As I was thinking of writing ideas, I reflected on how I was finally starting to feel better after going through a difficult year. I was reminded of a reflection shared by Wallea Eaglehawk, the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionaries (an Australian independent book publishing company). She shared: “Undoing life patterns is hard, it takes time and grit. When you feel you are about to break down, keep going. You are just about to break through.”
What causes a breakdown? There can be many reasons: cracking under pressure, not meeting our own expectations, being at a different pace from our peers, or being met with consistent failure.
As much as time goes by, facing failure is something that does not get any easier to handle. When I first started my streak of failing my mock exams during my postgraduate course, I was in denial, saying things like, “It’s just one mock.” Over time, each mock and my failure became more humorous than the next. I was defensive, in denial about how it was affecting the way I viewed myself.
It was a build-up influenced by many other circumstantial factors, but gradually my breakdown came in the form of losing passion and will for what I was doing. I fed into many doubts and was constantly questioning my abilities. Was I ever cut out for my field? Why can’t I pass? Could I even recall why I started on this path in the first place?
After a year of going through the motions, I realized that I just had to do something. Something was finally shifting. I was finally tired of feeling the way I was that I actually wanted to do something about it. I allowed everything to just feel so heavy and uncertain for so long that I accepted it as my normal—a normal that made me question if staying the course was worth it.
Something needed to break within me, either for the light to rush in or for something to escape.
Before this, I did not have the clearest boundaries when it involves attending to the needs of others. I always viewed another person’s problem with a sense of urgency rather than questioning if I was equipped or mentally available to take it on. I was firm in my stance, yet some of my boundaries were blurred.
I fed into the mindset that I was stuck, questioning my worth as a result. Though speaking to my loved ones helped, I too had to make moves.
It took me a long time to finally be willing to take action—any action. Talking it out may have divided some of the burden, but things would still stay the same if I refused to move. My moves did not have to be a big swooping statement or an all-or-nothing, it could be baby steps. I scared myself into thinking that my actions, even the batting of my eyelash, would create great ripples that would destroy everyone’s normal. Though there will be repercussions and consequences, my actions were definitely not as ground-breaking as I made them out to be.
My breakdown was my breakthrough in disguise, as it taught me to reevaluate my priorities, behavior, and boundaries.
I gradually lessened interactions with those carrying toxicity. I learned to better appreciate the people in my life who exude kindness and have stood by my side. I learned that it is okay to put my foot down when something no longer serves my purpose or vision. I remind myself to honestly express what I really want, rather than accommodating by default.
I am still learning that healing, like growth, is linear. It is a daily effort that requires many difficult conversations, inner reflections, and confrontations with myself.
I am learning new things and also unlearning certain behaviors. I am unlearning toxic positivity. I am unlearning the way I view self-worth. I am unlearning stereotypes and biases subconsciously held. I am unlearning and proclaiming over toxic patterns passed on through generations. I am unlearning pleasing everyone, as it would be at the expense of myself.
Other than learning and unlearning, I had to relearn some lessons as well. I was so upset with God, but I was so afraid of saying it out loud, because how could I? I took pride in the fact I rarely expressed anger. How could I betray my own ego? I learned that anger, just like sadness and happiness, is part and parcel of being human. My ego grew on an unrealistic image of what I should be. My pride and I were my own obstacles. Right now, I may not have all the answers I sought for, but God has granted me peace for decisions that were made. He sent loved ones who saw through me, calling me out for burying what I was feeling. Unknowingly, my disappointment was me slamming my door shut. I had to break, to let the light rush in.
Healing is not pretty. It hurts, it bleeds, something is breaking, and it feels like everything is happening all at once. My hope and prayer is that this season of your life will allow your hearts to be open and your minds renewed. Your breakdown will be your breakthrough. Here is to doors opening and light and love flooding in!