What is the Big Break?

I am broken. Shattered into a million pieces.

There was a definite shift before and after the “big break,” but looking back on it, I can see that the big break was destined to happen some time.

I always did well in school. I felt like it was my only positive characteristic. People tell me I’m smart, but I think my decent memory fools people. That, and I’m very analytical. Too a fault.

Before the big break, I was always nervous around people. I was depressed. I had suicidal urges.

So what changed?

Well, I put a lot of effort into hiding what I felt. I pretended like I was fine. I wanted my family to think I had recovered from years of teenage angst. I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. Not that they would’ve, anyway. Any time I tried to ask for help, my family essentially replied that I was being melodramatic and should just get over it. When I was in college, I also didn’t want my family to say, “I told you so.” I majored in English, and my family was not a fan of this choice. My parents are the sort who would claim everything would’ve been fine if I’d followed their advice and chosen a more practical major.

I managed everything without medication. I continued to do well in school. I concentrated on my work, and everything worked out. I thought that I could do this perpetually and be all right.

Then came the fall of my senior year. I was working on my honors thesis and applying to graduate schools. Some people might think that perhaps my anxiety over these endeavors and future changes led to what followed. But I’ve experienced other major changes without having a “big break.” I don’t think that’s it. It may’ve catalyzed the reaction, but it didn’t cause it.

I suddenly felt apathetic. I literally cared about nothing except making sure people didn’t see that I cared about nothing. I thought I would eventually snap out of it, but it went on for the entire semester. I wasn’t satisfied with my work, but apparently it was still fine.

Then I went home for Christmas, and shortly after Christmas, for some reason I lost it. I hid by myself for a little while and came out to my family to pretend all was fine after I’d yelled at them. But then I suddenly started crying again and confessed I thought I was having some sort of breakdown. I mentioned the hellish months of apathy. What hurts is that my family would’ve just gone on as if nothing had happened if I hadn’t broken down again. They would possibly have used the incident to show how unreasonable I could be. When I had these spells of anger, they never asked if I was okay. They would merely tell me that I was being stupid.

So began my first foray into medication, but my medical history could be a whole other entry.

I was accepted into a great graduate program, and supposedly I was seen as one of the more promising recruits. I had to start teaching, but I’d cross that bridge when I got to it. It wasn’t like I’d never given a presentation before. I eventually warmed up to teaching though I was (and still am) not that good at it. (I got worse student evaluations than my peers.)

I thought everything would be fine, that the change of scenery and beginning to pursue my dreams would help. I had difficulty adjusting to the much bigger load of work, but so did all of the other first-years. I figured I would get used to it. The spring semester happened, and I actually did pretty well.

But there was still that nagging problem. Ever since spring of my senior year, I’d felt blocked every time I tried to write. I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t do it. I could see that the result wasn’t ideal, and I knew I was capable of doing better. Yet I couldn’t. I got the same sorts of comments on my papers: great ideas, but the writing needs work. I was normally a good writer, which helped me to excel in English.

I kept thinking it would just go away, but then it didn’t. Then fall of my second year arrived, and I was still having the same problems. They were excusable in a first-year but not in a second-year. I made plans to kill myself on my birthday, but of course I didn’t follow through on them. I didn’t even try.

So eventually I found myself crying hysterically in front of a professor and talking to the advisor about my situation. This advisor claimed that if I was having difficulty there must be something wrong because I was quite capable. I remember wondering how she could possibly know that given my checkered history there so far.

I saw some therapists that weren’t helpful. I decided not to continue on to the Ph.D program, though I still wonder if I did so because I foresaw the rejection that was coming.

I started Wellbutrin in the spring, and I think that’s what saved me. I finally was able to focus again. I could feel myself developing the old connection I’d had with my work. I did well, which was needed if I ever planned on trying to go for a Ph.D. So if I ever apply for one, I could explain overcoming my obstacles and yadda yadda yadda.

I’m afraid that my disconnected state might return if I ever quit taking Wellbutrin. I don’t like being that dependent.

After the “big break” itself was over, I wasn’t the same person. I had the same interests, but I no longer feel that I can take the Ph.D path. And thus I feel like my life is a failure.

