It’s a Revolution of the Mind
We have been taught over and over again to ‘just keep going’. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t move forward in life. This is a bit different. I am pointing out that as humans, we are really good at telling ourselves that, even when perhaps we shouldn’t be so eager, to just ‘push forward’. We put on some epic music with someone yelling at us, a few Rocky quotes, and we attack the day again.
Proud of that? Well, maybe you shouldn’t be. Or maybe you should be, if that’s what you want…
Submitting to what the outside world demands of us
Living the life that is expected of us
Having the same priorities that were defined by someone else
We don’t want to go to work, but we show up like the good little boy or girl we should be. Truly, it is amazing. Most of us can do this for decades without even a crack in the facade.
But then… one day… we do break.
To everyone’s surprise, including ourselves:
We refuse to get up and start our day
We become catatonic in depression
We get anxious about people
We lose our appetite and don’t eat
We mumble shit incoherently
We don’t even feel like we have control over our body
We may even go do something completely against ourselves or our values
We get wrapped up in some idea to the point of paranoia
We say f*** the rules of normal relationships
We fight and look for more fights
We, generally speaking, just try to throw a wrench in the gears of everyday life.
This sort of behavior, these breakdowns, are extremely inconvenient to deal with… for everyone. So, the first thing we do is try to ‘snap out of it’ or medicate it to get ourselves back into the swing of things, back into the system, back to our old selves.
Sadly, the above gifs are how many of us maintain the day-to-day now. Yet, this is to misunderstand the breakdown. As inconvenient as breaking down may be, it is more than just that: an inconvenience. It is not just a temporary wire malfunction or a random act of madness. It is a very real cry for help.
This isn’t to say someone having a breakdown is begging for attention and wants somebody to take care of them. This is a cry for help on an interior level. It is one part of our brain forcing the other part to shut up and finally listen.
Or if you are more mystical, it is our soul trying to slap the brain hard enough that it will finally notice it and what it has to say. All of this not in some spiteful, self-destructive, self-loathing way, but to begin a process of much-needed growth through self-awareness. To develop ourselves in areas we have just refused or ‘kept too busy’ to bother with before.
To paint a more inspiring picture, it is dying to be reborn like a phoenix from the flames. In a more grounded picture, we are allowing ourselves to be ‘sick’ so we can be well.
Perhaps we can see now that we should trust this process. We shouldn’t medicate ourselves to the point we can continue driving down the same road we were on. Our soul or brain is trying to tell us we missed our turn somewhere and it is slamming on the brakes to tell us not to miss our next exit.
Or perhaps another metaphor since metaphors overcrowd my brain: Our lives, our minds are like trees that shed their leaves and ‘die’ every winter. [You shouldn’t be having a mental breakdown this often though, or you seriously need to finish this article and listen to yourself.] They come back every spring. And though they may seem like the same leaves, they are, in fact, all new leaves.
Nature is a process of growth. We are no different, physically, mentally, or spiritually. If you aren’t growing, you are dying… for realsies.
So if we medicate ourselves or ‘push through’ these times without actually listening to ourselves, we are missing the lesson lying within our ‘illness’.
Breakdowns aren’t just about pain… though there is a lot of that going on. It’s an incredible chance to learn about ourselves and life. Consider it necessary growing pains if you wish.
If we are going through a breakdown, it’s because we have been, rather skillfully, putting something off to the side that is too vital to be ignored any longer. Our minds have taken drastic measures to make us aware of them. When this happens, actually listen. This may seem obvious, but so often we don’t.
Just imagine if you were trying to be heard by your partner, and they just say, ‘yeah, yeah, sure’ but don’t seem to really act on what you are telling them. You aren’t even sure they heard you. Now for some minor things, we learn to just let it go. They don’t listen sometimes. No surprise there.
But if it is something important, something we feel vital; or perhaps we have just simply been ignored too often and for too long, we will definitely do something to finally get their attention.
This is what our brain is doing to us. It has unread messages from us. It has some serious communication it needs to impart on us. And now, it has simply waited too long and it has now become so desperate that it had to take drastic measures.
Given how much we hate being ignored in our exterior lives, we should easily be able to understand, and even agree with, this quiet rage coming from our inner selves.
This inner self or soul or other part of the brain is not happy with ‘normal’ life. It doesn’t like ‘business as usual’ or the ‘routine’. Things have to change, and it will make you aware of that or die trying. No doubt, we surely feel like dying in this process.
So is a breakdown necessary? What do I change? Well, that’s where the listening part comes in, and if you are anything like me, you’ll just change everything if you aren’t sure.
But no, breakdowns aren’t really necessary. If we learn to listen to ourselves a bit better we can avoid the drama and pain of a breakdown. But we are pretty lazy when it comes to this sort of thing. Perhaps not lazy, after all, we spend a lot of energy ignoring our inner selves by keeping busy or ‘pushing through’ to get back to normal.
