Last Friday around 1:13 in the afternoon I experienced a mental breakdown. Is that okay to share or talk about these days?? If not, this is a break from all regularly scheduled programs that are being broadcasted on the picture perfect social media channel. I interrupt this program with a dose of reality.
After a week full of 9 – 10 hour days covering for a colleague’s work load on top of my own - my brain could take no more. I had received three calls from frustrated suppliers and managers that morning. During the last call I could feel my voice starting to crack as I tried to listen to this manager’s frustration. Nothing to do with me, just her frustration with the process. I hit my red ‘end call’ button on my phone and started to shake, then the tears started to flow. Luckily, I was working from home. The dam that was holding all the stress and anxiety of trying to handle too many things together finally broke. I mean I was seriously sobbing uncontrollably the kind of cry that comes from a deep place within. My laptop continued to chime with incoming emails, reminders, skype messages pinging me everyone wanting something. All I could do was cry - I could not take in one more thing.
Thankfully my husband returned home early and found me. He didn’t know what was wrong and I could barely get any words out. He told me that I needed to message my manager to tell him I needed a break as I was in full meltdown. He had watched me come home from work that week each night like a zombie. How do you message your manager telling him that you are having a mental meltdown? It’s not like in a sports game where you can yell to the referee that you need a timeout – this is life. You can’t use the words “mental breakdown” in a skype or email message at work. Well this girl had to break that ‘rule’ on a beautiful Friday afternoon as I simply could not pull myself together.
My manager responded after a few seconds and asked why I did not ask for help earlier in the week and wondered how things got to that point. I told him that I thought I was handling things okay, but evidently, I wasn’t. More embarrassment as I continued to try to explain how I got to this point - where tears were spilling onto my hands and splashing my laptop as I typed. He made me step away from work for a few hours to regroup.
I was in shock that I got to the point of breaking down. As a mom, I’m used to mentally juggling a million different things, throw work and life on top of that and this is just another day in my world. Nope not that day – my brain and spirit said otherwise. The whistle had been blown I was officially down and in time out. I feel slightly embarrassed and vulnerable post meltdown at work especially with my managers. I guess my meltdown did result in a conversation led by my managers the following week making sure that the team knew that although things are super busy we need to know that we can ask for help. There is even discussion of a monthly mental health day. I guess my tears are making a difference, lol!
It has me thinking, why is this the norm? Trying to keep everything buttoned up, perfect and okay. We give our best selves to our work all day and come home with nothing to give but irritability and exhaustion to the people that matter the most. Our society rewards and encourages this work horse, lean in, slaying it mentally. I especially do not think this is good for women and moms. We must take more things off our plate, speak up and ask for help. The norm should not be to run a million miles an hour and juggling a billion things. If you do have a lot going on you need to have more downtime and self-care. It needs to be okay to ask for a time out at work. Where do we find that courage to say we are not okay and make this a priority? Our western culture rewards the hustle and places more value on material possessions, success and power while eastern cultures embrace going with the natural flow of life, shorter work days, time with family, slowing down and taking care of yourself spiritually, mentally and physically.
Last week’s meltdown was a scary wakeup call that I was NOT expecting. I feel differently and want to change my approach to my mental health. I also hope to create social change in our culture and how we work especially as women in a society that was created by men with traditional 9-6 values. Our bodies were not meant to slay it Monday - Friday for 8-10 hrs. Especially as women we go through monthly cycles that sometime require us to rest more or need more downtime. We are taught as woman to ignore our bodies and to be like men, umm yeah no we are different we birth babies for crying out loud! Our work systems were not designed with this in mind. It is time for more conversations around this topic and change. I’ll start here with sharing my meltdown moment instead of the highlight reels of my life that we all choose to share daily.
I hope my emergency broadcast will help someone. If you are in a meltdown moment, find someone to talk to, if you have EAP (Employee Assistance Program) at work use it. If you are in extreme crisis and no one to talk to call 1-800-273-8255 or even message me if needed. I’m here to help and support!
Feel free to leave a comment about any recent meltdowns that you have experienced or practices that you have in place to protect your mental health and wellness!
Cheers to breakdowns that lead to getting the help that we need!
By Kara Norman- Empower Her, Inc.
Kara Norman Atlanta Based Women Empowerment Thought Leader and bi-weekly blog contributor.
Kara Norman has been working with Women and Girls for a number of years. Her nonprofit organization Empower Her Inc , have led to many opportunities in the space of making social changes as it deals with women and their many roles in society. You can learn more about Kara Norman and Empower Her Inc. at http://www.empowerherinc.com/