There is a tension belt in your head. At optimal levels, it’s stretched just tight enough to keep everything running smoothly, with a tiny bit of slack for moments of stress. The tension you feel on a daily basis – the one of smooth, effortless performance – when you prepare a nourishing breakfast to a chorus of sunrise noises or dial a phone number and have a long, heartfelt chat with a friend signifies that everything is on track and working seamlessly.
Sometimes, though, that tension belt goes into overdrive. It could be because a situation changes in big ways (like, say, you’re moving … which is where I’m at right now). Or it could be because of nothing you can identify.
Everything feels hard. Words don’t come as easily. You can see with perspective that anything could go wrong at any second, and you scramble to hold it all together as tight as you can.
The tension belt heats up.
“Hold it together,” you think. “If I can just make it through this moment, everything will be all right.”
But sometimes it won’t be. At least, not for a little bit.
Sometimes you have to fall apart.
Sometimes you have to let go of your mental grip on that tension belt. Sometimes you have to let it go. And let it snap.
As a certified expert in falling apart, here’s how I’ve learned to do it effectively. After many, many years of practice.
How to Effectively Fall Apart in 5 Easy Steps
Falling apart isn’t given the respect it deserves in our world. It’s shameful. It means you lack self-control and a grasp on your own life.
The truth of the matter is, if you’ve stretched yourself to near-breaking, it means you’ve been moving towards a learning experience that trumps no other. Falling apart is an opportunity, a catalyst to change, a tool for learning – if you use it correctly.
As Marilyn Monroe once (very wisely) said:
“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
So how do you do this without sinking for months into the deep, dark recesses of your own mind?
Falling Apart: You Cannot Force It
You can feel it coming – the breakdown (to reassembly) – but it will all happen in its natural time. Please know this. Please know that you cannot force a fall apart, but that you can feel it coming.
In those moments before it happens, do your best to remember that all things are cycles. To everything there is a season.
And for as stretched and stressful as it feels at the moment, a release is coming.
You cannot force this, you can only be aware that soon there will be a trigger that releases all of the pressure and tension you’ve been feeling. It may be something as simple as a cross word from your spouse or a dropped and shattered glass, but something WILL trigger your release.
However, the more you try to force it, the farther it will be from you. The more you try to strong arm your brain into cracking, the harder it will toughen itself, and the bigger your problems will seem.
Relax. Your breakdown is coming. And it will be glorious and cathartic and cleansing.
Falling Apart: When It Happens, Go Away
It’s not always easy to find the right time to fall apart. Mainly because you don’t really choose that moment. You could be in a meeting or serving dinner to your family, and suddenly, the tears start to well up, your throat gets tight, and each breath feels like a monumental task.
While you may have to hold it together briefly, excuse yourself from the situation you’re in immediately.
Whatever you’re doing – at that moment – is not even remotely as important as your catharsis and your process to building a new mindset and planting a new garden of emotions. Whatever you’re doing when that fall apart is upon you can wait. It will be there when you return (but when you return, you’ll be much better able to cope with it).
Go away. Somewhere quiet. A bathroom, your bedroom, or take a walk into the emptiness of nature.
Go away and fall apart alone, where you can bask in your glorious irrationalities and waves of inexplicable emotions.
Go away. And fall apart.
Falling Apart: Nurture Your Inner Crazy, For Just a Moment
When you finally let go and the tears come, so will seemingly crazy thoughts. You might want to throw things or punch a pillow or scream at the top of your voice.
This is good.
Get it all out. OUT. (Just try not to hurt anyone in the process, which is why you go away.)
Nurture all that stuff that feels like complete insanity. Embrace it. LOVE IT.
And then, once the tornado is past and the dust settles, you can think back on all the irrational flashes of nonsense you had. Look at them each in a new light, hold them up to the sun of a new perspective, and then let them go with love.
They are NOT shameful, and they are NOT ridiculous nuggets of insanity to hide back deep inside you. They were moments of working through an issue, and you can now let those moments go.
Embrace them one last time, and then let them go. (Sometimes it helps to say, out loud, “I respect what you are, because you were a part of me, but now I let you go with grace because I don’t need you anymore.”)
