My mind is a smashed iPad. The bits of shattered glass are my brain and I'm kneeling on the floor trying to piece it together.
I'm 27 with my first major breakdown written on my CV.
"So, what was the reason for your career gap?"
"Hmmm, I could not look at an email, text or even answer a phone call without completely freaking out. But please, still hire me for your administration job!"
I mean, it was so bad that I could not even open a laptop or hold my phone without having this strong sense of foreboding making me jump up to pace the room instead, desperately wondering, "Why God, why?! Don't you know I have an important email to send today?!"
It seems anxiety has no friends. It definitely does not understand professional image or even social etiquette. My life was turned upside down in an instant. It gave me no choice but to ignore my good friends and my work which I was extremely passionate about. I was left with an empty buzzing of a turned on computer with no active user at home.
All this happened from a high point: only weeks previously I was standing on top of the world. I had literally just come back from a three month all-paid scholarship to do a project travelling across America for the Nottingham Council and the esteemed Roosevelt family. So, I was living my passion until I was not able to look at a computer screen without turning into a dishevelled heap of tears and anger.
My macbook was thrown across the room, followed by my iPhone, unfortunately followed by my pillows. Rage never made any logical sense.
It seems that I had a bit of a technology breakdown; an unexplainable technical glitch that came from overuse of technology.
I ran an online business for years with a constant thirst for instant knowledge satisfied by big brother Google. This enabled me to do cool stuff like build a decent website from scratch and manipulate software code at will. Ask me to do anything really and I'll do it, after asking Google!
On top of that I am addicted to that feeling of connection that comes quickly like an unhealthy takeaway, where my friends are lined up through Facebook at any time for instant gratification. Fast delivery of any emotion within minutes; satisfied with love through numerous 'Likes'.
I also write poems and articles on my computer, read the newspaper, ebooks and do completely random stuff like read articles with the title, "Why we Should be More Like a Dog", whilst incorporating inspirational YouTube videos into my day (fortunately not ones about dogs). Then, I relax into a Channel 4 On Demand documentary or a laptop packaged movie.
Basically, I needed to stop and my body knew it. It was shouting at me the whole time but I did not listen.
I was living my life filtered through a computer screen. A bad science fiction movie surrounded by technology, but without any storyline. I was jumping from the Macbook to the iPhone to the iPad, and people were popping up on my phone with a shrilling ring that took my attention to them constantly, instead of the other numerous tasks I was doing all at the same time. This is how I was used to living, little did I know it was a perfect recipe for a breakdown.
I was happy living in a virtual world that did not involve my pending divorce, my broken relationships or anything that was a bit substantial, that you could touch and hence subsequently, swiftly take away. That was until the virtual world got taken away and life showed me what was important through disappearing acts of functionality with excellent comedic timing.
My chronic anxiety was specifically a fear of technology, strangely enough. It included, but was not exclusive to:
They were the worst offenders.
My body and mind forced me to disconnect like a plug being yanked out of the socket, without my brain being fully switched on to have the choice to decide. There was only darkness, while the screen behind my eyes went mildly dim.
I was not myself at all.
Without all this technology that was my life, what was I left with I'd ask? Cups of tea, my family, real books and lots of silence in between the gaps.
During this time, the words from my uncle, who I had visited in Boston on my America visit rang through my ears, "You need to get to know you. You have neglected yourself for a long time and you even don't know it." He was a trained counsellor and active meditator.
In the whirling, frenzy of my brain never being switched off from anxiety and my body not responding to much at all; superficial connection no longer being an option to get my cheap thrills to avoid life, I started to look at the only place left to seek condolence.
I went within myself.
I closed my eyes and pushed away all thoughts. I focused on a deep breath which was non-judgemental on my current state of being. I pushed away the constant heaviness of social expectations. I focused on my breath again. I began the process of cleansing my attitudes of fear and doubt.
Space was made in my mind for my anxieties to express themselves, then I lovingly allowed myself to be ok wherever I was. I kept focusing on my breath. I found the calm stillness within me which contrasted my normal, racing mind. I began pouring unconditional love on all the neglected bits within my soul as I'd breathe in.
I did this for three hours straight on the first day. Trust me, mid-breakdown; you have a lot of time. I finished that first three hour session with a sense of knowing that I will be ok, it will just take patience and learning the art of being kind to myself.
This reminds me of something my yoga teacher said about homeostasis. Your body naturally knows how to balance itself out, sometimes you just have to be kind and do loving practices to it like yoga and deep breathing to help it along the way, and then trust completely.
Sleep was another practice I incorporated into my routine; from an insomniac 3am writer, I chose to sleep before midnight every day for a good solid eight hours.
Nothing is more important now than my well-being. It is all a choice, no matter what work is calling you because you save yourself months of having a complete nervous breakdown if you don't look after yourself. Trust me, I know.
I wish you can gain cheap foresight without difficulty but sometimes breakdowns are like knocking down a derelict building to build a stronger, newer, shiner structure. That is all your body wants you to do when it breaks down. It loves you unconditionally, so much so that it will make you feel pain when you go near enough to the fire and anxiety when handheld computer robots are taking over your life.
Remember mid-breakdown, there is nothing wrong with you, just something wrong with the way you have been living. Go outside, and experience how big the world is and how much of your life you have yet to life.
Take a walk in your local park, put both bare feet on the grass, breathe in the air the trees have gifted you and decide to change your mind and turn into the flower you are supposed to be: the evolved state of grass which has substance to it's beauty.
"You will be fine."
These were the only words I needed to hear during my breakdown which I now pass unto you. It took a couple of months, a lot of meditation, yoga, sleep and positive thinking; but now I am fine.
So, you will be fine.