Aug 16

The Art of Having a Constructive Breakdown

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Let me level with you. Being human? It sucks. No, really, it does and that’s the first thing we need to accept before we’re going to get anywhere. Why? Because too many people think that being optimistic–being happy–means ignoring all of those horrible things that drag us down.

As a terminal optimist, I would like to say here and now that that is absolute bullshit. If you swallowed every negative feeling you had, if you disallowed yourself from experiencing anger and terror and anguish, you’d be jumping off a bridge. It’s impossible. Those feelings come with life. Denying them, bottling them? It’s only going to drive you insane. No one can be happy 100% all the time. Happy people have simply maxed out the ‘dealing with shit’ skill.

So before we even attempt to get anywhere, let’s accept life for what it is: Unfair.

“You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”
-Marcus Cole, Babylon 5

Now that we’ve accepted that life isn’t one cuddly bundle of awesome 24/7, we can make some progress.

1. Make Sure You’re Alone
Now this may sound strange, but trust me, this is key. People, especially people who care about you, don’t like to see you upset. They feel the pressing need to nurture. You cannot be around these people when you have a constructive breakdown. Constructive breakdowns are messy, they’re loud, they sure as hell aren’t pretty and will make the average person more uncomfortable than they ever thought possible to witness it. Don’t get mad at them. Trust me, you’d be uncomfortable too if you witnessed someone else going through what you’re about to.

2. Acceptance
Lay everything out on the table. What is currently going wrong? Examine every piece–follow it through to the end–what are the consequences if things keep going as they are? What are the worst-case scenarios? Honestly look at each and every issue. Say it aloud. Don’t try to figure anything out yet–that will come later. Just stare at it like the overwhelming, hopeless problem that the back of your mind knows it to be.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

3. Let Yourself Mourn
If you feel the urge to cry–do it. And I don’t mean those polite tears people shed at funerals, sniffling into their hands, trying to be dignified. These tears help no one. They honestly will inevitably make you feel like shit. I mean, wail. Let snot flow, let your tears gush, scream, let those horrible animal-like sobs shake out of you–no one can hear you, remember? It should be messy. It shouldn’t be polite, it shouldn’t be neat and I can tell you right now if you even think about what you look like while you’re doing it–you’re doing it wrong.

4. Reconnect
Chances are, you’ll do this on your own, but once you’ve done literally all you can from Step 3, it’s time to reconnect. Start by focusing on your breathing. It should, naturally, slow and steady by itself but if you need to help it along, that’s okay–just be sure you aren’t rushing yourself. Feel the ground beneath you, let your body sink into it. The easiest way to connect back to the world and get out of your head is to hone in on the five senses–specifically touch, sound, sight and smell. You could go tasting random things around you but, as much as I love Alice in Wonderland, I wouldn’t reccommend it.

5. Smile
Remember how the first step was to accept that life sucked? Well, step five is about remembering that there are still good things in the world. You have people who care about you–people who can help you through what you’re going through. There are rainbows, and puppies and delicious food in the world. If you can–find something that makes you laugh.

Why is this all important? Because once you’ve allowed yourself to freak out, you can actually get out of the rut and start being constructive. You can take that deep breath and say, “Okay, what do I need to do?” Allow yourself to have the emotional response. Trust me, it will make the logical actions that have to follow a ton easier. Just don’t STAY in that place. If you stay too long, or don’t reconnect with what’s around you, you can honestly end up somewhere far worse than where you started. Remember at the end, you’re not alone. If just by the fact that we all need to have a breakdown now and then, we are all connected.

Anytime you’re hurt there’s one who has it worse around,
and every drop of rain will keep you growing
seeds you’re sowing in the ground.
So keep your head up, Billy-buddy.
-Penny, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog

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