When Things Fall Apart


The Everyday Health link is down right now, so I thought I’d publish the whole post here.

imagesA very wise editor once gave me a simple piece of writing advice: write from where you are, not from where you want to be. In naming this blog, “Sanity Break,” my hope is that it becomes a place of trust and honest rambling among persons who are struggling to live life normally—to function at work and at home, to be able to make it to the grocery store without breaking down in tears, to be able to laugh at a stupid joke or a comical remark by a 10-year-old … all the stuff people who aren’t handicapped by sadness and panic do.

So here’s where I am, which is different from where I want to be: My amygdala—the childish part of my brain that yells PANIC!—has hijacked my entire limbic system (the emotional center of the brain), and I have been hiding in bathrooms and cars during regular crying spells. I am experiencing a chronic sense of guilt –about petty things like letting the dishes sit overnight and about things out of my control, like my husband’s rash (it was caused by stress, I am giving him stress by being depressed, therefore I gave him the rash). I can’t make decisions. This morning I tried to go for a walk and couldn’t decide which path to follow, feeling remorse for the path I did not choose. There is a sense that my world – my sense of security – is about to expire, matched by an inability to catch my breath. In fact, I’m convinced that my breath, my heart, and my amygdala are conniving against me with some grand plan to take me down.

I describe all this because I’ve found that in the past when I am blatantly honest about my struggle to maintain sanity, it connects me to you, readers, in a way that a list of tips doesn’t. Tips are great when I can give them, even as I have a hard time following all the checkpoints myself. But in the end, you are best served by knowing that other people—persons who appear to be functioning on the outside—bolt to the car and sob just like you, and that you really aren’t alone.

I have been heartened and inspired by this quote from Pema Chodron in “When Things Fall Apart”:

When things fall apart and we’re on the verge of what we know not what, the test for each of us is to stay on that brink and not to concretize.…To stay with the shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening.… Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior.

Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

Image citation: dreamstime.com

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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2 Responses
  1. Beth Fishman

    I agree that your honesty does help me, your reader, to connect with you. My anxiety has hijacked me; I can’t find the separation between my self and my anxiety. And here I am at work, a program director, a psychologist, seeming to function just fine. But my insides are a *mess*. So I do appreciate you and your honesty.

  2. Ya know, we may disagree on pretty big things at times. You may think ‘wtf is she doing posting that?!’ You have given me so much and I’d like to think I’ve made you smile sometimes. So as I say, keep going!