You’ve heard it a hundred times, mostly in relation to a public figure: hospitalized for exhaustion. It sounds much nicer that way, as if all one really needs is a nice vacation at an exotic hotel. For my purpose, I am going to call it a breakdown because, well, my mind and body literally broke.
I filled you in last time about the ways my body was screaming at me to notice something was wrong. You guys, our bodies are smart. God designed them to work a certain way and when they stop working as intended, these amazing temples warn us. In my case, it wasn’t even subtle. I was getting sick every morning, not sleeping at night, and my body was shaking out of my boots. With hindsight, I can say two important things: 1) I should have sought help sooner 2) I should have stopped, dropped, and told everyone who was counting on me that taking care of myself was more important than any task or expectation. My body was telling me that I needed to step back from my commitments for awhile. I know this now, after more than a year of counseling, doctors, therapy, and meds. For the old Laura, anything short of delivering perfectly and expertly was never an option. And it just about destroyed me.
I keep writing about this auction thing and how it was part of my perfect storm. You might be wondering what all the fuss is about. You can read about how I got involved here, but basically it’s being in charge of an event that 350+ people attend with the expectation being that you will raise $80,000-$100,000 over the course of the night. And I was in charge. Now, I had been in charge of big events before, but nothing on this scale or with such high expectations for the result. I told myself I was doing it because I love my children’s school and wanted to do something that mattered, but somehow along the way it became less about the school and more about me. In my mind, if the auction failed, I failed. And failure to me was anything less than perfection.
Here’s the craziest thing. You might not believe me, but I had never really failed at anything in my life. I mean, sure, sometimes things didn’t go exactly as planned, but I only ever earned one B in my life, I received every scholarship I ever applied for, and I was hired for every job I sought out. I was smart and pretty with a beautiful home and lovely family. For all intents and purposes, I had it all and expected it all (of myself and everyone else). For 37 years, I was completely used to things going my way because if they didn’t, I just worked harder until they did. Crazy…I know.
If you’re smarter than me, you can see where this is going. I had built an image and expectation of myself that was impossible to maintain. I didn’t know it yet, but I was wearing a beautiful mask that was hiding all kinds of ugliness, shame, and pain. And when the mask dropped, I dropped along with it.
There’s only one word to describe how it feels to have an emotional and physical breakdown – hell. But the purpose of this blog is to let you see behind the veil, so I’ll try to be as descriptive, honest and transparent as I can.
This is what happened.
Saturday, April 5, 2014 was the morning of the school auction, I was supposed to be at the country club early to begin setting up. My parents and mother-in-law were in town because Justin had been gone for three weeks and was planning to meet me at the country club, coming directly from the airport. I hadn’t slept or been able to eat much in days, and I remember asking my mom to drive me that morning because I knew I couldn’t drive on my own. I got to the facility and tried to start getting everything ready, but I couldn’t move. The auction co-chair and all these wonderful volunteers were bustling around and all I could do was sit in a chair and stare. I looked like hell and I felt like hell. My mind was literally racing from one thing to the next…
What is wrong with me?
Why am I feeling like this?
What is everyone thinking of me right now?
Why can’t I stop shaking?
OMG…I’m going to throw up.
I’m losing my mind.
How is everything going to get done?
What if I can’t even make it to the auction tonight.
And on and on and on…
I will address the physiology of anxiety in a post soon, but for now let me just tell you that my mind and body were in such a state of anxiety that I was living one big panic attack. The amount of adrenaline coursing through my veins had put me in a state of constant fight or flight. I couldn’t move, but I felt like my insides were crawling. My muscles were so tight, I was like a statue of stone. I could not stop the negative thoughts and fear. And with every bad thought, my body responded with more adrenaline. But, you guys…this was only the beginning. My armor had only just begun to crack. Justin arrived at the banquet center directly from the airport that morning after spending the last three weeks in Brazil, took one look at me and said, What the f*%# happened to my wife…