NOT TODAY: The Benefits of My Nervous Breakdown by Julie
TODAY’S BREW: Crème Brulee. It may taste nothing like crème brulee, I would not know
I had a nervous breakdown.
In retrospect, it had been coming for a while. I slowed down editing, writing was getting harder, and I was surviving tragedy after minor tragedy left and right in addition to the eighty million things I manage to fit into my days. I couldn’t even blog and claimed it was a “holiday vacation” when it was really that I was burnt, but still burning. I knew I should have seen it coming because I’d been waiting every time I went out in public for the time I would be alone so I could cry for no real reason. I’d been reaching out to crisis lines, unable to enjoy anything I normally did.
One day the week before school vacation, it just hit me. I couldn’t handle any noise whatsoever. I was holed up in my bedroom’s silence; a bird flew by outside, and cawed. It sent me into a convulsive jump and I couldn’t stop shaking for hours. Doing ANYTHING made me cry–getting a glass of juice for the kids, the steps to get in and out of the car, listening to the dog whine for scraps…. I had nightmares that wouldn’t quit. My panic attacks immobilized me but for the need to stay in one place and bounce my leg or rock back and forth. I’d shake for hours afterwards. I woke up shaking and wouldn’t be able to even hold a drink without spilling it until after 5 at night. I bit my cuticles until they were bloody, a really lovely complement to the bleeding psoriasis that cropped up all over my palms. I was gritting my teeth so consistently that my jaw ached.
And I had to STOP. Everything. I sat on the couch and watched Shark Tank because it required zero emotional investment. I read in short spurts. I got off all social media. I couldn’t let the kids watch cartoons while I was in the room. I stopped everything. And I admitted to my doctor and to a therapist’s office that I was indeed having a nervous breakdown and needed immediate help. I didn’t minimize it, saying I was having a rough patch. I said what I knew in my heart was happening.
What followed was a sense of peace that I hadn’t felt for a long time.
Finally, I hit my limit. It was freeing to finally say, “Well. That’s that. I finally found my limit.” And then I had to stop. I had to let the machine rest and clear the smoke.
I’ve always been told YOU CAN DO IT, JULIE.
The trouble with that is that I KNOW. I won’t stop until the thing I want to accomplish is achieved. I won’t say no to someone who needs my help. I multitask to a fault, and boy are those days over. I always could do it.
Nobody was telling me I didn’t have to. I need that, so much.
When the breakdown hit, there was no denying that I was out of commission. My husband was absolutely incredible, just letting me be, confirming that I didn’t have to do everything, that I needed to be first. Not just first, but only. Just for a while.
It’s now been a couple of weeks, and I am back to editing at a less grueling pace. I’m taking control of my environment in that when I say I CAN’T HANDLE THIS, I don’t. I DON’T. If I can’t handle the noise or brightness, I leave. If I can’t handle any more thinking, I stop. I don’t force myself through it. I had my panic meds increased, am getting therapy, and I’m cutting back on social media a lot. I read more, I’m writing longhand the way I did when writing RUNNING HOME. I’m meditating and going back to my roots. I even put a sticky note on the back of my phone that says NOT TODAY: meaning no social media, primarily, but also extending to not adding to my manageable to-do list. It doesn’t all have to be done today. I use that post it note a couple of times a week.
Having a panic disorder is rough. Not giving myself the space I need to cope with that and dealing with the number of responsibilities and pressures and need for taking charge that I have is a disaster waiting to happen. Well, the disaster happened, and now I can move forward. And I’m really okay. I really am. More than I have been in quite some time.
What I’ve learned overall is that I CAN do it, but I don’t HAVE to do it unless I WANT to. No matter what I tell myself, apart from the fires that I put out being the parent of children that require a lot of investment from me, there is not a goddamn thing that I HAVE to do. It’s all choice. And I’m smiling as I say that having choices is something I LIKE again.
Thank you all for your support. And speaking of support, if YOU have anything, anything at all weighing on your mind, there’s an amazing text support that I go to, and they are so helpful. Text SUPPORT to 741-741 and a trained counselor will listen.
Take care of yourselves, readers. Take care of each other.