People say that’s an overgeneralization, but consider. I finally broke. If it happened once, it’ll probably happen again. I’m too timid and nervous to actually be useful to any employer. I don’t have enough confidence to project authority. I’m awkward around people. I don’t have any interest in career paths that those typically labeled as awkward go into. I’m not an articulate speaker.

It seems that I always screw up everything I try to do.

No, there doesn’t seem to be a place for me in this world. I don’t have what it takes to be worthy, to stay afloat.

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16 Comments

Filed under Mental Health

16 responses to “What is the Big Break?

  1. There is always a problem conveying feeling in words, but let me address the first thought I had reading this. If you are thinking about hurting yourself please please please talk to somebody today. In our darkest hours it is often impossible to see any possibility of light, but it will come eventually. Really, it will. Maybe I am way of base here, but reading this just left me with an uneasy feeling and I felt a responsibility to address that.

    That aside I have to ask if you have ever tried any drugs besides Wellbutrin? I take it and it doesn’t by itself keep me in a “happy place” Have you ever tried any of the SSRI’s? Lexapro, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil? The list is long. I don’t know if you ever read the post I wrote about dealing with meds. In it I describe my absolute love hate relationship with this these drugs. On the one hand they work amazingly well. My entire way of thinking changes when I take these things. Staying out of the Abyss is much easier. In fact it happens all on its own, whereas it is a constant struggle without them. On the other hand I am a married man in my mid thirties whose wife has minimal interest in sex. Her interest/willingness is even less when it takes me 45minutes or more for me to ejaculate. This has been a side effect that has been extremely hard for me to deal with personally. That said when I get to a point where I don’t see that I can pull myself back out alone I have always returned to the SSRI’s, and they have always worked. Even if you are on them for a short time they reset the brain chemistry enough to let you get a fresh start at things. I hear everything you are saying about feeling dependent on the drugs. Honestly I do. The alternative is worse. People take drugs for blood pressure, cholesterol, and who knows what else. Sure some of those folks could be off those drugs if they made life style changes, but for some it wouldn’t matter what they did. Antidepressants are no different.

    On a final note I too lost my head so to speak right at the end of my undergraduate work. I lost that entire career path, and after returning to school to retrain in another profession I found out this past week, that I am likely to lose that as well. I am not trying to make this a contest, just trying to say I know what it feels like to have much of your identity wrapped in your sense of self worth only to have your identity stripped away against your wishes. It sucks. No other way to say it really and unless you want to add some expletives to phrase. There is more than one way to measure self worth, and you may not be able to see it by yourself, it may require help, but I am sure you have value as a human being. I know it because we all do. Be kind to yourself today. I didn’t mean to sound preachy, I was going for encouraging, but regardless I wish you well in this tough time.

    • Well, I wasn’t having serious thoughts of doing anything irrevocable. I know about “hope.” It’s why I haven’t done anything so far. I have a conviction that things can get better, but sometimes it’s hard to believe. Especially when I feel that I’m not worth it. There really doesn’t seem to be much that can help me. I’m cynical; I don’t think most others care. And as I think I mentioned, professionals get irritated by my stubbornness. When that doesn’t happen, I’m not communicating with them much, which isn’t helpful, either.

      I have been on other meds besides Wellbutrin. I could write an entry about my experience with meds, though it’s not as extensive as many people’s. Right now, I’m on Wellbutrin and Prozac. They take the edge off, but my depression is definitely still there. I guess I should view it as akin taking a drug for another condition, but it’s hard. In my experience, my thinking doesn’t change when I take meds. It’s still there, just not as intense. That’s why I think I need therapy; the roots are deeply seeded in my very being. Perhaps the biological causes are addressed by meds, but I also have years of baggage from just being in the world.

      You don’t sound preachy to me. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Again, we come down to my biggest problem–myself. On principle, I believe every human being has worth. However, I have difficulty applying this idea to myself. I’m sorry to hear about what you’re currently going through. I wish you luck.

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  3. Your words are so painful to me, because I have seen the some one on pages I have written. The truth is, I don’t see that you’ve completely cleared the woods. Actually, I’m not sure that anyone ever does who carries a Dx.

    Have you ever gotten a scratch in something brand new and find that you can’t stop staring at it? I made a little grey dot in the center of my LCD screen on my Blackberry. C.S claimed it was hardly visible. I could see it, all of the time. It distracted my vision from anything else I was working on. A Dx is akin to that. It’s the one spot, that little piece of damage on something we’d otherwise consider pristine, that seems giant and distracts our own minds.

