Normally, the words “positive” and “mental breakdown” does not appear together in the same sentence. Mental breakdowns can be humiliating, terrifying and potentially deadly for not only the patient but for the patient’s loved ones. People that suffer a mental breakdown (also called nervous breakdown) are often castigated by society for being somehow less than a human being. But patients that recover from a mental breakdown, or more than one breakdowns, can take comfort in some aspects of their experiences.
Valuable Resources for Other Sufferers
When suffering a mental breakdown, patients believes that they cannot be cured and that no one could possibly understand the pain that they are going through. But this is wrong. Reports of people going through breakdowns recall similar feelings, thoughts and beliefs that they are incurable or are under forces that they cannot control.
Talking to a doctor in a white coat does not help a patient going through a breakdown. The patients find it hard to believe that a doctor could know what a breakdown is like. But what if the doctor was able to lead in an ordinary looking person in ordinary clothes and say, “So-and-so here went through just the same thing you are and made it out the other side. Could you please listen to his or her story?”
In some aboriginal societies, one could not heal unless they told a story of their lives. Shamans were often selected for their jobs because they survived a terrible illness, natural disaster or madness and somehow survived. They were thought to possess powerful magic just because they mentally or physically broke down and lived to talk about it.
Empathy for Others
Although there are many causes for mental breakdowns, a large part seems to be from mental illness, whether or not it combined with a traumatic event. Mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia can run in families. People that survive mental breakdowns can understand and assist family members that succumb to a breakdown in the future.
For this writer, going through a traumatic breakdown in 1999 gave me a peek into the complex pains that all people have, even if they always have a smile on. It helped me to listen to others better and recognize that most people have it worse off than me. Other survivors of mental breakdowns have also told me that by listening to others, they also realized that their lot in life wasn’t as bad as they originally thought.
Saving One’s Own Life
Setbacks are inevitable when having to do with mental illness. Anyone that has a mental breakdown may have another, often for no clear cut reason. But anyone who survives a mental breakdown can begin to recognize the symptoms of an oncoming breakdown. They know when to get help because they know that they are in danger from intentional or unintentional suicide.
Those that survive mental breakdowns can also hold on to the knowledge that they can recover from a breakdown. Perhaps this is the most positive benefit of all.
Manage Your Fears, Manage Your Anger: A Psychiatrist Speaks. Abraham A. Low. MD. Willet Publishing Company; 1965.
The Way of the Shaman. Michael Harner. HarperOne; 1990.
Mental Health & Illness.com. “Is there a genetic predisposition to mental illness?”
Author suffers from endogenous recurring depression.