Friday, November 4, 2011

Nervous Breakdowns Are Offensive

I should have added the word 'apparently' to the end of the title of this post because obviously I don't think nervous breakdowns are offensive. But what do you do when you tell someone you're heading for one and they're offended? Before anyone starts getting worried, I won't be having a nervous breakdown because having recognised the fact that I'm totally overwhelmed by obligations at the moment, I'm re-organising, de-cluttering, and generally off-loading that which I can no longer deal with.

Some of it is my fault, not just regarding too much procrastination over essential tasks and some lax time-management, but also too much volunteering. Or at least being persuaded to help out in all sorts of community spirit type committees and actions.

Here's a short story to illustrate the point. Many years ago in my single days and sharing an apartment with D, we went to the inaugeral meeting of a new Synagogue started by our group of friends. The purpose was to establish a working committee and deal out the various jobs. "I don't care what we do," said D as we walked to the meeting, "but we're not doing the Kiddush." I absolutely agreed with her. The Kiddush was the pits. Essentially it is providing light refreshments for the whole community every week after the Saturday morning service. It involves shopping, setting it all out and clearing it away afterwards. You get a budget to work with and everyone supposedly helps with the clearing up, but it's a lot of work nevertheless.

"Now, Kiddush..." started the chairman of the meeting. Both our hands shot up before he'd even asked the question. On the way home I asked D, "what just happened there?" Neither of us could explain but we were stuck with doing the kiddush for the next two years.

In my old building I somehow found myself on the building committee even though I was only renting. It's a thankless job. You have to organise the cleaning of public areas, organise the maintenance, collect residents' dues, manage the building's bank account, deal with insurance, etc.... The neighbours start avoiding you because you are always asking for money and you start avoiding them because they always have a complaint. When I moved to my present home I swore I wouldn't get involved. It took them less than a year to recruit me.

When I was pregnant I resigned from the building committee but this left only one person doing everything. I tried to persuade him to call a meeting and deligate some of the burden but instead found myself persuaded to only deal with collecting the money and taking it to the bank while he took care of all the maintenance, cleaners, etc...

A new family moved in and I begged my co-worker to bring them on board but two years later he still hasn't spoken to them. I managed to find another resident to collect the money but I still had to go to the bank as the new guy's name isn't on the list of people who can deposit cheques into the account. And, he is very laid back which still left me worrying about who hasn't paid up and asking people when I meet them on the stairs. Of course people should just pay but they don't, you have to chase them.

My life has changed this year. The savings have run out, I am taking on as much work as possible and I am still earning less than I need to reach the end of the month. DD needs more quality attention from me. I'm fed up of living in a tip because I always have something more urgent to do than clean the place. On top of all this, I did something to my back a month ago and have lost hours of productivity through being in pain and having to lie down.

This week I took a sick day from work. Teachers don't do this unless they are dying. If you work in an office and desperately need a mental-health day you take one. However, if you have 40 students waiting for you and another teacher will have to cover for you - well you just don't do it. I was genuinely sick with an inflamed throat, no voice and coughing for England. But I have no doubt that I would not have felt so physically ill if I hadn't been so mentally overwhelmed by the backlog of work.

When I find myself being short tempered with DD because I have too much on my mind, sommats gotta give. So today I took the cheque-book and various other bits of paper and receipts round to my co-worker and returned them to him. "I can't do it any more," I told him and his wife, "I'm heading for a nervous breakdown, I just can't do it at the moment."

Reader, he was offended. The truth is that no one has spare time and our building is particularly problematic. So he has to call a meeting and find some other suckers to take on the job for a while. It would be much easier for him if I were to continue to suffer. It was a hard choice for me: offend my neighbour or have a nervous breakdown. I chose my sanity.


  1. MSM, you know that I understand where you are coming from. I did not work for two weeks of chag, and now work is slow because I took a "vacation." And wouldn't you know it, just as I am worrying about funding mine and my duaghter's life, the car becomes completely incapacitated, the computer is on its last legs, and I keep trying to figure out how to work more and find more money in savings accounts I might have forgotten.
    Not to mention the professional obligations I have. (I took myself off the Israel Chiropractic Society Executive Board because that once a month meeting was becoming too much for me.)
    This week, the shower curtain rod slipped off the wall and hit me on the head, and I started crying. It was too much, though not yet near the nervous breakdown threshold.
    Do what is best for YOU, and your daughter, because if we single mothers do not take care of ourselves, we cannot help anyone else.
    Shabbat Shalom honey.

  2. Thank you Doc - Although nervous breakdown was probably too strong a description, when you find yourself in tears over little things (as I have also done recently) I totally agree with you that you need to take care of yourself. I appreciate your support. Shabbat Shalom to you to :)

  3. Came over from Blow your own blog horn! I can so sympathise with your feelings of being overwhelmed and being pulled in every direction - I do hope it sorts soon. By the way what a wonderful journey you have taken (just read your about me)

    Louise (

  4. Hi, I'm found you via the Blow you Own Blog Horn.

    I think you should be just as offended by your neighbour. He's more concerned with the inconvenience of finding someone new than with your wellbeing. It's not like you hadn't expressed concern before!

