it, but now, through luck and through the love of my family and a very special woman, I still sit here with my keyboard in front of me recounting this tale.
The most important thing to recognize is the fact that the person going through such a phase in life cam almost be in an entirely different world. What that world is, or where it is, let alone how to navigate around it, they cannot probably cannot tell you, and no amount of pushing, screaming, or assistance from those outside of that world, even close friends or family, can bridge the gap between the two.
If you are lucky enough to catch the sufferer before he or she hits rock bottom and disintegrates then a bridge can be formed, but very often it is too late as the sufferer can no longer see that such a way out is available. What is also tragic is that, at times the sufferer can present such a picture of normality, that no-one know what is about to occur; so when the event happens, it can be too late to do anything apart from hoping that the sufferer somehow gets through it so as to come out of the other side
Imagine, for example, the following scenario. You are sitting in an office talking to your boss, when, for perfectly justifiable reasons, she tells you that you either have to re-train or suffer demotion. You are aware that, since childhood you have been a failure socially, personally, and as an interactive human being. Yet you seem calm, and you apparently listen to what she is saying
The problem is that you cannot hear her words, for your brain/mind/whatever is now in an old factory room. It is empty, the windows are broken, and a ball and chain are poised outside so as to smash into the room. There is one door to that room, and three black faceless figures enter and beckon you towards them. You cannot stay, you cannot run, and you your mind explodes into a long and painful yet very silent scream.
Yet you stay calm, and listen, and even carry on a normal conversation. Why is this such a vivid description, because that guy was me, and yes, the painting of The Scream by E Munch has a permanent place in my mind
In popular fiction this is where the main character might suddenly start crying or shaking, and this can happen, but in real life, such a character might, like I did, remain incredibly calm. I walked out of the office, and I traveled by public transport for over 2 hours to North London.
It is true that I “disintegrated” mentally on the tube. It is true that failure smacked me in the face in a way that still haunts me to this day, and it is equally true that, at one critical point I wanted to get so drunk that I could never wake up and face what lay before me; but I was still calm.
Well to finish of this grim episode I week later, my mind could take no more. The question of suicide stopped becoming one of shall I or shan’t I. It became a question of how, where, and when. For a week I was so very happy, as the deed was to be done and my mind rejoiced in the fact that it was going to be free of its intolerable pain, but still the only thing those on the outside saw was the fact that I was almost walking around in a dream. Sure, I still functioned, mechanically, sure I even still carried on working and spending 4-5 hours a day on the London underground Northern Line, but inside, I was in a different world with new rules which I had no choice to obey.
Yet there are a few critical facts for all parties to remember though should such an event occur.
- It is true that the sufferer is being selfish when they try to end their life, as they are effectively saying that others must deal with the crap once the deed is finished, as they cannot deal with the pain, yet the reverse is also true, as those outside of the sufferer’s mind cannot possibly hope to help them, yet they want the sufferer to deal with it so as they, the outsider, don’t feel so much pain
- The choice of do I or don’t is probably always there, but once the mind flips, it can be case of when, how, and where.
- Talking can help afterwards, but unless the sufferer is given the tools with which to truly dispose of the problems within them, it all to often seeps back underground.
- Anti d’s etc can and, in dire circunstances, do help to stabilize the problem, but they don’t always deal with the problem, so that often festers and grows, or at often remains unsolved
- For all those who are suffering, there can be a way back, and there is sometimes hope for the future, even if such a path seems impossible to find
For all those who are on the outside, never, but never, say the following, even if the sufferer goes the whole hog yet survives
- “Snap out of it” or “pull yourself together”
- “It will pass”,or “ There’s always hope and/ or a silver lining”
- “God loves you”
- You mustn’t feel ashamed
You mean well, and, in our cloud of near madness we may well even hear you, or register your help and concern but
- You cannot snap out of it, or pull yourself together
- It seems it will never pass, the storm never seems to end, and there is no kind of lining
- At such depths there is no God, there is no hope and no future, and therefore-HOW
- Too late…too late…too late
So there you go utter serenity and disintegration all within one mind and character, and not a twitch, shiver, tear, or hysterical outburst to be seen. Odd but true, yet, paradoxically for a writer, what a joy
Why so because of this seemingly impossible behavioral paradox you can really create a wonderful character. It gives you the chance to show who is from the outside, how he is viewed by others, and how he or she is feeling inside. One world can be pitted against another, one mind against another, but don’t fall into the trap of having a non mental illness character “understanding” the breakdown character as that can’t be done. The best you can hope for is for the sufferer to take the non sufferer to the edge of the pit and show them the mess that is down there, but unless, like jumping down into a lava lake, you, the sufferer, can never describe what it is like to be down there, and you, the observer can never understand the pain
So here lies a real life description of mental breakdown and suicide, from both sides of the equation. It’s not pretty, it’s no expert or comprehensive guide, but unless we, as sufferers pass on our experiences, then others will undoubtedly feel the same pain.
All I hope is that this reaches even just one person who is suffering, regardless of which side of the equation they sit upon. I have been a fool, and I expect nor ask for any sympathy or pity, but I hope that others, through these words, may avoid the same
Please look at the video’s I’ve included, and please try and understand