I was in the midst of a nervous breakdown last month when I typed “signs of a nervous breakdown” into the Google search box.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since childhood, but until recently they had been at manageable levels. Operative words being “until recently.”
August brought the threat of a 180 mile-per-hour hurricane just a hundred miles off our coast. My car (for the fourth time) randomly turned itself off while I was driving in rush hour traffic at 40 miles per hour. I was having to pack up and move from our apartment to a house, fighting with our landlord over semantics with the security deposit language where almost $2,000 hung in the balance because she said we hadn’t given her our “official” 30-days’ notice (I had given her 45 days’ notice instead). And I was boarding up the new house for the impending hurricane on the same day we were moving our things in. South Florida was already becoming a Walking Dead scenario at the gas pumps and in the grocery stores as everybody clamored to get ready for the storm.
Also, perimenopause, but that’s been going on longer than just August.
My experience with perimenopause thus far is that it doesn’t make you crazy. It makes you a little more delicate. We’ll call it a “contributing factor” to this particular nervous breakdown.
So really, having a nervous breakdown seemed the logical thing to do.
I shouldn’t have had to do any online research on the subject of nervous breakdowns at all, but my anxiety likes to make sure I have all the facts on a subject, sometimes until three o’clock in the morning after falling down the WebMD hole subsequent to discovering a new freckle on my index finger and concluding that I have Tuberculosis. My mother is a Baby Boomer from Alabama, so I’m very accustomed to witnessing someone in the throes of a nervous breakdown; the sight was as familiar as watching her dump half a pound of white sugar into a pitcher of fresh-brewed tea. I think most Southern women her age saw the Blanche Dubois character in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and decided that nervous breakdowns were just part of the Southern woman experience — an eventuality rather than something to be avoided.
But ha ha ha! Now it would be MY turn! Time for my own neuroses to shine! I was finally going to get the nervous breakdown my genealogy had long promised me.
I was looking forward to finding the list of symptoms online, checking off each box in the affirmative, and then being immediately hospitalized. Not in some state hospital, but somewhere nice, with dry weather, where they’d make me macrobiotic meals and teach me to do that slack-line yoga. Where in the mornings, after a good reflexology session and some wildflower-picking, they would let me drone on about my worries to a caring woman named Sienna who wore flowing skirts and too many chunky bangle bracelets. Her eyes would crinkle when she smiled.
She would respond to everything I said with, “And how did that make you feel?”
I would respond with, “It made me feel like I was stupid and useless, Sienna!”
She would say, “You’re not stupid and useless. And I know you didn’t bring it up, but you really do look ten years younger than your age. Deep down, all the people who you suspect can’t stand you are actually jealous of you.”
Then she would spray some kind of essential oil blend on me and give me a tranquilizer. Then nap time. Then dinner and a screening of “Moonstruck” in the well-appointed rec room with earth-tone velvet pillows.
This schedule would go on for 30 to 45 days, ideally. They would send me home with an Oscar-party-level swag bag and everyone at home would go out of their way to not upset me as they cut my steak for me and whispered to people, “We try not to make too much noise around her. She has a condition.”
I closed my eyes and pictured the kind of place celebrities check into for “exhaustion” when they’re not at all serious about kicking their crystal meth habit. Vast, green, a horse therapy option. It would be soooooothing. Glamorous, even. Maybe I would use the experience as a backdrop for an “Eat, Pray, Love” style memoir where I learned to accept myself by eating gelato and glancing off to the side, wistfully.
I was in my 40s, perimenopausal, and ready to collect my nervous breakdown, damn it. I didn’t have any money, but I had semi-decent insurance and, more importantly, a debt that was owed to me as the aging child of a Southern Baby Boomer mother.
After I clicked the search button and started going through the results, I found article after article stating the same thing:
Nervous breakdowns are no longer a thing.
Are no longer a thing.
Yet another thing the Baby Boomers used up and left none of for the rest of us. I should have just gone ahead and Googled “affordable starter home” or “job with a pension.”