Breakdown or Awakening
For as long as I can remember I’ve always felt like I was in a hurry, wasting time and had to get back to work.
I now think what the hell for. It was an unnecessary pressure that I had overlaid on myself, through a society
and industry that made me feel like I had to keep going as hard as I could to get ahead in the hope that one day
I would just get to a point where I would be able to stop, be content and just relax. This explains why I could
never truly relax on holidays. As I’ve found out the hard way life isn’t like that, it’s a journey and balance all
the way through, not a race. I am very grateful for this learning and can not believe I got caught up in the true
definition of ‘rat race’ as I did. I do blame our modern day society for that, which is so out of touch with the true
realities of our human needs. I had forgotten to stop and smell the roses, I had become numb, I had turned into
a robot, just like the computer I was glued to every day for ten hours.
It all started on what’s become a very symbolic new years day of 2015. I’d flown into town for two weeks to
reunite with family and friends after living away for the last three years, including abroad for the last six
months. I’d taken a high flying job in a Asian country and was doing my best to adjust. The pressures were
high, the adjustment was difficult, the expat drinking culture was excessive. As much as I did get culturally
frustrated, I took it in my stride and did enjoy the experience and exposure to a new way of life. The prospects
of a long stay and signing a full–time contract had become daunting. I was driven by the generous salary and
benefits of saving for what I now identify as a sickness of ‘getting ahead’.
I can’t say I was really enjoying my new job, but I was doing my best and it wasn’t all that bad. I’d been briefed
on what was the biggest responsibility I’d had to date. The hours were ridiculous with very little support.
Every time I’d complete a task, a new one would arise. The management process was horrendous and I
was frustrated. I’d felt some confidence following successful meetings and was determined to turn around
the frustration of the client. I did my best to not get overwhelmed with the responsibility and the literally
hundreds of people that were effected by the work I was doing. Due to the pressing demands it was also tough
to negotiate time off over Christmas. They eventually gave me the leave.
I arrived back home in Melbourne quite stressed. My first week was jammed packed catching up with family
and friends. I had a constant underlying sense of growing apart from all these people by living abroad.
I caught up with as many people as I could; breakfast, lunch and dinner. I struggled to relax and when I did
have some downtime I worked. Relaxing and turning off was something that had become unfamiliar. It was
as foreign as the place I was now living. I’d somehow got to a stage in my life where I was operating on a
dangerous high level of stress, without even knowing it. I thought it was normal.
On new years eve I was exhausted after a full day of social rounds, this included tennis in the scorching heat,
de-hydration and even missing meals. We had pre-drinks at a friends place before hitting a club in town. It
was a great night, plenty of dancing and too many gin and tonics, aided with a minimal amount of additional
illicits. I was having a great time and felt good. I met a nice girl at the bar and we ended up back at her place.
I hadn’t slept for what seemed like less than an hour before the sun was up. I struggled to put my shoes on. I
opened the front door and stumbled into the brightness of morning. I knew were I was, but felt incapable of
going anywhere let alone organising a taxi. I turned the corner and before I knew it a paramedic was slapping
me on the face. ‘Wake up she said, you’ve had a seizure’. I’d cracked my head on the ground, bitten my tongue
to shreds, and was sore and fatigued all over. My memory however was clear. A passer by had seen me fall
to the ground and have a 30 second fit on the concrete footpath.
At the hospital I had a recurring seizure, they kept me at bay for a couple of days. It felt lucid and surreal.
They ran medical tests and everything was ok. Regardless they put me on anti-seizure epileptic medication,
with a prescription for the next six months. I’d had an alcohol related seizure once before, six years
earlier, and epilepsy had been discounted. Regardless I stayed on the medication. The following days I felt
odd. I was confused as to whether these were symptoms of recovering from the seizure, the stress I had been
under, or the effects of the medication. Two weeks passed and I decided it was time to fly back to work. The
demands were pressing and the additional time off was making things difficult for the client and company.
The day I flew I’d made the ill-informed personal decision to stop taking my medication. I’d come to the
conclusion that I didn’t need it. This was a mistake. The flight there was groggy but I was reasonably at ease.
When I landed however something happened with my anxiety levels that I’ve never experienced before.
It didn’t feel right, the place looked different, the humidity seemed punishing and claustrophobic. I didn’t
want to be there and went into a state of fear and wanting to go straight back. I pushed on, sweating and
doubting in my mind, the tree’s and light looked surreal, I felt as though I was hallucinating. I got back to
my apartment and felt some relief when greeted by familiar faces. I still however felt an incredible unease
and a unwillingness to be there. I couldn’t relax or switch off and my mind was racing at this strange state of
consciousness. I cried from fear that I was losing my mind. I was convinced I was going crazy or had gone
crazy. I felt there was no turning back. I took tranquillisers to ease the anxiousness. This eventually got me to
sleep but come morning it was on all over again, the same feelings and disordered thinking. My frustration
grew and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to run, cycle, yoga, tennis and swim it out, all to no avail.