Falling Apart: MOVE ON With Clarity
After you’ve had your moment and the tension is released, you feel as if the world is new again. And it is. You’ve let the storm rumble through, and now your mind is fresh and clean like a blade of grass after the rain.
The absolute, number 1 most important thing you need to do now is to move forward. If you sink back into the typical routine that led you to this moment, you’ll experience it again.
What you just went through was an opportunity for a beautiful new change. Don’t squander it.
Change something, with intention and clarity, and the fresh, loving perspective you’ve granted yourself.
Sometimes you have to get mad in order to find your personal power. Sometimes you have to despair in order to summon up the courage to change. None of these things are bad, unless you root yourself into one of them and refuse to move.
Use this renewed energy to start a new hobby, change your career, or have a heartfelt talk with your spouse. But whatever you do, move on.
(If you do relapse, it’s okay. Each time is just a new opportunity to change your perspective or your life. Practice it as many times as you need to. Be gentle with yourself.)
Falling Apart: Remember, But Don’t Look Back
Now that you’ve had your great catharsis with hopefully no real physical damage, it’s time to move forward. And it’s really, really important not to dwell on what you thought, felt, or did.
You’ve let go of the problem, and now you get to create new situations.
Embrace what you’ve learned, but under no circumstances are you allowed to regret. Regret is the poison of existence. It keeps you stuck in one moment in time, unable to move forward.
Forgive yourself, if you feel like you need to. Just don’t look back and connect yourself to the limiting thoughts you once had.
Most of all, allow yourself the knowledge that you’re not going to fix every problem right away, but that you have the clarity and intention to fix little ones, day by day.
And that some day, again, you’ll fall apart and be granted the opportunity to move up to the next highest level.
Inspired by Real Life!
So, yes, I did have a bit of a fall apart last night. Preceding that was a week of stress and tension and nearly worrying myself into a coma of complete stasis.
It’s not a fun place to be in, and holy lawd did I have moments where I thought, “I give up on EVERYTHING.” Luckily, I’ve done this routine enough to know that I don’t mean it. A terrible thing to do is throw everything in your life under the bus when you’re feeling the heat of impending falling apart.
One more thing I like to do, in the aftermath of a cathartic min-breakdown, is to read an inspiring book. Have you read any of these?
- Loving What Is by Byron Katie
- Wisdom of the Ages – by Wayne Dyer
- The Gift by Sufi poet Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)
- Any and every single book by Tom Robbins (that man sparks wild, ecstatic change in my brain with every word)
Or do you have any particularly inspiring, enlightening books you like to read in the wake of great catharsis?
The good news is, I’ve pulled it all back together (hopefully at a higher level). The bad news is, I still have yet to undergo the physical move to a new residence. Another fall apart may be in the works.
Anyone want to help me move this weekend? I’ll totally let you watch me break down.
reading this could not have came at a better time. i’m 28, married, and a mother of 2. In 2010 i lost my well-paid DREAM job, causing me to push everyone away & check out of the real world into a VERY dark world of my own. It filled me full of hate & turned me into a person I didn’t even recognize. Now my funds have ran out & if I want to keep a roof over my family’s head, i realize i have to move forward. Now I just need the strength to do it, cause I am scared out of my mind! I’ve hurt everyone i love, hated & degraded myself, and waisted 2 years in this black hole I locked myself in. BUT your article has let me know that its ok to break down – as long as you get back up, learn from it, and move forward.
Love this post and your pictures. I have saved a couple of your pictures to post on my facebook. I’ll reference this post as a credit. Wonderful writing. 🙂
I can feel my fall apart coming…I’m seventeen and am trying to make decisions about college, friends, boys, school..all of it. I hate falling apart because it makes me feel weak, immature, and utterly irational. But This post made it okay..this time when I fall apart I’m not going to get mad at myself. I’m not going to tell myself I’m a weakling and I can’t handle anything. Because according to you…that’s just not true. Thanks crunchy betty!
Thanks! I’ve suffered many a breakdown, LOL, and my method is usually to “hang in there and walk it off”. Well as you guessed it, this doesn’t work, looking forward to accepting it.
I’m moving this weekend too… and have fallen apart several times this week. (The most recent of which was this morning when I watched the Kony 2012 video and bawled for a good half and hour while my 4 and 5 year old daughters ate breakfast.) Anyway, may the force be with you as well as good moving weather and any moving fairies that might be floating around out there.
