Still Crazy After All These Years

How to Survive a Nervous Breakdown

gates of hellHow many nervous breakdowns end in suicide?

How many of us humans have been (and will be) diagnosed, labeled, committed, hospitalized, drugged, tranquilized, “treated” and altogether subdued and oppressed?

How many of us are called mentally ill, unstable, crazy, insane, weird or worse?

The critical voices of our parents, teachers and society turn into our own inner critics who rail against us inside our heads. We are made to believe that we’re unworthy, incomplete, sinful, shameful, damaged, sick, ill, demented, manic-depressive, bipolar, ADHD, or schizo, or whatever.

If you’re a highly sensitive person who is prone to extremes, intense emotions and risky imbalances in your mind/body, this can affect your whole life: sleep, appetite, relationships, health, and overall energy.

Everyone is different, and we are all the same.

I did not need to take the pills forever. I did not need to be hospitalized and tranquilized. But I took them for a while, and they helped me and I was grateful. I was committed for ten days against my will and tranquilized two or three times, it’s all a blur. This was ten years ago, today. It was yesterday and it will be tomorrow.

I had, up to that point, gotten to know depression real well but never mania, never floating above the earth, levitating, losing touch with reality, flying like I did when I got manic. That day, I was labeled bipolar. That day, I officially joined the tribe of maniacs.

Today, I no longer identify with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I live way, way far away from that place and time and I creep further and further off the grid with each passing month.

If I am a lunatic, we all are. And we all are, aren’t we?

I am still crazy. I’m still a maniac and a lunatic but with awareness (thanks to mindfulness and yoga practice) which has seeped into my daily lifestyle so wonderfully, I have managed to keep the crazy under wraps, as it were. To ride the wave of feeling manic, inspired, awake, creative, productive and “on” and to float on, even in the face depression, rage, despair, anxiety and fear… to live life and enjoy it, not hide from or hate my present moment.

I’ve learned to handle my emotions because I’ve learned how to observe them non-judgmentally and express them in a healthy way… usually. I mean, I still get into fights with my husband on occasion. I still bicker with my mother sometimes. Still, over time, I’ve learned to create less and less conflict with myself and others by realizing we’re all the same and our differences come from our cultural conditioning and our experience.

A month after I flew out of the cuckoo’s nest, I turned twenty five. A year later, I had bought a house and launched my new career as an elementary teacher. Four years later, I upped and moved to Central America. Today, ten years later, I am selling that house and deepening my transplanted roots here at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala with my Colombian love and our adorable two year old. I’m no longer a school teacher. I’m figuring out what I am. All over again.

Today, I celebrate a crazy decade and a crazy life.

So when you’re at your deepest, darkest, lowest, feeling utterly isolated and desperate, remember this one thing:

What everyone around you is calling a breakdown is—(and you already know this in your heart)—actually a giant breakthrough.

This too shall pass. Keep breathing. You are strong and powerful. You will prevail.