Taking Myself Apart, or How to Have a Nervous Breakdown

About a month ago, I had a nervous breakdown. No out-of-body experiences or hallucinations were involved. I didn’t check into a hospital. I simply stopped. Everything. And cried.

Cried for three days, in fact, and didn’t get all my work done on time, even though I conveniently managed to align part of my breakdown over a weekend.

I did, however, send incoherent text messages in the middle of the night along with music videos of depressing songs. Nothing I’d never done before while under the influence of Ambien, but this time, the same behavior felt embarrassing instead of funny. For no logical reason.

It wasn’t the first time I’d gone Donald Trump. After many years of covering up who I am and trying to pretend (badly) that I’m flawless, I decided to own my mental state. I confessed to a friend, “I had a nervous breakdown.” Oh, the shame.

If I’d had the flu for three days, I wouldn’t have thought twice about posting about it on Facebook, complete with photos of a pile of used tissues and a bowl of chicken soup. Something like:

“Mowed down by the FLU this weekend, OMG!” — :/ feeling sick.

But how many times do you read:

“Lost my mind and CRIED all weekend, WTF?” — :/ feeling crazy / confused / heartbroken / overwhelmed / etc.

If you ever have come across a post like this, I’m betting you scrolled down faster than you can count the number of Z’s in “Prozac.”

As I’ve been told many times before, “That’s not what Facebook is for.” In other words, Facebook is for happy moments only. As in maybe half an hour out of every 24.

But I digress. How about confessing to a breakdown via ANY means of communication? Why is it so scary, both for us and for those who have to listen to us (we assume)?

What is with the stigma against mental illness? The term “mental illness” automatically implies serious conditions such as dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia. Aren’t there mental illnesses that are the equivalent of a cold or flu?

Of course there are. I’ve been there many times. But I’ve never been brave enough to call out of work due to “mental illness.” Or to use that term in relation to myself ever. Even though I struggle with persistent depressive disorder and recurrent major depression, which qualify as mental illnesses. And which a hell of a lot of people, by my untrained observation, suffer from.

Whether you differentiate between mental and physical weakness or have a more enlightened, holistic point of view, sometimes things, both inanimate and animate, just need a rest.

I recently read that potted shamrocks need a few months of dormancy each year. Our human instinct tells us to keep pouring water on houseplants to make them GROW GROW GROW. In fact, overwatering may be the fatal flaw of most black thumbs.

My own shamrock was looking scraggly, so I cut all the leaves off, stopped watering it, and put it in a closet for the next couple of months.

It looked like the shaved head of a shock-therapy victim à la Vanessa in “Penny Dreadful” or Ellen Burstyn’s character in “Requiem for a Dream.” But the plant is doing its thing, getting what it needs. Like a lot of average people in the short-term mental ward, I suspect.

To give you an even worse analogy, think about rebuilding an old car that doesn’t work well anymore. You can’t put new parts in without taking out the old ones. You have to remove things, and at some point, the car won’t run at all. Maybe for months.

You don’t freak out about it. You have a car up on blocks. Maybe somebody makes a crack about it. But you know you’re going to make that vehicle better than it was before.

Sure, you’re going to argue that car parts are physical and have nothing to do with the human brain or spirit. That’s fine.

My point is that things need to rest. Animals hibernate. Plants stop growing. Only we people run around continuously 24/7/365, despite the fact that days are cold and short in winter or that we’re loaded with stress and keep telling each other that we should be doing MORE MORE MORE. Because we don’t want to be lazy losers or hell-bound sinners.

Don’t slow down. Don’t question anything. Don’t stray from the road well traveled.

And by God, do not tell anyone you had a nervous breakdown this weekend.




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