I’m new here & love what you’ve done with the place! But I can’t sign up for email updates – your email signup gets a 404 error. Can’t wait to try your coconut milk recipe!
I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve been through the whole process many times & you described it perfectly. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, but as the saying goes, “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” I love you & your blog, you are amazing! Thank you so much!
I’ve just found your website because I’ve been trying to no-poo, co-poo, and ACV for healthier hair, yet I come across this and have a moment. I had a really bad, no good, fall apart summer. I was on all kinds of anti-depressant meds (that were NOT helping) and listening to the shrink tell me I needed more. I am not a take meds kind of girl (shocking that I have found this site, huh?). In fact, I strongly suspect that they are poison to me (to me – not to everyone – not a scientologist or preacher!) So I stopped taking them, which also not a good idea medically speaking, so no one please give me a hard time. I had my falling apart and thought I was going crazy, which maybe I did a little. What happened is now, almost a month later, I am feeling better than I have in a long time. I feel happiness again and when I get sad or scared, I try to make peace with my emotions and let them out. It sucks sometimes, but then it gets better. Things have become clearer – what’s good for me and what’s not, when I need to suck it up and when I need to do something different. So the point of that is thank you. Thank you for this post, because this really touched me, because I’ve had to fall apart to make things better too.
An inspiring article and believe me, I’ve fallen apart on a number of occasions. Moving, no job, no money, stress, menopause, yep, I understand. I’ve learned to honor those times, go into my “woman cave” and just allow the craziness to express itself. More often than not, like the quotes you shared in your article, something really good comes of the experience.
Laura…are you my twin? ;D You’ve just described our last few months and current situation. But, I’m remarkably at peace this time (always potential to fall apart at some point by the end of the month).
Thank-you so very, very much for this. From the bottom of my soul…thank-you.
I just wanted you to know that this was one of the best pieces I’ve read in a long time. It’s exactly what I needed to hear at this time in my life. Thanks!
I can’t believe the timing once again! Been going through a bit of a ‘fall apart’ myself – one that’s lasting on and off for weeks. I confided some of my horrible thoughts (about myself and my disgust with my life so far) to a new and already dear friend, and she ‘loaned’ me too Kindle books. One is already mentioned in comments: “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. The other, by the same author is “Taking The Leap”. I started that one last night and it has already given balm to my soul. I highly recommend it! Along with letting the tears flow, and the catharsis happen.
This is like the 10th time I’ve heard about Byron Katie in the last couple of months. Time to get that book too!
Wish I was closer by and I’d come over to pack some boxes and load them in my car. Moving is the ultimate in stress. Good luck and hang in there honey! You are 100% truly amazing!!
And yet another “What amazing timing” comment. I fell apart today after giving my boss 2 weeks notice (which I wasn’t planning on doing… yet?) I have a lot of trouble letting myself fall apart, although I am getting better at it. Your advice is bang on! Thank you!
Thinking of you and I hope all goes well with your move. XO
Thank you for sharing this. It’s so good to have a how-to guide… it’s like permission to fall apart. And helpful information on what to do afterward.
What timing! I also had a meltdown last night. It came out of nowhere, when I was at the gym, in the middle of a class no less. I had to pull myself together to make it to the end of the class, then I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough and I continued to meltdown most of the way home. And again, after I got home. Hormones? Probably. Stress? Absolutely. Impedending full moon? (Which is beautiful tonight btw) Who knows.
I love your blog and am so glad I found it. Good luck with the move. Just remember (and I HATE this saying, but it’s so stinking true) “this too shall pass”. Hugs
Another “what great timing you have” post here. After years of not being able to release any emotions, I have had a number of breakdowns in the past few months (thanks to lots of acupuncture, therapy and bodywork). With all that crying, you’d think I’d be able to reflect and figure out what it is that’s upsetting me. Yet it wasn’t until today that I figured it out and made a concrete decision to make a huge, much-needed change. In fact, most of my day was spent deciding how serious I actually am about this decision, and after reading this, I’ve figured it out: very serious.
