A month and a half ago I had a breakdown.
No stranger to depression and its episodic tantrums, I’ve had breakdowns before. They were nothing compared to this.
This one brought me to my knees. It was as though a nuclear bomb had detonated at the epicenter of my world, laying everything I had once known–or thought I knew–to waste.
Standing at ground zero in the aftermath, my surroundings had become virtually unrecognizable overnight. Observing my world from the blast site, nothing seemed familiar.
The break sent shockwaves through my body, mind, and spirit, leaving me shaken to my core. For several days I couldn’t eat and sleep was inaccessible.
That first night, at my lowest low, a friend came to my aid. She wrapped herself around me, the same way I do with my daughter as she drifts off to sleep, and she held me as I cried all through the night.
Other friends took vigil at my side. Normally not someone to welcome outward physical contact, it surprised me when I didn’t shrink away when they reached out to hold my trembling hand.
Unable to subdue the deluge that streamed rivers down my face, the torrent left salt stains on the shirt I had worn for how many days? I wasn’t sure.
Realizing I had to get back on my feet, I ventured outside, where I gazed up at the azure sky. I listened to birds call in the distance and was reminded that there was a whole world still happening.
I felt a huge sense of triumph in completing simple tasks, ones I previously viewed as mundane, like emptying the dishwasher or doing a load of laundry, while other things proved more difficult.
A routine trip to the grocery store was suddenly daunting. The music was so loud, the colors too bright, and everywhere, people rushed around. I stood in the cereal aisle and stifled back tears, while store employees evaluated me concernedly.
Driving across the city to my therapist’s office, I considered pulling my car to the shoulder of the road, but I kept going. Safely situated on her couch, I felt somewhat relieved. I was there for three hours that day.
When I returned to work, I held my head up. Being in that familiar environment, completing familiar tasks was a comfort, though I hoped no one noticed the subtle tremor in my gait.
Six weeks later, I’m doing much better. In profound ways, I’m actually much better than I’ve ever been. What brought on my breakdown isn’t necessarily relevant. What matters is where it led me.
My breakdown was a gift.
It delivered me to a breakthrough–more specifically, a spiritual breakthrough–and, if you’re rolling your eyes or squirming in your chair right now, I can absolutely relate.
A spiritual skeptic since adolescence, I was that girl who joked about walking into church and bursting into flames. I made jerk off gestures when I encountered spiritual platitudes and silently mocked anyone who wore their faith on their sleeve. Religion made me uncomfortable. It also made me angry.
I attributed this angst to my disdain for the patriarch and the campaigns that extinguished the lives of millions of women around the world, but as I would learn, there was more to it than that.
Whether they practiced meditation or attended Sunday mass, I judged people for embracing their spirituality. This is something of which I’m not proud. I now understand that we experience judgement because we are triggered. We experience judgement as a projection of the core wounds we need to heal.
When my awakening happened, I was literally woken from sleep. The universe, at least to the extent that I have known it, always has had quite a sense of humor.
To be honest, this wasn’t the first time. Nearly every night for about a year, I’d sit straight up in bed, and when I dared to glance at the clock, it would read 3:33. It started when I got the inclination to develop myself spiritually. Friends, relatives, doctors, yoga instructors, therapists–even social media–all prescribed the same thing.
They said I should meditate.
I tried, I really did. But mostly, when I ventured into that quiet space, I was assailed by horrifying flashbacks from the traumas I had undergone as a child. Somehow, I had missed the memo on how people with PTSD shouldn’t attempt unguided meditation.
I stopped trying to meditate, shelved my spiritual tomes, and dove back into recovery. Back in the familiar arms of the psychology world, I went to therapy, read self-help books, and devoured mental health articles.
I felt pretty clever, like I was really sorting myself out. My relationships were improving. I had more energy, felt more positive, and was even enjoying spending time alone, something that, historically, has been exceedingly difficult for me.
But, as I would learn, I was missing something crucial.
Most of my life, I have relied primarily on the psychological approach. I thought that if I could just understand the mechanisms at work, I would find a way to fix myself, and once I fixed myself, I would be happy.
When spirit woke me that night, I was finally able to tune in. After my breakdown, I had restarted my spiritual quest, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do; I had found little comfort in the clinical perspectives I’d always embraced.
I had started doing guided meditations, and was experiencing some success. That night, I had gone to sleep after a particularly satisfying meditation.
