bathroom breakdown


At times, I’m overcome by a weird feeling that leaves me anxious. My mind gets restless, I can’t focus on anything but the feeling of having to do something, anything, writing creating photographing whatever. Then I’m in a different sphere and even the presence of friends can hardly bring me back. There’s a wedge, and I’m happy about it, because it protects me from this silly feeling of being rejected. Come on, Monika, don’t be stupid, you knew they’d be busy, it’s not that they don’t care about you.

But suddenly I’m in my early teens again, experiencing the feeling that my close friends have better friends than me. I guess it’s always the same issue. I quickly grow fond of people, it’s so easy to fall in love with kind hearts. But often, people mean more to me than vice versa, so I always end up feeling rejected.

My mouth moves to form fake smiles. At the same time, I wish I could stop pretending. I want to talk to a familiar soul and cast out the loneliness in my heart.

What triggers this mess? The lack of sleep, combined with too much caffeine? It’s temporary, but it’s not supposed to be there at all. It’s the harmless first step of self-destruction. I feel like drinking more and more caffeine, just to see how it’ll mess with my mind. Because, at the end, all these emotions can be turned into something creative. I’ve missed them, they used to be so intense and inspiring. I don’t want to be engulfed by them again, but I need a taste, to remember. I don’t make sense, I know.

At the end, I flee, escaping into photography and creating.


after taking my self-portrait

I’ve been trying to keep my mouth shut about it, but I can’t remain silent anymore. I was supposed to go with my sister to her favourite band’s concert this evening. It was my present for her 18th birthday. But I’m not. Instead, I’m staying here at this hackaton (programming event for informatics students; I’m photographing). I decided against it, and the reason is breaking my heart.

After years of fights and silence, we’ve finally been getting along again. I was so damn optimistic, thought we’ve overcome our differences. For months, I had been looking forward to spending this evening with her.

But something happened and we are not going anywhere together.

(At this point, my eyes have started to get watery and I rushed to the bathroom in order to prevent the embarrassment of having a breakdown in a room full of people.)

I can’t believe what I am doing. Here I am, sitting on the floor of a restroom, door locked, crying my eyes out. I’ve only known these scenes from movies and used to think they weren’t only overly dramatic, but ridiculous as well. So what. the. hell.?

Sobs shake my body. Loneliness devours me. I’ve tried to avoid this issue for too long, playing it down, and now I’m getting the bill. I’m not supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be on the way to the concert with her, spending a fun night together, bonding. I don’t regret my decision – with a heavy heart, I told her to ask a friend – but it makes me so damn sad that I felt forced to do that.

While I’m sitting on the toilet floor, all miserable, tears streaming down my face and probably ruining my makeup, I have to think of my flatmate and the amazing bond he shares with his friends, so different from all the other guy-friendships I know. They’re all on the other side of the door separating me from the rest of the world, and I know that if one of them had a breakdown, they’d be there for each other, full of support and understanding. While I’m all alone, having only almost-friends around because our friendship needs more time. I’m craving for a comforting hug, but there is no-one I can ask without being super awkward. I’m alone.

(My best friend Crack, whom I hardly see, stayed at my place last night. I guess the void she’s leaving, knowing we won’t see each other anytime soon, has something to do with this engulfing loneliness as well.)

How the hell am I supposed to get out there again? I’d like to stay in the restroom, locked away. Photographers are supposed to be social, and here I am, weeping in the toilet, wondering what the hell is wrong with me. This is not supposed to happen. I’m good, I’m happy – and yet there is this overwhelming sadness in my heart.

After ten or fifteen minutes, when the worst is over, I force myself out and look into the mirror. The damage is not too bad. My makeup is waterproof, the eyelashes just stick together a bit and my eyes are only reddish. But it’s okay. I leave my sanctuary.

Avoiding eye contact, an arm defensively clutched around my torso, I flee into a deserted corner apart from the rest, pacing aimlessly. C (one of my flatmate’s best friends I’m familiar with, an almost-friend) notices me and approaches. I wonder if he’ll notice that I’ve been crying. “Du siehst auch fertig aus” [you also look done], he says, smiling sympathetically – feeling exhausted himself after days of organizing and hours of programming today.

My smile doesn’t fail me and my ‘social me’ kicks in. Why am I pretending, I hate wearing masks, there are too many walls preventing us to connect and I want to tear them down, not strengthen them. But this time, I choose the easy way out and fake it. Nothing happened. I’m just tired.

