Could YOU Have a Breakdown?
By: Beth McHugh 2006
There isn’t a person alive who is so strong, both physically and emotionally, that they are impervious to having a breakdown. Mental collapse can happen to anyone. Yet not everyone will experience clinical anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders during the course of their lifetime. Why is that?
Most often, the ability to life to a ripe old age without incurring a major emotional hiccup is due to luck. Some people are simply fortunate enough to go through their life without serious trauma which would precipitate a clinical mental condition.
However, one of the major factors in determining whether or not a person will suffer a bout of mental illness severe enough to interfere with their personal and working life, is their childhood experiences.
Think of yourself as a house. You may be a very fine looking house, with lots of rooms, a favorable view, and lovely gardens. However, if the builder did not put in good solid foundations when this house was built, there may be problems further along the track. Sure, everything looks fine on the surface, but a heavy storm with high speed winds or a raging torrent passing down your street may show any flaws in your house’s structure.
Those foundations can make all the difference to how your house tolerates the storms of life. The house which has been constructed using quality materials and good quality workmanship may sustain some damage from the flood or tempest, but basically remains sound and needs only a few minor repairs.
The house built on shaky foundations may collapse completely as a result of the disastrous conditions it has just experienced. It may well require years to repair and thousands of dollars to restore it to a safe place to life. Sometimes the house may suffer irreparable damage.
Humans are just like houses when it comes to surviving and enduring the stresses that life throws at us. Sure, some people seem to have very few difficulties in their lives and so their emotional strength is never really tested. Others suffer tremendous difficulties. Some break down as a result of these difficulties and their lives are severely affected, often for years. Others, who also experience severe life stresses may have a short period of breakdown, and then recover relatively rapidly after a period of months.
So why the difference? Again those foundations are important and it is the parents who are the principal foundation builders in a young child’s life. Nurture can often override nature even given that a person may have a genetic predisposition for a particular mental disorder.
Often the difference between having a breakdown or not is one’s own personal resources. These resources include our family background and how much love and support we received as children. This governs the way we feel about ourselves and our perceived ability to cope. If we were given positive messages about ourselves and what we achieve, we will more likely have the confidence in ourselves to believe we can overcome life’s dilemmas. In fact, coming from a supportive family background will assist us to recover faster after a traumatic event because we have an instant support group to help us.
Not everybody is fortunate enough to have a strong “foundation” that has been formed carefully through childhood and adolescence and continues to sustain us as adults. These are the people whose houses looks good but do not survive life’s hurricanes well. Prolonged periods of breakdown may occur.
In future blogs, we will look at how to improve the quality of your
foundations so that you can best inoculate yourself against mental breakdown.