About a month ago I had a nervous breakdown.
They don’t call it that anymore.
But it’s what I had.
It wasn’t a panic attack. I’ve had those before. They’re terrifying. Your heart races. Your chest tightens. It feels like you’re having a heart attack. You think you’re going to die that moment. And then it passes. This didn’t pass.
For people who know me casually this might seem surprising. At work I’m calm. I’m a mentor. I’m a leader. I’m a well-read voice of reason. I’m unemotional and honest. I’m the epitome of balanced and relaxed.
I put on a hell of a show.
About a month ago my brain broke. It shut off.
I stopped work on a Friday. Turned my computer off. Sat down calmly. And in that moment, I knew I was a failure. I knew I was unloved. I knew I wasn’t deserving of love. I knew nothing would ever bring me joy again and I should fade away. And not only that, but I’m slowly dying anyway. Just like so many others before me and around me. I would soon lose my family. I’d lose my job. I’d lose my life. I never deserved them anyway.
I cried. I convulsed. I took enough Nyquil and vodka to fall asleep and to terrify my wife. I woke up the next morning feeling the same. I spent four days alternating between bouts of crying so despondent that my chest and throat burned and moments where I was so terrified of the future that my entire body shook uncontrollably.
I think that was the bottom. I mean, if there’s another bottom, I don’t want to see it.
Well, whatever show I hoped to put on was gone now.
I had to explain to my kids why daddy’s spending the crying in the dark.
I had to explain to my team why their boss is re-scheduling every meeting for the next few days.
I had to explain to professional after professional why I’m such a poorly adjusted, broken shell of a person.
I spent my entire life bottling up frustration, anger, anxiety, fear, and confusion to put on a show. I was the calm, smooth, unflappable one. That façade I worked so hard to create was my undoing. You can only bottle so much until the cork bursts.
I’ve had anxiety and depression for my entire life and have done nothing about it. Therapy enough to know I have these issues, but no treatment.
I didn’t need it. I had my mind!
I could figure things out on my own. Logically, I know what makes sense. Obviously, I can figure out why my brain works and solve these things on my own!
I have my professional support now.
I have my Psychiatrist. I have my Therapist. I have my Primary Care Physician. I have my Meditation App. I have my Mindfulness Outpatient Classes. I’m doing the work.
I’ve spent my whole life sad of what I am and afraid that people would find out. Worried that I’m not good enough. Ashamed of everything I am. Hoping I might create some fake version of me that people might like.
I’m working hard to spend the rest of my life figuring out who I am. Maybe I’ll spend some time being me for a while.
We walk through life desperately trying to connect with one another yet afraid of hurting each other. Afraid of being hurt. We have so much fear and so much doubt but want so much to show confidence and certainty.
The only thing I know for sure is that nobody has it all figured out. And needing help isn’t weak. Struggling with depression or anxiety or any other mental illness isn’t something to stigmatize.
For too long I wasn’t brave enough to get the help I needed. I still have anxiety. I still have depression. I probably always will. But the real sadness I have now is for how much of my life I wasted not getting help.
I hope you’re smarter than I was.