But I don’t have the strength to continue playing this charade for too long. Avoiding eye contact and interactions with my (almost) friends that would force me to pretend, I retreat into an empty room while everyone else is having dinner. I write to process what has happened, chat with my love – and now I’m okay again. It’s time to deal with the long-term issue. But first, I’ll stop being awkward and return to my almost-friends who’ll hopefully turn into real friends in the course of time.

I smile, and this time, it’s real.

(This post is making me feel horribly naked, but well.)

    1. I know it can be scary and intimidating, and my default is to keep things to myself too, but maybe you can reach out to your new almost-friends. It sounds like they might be receptive. But maybe that’s my American perspective; we love oversharing ;)

      1. Actually, I’ve thought about reaching out to them – but today wasn’t the right day. They were busy programming all day, so yeah. But yeah, I might do it sometime soon – especially since there’s the very real chance that they’ll see this post anyways, since one of them brought my blog up on our way back (I was lucky they didn’t check it out then and there, that would have been super awkward, haha). So I write knowing that anyone might read my blog – even my teachers from uni. I just tell myself that nobody will bother checking it out.

        Thank you for your advice – I’m definitely an oversharing-person as well :P

    1. If you can forgive a stranger’s continued fixation on temperament:

      What you describe is very familiar. Everything from the sense of caring more deeply about friendships than others do, to wanting to lose yourself (or find yourself) in a creative effort, to the social-mask problem.

      It helped me immensely to learn to recognise differences of temperament between myself and others. The fact is that melancholics are in a minority. You’re most likely surrounded by the other three temperaments, and if there are any other melancholics they’re most likely trying to act like everyone else too.

      If you’re willing (and melancholics are typically reluctant to accept advice) I suggest having a read of this comparison chart. It’s not perfect, but it shows basic differences in worldview and priorities derived from temperament:

      Unless you were very lucky in your early years, you’ve probably spent most of your life learning how to adapt to other people, so as to avoid the awkwardness of having reactions, thoughts, and feelings that differ from the people around you.

      We try very hard to avoid shame, embarrassment, and humiliation, and every bad experience leaves a deep impression. Unfortunately, this approach to life leaves us feeling inauthentic, because we are not like most of the people around us.

      Authenticity therefore becomes very important to us. But it’s hard to be really authentic if we don’t understand the basic differences between ourselves and others, because social pressures will push us towards conformity.

      The ‘social me’ is fake, and I think it is ultimately fear-based. We are afraid of negative reactions if we don’t give the ‘correct’ social response. We’re afraid of possible humiliation and embarrassment, and we don’t know how to respond appropriately in case things do go bad.

      But all the fake stuff takes a lot of effort to maintain. Fake smiles are exhausting. Being inauthentic is exhausting, and there’s no positive reward for it – only the negative reward of avoiding a possible bad social outcome.

      When we meet kind and admirable people, we identify them as “ideal” and that’s where our strong feelings come from. We easily see the good in them, but we magnify it so much that we somehow expect our strong feelings to shape reality.

      Maybe in that sense our strong feelings are like beautiful art that we create, but problems arise when we mistake the artwork for the real thing. Many times I’ve idealised other people, and then felt terrible rejection or disappointment when they do not seem to register my feelings, let alone reciprocate them.

      I could go on, but that’s already too much, probably. I guess the central thing is that if we understand how we differ from others, we might avoid tying ourselves in horrible knots or pushing ourselves to the point of exhaustion on the basis of well-intentioned but misguided efforts, goals, and ideals.

      1. Thank you very much for your thoughtful, elaborate comment! It was a really interesting read and I’m grateful that you took the time to write it.

        I didn’t know about the four types of temperament, thanks for sharing that with me! I’ve just taken a look at the chart and figured that I couldn’t identify myself 100% with the melancholics, but also to a great part with phlegmatic and sanguine (depending on the aspect). I know people are never 100% something, but I have a hard time seeing myself mainly as a melancholic.

        While I agree that the social-me is fear-based, wouldn’t you say that it’s real, though? Just another facet of us that kicks in in certain situations, but as real as other aspects of our personality?

