For some reason, the thing we fear greatly is to fall apart. So we find ourselves holding on for dear life to a situation, because the alternative is just too scary. We have all been there, on the brink of falling apart, becoming aware of feeling intense vulnerability because of the fear of losing ourselves in the process.
A few years ago, I found myself in a situation where everything around me signaled that it was time for change. I remember thinking that if I just hold on, and fight what was happening, everything will be okay, right? I was so afraid to let go, because what was at stake at that time was the possibility of showing a side of myself that was different to the one that I had painstakingly crafted for the world. I was afraid of being seen to be what I thought was ‘weak’, and so for months I fought against the change. I tried to hold on for dear life because I was afraid to fall apart. Eventually, when the cracks became too big, and everything broke anyway, I did fall apart. It was devastating for me, I was sad about the situation I had to let go of, and I was angry at myself for not being strong enough to not fall apart. Once everything broke, I decided to surrender to my emotions of sadness, anger, and even fear – in fact – it felt like everything else in my life stopped. Yes, I was still doing the basic minimum of what I needed to at work, but things had essentially come undone in my life. At this stage, I got to know the version of me that was not always ‘together’, that was vulnerable. I was forced to acknowledge this part of myself and to embrace it. In the process, I was able to see that I had pushed this part of me to the background for most of my life, afraid of what would happen if I allowed her some space.
A few months later, I felt like a whole new person. I could not remember how and what caused the ultimate change. I realised then, that most of our growth happens silently, without our knowing. I started to no longer fear the possibility of falling apart, and instead saw it as part of a metamorphosis of self.
In my coaching practice, I come across many versions of this scenario, and below are some of my recommendations for navigating the possibilities of falling apart:
#1 Be real
The most important thing during such an experience is to be real with yourself. In other words, even if for a moment you are not yet brave enough to tell others what is happening, at least tell yourself the truth. Tell yourself the truth in ways that is loving and non-judgemental, and honour the truth that emerges from this process of looking into the mirror.
#2 Shift your narrative
The first level where we have to shift the narrative, is with ourselves. Reframe what is happening as something that is neither shameful, something to feel guilty about, nor does it cast you as a failure. Shift your inner narrative to be able to view what is happening as part of your growth.
#3 Find ways of containment
Ways of containment means not focusing everything on what is happening. Find breaks from it whether it is taking a walk, watching movies, or even cooking. Find little ways that would work to just hold you through the period. It helps to have some people that are close to you in the know, so they can also assist with this, so that you don’t drown during the period of deep feeling and sensing.
#4 Consider getting professional help
Sometimes, a breakdown is the ideal time to partner with a professional (therapist or coach). Remember, you don’t have to do it all alone. Indeed, you are the one going through it, but sometimes it is good having someone else by your side to help deepen the excavation and the sense-making.