Meltdowns & Responsibilities

Meltdowns can catch us by surprise. We feel like we are blossoming, doing all the right things. We’re up to date on our work, staying in touch with friends, and keeping the house in order. We check items off the checklist; we add more. The workload builds gradually, casting a dark shadow.

Then, out of nowhere, we’re inconsolable, screaming, crying, throwing things. We can’t imagine how we were once so “functional.” Masking and pushing through our daily responsibilities were going so well. Until, suddenly, nothing seems okay anymore.

The hard part is, we’re still expected to crank out work. We’re expected to call loved ones. We’re expected to clean, cook, and practice hygiene. Some of us have supportive families, workplaces, and schools, but many of us don’t. What do we do when meltdowns occur at a time when it feels like we cannot quit?

I once had a severe meltdown while handling extreme responsibilities. I was full-time caregiving for a nearly-terminal family member, while working full-time. I was also struggling to keep my relationship on track with my queer platonic partner. I had a meltdown that caused a three-day hospitalization. But once I left the hospital, the responsibilties still existed. I was primed for more meltdowns but  couldn’t rest. Here are a few tips that got me through that trial:

1) Prioritize: I assessed my situation and determined which responsibilities could afford to be ignored. This is not easy, because no matter what I decided was least important, there were consequences. In these cases, prioritize the activities that have the worst short-term consequences if left unattended.

2) Set Emotional Boundaries: Understandably, my loved ones wanted to talk out my meltdown with me. They wanted to know why. They wanted it to never happen again. But I couldn’t weather those conversations, and I chose to opt out during that time.

3) It’s Not Permanent: Make a roadmap that shows when you can resettle and recover. Even if my plan didn’t go as expected, I had goals upon which I could reground and rearrange. Sharing these goals with loved ones gave them tangible ways to support me.

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