Mental illness is not always constant. There are days, weeks, or months where you could be feeling on top of the world. You’re taking care of yourself, you’re getting things done, the days don’t weigh you down like they used to – momentarily, you feel like a real person. I think that’s one of the scariest parts for people with mental illness; the knowledge that the “real” feeling is only temporary, and that it’ll burn down in a ball of flames one day. And that day could be any day. And it’ll probably be terribly inconvenient.
Maybe crashing is mostly consistent with those who have bipolar disorder or PTSD, but I’d argue that the combination of depression + anxiety can create a very similar crash. The labels and technicalities aren’t important and I’m not a therapist. All I know is that crashing, at least for me, is serious. The higher the high, the lower the low. It’s chemical.
The moment you crash can feel like a major setback. It feels like you’ve rewound to some dark place you were awhile ago, and it keeps replaying over and over like a lucid dream. But it’s happening right in front of you, probably at night when no one is around to get you out of your head. I guess, more than anything, it’s an isolated feeling – like suddenly you’re the only human alive, and all you want to do (other than claw apart your skin) is know that someone else exists. I think we’ve all been either the sender or recipient of that 2am text – “are you awake?”
But in the adult world, people usually aren’t awake when you’re questioning reality and existence. Thankfully, when I crashed, I was lucky enough to get ahold of someone who talked me down until I fell asleep. (Panicking is exhausting.) It’s kind of humbling to reach out to someone, especially when you’ve been priding yourself in how well you’ve been doing on your own. While it’s important to be able to talk yourself down, you need to remember that there is nothing wrong with needing someone. People need help. People need other people. We build each others’ lives and make them meaningful. It’s a fact. Needing someone does not make you weak.
After frantically spewing mental barf at my friend, somewhere it came out that I felt like I wasn’t smart and I had no self identity or goals or things that made me happy. He told me that was the problem with being smart – it’s that life is more transparent. Is that why all the smartest people are so goddamn sad? Is that why the more educated I am, the more blank I’ve felt? I don’t feel smart or talented most of the time. But I think that comes with the trade.
The following day, I felt heavy. Work was difficult. All I wanted to do was rest, but I couldn’t. I was a walking, talking void with a brick in my chest. I wanted to press pause, but since life doesn’t come with a controller, my alternative was distancing myself from the people around me. This is bad. While it may feel like the right thing to do, isolating yourself will only make you feel more buried in the depths of your crash.
If you’re lucky, people who care about you will notice and reach out to you. I’m thankful to have a lot of understanding people in my life. Don’t push them away when they do – they’ll be the ones who’ll help pull you out of your depression hole. Accept their help, and remind yourself that that doesn’t make you weak.
Day by day, you will start to feel better. If you can take a mental health day, do it. If you work in healthcare like me and are a slave to the system, you probably won’t be able to. And sometimes that’s good, because pushing yourself back into a routine can keep your mind active and out of that depression hole. Just give yourself time to rest and recuperate, and don’t push yourself too hard.
- Be kind to yourself and practice speaking kindly to yourself in your head. Remind yourself of the things you’ve accomplished.
- Ease yourself back into exercising or whatever it is you do to stay healthy.
- Stay active in positive communication with the people who care about you, and try not to harp on the fact that you crashed. It’s absolutely normal and it does not mean you’ve failed or that you’re weak. It happens.
- Keep your conversations light if you can. It’ll help you remember the goodness in the world.
- Watch a light-hearted series or youtube video. It sounds silly, but honestly, watching Jenna Marbles dress her dogs up in Halloween costumes brought me a lot of joy when I needed it. Parks and Rec also lifts me up when I need something mindless to delve into.
- Remember that this is temporary and that you will feel like yourself again soon.
I don’t know what started my crash. Probably a combination of the things I’d been emotionally avoiding over the past few weeks. I watched a Netflix series that involved quite a bit of rape encounters and a highly emotional ending. Recognizing what sends you spiraling is important, because you can a) try to avoid it and b) confront it when it isn’t avoidable.
It’s hard accepting that there are things you can’t handle alone. I wasn’t always so mushy, but time and trauma changes you. I hated what a marshmallow I became. But a close friend of mine told me I shouldn’t be ashamed of being so sensitive. She said it takes strength to be soft and that vulnerability is brave. Closing yourself off doesn’t make you strong, it makes you a shell of a person. It embodies that fear of being hurt or emotionally invested. Apathy is not brave, it’s a defense. Being soft is something to be proud of.
I think that’s important to remember. I think the world would be better off if more people had the strength to be soft.
Take care of yourselves and don’t be afraid to be a stale marshmallow.