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When Emotional Overwhelm Causes You to Break Down

Originally published Monday, 08 April 2019.

I lost it last night.

Not my cookies. But it might have seemed like it since a lot of junk came out of me. I guess you could call it losing your emotional cookies.

Is that too icky? The truth is like that sometimes. It's just plain messy when we let God work in and through us. When destructive beliefs surface and our fleshly desires to control it all have to be stripped away.

Pain seared deep and my entire ability to manage emotions came undone. One act beget another awful act with none of it producing anything beautiful.

Well, not immediately that is.

Sometimes, things come undone so they can be remade.

When emotions surface raw and real, the immediate outcome may require amends, confessions, and consequences. By facing these and working through this hard process, the outcome of losing it doesn't have to be a downward spiral of shame and defeat. It could produce something more beautiful and freeing than you've known before.

Here's the thing, most people won't admit when they've lost it. They won't tell others that their emotions crumbled and for a time it seemed like the enemy was winning. I don't really want to share the truth of my messes either, but I'm choosing to do so for four reasons.

One, I'm in this journey of emotional health and spiritual growth with you. For life.

Two, I don't think I'm the only one who takes steps forward, then falls back. I don't want readers feeling like they're alone in their battles.

Three, because I think anyone who admits they've failed and chooses to seek God's help in their weakest moments is a courageous soul.

Four, I refuse to let darkness win.

I refuse to pretend I have it all together when the truth is I struggle.

Falling down happens while remaining passionate about helping others cultivate a life well-lived emotionally and spiritually. I get the struggle intimately and as long as God keeps strengthening me, I'll continue to seek growth over stagnancy.

Christian growth requires honestly admitting our need for help rather than deceitfully feigning fine.

We all have steps forward and steps backward. We all need to choose to get up again, with God's help. And keep moving forward.

Holding back emotions simply isn't healthy. Obviously, spewing them onto others isn't healthy either, which is what came out of me last night and it's embarrassing to admit it.

Not having a safe place to feel and deal with the emotions we have creates internal pressure. Eventually, something explodes. It might be seen in our reactions or felt in our bodies and souls.

I'm still working on how to safely release the excess.

For too long I lived afraid of saying no and speaking up for my needs, so much so that it led to two date rapes. Not speaking up felt like a good Christian girl thing to do, but it turned me into a girl racked with pain instead.

I didn't feel safe enough with God to be honest with Him about the hurt and anger I had. Maybe I figured lightning would strike if I railed at Him, but then something about David, Job, and others in scripture stood out to me.

They got honest with God about how they felt.

David carried on about his distress and repeatedly chose hope anyway.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. ~ Psalm 42:11 ESV

That sounded familiar. I could chose hope; I couldn't express anger. Until I journaled it out and it helped.

When I admitted the anger that was already there, I was able to experience and receive God's grace waiting for me.

There's nothing admirable about what happened last night. It was destructive. I hurt someone I love. No amount of personal pain makes it OK to cause pain to another.

Now I have a choice to make. A choice to do the hard things, like confess and make amends. To own the part that is mine as God brings clarity to a muddy heart and mind.

Maybe you've experienced this too.

You've lost it and things keep spiraling in the wrong direction. It's not too late to see it halted. If you are a believer the Holy Spirit is with you and can strengthen you. If you are not, and God's tugging on your heart now, surrender to His call. Choose to follow Him and receive His spirit.

Either way, receive His forgiveness. It's already available and paid in full. It's a done deal.

As I mentioned in the Cultivated Life Community on Facebook, 

Whatever happened yesterday doesn't have to define today. Forgive. Confess. Admit. Surrender. Receive His mercy and grace which is new and fresh. He has what we need right as we need it. Even in this very moment.

Growing emotionally and spiritually isn't for the faint of heart, and there will be plenty of messes along the way, but living stuck is not what God intended.

I'd rather fall down and get back up as many times as it takes because every time I do, I experience more of Him. My need for Him only intensifies.

Lord, help me.

If you're willing to get up again and do the hard work of confession so you can live free of your past mistakes, you are such a brave and courageous soul.

Even if your knees are knocking and your heart is racing, keep going. Keep seeking Him.

How can I pray for you today? Would you pray for me too?


If you're looking for a way to process difficult emotions and downward thought spirals, consider Unleash: Heart & Soul Care Sheets.

This tool has helped hundreds, including me. It can be used to facilitate emotional healing and spiritual maturing. Get closer to God, learn to hear from Him, and receive what He has for you.

NOTE: This article first appeared on joleneunderwood.com as "When You Lose Your Emotional Cookies"