That One Time I Had a Nervous Breakdown

Picture 8When I was 19 I had a nervous breakdown. Actually, they called it "nervous exhaustion." But that's just semantics. I was pulled from college a few weeks before Christmas break, sent to a psychologist and put on medication that helped me feel like I wasn't dying every 15 minutes. It took a long time to get better. But I did. It was mostly a lot of "one step forward, two steps back." But a few times I moved ahead with giant leaps. Twice it was after reading a book (Franny & Zooey, then One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), and once after I watched a movie (Harold & Maude). These three things pulled me up from the dark depths and gave me real hope, the kind of hope you need when you honestly believe you are losing your mind and might not make it. That's right, I'm actually saying my life was saved (in part) by art.

I'm telling you this because what you are doing is important. Your work has the potential to change lives in a real and tangible way.

Some of you might be thinking, "She's certainly not talking about the comic strip I'm writing with all the fart jokes." Yes, I am. That too. There's a reason the phrase "laughter is the best medicine" exists. Dr. Bernie Siegel has dedicated his life to studying the effects of laughter on his patients. It turns out that laughter does indeed heal people. A good friend of mine who was severely depressed for a good portion of his life told me two things stopped him from killing himself: the thought of leaving his parents behind and stand-up comedy.

So when you create your work today, do it for your future audience, the ones you'll make cry, or think, or laugh. Create with gusto. With purpose. Know that art transforms not just the lives of those who make it, but those who experience it as well.

And for the record, these days I prefer to call it a "nervous breakthrough" because semantics, it turns out, is important.

(P.S. I have a real soft spot for those who suffer from anxiety and panic disorder. If you are struggling and need some encouragement, please reach out via email at I am clearly NOT a health professional, only a cheerleader who can offer a few kind words, but sometimes kind words are what we need most.)

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