Fully awake and unsure what to do, I said aloud, “What should I do?”
When I tuned in, a voice calmly told me to lay back in bed. It said to listen to the birds chirping outside and to imagine myself in the forest, breathing in fresh mountain air.
I did, and I felt deeply relaxed. Then it occurred to me that I should pray. I hadn’t prayed for a very long time, and it had been much longer since I did so with any sort of consistency.
Generally, I realized, I prayed when things were either going really well in my life or I was really struggling. I tried not to judge myself too harshly and settled into prayer. Then something remarkable happened.
A Course in Miracles, a metaphysical text, teaches us that if we come from a place of fear, and let our egos run the show, we may fall victim to our ego’s “tiny mad ideas”.
Tiny mad ideas are the messages that have become ingrained in us. Typically, we learn them as children. They’re the experiences that have scarred us, the backward programming our parents may have inadvertently instilled in us, and the toxic patterns we have absorbed from our environment.
When I began to pray, I was able to transcend to a meditative state unlike anything I have ever experienced. On this plane, my tiny mad ideas were laid out before me.
I was not worthy of love. I was not supported.
God didn’t love me because of what had happened to me as a child. I had fallen from grace, and the Universe didn’t want me to be happy. I was shameful, inadequate, and inherently flawed.
Tears began to flow, soaking my pillow, as the voice of truth abolished these lies. The Universe has always loved and supported me, but I blocked these things from getting through. I had bought wholeheartedly into my ego’s tiny mad ideas.
In a space where the psychological and spiritual realms melded, I could see how my spiritual development had been stunted. Much like how a child’s emotional development can become arrested after trauma, my spiritual progression had been very seriously delayed.
I believed God had forsaken me. I believed I was completely alone.
I judged other people’s spiritual connection because I was spirituality bereft, and my connection to a higher power of my own understanding was blocked–call it God or the Universe, inspiration or intuition, your spirit or inner guide.
These are all just semantics.
I was spiritually numb, because at a core level I believed that if I didn’t let God in, I wouldn’t get hurt. I did this because I blamed the Universe for what had happened to me.
The problem, I realized, is that spiritually numbing gets you nowhere, primarily if all you want is to feel loved and supported. When you come from a place of lack, you come from a place of fear, and the presence of a fear is a sign that you’re trying to move mountains on your own.
Since I can remember, I’ve been going it alone. I’ve been white knuckling my recovery using psychology as a leg to stand on, but without spirituality, it has been like hobbling through life on one leg.
The revelations kept happening, and I noticed I could move in and out of the meditative state at will. I vibrated with energy. I could feel the alignment inside, from the center of my abdomen, up through my chest, and into my head.
I felt a strange sensation deep inside my brain, as though I was accessing synapses that had long been asleep. My scalp tingled, and I could hear a loud buzzing, like a frequency just barely within my perception.
When things quieted for a moment, the voice said, “Write this down.” I assured it I would never forget, and it said, “WRITE IT DOWN,” so I did.
Much like your email account when it’s lost its internet connection, and has 50 emails when it’s suddenly restored, I filled pages and pages with realizations. I was still writing long after sunrise.
One particularly important revelation was that, like a lot of women in today’s day and age, I have aligned myself with predominantly male energy.
I work almost exclusively with men, and I seem to gravitate to male friendships. Over the years I have focused too heavily on my male partners, while keeping female friends at arm’s length.
Men go. They do. They fix things. They act. I identify with this.
Female energy, on the other hand, is receptive. It’s vulnerable. It supports. What I didn’t see is that there is strength in vulnerability, and how, in order to be balanced and whole, it’s best to cultivate both male and female energy in ourselves.
People have been telling me for years to relax. They said I was overdoing it, and they were right. I have been too cerebral, too in my head. I think, and research, and process, and try to fix, until I inevitably spin myself out.
The feminine scared me. At a core level I believed it was the reason I was subjected to abuse in the first place. I thought embracing femininity would make me a target, that being vulnerable and receptive would only end in pain.
I see now, thanks to this transcendental experience, and new spiritual practices I will undoubtedly maintain, that love is not something to be conquered. It is not something to be controlled.
Love will not bend to your will.
Love is something to show up for, but you have to stop believing in your ego’s lies. It is something you have to be willing to receive.