Talk about synchronicity! I was diagnosed with diabetes last week. I’m neither old nor overweight, so it came out of the blue. I fell apart for a few days. I REALLY needed to. Mostly in the middle of the night, and when I was away from the house and on my own. Now I’m beginning to pick myself up and get on with it. But I needed to crumble else I wouldn’t have been able to cope with it for a lot longer. A breakdown really is cathartic and therapeutic, and we should never feel ashamed. It’s not weakness, it’s self-healing. Thankyou so much for your beautiful writing. I could never have put it into words. I will read it again and again. Having moved house 11 times in my life I know it can be one of the most stressful events in life (especially my last one!) I wish you well. With such a healthy attitude I’m sure you’ll cope with it really well and make the very most of your new beginning. And thankyou so much for sharing. You’re a beautiful person.
What an inspiring post, Betty! Thank you for sharing your feelings, as well as your mother’s beautiful pictures! When I go through a falling apart, to help me with the moving-on part, I get busy doing mostly routine things (such as clean the house) and concentrate on them. I feel this occupies my conscious mind (and so I no longer consciously go over and over and over the issue) and, in this way, I let the subconscious solve the issue and give me a solution. Hope it helps you, too. Sorry I do not live near your town to come help with the moving and with the ‘plunging and dancing in the change’, but I will be thinking of you this weekend and sending you calming and loving thoughts. Bless you.
Thank you. This post was truly inspired for me and could not have come at a more perfect time seeing as how I’m currently in the middle of a complete and total breakdown.
Thank you for writing this piece. Very, very appropriate- for all of us to remember. Cheers.
Long time reader-first time commenting.
As always you have perfect timing.
I, after 2 years and countless people telling me to go see this natural psychic medium who was “amazing” I broke down and went, hoping to clear some of the major chaos going on in my life. What followed was what I told my Bestie was a reality smackdown followed by a “falling apart” in my car. For 2 hours. Everything he said was right and I was avoiding everything and going through the motions. Literally he said, “I know you don’t like anything I’m telling you right now, but you have to get it together and define your life”. So I, in the aftermath of falling apart, am picking myself up by my boot strings and working on my happiness. Good things do come from falling apart…
I’m hoping :-).
Thank you for this, the past couple of weeks have really been hard for me but I am climbing back out of the pit. I am sending you lots of happy thoughts to get you through this move, if I was there I would help!
I had a bit of a fall apart myself. Thank you for your timely words of wisdom. Have a good move and tell your mom that her photos are awsome…Huggs, Darrlaa
Agreed with Carly: Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart rocks. Last year I actually saw her at a restaurant in Boulder & nearly blew a tube.
Thank you, for this. I had my breakdown this morning…at work. Luckily for me, the only witness was a 7 month old. The breakdown has been coming for quite some time. Several months ago, I decided it would better for boyfriend and I to quit our well-paying, yet incredibly unhealthy corporate jobs to get closer to doing what we each love. I became a nanny; he is selling health insurance while going to finish his degree. Needless to say, funds are tight. Yesterday he had an accident in the one car we have. No one was hurt, and both vehicles are drivable and minimally damaged (the heft of the damage is my poor, dangling driver’s side mirror), but it was his fault.
My mind has been spinning with the thought of the costs of the damages, insurance deductibles, rising monthly premiums, and shrinking savings accounts. After crying it out and a few minutes of crazy, my mind is clear and the worry is manageable. That suffocating feeling of being completely overwhelmed has gone.
Love, love, love TomRobbins. Methinks I will get tge ribbon on the typewriter fixed tomorrow…and also thank you for this “it’s ok, life us ok” posting. I’ve been trying to save the world lately and have been so extremely frustrated of wasted efforts with in-laws, it’s nice to hear a warm, “let it go” Internet hug from you. Thank you. 🙂
Thank you for your beautiful and inspiring post. I do love Byron Katie to help through tough times. Also Paul Coehelo. “The Alchemist” has gotten me through many rough times. Another good one is “That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek,” by Cheri Huber. Really, anything by Cheri Huber is great. What is most helpful, though, to me, is finding old favorites– books, music, teas, etc, then snuggling up with the cat and an old, comfy blanket. These things are grounding.
I think I am coming to the end of a long breakdown/reassembly cycle myself. One of the things that has been very helpful has been discovering your blog. You have been a calming, soothing inspiration. I haven’t responded often since I discovered you 2 months ago, but I have been reading. Thank you for being there.
