I was in the third grade when I had my first nervous breakdown.
No one ever quite knows if I’m joking when I say this – they’re always standing there all nervous-like, wondering if they should laugh or look sympathetic. It makes sense – half the people I know don’t know if I’m joking when I say anything from, “I’m having a miscarriage,” to “I just lost my best friend.” They’re accustomed to the punch-line, the quip, the joke, and when none comes, they stand there, shuffling their feet, looking around for someone to rescue them from what is now a decidedly awkward situation.
I never know whether to laugh or cry when I’ve put myself in this situation.
But it’s the truth – in third grade, I had my first nervous breakdown. I threatened suicide. My parents took me to a shrink, who’s name eludes me, but I want to call him, “Mark,” because I think that was his name. I’d sit there, week after week, staring at the curls on his head, which were tightly wound, as though he’d had a reverse shock treatment or a particularly bad perm. He’d have been the last white man with an Afro, had his hair not been dripping with hair product. His face reminded me of a reddened potato, the tell-tale alcoholic signs apparent to me even then – his nose looked somewhat like a potato, streaked with broken blood vessels and pores so large you could probably read a cryptic Morse code message in them.
I can’t remember what we discussed, but I do recall staring at his gigantic pores, wondering if I could, in fact, take a swim in them.
Eventually, I said enough of the right things to convince him that I was okay and I was discharged from treatment.
I was eight years old.
I’ve had a few nervous breakdowns throughout the years, every now and again when the going gets too tough, the lie gets too big, and the pain is no longer able to be beaten back into submission. I’ve never found a good “cure” for these breakdowns – if I were an alcoholic, I’m sure I’d go on a binge, and hell, I’m half-tempted to TRY it just to make these feelings; this darkness stop.
I’d been spiraling quite awhile, of this there is no doubt. The thanks-but-no-thanks AVID letter was what clued me into it – and I did nothing, hoping the situation would go away, I’d be presented with (or find) another solution, or that this would blow over. That I’d wake up one day and not dread whatever the day would bring. That the pervasive sadness would somehow dissipate and I’d be left to see the world as it truly is, not distorted through the haze of sadness.
It didn’t work out.
Which is why I began my descent into nervous breakdown territory sometime late last week. I spent the weekend balled up on the couch, a weeping mess, unable to find the joy; the hope that had, mere moments before, been swirling about.
Monday, I told myself. Monday I’d call the doctor and get some help – it’s clear my antidepressants aren’t working properly, and the insomnia, maybe he’d be able to offer me something to beckon me to the Land of Nod beyond the cocktail of Benedryl and Melatonin taken in doses so ridiculous that I should’ve been dead.
Finally, Monday rolled around and when it did, I called the doctor. The phone rang and rang, without directing me to their directory “Press One If You Have An STD,” “Press Two If You Hate Medicaid.”
Also, it would serve to fit that the one time I genuinely needed to see my doctor, his phone wasn’t working. Fabulous. I’d finally hit my “semi-suicidal” state, and help was nowhere to be found. Unless, of course, I went to the ER, but what were they going to do? Illinois version of the Baker-Act? Tell me it was “all in my head” and make me feel worse? I didn’t know, but I knew that whatever happened there, I wouldn’t be ready for. And The Guy Formerly On My Couch had my car – I didn’t need an ambulance.
The seconds ticked steadily by, each slower than the one before, my panic reaching a fever pitch, the buzzing in my ears growing louder and louder as I ran to the bathroom, clutching my sides, vomiting up whatever was in my stomach.
How did it get to be so bad? How did someone who created a place where “none of us are alone” end up so damn alone? I didn’t know. I couldn’t understand. How did it get to be so bad?
I tried the doctor’s office again – this time I got a voicemail that informed me that the power, water, and phone lines were out. Fucking perfect.
The tears pooled down my face and onto my shirt as I reached out to the one place I could think of: the suicide prevention hotline. I didn’t want to die – I wanted to end my suffering. I wanted to live; and live without that sadness looming, threatening to suffocate me if I wasn’t hypervigilant, watching my back at every turn. It was so exhausting. The temptation to give up, and give in to the calling darkness was tremendous.
Hands shaking, I dialed the number and listened to the prerecorded message about “staying on the line for help,” and listened to the nice soothing hold music, wondering how I was going to spill out the mess of my life to a stranger, sobbing at the mess my life had become.
I heard a click, then silence. Within a couple of seconds, the loud BEEP BEEP BEEP signaled one thing:
My call had been dropped.
The suicide prevention hotline had dropped my damn call.
I’d have laughed if I hadn’t been sobbing.