        But yeah, I definitely have to work on my fear of being rejected for who I am. Also, I’m relieved to hear you could identify with so many points, that makes me feel less weird about everything :D

        Thank you again for your input and have a lovely day! :)

        1. You’re welcome.
          You’re right – most people seem to have a primary and secondary temperament. My primary is melancholic, and secondary is phlegmatic. And yes, the chart has some deficiencies. It doesn’t really explain the underlying logic of each temperament, so many of the points are open to interpretation. It’s hard to find good resources for this stuff. I want to write a book on it one day ; )

          To keep it simple, the melancholic is driven by idealism and a search for meaning. Cholerics are driven by ambition and their position in the world. Sanguines are driven by nice/beautiful things, good experiences, other people. Phlegmatics aren’t strongly driven by anything, but like to follow the rules and hate conflict.

          I can relate to all of those, but in my life everything is subordinate to idealism and meaning.

          Regarding the social-me being as real as other aspects of personality, that’s a tricky question. Yes, you could say that it’s a “real” part of your personality, since it’s how you respond in certain situations. It’s not as though you randomly choose to act in a completely different way just for tun of it.

          But our personalities are complex and develop over time, and some aspects (like wearing a social mask) are learned responses to past challenges and dangers. Fear of rejection and the ostracism it implies are very powerful. As children especially, to be rejected by family or community could feel like a threat to our very survival. So we learn to ingratiate ourselves, or adapt in various other ways.

          For me, “real and fake” is a way of acknowledging that these parts of my personality are about managing fear and danger, whereas in an ideal world my social self would be a more comfortable expression of my likes and dislikes.

          I think everyone adapts themselves to their situation, but I have met people for whom their social-self is a much more natural, or uninhibited or honest expression of who they are. For whatever reason, we’ve learned to alter our self-expression. But if terms like real/fake/honest/natural/uninhibited have the wrong connotations we can find a different way to describe it.

          I’ll give you a simple example. My wife says I’m much funnier when I’ve had a drink or two. I’ve noticed the same thing as well when I was sick and on medication, and recently had the chance to observe what was going on in myself. What happens is that I’m usually on guard against saying things that might be construed as offensive. When I was young I spent a lot of time with some unpleasant people who were sensitive to criticism or mockery and would respond aggressively to it. So even now in my thirties I filter everything I say or write, and try to ensure that it’s not going to accidentally offend someone.

          This takes a lot of effort, and it slows me down. But when I’ve had a drink or when the flu medication kicked in, it numbed the anxiety associated with this. I found that I just said or wrote the first thing that came to mind, and it came across like a subtle change in personality.

          Unfortunately I can’t just abandon the anxiety or the filtering. I think that takes a lot of work, maybe a lot of time. I’m also very stubborn, which makes it hard to change. But being aware of it is probably the first step.

          Anyhow I appreciate the dialogue and I hope you have a great day too.

    1. you know – its good that you write…Bringing out emotions actually makes you strong…Accept that this is normal and you’ll be completely fine
      A fellow teenager :)

      1. Thank you for your calming comment! :) I’m relieved to hear that your classmates experience this as well, because it’s not very usual here haha take care and have a lovely week :)

    1. I always wonder why it is the talented, intelligent people who fall into self-doubt and misery. The idiots don’t. :)
      Use your lovely smile on yourself… :)
      (It is always better than a red nose)
      Hope you’re better to-day.

      1. aw, thank you for your kindness :D I guess less reflective people don’t get to overthink everything to the point of self-doubt? yeah luckily the low was just during Saturday afternoon, I’m well again – I hope you too! :) take care!

        1. That is very good news. That you are well again. Remember the swimming pool “metaphore”. If you feel you are drowning in a swimming pool, just let yourself sink. Eventually you will reach bottom. Kick the bottom with your feet and you will rise to the surface… :)

    1. Hmmm. I feel the same a lot of times. :-) Had surprising breakdowns too, very rare and very surprising. I haven’t completely figured it out but try not to worry about it. We all have issues in life (I think). It’s just that some of us tend to feel just a bit (or way) more than most others. And that’s absolutely okay. :-)

      1. Thank you for your comment and sharing! I agree, we all have issues – I also try not to freak out about it, but it would be good to understand why we feel the way we do. Though there’s definitely nothing wrong with feeling more than the average :) take care <3

    1. I wish I could give you a hug.. :) without trying to be creepy- lol- if you ever feel down and no one happens to be around, you’re more than welcome to write me and say hello :)

      1. aw, thank you so much, you are too kind! <3 and you don't sound creepy haha have a lovely week :)

    1. After looking over all your photographs on here. I do believe this is my favorite. Beautiful as is, I would like to see it processed with more contrast between the light and dark. Keep up the fantastic work! R.I.

Let me know what you think!

%d bloggers like this: