Having hope during an emotional breakdown

I was told this week by someone close to me that I used to be a strong, independent woman. Used to be. He told me that he knows that, deep down, I still am that strong woman but, in the last few months, I haven't been acting like her.

And I know. These last few months, I have not been that best version of myself. These last few months, I have been at the verge of a mental breakdown. I have been teetering at the top of a mountain and, with just one gust of wind, this week I came tumbling down.

It started Monday night. Around 11 p.m. I started to have a panic attack. It felt like my skin was crawling. My heart was racing, and I was crying so hard I could hardly breathe. And I kept thinking that I would do anything to make the pain to stop.

That night, I only got two hours of sleep. Still, I went to work and, every hour or so, I would have to run to the bathroom because I couldn't stop crying. I knew I had hit a low point when I found myself sobbing in the farthest stall to the right, sitting on the floor with my knees pulled up to my chest.

Usually my panic attacks last, at most, a few hours. But, on Monday, for the first time in my life, I had a panic attack that lasted about 24 hours. And, throughout the remainder of the week, no matter how much I tried to ward off the feelings by going to work or hanging out with friends, as soon as I came back to my apartment, I would immediately start crying.

I'm not sure why I had this emotional breakdown or why, for the last six months or so, I haven't been as strong as I used to be. It's not like my life is bad. My life is actually pretty good. But my self-confidence has been plummeting. And, when your brain keeps telling you, "You're ugly. You're stupid. You're annoying. Nobody truly loves you or will ever love you. People are just nice to you because they pity you. Everyone talks bad about you behind your back. You're a bad person. You're weak. You've made so many mistakes. You're going to end up alone," well, there's only so long you can think that way about yourself before it takes a toll both emotionally and physically. It'll only be so long before your way of thinking about yourself not only affects you and your daily life but also the relationships around you.

This week, I read an article on Thought Catalog's website by Holly Riordan, author of the book "Anxiety Ruins Everything." And it made me think, "Wow, is she inside my head?" She wrote, "My anxiety makes me doubt my self-worth, which leads to doubting everyone around me. When someone compliments me, I don’t believe them. When someone tells me they love me, I don’t believe them. I can’t see how it could be true."

I posted this article on my Facebook because it reminded me so much of myself. And one of my friends commented, "Where’s the upside and hope in this article? There is always hope when you get outside your own head."

And that comment made me realize something. The only way I will get out of this slump and triumph over my anxiety is to have hope. I need to take care of myself and remember that taking care of myself is not selfish. I need to do something to change my circumstances -- and I am the only one who can do that.

So, I swallowed my pride and did what I have been putting off for years. I found a therapist in the area and made an appointment with her for next week. I started a gratitude journal where I write down something positive every day. I decided that I need to cut out the negativity in my life, and I decide to open up to my friends about what was going on with me.

I realized, by opening up, that there are so many resources available and that I have so much support. I have family and friends who would call or text me throughout the week to check up on me. I have people who don't judge me and who believe in me even when I don't believe in myself. I am not alone and I am not weak and there are so many people who have gone through what I am going through right now.

I may not feel better yet and I may have spent most of my weekend in bed, but that's okay. I finally have hope that, although I may be in a dark place right now, things will get better. And that's the first step.

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