The Cost of a Nervous Breakdown

My car, a 13-year-old white Volvo station wagon, had a nervous breakdown this week. All internal systems went nutty. Some windows wouldn’t open; others wouldn’t close; all gauges became inoperable. When my husband, who’d been driving it, called me on his cell phone while creeping over the bridge, he sounded like he was becoming inoperable too, but he and it made it back to the Island and I met them at the repair shop. This morning we got the bill: $1200. That’s another unplanned for, another unbudgeted for, $1200. We’ve had plenty of those over the years, having reared four daughters. It’s the “Ka-ching$$” factor of life. And darn – just when we’d decided to sell it!

I loved that car. ‘Bought it when our first precious grandchild (who is now taller than I and has a voice like a man) was born and it was as strong and as comfortable as could be. Over the ensuing years it held front and rear-facing car seats with more precious grandchildren in them and in the attached automatic boosters they grew to need, and could eventually even flip up themselves. It held strollers, backpacks, balls, bats, lacrosse sticks, beach chairs, bags of drinks, lunches and snacks. That is, until the angle of the pedal irritated my arthritic meniscus-damaged knee and getting in and out of that car simply hurt too much. Then it held memories – lots of happy ones. So instead of selling it or trading it in when I got my next car, I kept it in the driveway. Figured I’d give it to grandchild #1 when he started driving.

Wrong! We have nine grandchildren now. How can I give a car to one and not give one to each of the other eight, right? Can’t; simply can’t do it. If the words “Life isn’t fair,” were printed on little strips of paper counting as many as the number of times I’ve said that exact sentence to my own children as they were growing up, you could probably fill up a gymnasium with them. But still, I can’t make a choice so blatantly unfair. So we will get it fixed and we will sell it. And I might miss it some, but not that much, because at this point holding on to it would be a burden.

Holding on to secrets is a burden too; a burden that can eventually lead to a person having a nervous breakdown or getting physically ill. Take childhood sexual abuse for example. First of all, my car story, which reflects not a problem-free life, but certainly a life of privilege, is very different from stories of childhood sexual abuse. No privilege there; being sexually abused as a child is a horrifying trauma that takes place in a malicious web of deceit and betrayal. And one way – a very important way – to unburden oneself is to talk about it; to tell someone. I remember how anxiety-ridden I was the first time I told and how relieved I wIMG_0092as that the person I told believed me and responded with compassion and with a pledge to confidentiality. Now that I’m on the judges panel for the United Kingdom Childhood Sexual Abuse Peoples’ Tribunal (UKCSAPT), and learning about the thousands of adult survivors in the UK who need support and resources, I think about them at various times throughout the day each day and the evening, every evening. Part of my way of praying for them, I suppose, while hoping that many – survivors of the abuse and witnesses too – will find the courage to submit their stories to the tribunal this summer, between now and August. To make a statement go to  under contact us..

(More on the cost of a nervous breakdown as related to being a survivor of child sexual abuse in my next blog)


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