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 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 crying and screaming in my front yard is beyond me. All I know is that one day—one 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. An elderly neighbor lady walking down the street on her morning walk slowed down and stared at me as I screamed.
I opened my mouth and screamed more, looking that neighbor right in the eye as she stared at me. 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 O’s. 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 screamed. I screamed at the stop sign. I screamed and yielded at a four-way stop as a middle-aged man in the opposite car stared at me. I saw his mouth make another “O!” and I screamed even more. I drove four or five blocks and stopped at a red light. The red light was a red “O.”
I screamed, and felt it was wonderful and horrible to scream; it was fitting and completely correct to scream. I was outside my body, watching it scream.
Finally, I stopped screaming when the light turned green.
I kept driving, and tears and snot running 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 my screaming. 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.
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 had a former U.S. Army medic on their helicopter and he was expert at it. I was terrified that she would die while waiting for an IV, die apart from her people who loved her, 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.