A few weeks after the worst had passed and I was better able to function, I sat across from my therapist, curled up on her couch. She regarded me with concern and compassion in equal measure. I felt safe for the first time in a long time. I felt like we were going to fix this. Together.
“How would you feel if I said I think you had a nervous breakdown?” she said slowly, carefully, her eyes fixed on me in a cautious manner I’d not seen before.
I considered her question.
As she waited for me to elaborate, I noticed an internal rush of something that felt very much like relief. Yes, I was relieved by the thought I’d had a breakdown. Oddly reassured. The 12 days I had spent in a state of crippling panic and anxiety had felt as big as a nervous breakdown. And as bad. I wanted it to have a dramatic sounding name because that robbed my experience of some of its terrifying power. It existed. It was something that had happened to other people, people who had survived it.
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I was also reassured because a nervous breakdown sounded rare. Not something you would have regularly in your life. Not just a paralysing new way of being. It sounded like an event with a start and a finish. A one-off. Twice, tops.
“Good. I feel good about you calling it a nervous breakdown.” I replied slowly. And I exhaled for what felt like the first time in weeks.
……It had all started, oddly enough, with a week at a health retreat. This is where you’re meant to go to remedy a health crisis, not trigger one.
I can’t even recall exactly why I went although I recall it was a freebie; a trip offered in exchange for me writing honestly about my experience. It’s the kind of thing I usually loathe – group activities, no wifi, deprivation of any kind – but I was feeling a bit restless on my goat track and I recognised I probably had a few grooves that were running a little too deep. I wanted to shift my headspace.
They’re unnaturally intense places, health retreats, despite the surface pretense of tranquility. People tend to visit them when they’re at a crossroads, when they have a big decision to make or when their lives have somehow become out of control – physically or emotionally.