10/06/2014 05:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2014

There Really Is Beauty in the Breakdown

I'm a listener and a supporter. Do you have a problem? Send it my way, because I'm always happy to listen and give advice. Or not give advice, if that's what you're into. Do you need to deal with a messy issue? I'm your gal. I'm loyal and I would love to be there for you. I like doing these things, I am good at these things.

I am not good at being a supportee. I hate talking about my problems, I'd rather talk about anything else. Because I am not one to share my problems, you can imagine my horror when, just this morning, I found myself unloading all the details of my recent and tragic breakup to a complete stranger. As soon as it spilled out of my mouth, I was mortified. What I discovered was this: the stranger was incredibly kind. He was non-judgmental. He allowed me to be sad in a moment where I needed to be really, really sad. And it felt okay.

Recently, my long-term boyfriend and I decided to take different paths. But he was not just my long-term boyfriend. He was the person I love most in this world, my best friend, and my better half. In a perfect world, the separation is clean, peaceful, and full of love and well wishes. But we do not live in a perfect world, and so it is ugly and painful. What I have found in the wake of this break-up is that no one and nothing could have ever prepared me for the barrage of emotions that can invade my entire being in a matter of seconds only to recede just as quickly as they came. It's an emotional massacre that can knock me out anytime, anywhere. It really is a grieving process, a textbook case.

The emotional ups and downs of this breakup are something I've never experienced on this level. Throughout my life, there have been hard times, there have been plenty of other heartbreaks, parting of ways, friends made and friends lost, but this feels different. There is a hole in my heart so deep that no Maya Angelou quote can soothe and no bevy of wine can fill. Yes, sometimes I feel like a walking cliché, but here's the thing: the overwhelming blow of heartache, the palpable anger, the total surrender of shared self have left me feeling an alone so deep, so guttural that at times it feels like it's more than I can handle.

My breakdown came in the form of a panic attack. In my car. At a stoplight. I have no idea how I managed to pull the car over, or how long the man had been standing there asking me if I were okay before I even noticed he was there. But in the middle of all the crying, shaking, heaving, sobbing, and delicate vulnerability, I had a moment. The moment was brief, but I will never forget it. I was bearing my soul and my ugly cry face to a complete stranger and I suddenly felt calm. I had no idea what I was going to do next and even if it would be the right or wrong move, I felt like everything mattered but nothing mattered at the same time. It was the end of the world as I knew it, but the beginning of something else. In that moment, sitting in front of a man I didn't know, I realized that I was going to be okay.

The breakup led to a breakdown, and I am beginning to understand that it will eventually lead to a build-up. In my short moment of calm I stared into the eye of the great unknown and she was beautiful. She had the wild hair of adventure and she was waiting for me, so I took my first step toward her.

For now, I'm learning to be supported. To be gentle with myself and take the time to be sad when I need to be sad. Because that is what I need today. And when I'm ready to build myself up again, I will do it carefully and slowly. And I will be better and stronger. I know I will. And the unknown and I with our hair flying free will run together as fast as we can wherever we are going.

Need help with a mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.