There is no such thing as a nervous breakdown. This is why I didn’t have one.
I also didn’t have one because I’m a strong person. Very strong.
Another reason I didn’t have one, even when my daughter was dying, was that four years in graduate school equipped me to fend off and defend against all manner of psycholgoical and emotional traumas in myself and others. It was not possible to have a breakdown.
Finally (coming full circle), I couldn’t have a breakdown because breakdown is not a DSM-IV diagnosis and there is therefore no medicine for a breakdown, no capsule or prescription or take-two-and-call-me-later-rest-in-bed-it-will-get-better for a breakdown. Because there is no such thing as a nervous breakdown.
So, what I was doing screaming and screaming in my front yard is beyond me. All I know is that one day–one more day after lots of other days like this one before it–days in which my daughter was barely responsive and we had to get her to the emergency room immediately . . . one day I screamed. I started screaming as we were putting my daughter into the back seat of the car, and there was an old lady walking down the street on her morning walk, and she slowed down and stared at me as I screamed.
I opened my mouth and screamed more, and I looked that old lady right in the eye, and by that time I felt my mouth was a huge, round “O,” as if I were screaming “O!”
I had car keys in my hand, and my daughter in the back seat, lying down. Her eyes were round like “O” and I was the mom, and I was losing it. I screamed more as I got into the car, and I kept on screaming. I drove, and I screamed. I screamed at the stop sign. I screamed and I yielded at the four-way stop, as a middle-aged man stared at me and I saw his mouth make another “O!” as I screamed some more. I drove four or five blocks and came to a red light, and the red light also looked like a red “O.”
I screamed, and felt it was wonderful and horrible to scream; it was fitting and it was completely correct to scream. I felt very nearly outside my body, watching it scream.
Finally, I stopped screaming when the light turned green.
I kept driving, and tears and snot ran down my face.
I called to my daughter in the back seat, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” but she was insensible and had been. Afterward she didn’t remember being taken to the car. She didn’t remember this last trip to the hospital. And that was what this was–the screaming trip that was also the last trip she would ever make to the hospital.
What person could possibly handle all this, and such a fragile child, with limited help, and not scream at some point?
I screamed so loudly that my throat burned and my eyes felt that they might pop out of my head (although I learned from Myth Busters later that it’s impossible to have one’s eyes pop out of one’s head, even after screaming for five blocks).
Later, it would be almost 12 hours before anyone at the hospital could get an IV into our daughter, because her veins had collapsed and there was not a vein to be gotten. The Medivac people had to come down to get a vein, because they were expert at it. I was terrified that she would die while waiting for an IV, die apart from her people who loved her. Afraid she would die in an ugly, sterile place with cinderblock walls painted gray.
Why, in this day and age, are there still cinderblock walls painted gray?
That day I learned that I can have a breakdown. I could tear my hair out. I could roll on the ground and tear at my own face with my fingernails and become a mad woman.
I’m capable of that; I know this now.