I felt like my life was falling apart. I had screwed up so many things, with so many people, and it was too late to fix things. I felt tired, mentally exhausted. Here it was: emotional brokenness.
My spirits low, energies depleted, I felt alone—even though I had people that cared for me, loved me genuinely, wanted to help me. But I think even they didn’t know how. After all, I myself was clueless.
I was overwhelmed by the mess in my own life. It seemed like so many areas of my life were a mess, that even fixing one wouldn’t change the way I felt. Why even try? It didn’t even seem worth beginning.
What Is Emotional Brokenness?
Emotional brokenness is the state of being in low mental health for an extended period of time. You might feel like your emotional batteries are out of juice, and you’re at the end of the line, with neither hope nor energy left.
What Are the Signs of Emotional Brokenness?
Emotional brokenness comes in many different shapes and colors, and it’s often a combination of various negative feelings.
I definitely suffered from low self-esteem. This has always been an issue for me, but there were long periods of time during which my feelings of inferiority hibernated. However, they fully awake when my mental health tanked.
We’re living in times where people share the best-looking moments of their life on social, and most of us are exposed to it on a daily basis. I would see pictures of great looking friends (and even worse: exes) having a great time on Instagram, FB, or TikTok, and it felt like I was being stung in my belly. (Yeah, social media isn’t great for mental health.)
I was envious of others, especially when it came to work. I wasn’t doing well at my job at the time, and I co-workers for the things they had, the respect they got, the money they earned, the camaraderie they enjoyed, even their status and title. Funny enough, I wasn’t someone who cared about this (especially title) at all, but when I was emotionally broke, the absence of an impressive title actually was becoming a source of pain for me.
I knew feeling envious like this was fucked up. I didn’t want to feel that way, tried to keep those bitter feelings in check—but I couldn’t. They were out of control.
I had a broken heart. The person I loved more deeply than I ever loved someone, and who loved me too, was slipping out of my life. I could feel it. We had an intense relationship for almost three years, but for various circumstances, it was not the kind of relationship that would have a real future. Or at least not the future she wanted for her life. I could have fought for her, and made her mine: But I simply lacked the courage to do so. My loved one was leaving, and I was emotionally unraveling in slow motion.
The more anxiety I felt in my day to day, the more I tried to get things perfect. There were areas where I became an extreme perfectionist, often the the expense of many other areas where I now underperformed. What’s more, when you’re aiming for perfect, you always miss your aim—and then I’d mentally beat myself up about it. If you’d have listened to my internal dialogue at this time, you’d have said this is totally abusive.
This is weird, but at times the most random thing would make me want to cry. Being a man, I held it in—which isn’t what I’d recommend. Ultimately, if you do feel like crying, then it’s better to release it than to suppress it. But for me, it were sometimes things that didn’t warrant to bring a man to tears. Little things, almost something you’d expect to bring tears to the eyes of a little moody kid, but surely not a grown man.
Of course, it rarely was the little issue that made me want to burst out in tears—those were just triggers. But there were deeper underlying issues and feelings I hadn’t processes, and this seemingly inappropriate urge to cry was one way my body tried to resolve these feelings.
Shame and low self-esteem often go hand in hand. But shame burns even hotter, pushes you down even harder. It made it harder for me to open up. And clamping down is exactly what you shouldn’t do when you’re emotionally broken.
It takes courage to face your own screwups and accept the things you’ve done you’re not proud of.
There’s a reason why the practice of confessing our sins is a key part of many religions: By confessing what we’re ashamed of, by speaking it out, we actually unburden our souls.
Difficulty Communicating With Others
Quite frankly, I was so caught up in my emotional trauma that it was difficult for me to communicate with others. I would get anxious about how they’d perceive me, would overthink the words I’d choose to express myself, would be confused that the words which came out of my mouth where not at all what I wanted to relay. I often felt misunderstood and judged wrongly, and felt resentful about it.
The Path to Healing
How did I get out of my own brokenness? There was no one thing, but more a general attention to how I treated myself, different kinds of self-care and
Talking With Friends
I’m fortunate to have a few good friends in my life, but I was never one to really share my struggles and shadows. It was hard for me to open up and start sharing my own weaknesses, doubts, fears—reveal the ugly part of myself. (This is a problem particularly widespread amongst men, who are less likely
The dominant narrative about masculinity in the literature is that men are more reluctant to seek help than women, regardless of their health concern. There is likewise, in the mental health literature, a strong narrative that men are resistant to help-seeking for their distress (Moller-Leimkuhler 2002).
— Damien Ridge, Carol Emslie, Alan White, Understanding how men experience, express and cope with mental distress: where next?
But I did it, taking baby steps, and ultimately I think this was really key to giving me the strength to build myself back up. Their compassion towards me helped me also be more compassionate towards myself, which was maybe the most important part of my healing process.
If it weren’t for these friends, I’d have probably sought out a professional therapist to help me through this, which I think is a great choice anyway: someone who’s not connected to your personal life at all, and has experience with people from all walks of life, is familiar with the struggles they face and can provide you with new perspectives can be a hugely valuable resource. Of course, if you have family members who are supportive and to whom you can open up, wonderful—but I know that many people don’t have that kind of family. If that’s true for you too, don’t dwell on this—instead, find someone who you can open up to, whether that’s a friend, or a professional therapist.
Develop a Healthy Relationship With Yourself
Speaking of friends: you should be your own best friend. Treat yourself with the compassion you extend toward those you love. I definitely was my own worst critic and harshest judge, and when I learned to be more understanding towards myself, I was able to cope with life in a much more effective way.
You don’t need to tear yourself up about everything you’ve done wrong. By doing so, you just add pain and suffering to a process that’s already hard enough without punishing yourself.
Living a healthy life
The way we physically feel definitely affects our emotions and thoughts (and the other way around). I made sure I engaged in some physical activity every day, and slowly ramped myself up to more rigorous exercises. In the beginning, I just got on a treadmill and walked at a fast pace while listening to a podcast. While I brushed my teeth, I did some calf raises. I did some ab crunches throughout the day. It didn’t really take up any extra time, I just fit it into my daily routine and started slowly, to build up momentum.
My Own Dance Playlist
I created a playlist of songs I loved to dance to. And every day, I’d put it on and just dance alone in my room for a while. The songs didn’t have to be happy songs. I just chose the songs that made me feel like dancing: some hard-driving EDM, some melodic techno, some rap, some rock. Whatever matched my mood and made me wanna move my limbs. I believe that human beings never in their lives have lived such a sedentary lifestyle, where we express ourselves so little through our body. Embodying what goes on within us is, I believe, a powerful way to process feelings.
Conscious Breathing & Relaxation
This is so simple, I’m almost tempted to leave it out, but it helped me tremendously. There’s something about become aware of your own breathe, breathing deeply and yet relaxed, feeling the breathe enter and leave your body that’s soothing. It’s well-known that deep breathing helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps alleviate anxiety and increases relaxation.
Especially when you’re dealing with the aftereffects of traumatic experiences, relaxation, making yourself feel grounded and save, is of crucial importance.