Wednesday 12th of March marked the 16th anniversary of the breakdown I experienced, the subject of my memoir "Staying Strong". It's not an anniversary I usually notice, but since revving up the writing of this story, it is one that's in front of me much of the time. Two weeks back I posted a snippet from my upcoming "Staying Strong", and this week and next I shall post further insight.
In 1998 I went through 9 long months that were dark, painful, frightening and full of despair. There are no fancy words or lively phrases to describe those months because there was nothing in my life then that came close to fancy or lively. There was only pain, fear and despair. That was it. NOTHING else existed, everything else was too difficult to cope with since my mind and body overloaded on the 12th March from staying strong for too long.
Now I was paying the price for what I previously thought utterly necessary. If only, if only...If only I had been able to de-stress sooner, or feel less guilty, or not be studying and working or, or.......It went on and on.
Prolonged severe stress for too long has a way of breaking the mind and the body. It does so to stop the prolonged severe stress, and it does so in dramatic style, one way or another. I slam-dunked into a breakdown and shut down.
There are lots of analogies for something like this. Anyone who has ever been through major trauma knows the same. There's the incident itself, the trauma, the realisation of what this means, then the road beyond. It's the road beyond where things become interesting because it's here where reality of the situation kicks in. Do I cope or don't I? Can I cope? There are physical, mental and emotional sides to trauma which become very raw and remain so for a long time, not just a day or so.
A breakdown is COMPLETELY OVERWHELMING. I was b r o k e n d o w n. I wouldn't start, couldn't. Parts of me were so worn from over use I malfunctioned and simply stopped on March 12th 1998. I slowly repaired and 9 months later I was able to go again, slowly.
"...Bone weary, I headed to my bedroom, so happy I was still at home and able to lie down. I thought for a moment that I may be coming down with the flu as I did have some of the symptoms.
I lay on my back, closed my eyes and tried to relax.
“If I give myself 5 minutes I’ll be OK”, I thought. I was expecting the light headedness and queasiness to pass, but they didn’t. Instead, my legs began to tingle. It was as if I had pins and needles, so I flexed and relaxed my feet, thinking that would help. It didn’t. I began to feel very hot and started sweating profusely, even though it was cool in my room from the fan. I was very restless, moving my legs and now my arms because they too were tingling. It was if a change of position would relieve the weird sensations. But there was no relief, no matter what I did.
By now I was becoming scared. This, whatever it was, was escalating and I couldn’t stop it. Extreme nausea took over so I began breathing deeply, hoping it would improve my situation and cause the sensations and feelings to subside. I was also breathing deeply to try and get more air. I just couldn’t get enough air! Seemingly immense pressure was bearing down on my chest as well as building from within. My heart was pounding wildly, my head felt about to burst. Nothing I was doing to calm myself was working.
“I must be having a heart attack! I’m going to die” I thought, which was a reasonable conclusion given my situation. “What the hell is happening here? Why can’t I control this, and what is it anyway?”
Everything hurt so much. It seemed as if every fibre of my entire being was in pain. I was terrified. Petrified! NOTHING like this had ever happened to me. I was always a calm, cool and collected person. This was off the planet stuff and that scared me even more..."
from "Staying Strong"
Next week I will be travelling but should be home in time for Friday's post.
Have a great weekend everyone,