I hope that it helps you to know that you are helping others.
Good luck with your move.
Oh, and thanks for the reminder to read more Tom Robbins. The quote made me smile. Haven’t thought of that in so long…
Sh*t lady, you have no idea how well timed this is. I’m about as close to that moment as it gets, in fact I smothered a full blown panic attack in the office yesterday, in the hope of at least maintaining employment through it all. I know I’ll go soon, I just hope it’s at home or near someone who knows how to hug.
My thoughts are with you – good luck and thank you for your synchronicity.
[ps. fly me to your town and I promise I’ll carry every last box up those stairs, if it just means I can escape my world for a while 😉 ]
What a beautiful and encouraging way to look at this…I’m finally coming back from a breakdown. Wonderful new way to look at it. Thank you for sharing.
Betty, I love you. Thank you. Today I had my second “come apart” this week, after orchestrating a move from Missouri to Texas within 10 days… so I know the kind of pressure you’re facing. Thank you for being ever-faithful to your blog readers and writing about such a deeply personal thing in the middle of all of the chaos. This was beautiful and so, so helpful.
I’m a native Texan living (by choice) in Colorado. I hope you love my home as much as I do! It’s a great place.
I do love it so far! But when I tell people that, they say, “Oh, you haven’t been here during the summer!” I doubt that will change how much we enjoy Texas, though. 😉 Colorado is the next place we hope to live! I hope you like it there!
For me the fall-apart is usually because I’ve resisted changes for too long until they’re forced upon me (which always makes them harder to take). I try to embrace change now. It’s not always easy, but I try to see it as a reminder that maybe I’ve been in a rut for too long. Even good changes can be stressful. They will pass, and you will be better for the experience.
My Fallout Remedy: Slippers, a snuggly blanket, Enchanted April on DVD, and a big pot of tea or glass of zin… and cookies. Repeat as necessary.
Good luck with the move! If I could, I would totally be there to help, but you know that.
Bummer. Sorry to hear about the falling apart. It’s never fun to go through, no matter how beautifully things fall together. When things are falling apart for me, I like to have a glass (or 2 or 3…) of wine and put in a good chick flick. One that you don’t need to use your brain too much to enjoy because at that point my brain is mush and that’s all I want to handle. But when it’s time for me to think, to be inspired, I reach for my Bible because it’s pretty inspiring to think about how much God loves me and wants to help me. Another book that I also enjoyed during a recent crisis was ‘When the Heart Waits’ by Sue Monk Kidd. But that’s me. I hope you find what inspires you and land on your feet in a new, better place. *hugs*
Pretty much the same as I do although I don’t do the wine because I think it would make me worse. 🙂 Sometimes I make sure my chick flick is a tear jerker to help relieve some of the stress. I also turn to my Bible……..who understands better than our Lord. 🙂
What a GREAT article!! Thanks so much for this, I too recently fell apart and came out much better for it.
I actually also wrote about just a little piece of it today (http://dailyhap.com/articles/i-value-friendship) and how falling apart led me back to finding some really important friendships.
Also sending good vibes your way, you’re awesome 🙂
What a lovely post Betty, and what a great photographer your mum is. Wish I could help you move this weekend. I know it will go smoothly though. How can it not? Hugs from Copenhagen
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo and Phantom by Susan Kay. The Alchemist is great when you want to remember what you’re doing it all for, and Phantom is just achingly beautiful and inspiring.
And I have no idea where you live, so I can’t actually offer to help you move, but I will send good “moving goes smoothly” vibes your way.
I have three authors that I find enlightening, healing, or that just brighten up my soul while my mind recovers from a good crack – Thich Nhat Hanh, Starhawk, and Kahlil Gibran (please excuse spelling errors).
What I do, is make myself a big enormous cup of herbal tea, with honey, and go sit somewhere outside where I can let my mind lie fallow while the rest of me basks in just breathing and the absolute privilege of being alive. And yes, being alone during this process is essential.
For falling apart moments/days/weeks/months I absolutely love my “Essential Rumi”, another Sufi poet, and “When Things Fall Apart,” by Pema Chodron.
Thanks for sharing your lemonade–as usual, it is beautiful and inspiring.