    Your writing conveys a notion that you aren’t too far away from the fault line that opened up in The Big Break. I get the idea that there isn’t a whole lot of distance emotionally speaking, because you vividly retell it with ease. We may be able to put chronological space between us and another thing, but actually creating milage between is a different story.

    I have to ask. Forgive me if it’s prying. Why do you feel like you have failed? Before you answer, put all catch-all terms in the cupboard, good, bad, everything, everyone, all, every, none, never, can’t, etc. It makes the answer a bit harder to fornulate.

    It’s hard to see the forest through the trees. For now, don’t worry about the future. Worry about now. You’re essentially learning to walk again. One step at a time.

    • Hmm. I probably am still raw from the big break. Which, now that I think about it, is sort of pathetic. It was almost two years ago! But then again, it is a clear delineator in my life.There’s a distinct difference between before and after. Before, I was pretty sure of what I should be doing, and afterward I wasn’t.

      I feel like I failed because, first of all, I didn’t get into the Ph.D program. Most Master’s students there do get in. I feel like my decision to “quit” is a way to rationalize my rejection. Well, I wasn’t going to go anyway, so no harm in rejection. It probably was better for me in the long-term, though. If I’d been accepted, I would’ve been tempted to stay, which probably wouldn’t have been the right decision. I felt like I needed to work on myself before I could commit to such a path. I’d been avoiding it for so long by throwing myself into my work , and graduate school definitely left little time for anything other than work. Also, I didn’t do what other serious graduate students did: namely, go to conferences. There were a couple I contemplated attending, but then my problems overshadowed those intentions.

      Also, I have no clear direction in my life now. I feel like it’s going nowhere. What’s more, I don’t even care that much. Before, I was achievement-oriented, and now I’m just blithely lackadaisical. How will I accomplish anything if I can’t even make an effort?

      I guess it’s taking time for me to recover, but it’s not like my time will be unlimited. I should go at my own pace, but what if my own pace is too slow for me to be able to do anything?

      • There is no need to be ashamed of recovery. The build to the big break happened over a period of years. Why shouldn’t your recovery be the same? You are healing. That’s a win in my book.

        I’ve had a number of serious breaks in my life. First at 12, which was similar to what you describe but on a smaller scale. Then there was the one at the end of my senior year of high school. I lived in that precipice for over a year. I had another after college, and another after I had my son. None of them were specifically related to the life change at hand. It was more about the changes in my life that occurred in that time frame.

        My son is 3, and I’m still recovering. Maybe I’m lucky because I don’t have a basis of comparison. I have not lived a second of my biologically adult life (meaning puberty and forward) without this disorder. I don’t know what I’d be like as an adult without it. I do know this. I had to learn about myself in pieces. Like trying to learn about someone you’ve never met through their photographs. I only had snapshots with few consistant behaviors. The rest conflicted.

        I’m a walking contradiction. How am I responsible and absent-minded? LOL. I’m dependable to a point. I’m ambitious to a point. There’s always a catch.

        Try to consider the break as a metamorphisis instead of a discontinuation of yourself and now you’re living a generic brand knock-off. The butterfly is just a caterpillar with wings, right? I’d say you’re still in the coccoon. And that’s okay. We all grow in different ways.

        I don’t think anyone really know what they want to do with their life. An interesting read on this is “The Quarter-Life Crisis”. I have only started reading it, but it proves to be convincing. There is a phenomenon going on with graduates that sends them into a tailspin. What do I want? It was cut and dry in other generations. A child usually took on a parents occupation. It’s gotten worse. There’s a small population of people that actually go to work in their line of study. The rest? We kind of fall into something.

        I commend you for knowing deep down that you didn’t want it anymore. Most people would have plowed on and been miserable in their line of work. You know yourself so well! Don’t succumb to doubt. Take some time to live. Learn yourself. Discover different ways of life. There is no better way to do it than to just jump in!

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  10. Reblogged this on TheBiPolarized.com and commented:
    The big break. Been there…

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  13. I don’t have much of a comment, but wanted to wish you well. I think it’s good you wrote about your “break”, and there are potential lessons that can be drawn from it by your readers. Good luck.

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