My first day back at work was also a surreal experience, it didn’t feel or look the same. I remember going up
the escalator thinking what the hell is going on with me. This scared me. People at work looked different,
I forgot some names, I apologised to people for some of the tougher times. I was emotionally irrational in
meetings, and had moments of extreme panic and fear. It felt crazy. I also kept replaying that I could and
would have a seizure at any moment. I saw some specialists and they concluded that it was too early for me
to be back at work and the best thing for my recovery would be to go home. I decided to do this and after a
punishing week, full of tranquillisers, fear, panic and disorder that felt like madness, I boarded a plane and
somehow made it home.
On return I went into a complete psychological breakdown. I felt my life was over. I felt frustrated and
crazy. I could not drive or even leave the house. I felt haunted daily by a reoccurring seizure that would be
triggered by my own disordered thoughts. I kept thinking about work and what needed to be done. I couldn’t
understand or accept how I ended up here. I was back in the home and neighbourhood I grew up in.
My emotions and memories were rampant and it tore me up on the inside. I cried for days. I was
overwhelmed and couldn’t make any sense of it. I’d always been able to make sense and be in complete
control of my fate. This time I couldn’t. It was all foreign to me and I was convinced I would not recover.
I was punishing myself with frustration and could not accept my situation. Even though I was told with time
I would heal, I wanted and needed this time immediately, the process of patience and waiting was torture.
I was looking for answers, blaming individual things, rather than looking at the holistic picture, and the
crossroad of multiple factors that had collided to create this event in my life.
I’m almost at the one year anniversary of this catalyst and it is a time to reflect with some relief, reward and a
growing sense of clarity. It is only now that I can look back with some hindsight. I was living an unsustainable
life, my priorities were out of line for what I truly needed to be at ease, content and happy. For me work
should never have come first. I’ve been fortunate enough to take the whole year off and reflect. I feel awakened
to all my negative habitual patterns. I feel like I’m truly beginning to understand my own mistreatment and
self punishment and how that has effected my psychological and spiritual wellbeing. I’ve learnt more about
myself this year than my previous 40 years. I feel as though I can genuinely relax, every now and then, like I
did when I was a carefree kid. I can see the positives of what I have experienced and in many ways it has made
me a much better person. I feel competent in my ability to understand and manage my anxieties and darkness
when it does arise. It’s all a work in progress. I have never felt so aware and consciously present as I am now.
I feel somewhat awakened and eternally grateful for everything I have.
The lack of ‘what to do’ guidance on this subject left me feeling even more helpless. I was desperate for some
learnings and help on what I needed to do to recover, even though I felt and thought that I never would.
Here is a list of my own daily learnings that continue to assist with my recovery. They may not be ideal for all.
• Finding someone that had a similar ‘breakdown’ experience helped me greatly,
I wasn’t alone and felt an ease that I could recover.
• Counselling; working with a Psychologist to establish my personality traits and negative
behavioural patterns. This was a grind and my patience ran short many times as I was not seeing
immediate results. I can now see the benefits of the long term learnings and gains.
• Kinesiology; looking outside of conventional medicine, this is a spiritual journey.
I felt great benefit and release from identifying my emotional blockages.
• Take time out immediately, work on yourself and do what you really love doing.
• Be careful with prescription medication. They weren’t right for me and in my case contributed
to my condition.
• Meditate daily; feel your body, let your mind sway ‘away’ from your cognitive mind as often as you can
• Smell, taste, feel, touch, see; be mindful and remind yourself of your senses, you’re alive and not a robot.
• Love; trust your heart.
• Look at the beauty in nature and wildlife
• Eat vegetables and good organic food
• Drink water by the load, clean out the toxins in your body
• Stop drinking coffee and alcohol completely
• Limit refined sugar intake
• Be mindful of being be driven by adrenalin
• Spend as much time with family and friends, and don’t feel like your wasting time
• Walk everyday in the morning or exercise
• Laugh, watch comedy
• Let go of resentments against others. Focus on the small amount of people in your life
that really care and matter.
• Accept your situation
• Be kind to yourself, don’t be hard or self punishing
• Remember that with time things will get better, this time will pass
• Remember and recount what you are grateful for and pray
• Pray for yourself to be happy and free from suffering
• Pray for all beings to be happy and free from suffering
• Remember we are all a work in progress
It really is an unbalanced world out there in many ways, it’s very easy to lose your way. I actually look at
other peoples ‘crazy’ and unsustainable lives now and feel much more sane by having had this experience
and realisation. I hope this article can offer you a sense of ease, even if it’s for a single moment, and I truly
wish you all the best in your recovery.