What we truly are with ourselves is bothered and disgusted. We are unwilling to deal with what causes a breakdown because it is dealing with hard truths we would rather just avoid. We may think we are tough because we can push ourselves to do things we don’t want to do like getting up to go to do a job we hate, but having read all of this, do you still believe that is where the true strength and courage lies?
We can go years ignoring the sadness or anger in ourselves.
Desires swept so far under the proverbial rug that we trip over them
Okay, one last metaphor if I may… [It has to do with the subtitle. Sorry it took me so long to get here.]
The best way to think about a breakdown is to compare it to a revolution. We don’t know our minds or mental health very well, but we are generally fascinated by the idea of revolutions. So let’s use that.
A Story of Revolution:
The people at first say, ‘Hey, this isn’t right. We shouldn’t have to pay taxes. We can take care of ourselves. Why should we send money to England to pay for the King’s maid service and all these unwanted British soldiers walking around?’
Then the government will respond by saying. ‘Okay, okay. You’re right. Here, we’ll build some roads for you and send you some tea.’ The government makes a few token gestures, but it isn’t really ever listening to what the people are saying, so they respond with, ‘Yeah, yeah. Here’s a cookie. Now, go away.’
Then one day, probably years later with never truly feeling heard, the people break…
The people light their fires, get riled up, run around half-naked, and start screaming, ‘Fuck your tea!’ as they throw boxes of supplies (they no doubt needed) off the side of the boat.
Now imagine if England had won the war, if they had managed to pacify or ‘medicate’ their nasty colonial ‘breakdown’. There wouldn’t have been a change. In fact, there would probably have just been more stringent ‘pushing’ the problems down and ‘being tough’. There most likely would not have been an inspiration (with a chance of success) for the French revolution or any of the Latin American revolutions that followed after.
Still, we won, and today we pay more taxes for more ‘tea’ than we did before the American Revolution. But that’s a story for another time.
Now, as great as the American Revolution may have been, there was no doubt a lot of destruction and pain. Homes were burned down, innocent people were killed, and lives were ruined. We know this and yet we still see this pain as necessary for the change that that was needed. Today, however, we don’t look at our own mental health that way.
We see revolutions as ugly, and perhaps evil, necessities. Truthfully, there is never really a good outcome from a revolution. There is usually the appearance of some change, but more often than not, what people complained about before will still be grievances of the masses after the new regime takes over. People’s voices will continue to go unaddressed or even undiscovered.
This is the same truth to our internal revolutions. Our personal civil wars. Sadly these civil wars often end in suicide as no side truly wins and the pain just becomes all they know.
So rather than sit and wait for said revolution, we should try to prevent it from ever getting to that point.
If you have a good therapist or wise friend, they will listen to you. And rather than just censor your mind with drugs or ‘just tough it out’ talk, they will try to hear that unheard voice pleading:
For a more devoted and sincere relationship
For a more genuine and satisfying way of life
Or to be accepted for who we are… in however we feel we aren’t: sexually, racially, spiritually, whatever
But even if you don’t have a friend or therapist to bounce these thoughts off of, we can still do it ourselves.
When these voices aren’t heard, that’s when we start painting pig blood on our faces, putting feathers in our hair, and throwing shit off the side of the boat.
Depending on who we are and how we are hurting this may present itself as
Drinking like a fish
Becoming a recluse
Seducing everybody and their mothers
Putting tin foil on our heads
Whether we stick to our Revolution metaphor or speak directly about mental breakdowns, they are both forms of a crisis. And a crisis is something starving for growth and is clawing for attention to get out of the coffin before the final nail is set and the last of the dirt is patted down.
‘At the age of 25, most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves.’
‘I see men assassinated around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead; men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls, and high school ideas.’
- Charles Bukowski
It is possible for you to ‘tough out’ your mental breakdown and get back to life. The British could have won the American Revolution. It is possible to silence, to kill, a part of yourself to maintain your current life. The question is, should you?
Depends on how scared you are of the alternative. Can you overcome your fear of the unknown? Can you listen to what your soul is trying to tell you and try to make it happen, however daunting or frightening the task may be?
It won’t be easy, but months or years later after you survived the breakdown, if you had listened to your inner unheard voice, you will be able to look back and smile saying, ‘I don’t know how I ever would have gotten better if I hadn’t gotten so sick.’
When we experience this thing called a breakdown - or revolution of the mind… admit it, it’s way cooler to say ‘revolution of the mind’ - we think we have gone crazy. (I’m still thinking about feathers and pigs’ blood on a renaissance era ship.)
It may seem that way, but I’m going to say that it isn’t the case. We may seem insane on the outside, but on the inside, we are on a journey into the dark chasms of our beings. It’s a journey into unexplored territory, but it isn’t crazy.
It is a logically self-imposed and spiritually redemptive quest for a greater version of ourselves with a healthier mind to boot. It is a natural cleansing process to remove the poisonous ‘status quo’ that kills so much of who we truly are. It is a rallying call and war cry to tear down the old walls built by others ‘for our own good’ and to build our own that stand true to us. It’s a process of growth to be more and more of an honest and sincere version of ourselves.
Assuming we survive the revolution. ;)