In Honor of a Successful Conclusion to My Nervous Breakdown


My Nervous Breakdown

I could no longer sit quietly
with my own self
The friendly rapport myself and I used to share
somehow gone
The days of us two curled up with a book
constant dog at our feet by a roaring fire
cup of hot tea near our hand
evaporated as quietly and invisibly as steam
floating away from the chamomile blend we loved
The moist particles mixing in
cooling off
becoming lost in the greater air

This dissipation happened slowly
my Kafkaesque metamorphosis into the unrecognizable
an incomprehensible other
Me becoming transparent
so adrift from myself I could no longer tell my particles
from those nearest to me

when my loss was in due course discovered
my restoration took more time than a teapot to boil
more tenderness than one uses to wash a newborn’s fontanel

Julie Ayers
August 2011

To commemorate the historic moment my nervous breakdown, which kicked off sometime this winter, came to a successful conclusion, I wrote this poem. Nervous breakdown, or my most recent mid-life crisis? How do you tell them apart? (Although, I dispute ever having a previous mid-life crisis, my husband, Max, likes to say I had one at 40 when I got a tattoo for the first time. I believe I simply got a tattoo, no crisis involved.) All I really know is, after the deaths of two people I dearly loved in October, and the anguish I experienced after my brother’s grim cancer diagnosis just a few months later in January, I felt devastated, sad, angry, confused, frustrated, and beaten down to the point of exhaustion. Life has been rather unrelenting and brutal with me since the moment I emerged on the planet, for the most part, yet those numerous challenges have never really held me back or impeded my quest to embrace every minute with enthusiasm and, as Tennyson’s Ulysses said, “drink life to the lees.” But my brother’s battle so closely mirrored many elements of the cancer and kidney disease struggle we endured with my daughter, Sierra, just a few years ago, that it managed to pierce my previously impenetrable core of jolly. All these horrifying losses, and feared loss, made me ruminate, yet again, on the value of every moment spent, how you chose to spend those moments, and who you chose to spend them with. A “what the hell am I doing with my life,” query, as it were. As difficult and miserable as this experience has been at times, and as unimaginable and heartbreaking are the losses of those I love that launched this crisis of soul, I am coming out the other side an even better, stronger person, who feels, once again, just more authentically myself. While I hope you never reach this path via the route I was forced to take, I think it is a worthy journey, nonetheless, and highly recommend it. 🙂 This has opened me up to oh so much wonderful.


About Julie Ayers

Seasoned apocaloptimist, keen admirer of well-placed words, fierce mama bear of extra special children, black belt hugger, and advocate for a fashion rebellion which elevates the most human of hearts to socially acceptable outerwear.

4 responses »

  1. You continue to be an inspiration, Julie. BTW, I’ve been reading lots of books on menopause lately, as it appears my perimenopause symptoms have started, and one of them said something about menopause being mistaken historically for a nervous breakdown – just something for you to consider! 🙂 xoxo

  2. So funny, Bess, as I have distinct memories of Laurie saying she felt like she was losing her mind while we worked together and she was grappling with the Big M. I’m sure that has also been an element, but my F’ed up life up to this point and all the dying folks sure have given me lots to deal with during the past year. My history and present is chock full of stuff so absurd you’d think I’m making it all up. Miss ya, dear heart. Seems like I have’nt seen you forever. Thanks for reading and commenting on my junk.

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