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Psychology

Getting help when you are in despair


I’m currently going through a relationship breakup and when I first started to go through it I found myself in total despair on an emotional level. This was in part through fear because just six months earlier I had experienced exactly the same thing and spiralled out of control so badly that I ended up taking an overdose. When my new relationship ended I was terrified of ending up the same way, or worse. So I decided to seek help to get me over the worst. In this post I want to share some of what I have experienced and what has helped me.

8_destructive_thinking_patternsYour Problems Are Real

I recently talked about my situation on my blog and one of the comments left was simply “give me a break”. When you have an objective point of view it is very easy to compare one problem to another and think of one in terms of being worse than the other. I’m sure the poster of that comment would have seen the breakup of a relationship as unimportant or trivial and now that I am somewhat removed from the situation I can see that it is. I have my health, my family, everything to live for and a bright future ahead of me.

However I can say that now, but that is not how I felt when I was in the midst of despair and this is a very important concept. I remember suffering from depression years ago on several occasions and knowing that there are millions of other people worse off than me didn’t help at all ““ it just made me feel guilty for feeling bad which simply added to the despair.

There is a sliding scale of emotions and when you find yourself at the bottom of that scale, well meaning comments such as those above by friends, family etc simply do not help. Don’t listen to them ““ your problems matter to you and they are important. Allow yourself to feel bad, this is perfectly normal.

When You’re In Utter Despair

At the very beginning of my situation I was feeling very bad indeed. I had an intense fear of being physically alone, I was gripped with terrible anxiety, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything and I simply didn’t know how to get from one minute to the next. Each day was utterly agonizing in an emotional sense and I just didn’t know how to exist in this state.

The very first thing that I did was to call a service called The Samaritans who are a UK-based helpline service. I’ve used them before which is what made me think of ringing them. Outside of the UK is an organisation called Befrienders which provides a similar service.

Both of these services operate a 24 hour telephone helpline that is open to anybody who wants to talk about any kind of problem. They are completely non-judgemental and are simply there to listen. If you are feeling suicidal you must get help straight away and this can be one of the most immediate methods of doing so. Both organisations discuss the issue of suicide on their websites.

I was not feeling suicidal after this second breakup but the panic attacks when I felt alone were overwhelming. Calling the Samaritans partially alleviated the feeling of being alone and I could talk to them for as long as I wanted and this eventually allowed the panic and anxiety to subside.

The Role of Your Doctor

One of the first things that you will be told from any kind of informational website is to seek help from your doctor. Whilst I do agree with this advice the problem with doctors it that it can take time to get an appointment and that doesn’t help you right at the beginning when you are in the midst of your problem.

Call your doctor, arrange an appointment to get the process started but then continue to get help in other ways. In the UK we are entitled to six free counselling sessions in times of crisis and I arranged the first of these but was given an appointment 3 weeks away which I am still waiting for.

Talk, Talk, and Talk Some More

When in emotional turmoil, a common reaction is to go over and over things in our heads, usually with no resolution. The mind needs to try and make sense of the situation but in cases where there is no sense, dealing with this on your own usually makes you feel worse. In my case, the more I thought about my partner, the greater the effect of the anxiety. Not only that, but having it on my mind so much gave me awful nightmares and after each one I would wake up to a panic attack.

This is where it can help to talk to other people because it allows the problem to be projected outside of ourselves. I spent some time with friends and family but the problem with this approach (particularly with friends) is that you may exhaust the friendship somewhat by continuing to talk over and over about the problem. Your friends probably can’t really help you and depending on their outlook, they may be sympathetic or they may offer the less helpful anecdotes such as “oh don’t worry, you’ll be fine” which doesn’t help at this stage.

One of the benefits of ringing a helpline is that you don’t feel guilty about talking to them ““ that is what they are there for. Also, you’ll often talk to a different person every time so if you end up going over the same thing over and over again it doesn’t matter where as your friends might not appreciate that. In the first few days I spent many hours on the phone to the Samaritans, many times a day and during the night just to get me through those very tough times.

Whilst the Samaritans provided me with all I needed for my situation, there are not the only ones and of course there are a great number of helplines for dealing with specific issues such as bereavement, domestic violence etc. In the resources section I have listed several sites that list helplines and there are more available for just about any country.

If you are unable to access the Internet at this point in crisis then the best place to start looking is your telephone book. In the UK we have local directory of residential number and at the beginning of that book is a list of helpline numbers. However even the Yellow Pages has this same information and should be available in every household.

Getting Through The Day When You Can’t Do a Thing

In the beginning of my crisis I was in so much emotional pain that I couldn’t do anything. This is another time when well meaning comments from friends and family just make the situation worse.

I was told, “just throw yourself into work” and I simply couldn’t! It’s hard to explain the feeling ““ it’s almost like a paralysis. Even something as simple as getting dressed can seem in some way terrifying. The problem with having this feeling is that I did not know how to get through the day.

