“I’m not brave anymore, darling. I’m all broken. They’ve broken me.”– Ernest Hemingway
I keep thinking about William Faulkner’s book, “As I Lay Dying” but only the title, because I have never opened the book. Only the title applies to my current situation; metaphorically of course. Actually, I take that back. Through copious amounts of therapy I have been inundated with the knowledge that the mental circus I put myself through does greatly affect my physical health. So, as I am in the midst of this mental breakdown, it is happening, as I lay dying. My brain is destroying my body.
“The Mind Controls The Body,” “Mind Over Matter,” and other shrewdly placed mantra signs you see throughout gyms and therapy offices spin around my head like a ticker tape. Physically, I am lying on my side on our bed unable to think of anything other than that Oprah quote about taking charge of your life. “Come on, Emma, fucking take life by the horns and get out of bed.” It does not work. My body is still laying here on our bed, and I am staring at his pillow. Whenever I read quotes like Oprah’s, it makes me think of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books we read when we were kids. Usually one of the adventure choices ended in your character falling off a cliff or getting stomped by an elephant, and your character died. The book is over. It strikes me that this is not unlike my real life, where I’m lying in bed unable to get up to get an off-brand seltzer water from the fridge 25 feet away. So yes, I guess, one of my choices in this moment is to die here in this bed if I so choose to.
I digress. I’m back to thinking about the Oprah quote. I Am Positive! I can think my way out of a debilitating anxiety attack/mental breakdown. All I need to do is load up my Spotify playlist of, “Guided Anxiety Relief: Ambient,” lay down, tell myself to take some deep breaths in Deepak Chopra’s voice, and I will be free from these shackles that have tethered me to my “safe space” …under a weighted blanket on our bed while tears stream down my face. I look around. My phone is on my desk, four feet away. Fuck. Wow, well maybe I should take this as an Opportunity! Rather than fall deeper into my hole of anxiety and despair, I can use this as an Opportunity for Growth. I can do some real meditation like I see on Instagram where people actually just sit and take deep breaths while their phone captures them looking serenely and without worry. By the way, who is taking those pictures while they’re solo meditating? The angles are captured in such a way I do not believe it is self-timer mode. Wow, the universe truly works in mysterious ways to present me with such an Opportunity. If I succeed in doing this one action of going to get my phone to begin my process of calming down, I will make a sacred promise to myself I will fast forward through every Calm and Headspace app commercial (because I will no longer be the target audience of those) on the true crime podcasts I cannot stop listening to. Oh, you think that adds to my anxiety? Hearing the gory details of a sociopath’s murderous plan is essentially a history lesson, a course in human development. I have a plan to not be murdered because I have listened to all the tips and tricks. It’s called being prepared.
Well fuck it’s been a couple hours now and I really haven’t done anything to Help Myself. Occasionally this would cause me to spiral more, as if this mental breakdown can be solved by a simple pick me up: a face mask, listening to my favorite song, my favorite coffee beverage, a phone call with a friend, and I could go about the rest of my day. This pesky anxiety attack has simply put a damper on my “to do list” for today. But the fact that my jaw is so sore from clenching it so tightly and my back is wringing with pain from rocking to self-soothe, I do know now that whatever “to do” list I had today went through my mental shredder hours ago. I am aware that I will eventually have to get up, and do something, but I really can’t. And maybe that is the biggest signal of all: my body is paralyzing itself so it can rest, rest, rest.
But I am a doer. I make lists, and cross off the things listed at all costs. I do all the things and use achievement and productivity as measures of my own self-worth. Dammit to hell if I am up all-night ruminating over the things to do, I will do them despite the utter lack of sleep and rest because I am resilient. But not right now. Right now, I’m paralyzed in our bed under my weighted blanket trying to figure out what that Oprah quote even is, while I silently watch my boyfriend come next to me and light my favorite candle (vanilla and tobacco scented) and I hear his soothing voice tell me, “It’s going to be okay.” Then I cry some more because a part of me doesn’t know if it will be, and I cry some more because this person is watching me completely fall apart and needs to not only keep himself standing on two feet, but he’s holding me up right now as well. He says these five words with such conviction I allow myself to stand on the precipice of belief. He will believe for me, until I do. I think this is my definition of love. And right now, I just need to try standing. I need a small strand of hope to help me up, and to help me believe it will be okay, and that even if I can’t move now, I will eventually. The Oprah quote will come to me, and that there are more days ahead of me not under weighted blankets than there are days under them. One day I will be able to look back and cross “Had a Mental Breakdown” off of my life to do list, and not have to write it down again.
1 “You have the power to discover your purpose and live your greatest truth.” – Oprah