You are here: Home » Case studies

How The Support of Others Helped Me Heal After a Mental Breakdown

“I do not recommend having a breakdown when trying to raise boys. I would cry, eat all the time, and feel like my brain was full of fuzz. I could barely function. There was that day when I got home from taking the kids to school, and thought to myself that if there was a gun in the house, someone else would have had to pick them up from school that day.”

Hello! Who are you?

I live in Mammoth Lakes, California, a small ski resort town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I am self-employed and work several jobs. I have been in the music licensing and cue sheet business since 1984 and have several clients whom I help with licensing music and music cue sheets. I am also a published author and lastly, I am a wedding officiant!

I’ve been married to my second and final husband since September 2010. We have no pets because I don’t ever want to take care of another living thing, if I can help it, for as long as I live. I’m passionate about my writing projects, traveling, having time with friends and family.

My grandmother Toby used to say “Happiness is just a coincidence.” I’m content most of the time but like many other humans, struggle to make sure my mental health is sound.

💡 By the way: Do you find it hard to be happy and in control of your life? It may not be your fault. To help you feel better, we’ve condensed the information of 100’s of articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet to help you be more in control. 👇

Cheat Sheet Download Thumbnail

Don’t Miss Out On Happiness

Find happiness with this 10-step mental health cheat sheet.

What is your struggle and when did it start?

I had a nervous breakdown in 2001. I wasn’t able to function at my full-time job licensing music at Paramount Pictures while being a single mother raising two teenage boys. I do not recommend having a breakdown when trying to raise boys. I would cry, eat all the time, and feel like my brain was full of fuzz. I could barely function.

As I said in my initial response, there was that day when I got home from taking the kids to school, and thought to myself that if there was a gun in the house, someone else would have had to pick them up from school that day.

To me, there were many factors that occurred over the years leading up to my breakdown. I talk about all of them in my book Empty Cupboards. I was never allowed to fall apart. I was the one in my family expected to hold it all together no matter what.

My first marriage was chaotic because of a horrible medical malpractice incident with my first husband and our whole marriage was extremely stressful. In the middle of our marriage chaos, I had our two boys so the stress was insurmountable but of course, I wasn’t allowed to break down.

I’ve also made some horrible choices with men in my past so I’m sure that contributed to the initial breakdown…the shame of knowing I should have known better. Over time my life began to crack.

The stress of my first marriage, holding it together for my boys, having to work full time, constant money problems, being sexually harassed at work, a horrendous divorce from my first husband, losing my father from prostate cancer, my Grandmother Toby from her being old (we were very close), my teens getting into trouble, etc…

The struggle with my mental health still creeps up now and then but I know how to take care of myself now. Mostly. I can actually feel the chemicals in my brain change.

It’s like a buzzing window shade is being pulled down inside my head and I know I need to be alone, go through the motions, not talk with anyone, be in the forest, talk to girlfriends or my therapist.

Also, with the state of the USA right now, I can feel untethered and stressed. I have to turn off news links because watching the destruction of our planet can sink me faster than anything.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

Shame is a big part of how this struggle has impacted my happiness. I still feel shame about how I fell apart when I should have held it all together, especially for my kids. I tend to take “happiness” for granted these days because what does it feel like to be truly happy?

Sure, I have moments of elation like when the New York Times printed my Tiny Love Story piece on February 13 of this year, or when I got to hold my grandson for the first time, or when I get to see my granddaughter, or when I read a great book, but then I’m inside my head again.

I have moments where I’m terrified I will go into that dark place again and it’s stupid because the more I let myself sink into the “what ifs,” I lose any possibility of being happy at that moment. 

It was not clear to people around me what was going on because, as I stated earlier, I was/am ashamed that I fell apart. I was good at hiding my mental health downfall until I could no longer hide the fact that I was not okay.

I used to be one of those people who would tell others when they were feeling down, to “go for a walk,” “do yoga,” or “go to the beach.” It wasn’t until I had a breakdown that I finally understood the perils of depression.

👉 Share your story: Help thousands of people around the world by sharing your own story. We would love to publish your interview and have a positive impact on the world together. Learn more here.

Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

The moment I remember something was beginning to change for the better was after I had had a bad day for 18 months. I was on Celexa and Wellbutrin to keep me flatlined and my brain still. I woke up one day and felt like my old self. I called the doctor and told him I needed to get off the meds ASAP.

If you know anything about those types of meds, you can’t go off of them in one day. It has to be a process or your brain has electrical zaps. I found that out the hard way.

