A few months ago I hit rock bottom and had what I consider to be a quarter life crisis (I had previously written about this on my blog – but those posts have since been hidden for privacy) and although I haven’t quite mastered my life, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be as a mid-twentysomething. Think you can’t do it too?
Yes. You. Can.
I have always experienced a cycle of falling apart and coming together, and after my big meltdown I finally feel like I got something right – I slowed down and sorted out the chaos and tried to tame the beast in a few emotional stages.
Step One: fall apart.
Yes, this is the worst of it. You have to let yourself experience the pain and the panic in order to fully understand it. For me it was a poisonous cocktail of childhood trauma, an undiagnosed mental illness and a terrible breakup.
As my favorite band Fall Out Boy once said – “Sometimes before it gets better the darkness gets bigger and the person that you’d take a bullet for is behind the trigger”. So let yourself fall apart, let yourself hurt, let yourself crash and fucking burn.
I want to add here that by saying “fall apart” it may seem like I’m encouraging reckless behavior – I am in no way encouraging someone to ruin their own lives and that I do not condone self-destructive or self-harming behaviors. If you feel you are a danger to yourself or others seek professional help immediately
Step Two: examine the rubble.
Once the dust has settled look around. Take a mental inventory of your life. What’s still standing? Who are your real people? What do you have left emotionally? Do you have a job or income still?
Got a list? Good – let’s build on it.
Step Three: take a breath, make a plan.
Seeing how much your life has fallen apart can be overwhelming and cause you a lot of anxiety – you might feel like you’re being pulled in a million directions and need to fix everything you shattered ASAP. I want you to know that this is okay and completely rational and normal to feel. The best way to combat this is to take a deep breath and evaluate what needs your attention. First and foremost – it needs to be you. Your health, your safety, and emotional well-being – all number one no matter what.
If you are safe and feel ready – make a list of things that need attention. Did you have to take time off? Do you need to reconcile with an employer or friends and family? Did you get yourself into any debt or trouble? Do you need to create a continuous care plan (therapy, doctors’ appointments etc.)? I would suggest that your priorities be (in order of importance): you, your finances and living situation/stability, and then rebuilding or building relationships (if any of these are applicable to your post-crisis situation).
Step Four: one step at time.
Have your list but still feel crappy? I’m sure you are. Having a quarter life crisis isn’t a thing that you get over in a weekend of sulking – this shit is long-term. If you think that you can just turn your life around in a few days you’re either not actually having a quarter life crisis or you’re not looking at the situation rationally and you need some perspective.
Take things one day at a time. Start with the first thing on your list and try to do one thing a day that move you towards that goal. For me it was something as simple as getting out of bed and showering. If you’re finding yourself struggling too much for more than one task a day, then make it every other day. As long as you’re taking care of yourself (eating, drinking water, going to the bathroom), then you can take however long you need to accomplish your goals.
Once you find yourself meeting your first goal with ease, add another, and another, and another… over time you will find these additions have a snowball effect and before you know it you’re rolling down the hill to success.
Step Five: ask for help.
I know that I’m writing this and you’re thinking “bitch, if it were that easy don’t you think I’d be doing it?” and the answer is no – I do not think it’s “that easy”. To get it together after falling apart takes a strength that even Hercules couldn’t comprehend. That’s why it’s imperative that you ask for help. Make sure to utilize those things and people that were there for you after you fell apart. Seek professional help, make a weekly date with a friend or family member you trust, seek support online – open yourself up for assistance and don’t be ashamed to ask for it.
The other reason that it’s SO IMPORTANT to ask for help is that people are so fucking wise – sometimes you need to talk to someone who can put your life into perspective. I’m not saying you need someone to say “oh, you haven’t showered today? Boo-hoo some people in Africa don’t even have water”. If someone says something like that to you drop their asses immediately because they are only invalidating how you feel and how you feel is very real. What I’m saying is sometimes you need someone to call you out on your shit while also validating that it’s still shit. I think a turning point for me was when someone on Twitter DM’ed me and politely told me that I needed to stop relating everything back to me and my situation, and that although it hurt and it sucked to going through what I was going through, I needed to realize that other people still had feelings and that by being so self-absorbed I failed to recognize when I was being offensive.
So yes, you’re going to need help. Sorry that I have to be the one to tell you that you’re probably not going to be able to hack it on your own.
It’s hard to sit here and write this and to not think that I’m being patronizing. Nothing is worse than reading some self-help think piece written by someone you don’t think gets it – but I assure you, I get it. Every situation is different, so do I think that we all can just magically get our shit together because I decided to write about my experience? Hell no! But I do want you to know that you are not alone. It may seem like the end of the world, it might hurt like hell, and it might be the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, but I want you to remember that falling apart only gives you the opportunity to put yourself together better than you were before.