Every minute seemed to pass at an excruciatingly slow pace and yet because I couldn’t do anything, there seemed to be no way to speed that up or to get through to the next minute. The first few days before I discovered some distraction techniques were agonising.

When I went through my first breakup I experienced exactly the same thing and this is when I hit my lowest point. This time around I had to try and find a way through this experience. I kept remembering the standard advice that time is a healer so I had to find a way to pass the time without feeling that agony in the hope that as time passed, the feelings would subside.

Passive Distraction

When at this level of feeling, the things you used to do before to pass the time won’t work for you now because almost everything loses its enjoyment factor. Things that you used to enjoy feel meaningless when in this state. For example, I’ve always been a lover of computer games and I’ve whiled away a great many hours on them but when in this severely depressed state I couldn’t play games because it required an action from me and that required me to move from the sofa which I was unable to do.

What I needed was something totally passive ““ something that would capture my attention without me having to do anything at all. I finally found my solution in television! I’m not suggesting that TV is an effective or healthy method for coping with emotional pain; I am simply relaying my experiences.

I couldn’t watch ordinary TV because it didn’t engage me in any way. For me, what worked was watching some old drama series ““ “24” in particular. This was probably not the best choice because of the level of violence but the show was interesting enough to capture my attention so that it successfully distracted me while I watched it.

For a few days, pretty much all I did was curl up on the sofa under my duvet just watching these series. We are always warned of the dangers of television but in my case it was a superb therapy because it simply played at me, taking my mind of my problems without me having to physically do anything.

Active Distraction

One thing I’d like to point out here is that it does get better in time. I don’t know how much better it gets because I’m still in the middle of this and I still have some days where I feel bad for quite a while.

However the agony that I was in a couple of weeks ago has lessened. Even when I feel bad, it’s not as bad as it was then. After a few days on the sofa, something stirred in me and I felt like I could do that little bit more. Not much more, but something more than watching TV. I felt my options opening up a little more and what I did at this point was to turn to the Internet.

I decided that I needed to try and feel good. I turned to YouTube and looked up some funny videos that I had marked as favourites. I had a look through my blog reader and picked out a couple of blogs that used to make me laugh. The Fail Blog is one such example ““ it doesn’t have a very positive sounding name but I find it very funny. Check it out and see if it fits in with your sense of humour.

Then I started reading blogs such as this one and other blogs that promote well being, positive thoughts, the Law of Attraction and generally make you feel good. I’ve listed a few of these blogs in the resources section.

Coming to Terms With Your Situation

The problem with distraction is that it doesn’t actually help cope with the situation. Repressed feelings come back to bite us in the future one day so it is important that we don’t continue distracting ourselves forever.

I am only just starting with this process myself. I have found myself a private counsellor to speak to and I have also found some blogs that discuss my specific problem ““ the breakup of a relationship. Finally, I find myself strong enough to actually deal with my feelings and start working through them. A few weeks ago it was far too painful to do but now that I am stronger I feel more able to do this.

The Next Step

I am very fortunate in that I have blog with a large readership and I also have q lot of Twitter followers. I posted about my situation on my blog and I was given a lot of wonderful advice and some people pointed me towards various resources to try out. Also on Twitter I asked my followers if they could recommend resources to make me feel good. This included TV shows to try (as an alternative to the violent 24!), good blogs to read and some other things which I have listed at the end of this post.

This is where I am at right now ““ I still feel low some of the time and feel the need to just distract myself but I am also exploring some of the resources that people have sent me and I’m actively working through my feelings with the help of a counsellor.

I’m just starting to put my life back together now and although I have a long way to go, I know I am over the worst. I am no longer experiencing that excruciating agony that I was in at the beginning.

I have to leave this post here but I hope that it helps if you ever find yourself in this emotional place.

Resources

Helplines

The Samaritans (UK & Ireland):

Befrienders Worldwide:

Hidden Hurt ““ List of UK Helplines:

Mental Health Information Helplines in the USA:

Some Feel Good Blogs

The one you’re reading right now! 🙂

The Good Vibe Blog:

The Abundance Highway:

The Happiness Project:

Happy News:

The Fail Blog (humor):

Extra Resources as Recommended by Others

A New Earth Web Classes by Eckhart Tolle and hosted by Oprah Winfrey:

Video “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch about Living Your Childhood Dreams:

Emotional Freedom Technique:

Some Binaural Beats for Meditation:

About the author

caroline middlebrookCaroline is the author of www.caroline-middlebrook.com/blog a very successful internet marketing blog. She has been teaching others how to make money from internet marketing since September 2007.

Caroline asked me to post this article to help other readers who may be going through the same situation as herself.

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Caroline Middlebrook