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  • Writer's pictureLisa Jones

Breaking point?

When people say they're at the end of their tether, or they're at breaking point - what does that actually mean?

We think we know, but unless you talk it through with someone or explore it fully yourself it can mean different things for different people.

It may be a resentment that has been building up over years or it may be a one-off, seemingly trivial, event that occurs on a stressful day that has led you to reach a breaking point. These are two very different things and so it's worth asking yourself what's going on and what help do you need. We can rarely get through life's ups and downs alone. Reaching out for help and letting off steam is so helpful in removing the immediate emotions that you feel. Once you feel a greater sense of calm you can then look inside and explore what's really going on.

Here's an example. Julie is a happy, outgoing woman in her twenties. She is recently graduated and has landed a great job using her skills and learning new ones. She has a loving family and a supportive group of friends. But one day, she feels overwhelmed and can't seem to get up to catch the train to her job. She wants to stay in bed and cry. Her friends call her but she says she is feeling unwell and is having a duvet day. She tells her boss she is off sick and will hopefully feel better the next day. But she doesn't. Gradually everyone becomes more concerned about her and the sudden change in her life.

At this stage friends and well meaning supporters tell Julie how lucky she is, her job, her friends, her health. Julie starts to feel guilty that she lacks motivation and feels so down all the time, she stops talking to people because she can't explain how she feels to them and she doesn't want to be a burden to them.

For some reason Julie had reached her breaking point and had no idea why.

By exploring her situation with a counsellor, Julie discovered she was living a life that wasn't in line with her true self. She had struggled through university and wanted to meet her parents' expectations of her. She succeeded and found a perfect job - except it wasn't really what Julie wanted to do. She felt she couldn't tell her parents or friends how she felt and so she had "gone along" with a plan that wasn't really hers. As the months and years rolled on she too believed it was what she wanted.

It was Julie's body that signalled to her that she needed to stop and rethink her life. Sometimes when we reach breaking point, it's not a conscious thought. Julie had no option but to listen to her body and stop. She then needed to dig deep and discover what she really wanted, or what she didn't - and re-evaluate.

Counselling can reconnect you to your true self and values and realign your life. It can be very easy to slip into a life that we live for other people rather than ourselves and it sometimes happens without us even realising it. Of course, sometimes we do know what's happening and feel we are getting close to a breaking point. Reach out to someone else and tell them, write it down or record yourself talking about it and play it back.


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