It was the middle of the afternoon when I broke my porcelain ramen bowl. It slipped out of my hands and the thing shattered. I was in tears sitting on the kitchen floor, collecting each piece to throw in the garbage bin.

The accident happened when I was washing the bowl. I was about to grab the dish towel from the stove and the slippery porcelain fell out of my fingers. I’ve been clumsier the past few years because I have been on a medication with that side effect (along with significant weight gain). The clumsiness has been a source of frustration for me often, like the time I broke down in tears one night because I dropped my car keys under the driver’s seat.

So, what does one do when they break their favorite bowl? Well, I texted a few people lamenting the loss. One text was to a man I’d had a romantic relationship with for the previous nine months. Despite being thousands of miles apart most of the time, we kept up consistent phone communication. As per usual, I hopefully imagined what our future would be like. We’d marry, have babies and live happily ever after.

I texted him to tell him I broke my bowl: “Ughhhhhh, I broke my porcelain ramen bowl.”

He teased me for having a “first-world problem” and asked how I broke it.

I said it slipped from my hands. My medication makes me clumsy.

He asked me what medication I was on again. (We had discussed in passing once that I took medication to treat my anxiety.)

Zyprexa, I told him. And I explained the side effects.

“Oh yea, that’s like an antidepressant, right?”

I proceeded to hesitantly tell him that it was an atypical antipsychotic, that I had been on it for four and a half years, and this was the drug that provided the most benefit to me with the least bit of side effects. For me, I was relieved in part that I finally had an opportunity to talk about this topic with him. My mental health is an important challenge that I’ve had to overcome, and it’s something I wanted to share with my partner.

He texted back that he found it very alarming. That this was a huge red flag. He did not know if he could date someone who was on a drug like that. He said that fresh air, exercise and a daily routine were all I needed. He also said he would never take a drug like that.

I flashed back to my last serious relationship with a man who criticized me for taking medication. I actually stopped taking them to please him. Things got bad, and I ended up in the hospital. This was now the second romantic relationship where I’ve had to confront the stigma of mental illness. And honestly, it roused a sense of fear inside me that I might never find love.

When I asked him why it was such a huge red flag to him, he said, “It’s called an antipsychotic. If that’s not a red flag, I don’t know what is.”

I can’t say I blame him for it. Antipsychotic does sound kind of scary.

He said he had to shower and that we’d talk later. I waited three hours for a call.

When he didn’t call, I sent a message: “Did you want to talk tonight?”

His response was radio silence.

He didn’t even want or care to understand this aspect of my life. It was especially frustrating because I felt like I was patient with him through the trials of a long-distance relationship and some of his own character flaws.

The next day, I wanted to have a salad for lunch. In place of my porcelain ramen bowl, I reached to the top shelf in my kitchen and pulled down the stack of mixing bowls. As I reached, suddenly they all came toppling down; the biggest mixing bowl of the group broke into multiple pieces.

I found myself on the kitchen floor, in tears, again. I was picking up the shards of the plastic mixing bowl. Two bowls in the span of 24 hours. The first brought about a huge let down. But the second helped me gain clarity on this relationship. This individual was not making the effort to understand my mental illness and the many ways it has impacted my life — from being hospitalized to crying over a broken bowl.

I realized why having this conversation about my mental health in a relationship is important to me. I can’t change who I am or the challenges I’ve had to face. What I can do is choose who and what to accept into my life to make it an environment where I want to live and even thrive. I want to find somebody who can support me through the challenges I’ll face ahead.

I still have hope I’ll meet that person. The broken bowls showed me that my heart is soft enough to break over a porcelain ramen bowl. And when it comes to love, a soft heart is all you really need.

Jennifer B. is a writer who enjoys taking complex topics and simplifying them. She is earning a Master’s degree in science writing. She values self-care, positive affirmations and her overall wellbeing. 

By Lynne S. Gots, Ph.D. 

March 31, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak, and the social-distancing measures now in place to prevent its spread, have turned all our lives upside down. But if you have a mental illness, the pervasive climate of anxiety, stress and isolation may be especially harmful to your well-being.

Here are several steps you can take to prevent this stressful time from derailing your mental health.

1) Maintain A Routine

If you’re not used to working from home, you may find the transition challenging. Creating a new teleworking routine will help you get into the right mindset, feel more productive and keep the boundaries between work and home from blurring.

