Why I Look Forward to My Next Nervous Breakdown
I’m not talking about psychotic breaks or full-blown insanity here. What I’m talking about is breaking the very foundations of thought and personality, literally turning over every single idea in your mind in turn, pulling everything up by the roots, and examining it before destroying it and starting over.
What I’m talking about is recreating your mind from the ground up.
I often joke that I’ve died more times than I care to remember.
It started when I was 12. Weirdly enough, a lot of things started when I was 12. It was the year I started menstruating. It was the year my bed became a deathbed in more ways than one. First, my aunt died in it. And then it was molestation and rough handling turning into full-on rape and physical abuse every night for eight months. It was when I let go of the pretenses of Christianity; I read through most of the Bible and found it severely lacking. It was the beginning of carrying out my own research into religion, sex, history, philosophy, science, and math because school was too easy and simple. It was the year I began writing The Black Tree. It’s also when I first discovered the benefits of nervous breakdowns.
It wasn’t too hard. Life enjoyed kicking my ass in the oddest of ways. It came to be that at least once a year I’d lose my mind…and then create a new one.
This might have been made easier due to the fact that my family moved so often. We never stayed anywhere for longer than three years. In this way it was easier to embrace change, to understand different people and perspectives, and to not take anything for granted. I learned to value things as they came because everything is inherently fleeting, even if they last a lifetime.
There was no stability or comfort to rely on: my parents divorced when I was four, we moved every few years, and even though my siblings and I were incredibly close, over the years life separated us for long stretches of time. Unlike a lot of people, I never had to go looking for trouble. I just happened to live in environments where there were large numbers of people with disgusting intentions and the means to follow through. I learned to read the danger signs rather quickly and did escape many horrible situations, extracting myself as soon as possible from fucked up people.
But then life would laugh and I’d find myself cornered and blindsided. I was too smart to be caught up the usual way and so I ended up getting the extreme version; it would come out of nowhere while I was physically unable to defend myself and the person doing the harm could easily kill me. It’s like nature sent only the biggest wolves after me because they knew I knew better.
Anyway, all that is a story for another time. That may not make much sense because it’s not exactly the traditional narrative. I never blamed myself; I knew it was something wrong with them. I knew something about me set them off but I also knew I deserved so much better (even if I wasn’t sure the math was on my side). And like I said, I got out as soon as I realized and was physically able to. It’s…complicated. And weird. And one day I’ll write the whole thing.
Um, so on top of being raped, molested, hit on, or flashed by a startling majority of the male strangers, acquaintances, and stalkers (seriously, like, if luck exists, WTF?) I came across, my health has always been tricky. I seemed to be very physically healthy and yet two weeks out of every month I’d experience hell. I’d have dizzy spells and brain fog (which of course the perverts took advantage of; it’s the only time my guard was down) and I’d be racked with pain. Hm, maybe I just solved that mystery. An easy target is an easy target, no matter the cause.
I didn’t drink or do drugs to excess. I said no more often than not (when it was an option). I minded my own business, kept to myself, and worked through my problems in my stories or with therapists. And yet, the world was entirely insane around me. When you’re poor and surrounded by uneducated, poor, and ignorant people you don’t need to cause drama to be affected by it. There was dysfunction everywhere: in my family, the neighbors, the city, my friends. And while most people need to learn from direct (and often repetitious) experience, my imagination was vivid enough and my deconstructionist and analytical leanings were put to use, allowing me to learn from others’ experiences.
When you’re poor every day is an emergency. The threat of starvation, the need to cheat to get what you need by stealing or lying, the overwhelming stress over the lack of choices available to you wear you the fuck out. Add in mental disorders, medical and financial emergencies, and hidden untreated health issues and it’s no wonder few people ever make it out. There are no good choices, just bad ones that might get you closer to a good one.
For years I cried myself to sleep at night. No one was coming to save me. No rich benefactor would find me and think me a diamond in the rough. No one would give me a chance. I knew fairly early on I didn’t want to get married, that I thought differently, and that my desires were considered abnormal (I didn’t lie to fit in; there was no way I could!). I knew the future would close if I relied on fate to change. I knew I had to find my own way out so that I could have better choices. I knew I couldn’t give in and take the easy route by checking out.
I knew death was no way out. I’d make half-hearted attempts sometimes because my depression-fueled curiosity was so great: what’s on the other side? I knew there was no heaven. Would I be stuck in one moment forever, my consciousness frozen at the moment of my death? Or were they right about reincarnation and I could get a better life as someone else? But I liked me most of the time. Even if I was alien.
As much as I felt I wanted to die at times I knew it wasn’t really me. As events grew crazier and nearly surreal around me I did what those memes suggest and kept calm.
I felt everything. Instead of letting anxiety run rampant, I would pull the thoughts and emotions closer and tease them apart. What if? What if? So many times I’d been pushed to the brink. I’d wanted to die. I’d wanted to go insane. I would sob and trash my room. And then I’d look around. When I had cried out my soul, when I’d examined every fear and thought that I currently had, I’d hit that bottom. That empty space where there was only the Watcher.
Waiting and watching.
And there was only one thing left to do. In a choiceless world, I saw no choice in the matter. I still don’t actually see it as a choice. It’s simply…
“Are you finished with the temper tantrum now? Go forward. Get back up.”
When I was alone I let it all out, either through dancing, crying, or writing. I rid myself of poison and nonsense through writing. I danced off my high sex drive (because I’d rather be alone and horny than have unsatisfying sex). I cried my depression away. And started over from scratch.
At least once a year, I still sit down and do spring cleaning on my brain. Because deep down, the truth is: