Saturday, April 17, 2021

My recovery from mental breakdown twenty years ago

At the dawn of the millennium I was in the throes of a mental and emotional breakdown. I worked one hundred hour weeks for deceptive lawyers, slept four hours a night (need eight), had an bad personal relationship at home, and was bullied by famous bloggers and their followers, I was a total disaster. I questioned everything I had done. I hated myself. Worse, I deconstructed my life via crazed imposter syndrome in a diary I had accidentally exposed to the Net - my fall published in detail. The result was ugly, to say the least. When I realized the scope of my failings and the extent of those watching my every move, I cracked. I fell into a paranoid state, frequently unable to tell real from imagined. Remember the old saying “Even the paranoid have enemies?”  Those enemies were amused. They toyed with me and bet whether or not I would suicide. People I knew for years abandoned me and joined the crowd. Needless to say, I was a mess. I had abandoned the stabilizing forces in my life and trusted nearly no one. Those I trusted were skeptics about my predicament and attributed everything to paranoia. I was alone in the depths of despair, with few tools to help. Nonetheless I knew I could recover if I could get out from under these pressures. Most importantly, I began to sleep more. I abandoned day trading, stopped working, ended my relationship, went offline for a year, and moved to a smaller town. I focused on values clarification and matching behavior. I started therapy with a Buddhist therapist. I closed my self hating diary. I stopped drinking massive amounts of coffee. Nonetheless, there was a rough road ahead. Having been online for twenty five years and knowing online presence was to be commonplace, I was at a loss. The idea of no return to the Net seemed ridiculous. My therapist did not value online life, so we argued. My father was Old School and thought nobody would harass me since I was “not that important.” He had never been online and did not understand cyber bullying. I made progress, but needed serious help to proceed further.

Eventually I dipped my toe back into swing dancing. This was a mainstay in the thirty years before I abandoned it. There I ran into a woman who I knew, Sara. She asked “Did you just get out of prison for a white collar crime? You look terrible and scared stiff.” She might as well have been right. At any rate, we met up a few times and she said I needed more help. She recommended I get a better therapist, which was accurate. I found one. Although he was skeptical of recovery from paranoid breaks, he took me on. So did a psychiatrist who was scared to take on paranoids. When I described my online experience to the shrink, he carefully asked if I also heard people talking about me on television. I scoffed - “impossible!” He prescribed meds, which helped. I then took up mindfulness meditation again - I had left it behind after a serious practice in the Seventies.  Steady improvements came. My friendship with Sara began to evolve into a romance, despite risks to both of us and her doubts that I would recover. Mainly I rested and meditated, taking advantage of forced early retirement. For one year I cared for my father as he died from ALS. Later I helped my SF Bay Area friend who had been like a brother since college; he eventually succumbed to bipolar disorder and suicided, sadly. After that I attended law school, which revealed me more suited for software. Eventually I traveled overseas with Sara during her summer breaks. Most importantly, I attended many meditation retreats of several weeks. Eventually, I began a low stress job. It was surprisingly instructive and healing. It taught independence of mood in the face of the public, which both strengthened and schooled me. I read often and worked on my computers again. All these influences added up.  I am now recovered for more than fifteen years and happy and successful. I keep my path clearly in mind and stay away from risky behavior. I know my limits. The online troops that bothered me are busy with their own lives; they are rich and famous and I am a minor footnote. My life now is good and  I am very grateful.

Postscript: Nine years after we began to date, Sara and I married in 2010. We’re now celebrating forty years of friendship. I have never enjoyed a relationship more nor fit so well together. We are pleasantly surprised. I am blessed each day and thankful. I work steadily on an online business I co-founded and love my work. My circle of friends is primarily people I’ve known and loved for decades. I look forward to the future, even given COVID, climate change, and aging. Thanks to the teachers, the lessons, friends and you who read this far in my cautionary tale. Be reasonable, I conclude. Life is workable. All my best.





2 comments:

  1. thanks for sharing... it will help a lot of other folks... glad you are well and happy

    ReplyDelete

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