I know many people who are experiencing their own ‘awakening’ and I know how excruciating it feels. I really wish that someone had explained to me what the ‘H’ was happening. Since then, I found some people and learned some things that have been very helpful. I will share what I’ve discovered in the hope that if you are going through it or you are with someone who is, you may find some understanding and comfort.
The first big help was coming to the understanding that this was happening to me, I did not choose it. Like the transitions from babyhood to toddler, to child, to adolescent to adult, these meltdown/transitions are built into the life cycle. Secondly, I discovered there were things that helped this process and things that hindered it! Resistance and denial are the two biggest blocks I repeatedly hit my head against!
The likely ‘ages’ of meltdown/transition and the way they’re commonly experienced are:
29-33: Identity breakdown – you are not who you thought you were.
41-43: Old pattern breakdown – what worked before doesn’t work anymore
50-52: Old wounds &/or unresolved issues – Life isn’t fair/not what you thought it should be
50-62: Revising authentic self – becoming more of who you need to be.
(Note: unexpected events in the form of deaths, accidents, divorce, winning the lottery, changing living locations; anything that knocks you out of your current existence can trigger this process.)
Each transition has its own unique characteristics but there are tools and behaviours that can assist the overall processing in any meltdown situation.
Meltdown Managing Strategy Steps (MMSS)
1) Surrender Early. Your immediate desire will be to work really, really hard to recreate what was lost; to rebuild the life that just blew up. You can’t. You are no longer who you were before and that life is not there to go back to.
2) Lay Low. When your life or view of your life is suddenly dramatically altered, your survival instinct has been triggered. You are in fight, flight &/or freeze mode, feeling your environment is no longer safe. Your number one priority is to rest and take care of yourself. Because your anxiety is causing your stress level to increase you will require more rest than you did before. Trust me. Take that nap. Functioning rationally is greatly reduced when you are stressed AND exhausted.
3) (F*@k) Let Go of What People Think. This is your journey, it is messy (picture the birthing process – it is intense, miraculous, but it ain’t pretty.) Your real people – the ones who really ‘get’ you, will make space for your process. Remember Dr. Seuss “the people who matter don’t mind and the people who mind don’t matter.”
4) Blame On. You will go through the stage of blaming everything and everyone for your current misery. If it weren’t for your mother, your husband/wife, boss, church, circumstances, God (!) __________ (fill in the blank) your life would not be its current mess. This is a necessary step of the process and potentially the most destructive. Hang on, spew it out, and process it all. While you are in doubt about yourself and everyone, don’t make any major decisions.
5) Take the Opportunity. Get help. Got to counseling, take classes, read books, get a coach, talk about it! If something doesn’t feel right, or good, or like its working, move on to something else. This is the perfect time to work through and let go of emotional/mental/psychic baggage and explore other ways of being before you begin your life rebuild or heaven forbid (!) engage in new relationships.
My ‘should’ self was made up of all of the beliefs I had absorbed about what a good girl, wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee, citizen, etc. should be. I collected and studied and incorporated everything I ‘thought’ would make me happy, everything that was ‘supposed’ to be good for me. When I-that is the ‘real’ me, my true me, the me I was born as, woke up, I realized that I was all of the things I was ‘supposed’ to be and I was miserable. I was in deep, deep emotional and mental pain.
I got help. I asked, I searched, and I researched, I talked. So many people helped me. There was love and resources all around me. I was and am so blessed. I am so grateful for all of the experience, for all of the people who surround and hold space for me. I’m so grateful I’m continuing to build and live my life as my authentic self. If my realization had not occurred, or if through heroic effort, I somehow ignored it, I am positive I would be dead now. But, I guess, in a sense, I did die. I have been re-born.
So, to anyone who is experiencing an identity/existential crisis of any kind, or if you are involved with someone who is (believe me, it affects you too!), please, please, please believe my promise, you will be o.k. You will be better. This too shall pass and you will be glad.
Part II next week – how to know when you are through this first part!