It may be tempting to work into the night, sleep in and log onto your computer from your bed. This is not a good idea! Instead, stick to a regular bedtime and waking schedule. Shower and dress in the morning, and keep normal working hours if you are not required to be on-call. You don’t have to put on a suit, but wearing casual Friday work clothes instead of sweats will serve as a cue to start the work day.

Designate a work area. Even if you are quarantined in a tiny studio apartment, you can set up a home office on a snack tray in a corner. If you normally watch TV or scroll through social media while sitting on the couch, you may get distracted if you try to work from the same location.

2) Take Reasonable Precautions, But Don’t Go Overboard

Use only reliable sources of information, such as the CDC or Johns Hopkins University, to inform and make a plan for your health habits. As hard as it is, it’s important not to give into compulsive behaviors.

This is especially important if you have OCD or health anxiety. Follow the rules you’ve made in advance, so you don’t let anxiety dictate your behavior. For example, if 20 seconds of hand-washing is the accepted guideline, don’t wash for 40 or 60 seconds “just to be safe.”

3) Find Ways To “Get Going”

Now more than ever, you need to tend to your own health. Practicing sound mental hygiene can help boost your psychological immunity. If you are prone to depression, you might be finding it harder to get out of bed in the morning, motivate yourself to accomplish chores or get started on a work project. “Behavioral activation”—the technical term for “getting going”— is a research-proven antidote.

Exercise is an excellent stress-reliever and mood-booster. The gym may be closed, but you can go out for a brisk walk as long as you keep your distance from others. You can also practice yoga at home and even work out virtually with a personal trainer.

4) Try Not To Fixate On Sleep

The changes in your usual schedule, coupled with anxiety, can wreak havoc on your sleep. If you’re resting, try not to stew about not sleeping — staring at the ceiling at 2 am will just create a cycle of worry and insomnia. If you find yourself lying in bed wide awake for more than 15 minutes, get up and change the mental channel by watching TV, reading a book or listening to music.

You could also listen to a guided meditation available on YouTube or one of the many meditation apps, such as 10% HappierHeadspace or the UCLA Center for Mindfulness. Keep in mind, however, that you are not meditating to try to fall asleep. Having sleep as a goal will likely backfire and cause more anxiety. Instead, you can use meditation to notice what is going on in your mind and body and observe your thoughts rather than getting caught up in them.

5) Stick To Consistent Meal Times

Sticking to consistent meal times, rather than stress-snacking throughout the day, can also help you maintain your mental and physical equilibrium. Nourish yourself with healthy foods. However, it’s also perfectly fine to build in some comfort foods, like freshly baked cookies. Now is not the time to start a restrictive diet.

6) Follow Your Regular Mental Health Treatment Plan

Make sure you have an adequate supply of medication and take it as prescribed. Continue with therapy appointments. Many practitioners are now offering teletherapy, either by phone or video, to comply with social distancing requirements. Check with your insurer to see what services they will cover.

7) Practice Mindfulness And Acceptance Techniques

Whether you use meditation, yoga or prayer, focusing your attention on the present moment, rather than ruminating about a catastrophic, uncertain future, can help you manage your distress. If you tend to compound your negative emotions with a cascade of negative thoughts (“I should be handling this better;” “This is unbearable”), mindfulness training can be useful in tempering your emotional reactions.

One good introductory resource, among many, is “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World,” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. The UCSD Center for Mindfulness also has free, guided meditations and useful information about the practice.

8) Be Kind To Yourself

A vast body of research conducted by the psychologist Kristin Neff and colleagues has shown the value of self-compassion for coping with emotional challenges and adversity. To ease feelings of isolation, acknowledge your struggle with kindness, rather than self-judgment, and recognize that millions of people world-wide are sharing your experience right now.

This time is challenging for everyone. But you don’t need to compound the difficulties by neglecting your mental health. If you follow these suggestions, you can face this crisis — you may even come out of it stronger in the end.

Lynne S. Gots, PhD is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C. and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at The George Washington University School of Medicine. She specializes in the cognitive-behavioral treatment of OCD and anxiety. Dr. Gots is a Clinical Fellow of the Anxiety and Depression Disorders Association. For further information, see