The change was a result of the drugs & therapy (75%), not having to struggle with money during this time because my mother helped me out financially (15%), and finally being honest with myself and close friends about my depression (10%)

I was noticeably struggling for about three years before I had the final brain break in the spring of 2001.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

The first thing to do when depression strikes is to ask for help! I waited way too long – until my life became unmanageable – to call my mother and ask for help. It was that day that I would have committed suicide had there been a gun in the house.

I knew I was in deep trouble. Do not ever feel shame for your depression. This is a very difficult time to be a human on this planet right now with everything going on. So many people are struggling. Reach out. “988” is the number to call if you are having a mental health emergency.

If you know someone who is struggling, don’t wait for them to call you because when we are in the throes of our depression, we can hardly get out of bed let alone reach for the phone to ask for help. Don’t ignore your loved ones when they tell you they don’t want to be alive anymore. Call someone who can help them.

What really helped me was reaching out. My mother jumped in, no questions asked. Ironically, my mother does not remember rescuing me during this time (my mother compartmentalizes anything traumatic that has happened in her life). My close girlfriends had my back as always and if weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. I started to go on long walks and I started to write my story.

Writing down the events in my life that may have contributed to my breakdown helped immensely. It helped me figure out where my brain fracturing may have started. I can look back now and roll my eyes at myself but when I was in it, it was all-consuming. Eventually, I started to feel less guilty about my choices and I tried to be kinder to myself. 

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I have shared what happened to me with the world in my book of personal essays, Empty Cupboards. It feels good to talk about my mental health struggles.

I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and thanked me for putting into words what they’ve been feeling. Many women have contacted me and asked if I was in their heads because they had some of the same struggles with relationships and shame.

Back then I didn’t feel comfortable talking with anyone about my struggle. My girlfriend, Lori, remembers me calling her up and crying hysterically on the phone because of all the guilt I felt at not being present for my kids. She even reminded me she used to tease me about looking like Mama Cass Elliot because I had gained so much weight. 

I didn’t feel comfortable talking about my struggle with my colleagues at work at Paramount Pictures. I was just expected to get my work done no matter what. I also didn’t talk to my kids about my mental health struggle because they were dealing with their own challenges with their bipolar, alcoholic father abandoning them.

I wish I had talked with my kids about mental health because they both now struggle with the same thing. In a sense, I also abandoned them on an emotional level when they needed a strong parent, not one who fell apart.

I no longer have a difficult time sharing my mental health struggles. That is why I wrote my book. I also have a very supportive husband who knows all about my mental health struggles. He is very in-tuned to my moods and knows when something’s up. When I was going through the worst of menopause, he knew I needed alone time and support whatever I had to do for my mental health.

On the other hand, my first husband was very good at gaslighting, before gaslighting was a common term. Because of that, I would just keep my mouth shut because all he cared about were his struggles, mine were secondary. 

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

I wish I knew that it was okay to talk about mental health struggles within our family. Our family never talked about depression or mental health. I didn’t find out that mental health issues ran in both sides of our family until years after my own struggle with depression.

Talk about mental health with your family and friends. Let them know that there are resources and if you can truly be there if someone you love is struggling, let them know. 

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

  • “The Only Little Prayer You Need” by Debra Engle helped me realize that we all get in our heads and have conversations with ourselves and with other people, in our heads, without them even knowing. The crux of this book is to say the prayer, “Please heal my fear-based thoughts about…XYZ….” 
  • “Journey of Souls” by Michael Newton was a great comfort. It confirmed that we are all down here for a reason, and our soul contracts must be played out … or we might have to come back to this crazy planet. It confirmed that I have guides and angels all around me, trying to guide me with love.
  • “Healing through the Akashic Records” by Linda Howe is also helpful.
  • Reading some of the stories on Tracking Happiness about other people struggling with their mental health is amazing.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can read more about me here, or find me on the following platforms:

Is there anything else you think we should have asked you?

Please know you are not alone in your feelings of despair and depression. Social media has made a circus of mental health and not in a good way. Cyberbullying is at an all-time high. If you have kids who seem distant and into their heads, don’t give up on them, thinking it’s a phase.

Too many times parents write their kids’ struggles off as a teen thing. Stay in their lives no matter how many times they tell you they hate you. Same with your friends and family. When someone is depressed, they rarely reach out but if they do, grab onto their hands and become their lifeline.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

Cheat Sheet Download Thumbnail Clean

This Cheat Sheet Will Help You Be Happier and More Productive

Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 unique tips for your mental health.

Want more interviews?

Continue reading our inspiring case studies and learn how to overcome mental health struggles in a positive way!

Want to help others with your story? We would love to publish your interview and have a positive impact on the world together. Learn more here.

Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

Leave a Comment