    I hope you start feeling better soon!

  5. Thank you Bloggomy - writing it down always helps :)

    Another Goldfish - to tell you the truth I was a bit offended for the very reason you suggest. Thanks for understanding.

  6. well done you - gosh you have a lot on and DD and YOU should come first.
    Love the kiddush story! lol!

  7. Your friend Doc is right, care for the carer, because if you aren't feeling up to scratch, there is no one else to do it. Take care of you and do what makes you feel happier. Your neighbour was very unsupportive, I hope you have more supportive people close to you. Best wishes, Polly x

  8. I'm sorry it's got to this point, but I'm glad you've managed to hand it off before it's got any worse for you. Hoping easing the burden helps. Hugs.

  9. Gemma - re: the kiddush story, sometimes I'm my own worst enemy.

    Caughtwriting and Liveotherwise - thank you, it certainly helps to have people confirming that I did the right thing and yes, I am feeling better already.

  10. You've done the right, albeit difficult thing. Something was going to give and it really couldn't be you. I'm run off my feet and I have someone to help. Hats off to you.

    I read this sometimes when I'm down... and it helps.
    Desiderata - Max Ehrmann (1872-1945).

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.

    As far as possible without surrender
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
    they are vexations to the spirit.

    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain or bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs;
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love;
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
    it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.
    You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy.

    PS I'd be more than happy to email you a copy of the photograph on my blog - so you can do with as you wish... I'll try and find your email somehow.

  11. Wow Lins, thank you. I love the Desiderata. And thank you for the offer of the photo :)

  12. This post appealed to me as I'm feeling overwhelmed right now. I'm saying no to everything and I'm also asking for help. Is that something you could do?

  13. Blue Sky - thanks for your comment, it's hard to say no to everything but I realize that I must do this. The help I need is not somethingn anyone can do for me - I need to have the peace of mind that we can survive financially and only I can do that by finding enough work and fitting in to my week.

  14. Poor you - I know exactly how you feel and have been there many times. I usually find that when I get to the point where I feel I just can't carry on any longer, something happens and I manage to scrape myself up again!
    You did the right thing, it's difficult admitting to yourself you can't cope with everything, but hey we're only human and we all have our limits.
    I've stopped joining any committees (school etc) as I know that I would end up volunteering for things and I just don't have the time for. I once had a really bad experience when I was younger with being on a playgroup committee and it's put me off for life. Maybe I'll blog about it one day!
    Anyway, hang in there, look after you and DD - you come first!

  15. Thanks Nikki - it seems so mean spirited not to volunteer with communal stuff but I have 'given' over and above in the past and I have to be ok with the fact that for the time being I just can't do more than keep us on track.

  16. Good for you, so glad you chose you over obligations. I did the same when I left my Church inSept. As you know I am taking some time out right now too and it is working I feel much better.

    Take care of yourself, I hope you'll feel much better soon.

    Mich x

  17. Could really relate to the kiddush story - I always said I would never be involved in organizing kiddushim, because I hate the whole women doing kiddush thing (I imagine D feels the same)....and guess what I ended up doing. After a few years we changed the system, and each shabbat mevarchim 3-4 families have the responsibility of making the kiddush.

    Can't believe that neighbour was offended instead of concerned. He should have been bringing you a cake or inviting you for a meal, not thinking how it reflected on him.

    Look after yourself.

  18. Thanks Mich - you are an ispiration as always.

    Gillian - That kiddush thing's a killer isn't it. My sister's community now have Kiddush groups who rotate. Thanks for your support.

  19. Dear MSM

    There was a very interesting program on radio 4 only last week about people who suffer from this problem. Not being able to say no when someone asks them to help out or volunteer, even when it is not at all convenient for them to do so.

    What you have to accustom yourself to saying is something like "Sorry, I can't fit it in". DO NOT fall into the trap of offering additional explanations, excuses, apologies, etc. (The "sorry" at the beginning of the sentence is, of course, not an apology, it's a figure of speech, the equivalent of "unfortunately" or a more polite form of "NO").

    At first you will find this incredibly difficult, but with practice it becomes easier.

    As for your back problem - you only have one back. Most people, once they get back problems, live with it for life. So look after it as best as you can. See a physiotherapist if necessary.

    Warmest regards ...... Mikey

  20. Thanks Mikey - you are right I really have to use a blanket 'no' for a while.

    My back is almost conpletely better (it was a muscle not the spine) and I do have an appointment with a physio next month.

    Thanks for your support :)

  21. You did absolutely the right thing. You've got enough on without the building work as well. It isn't easy but sometimes you really do have to put yourself first and focus on what really matters.

  22. Thanks Rosie - I think I'm getting the message finally :)

  23. Well, I think that was very brave of you. Half the battle is recognising that you are overwhelmed and accepting that you cannot do everything and be everything to all people. Put yourself and your gorgeous little girl first. Shame on your neighbour....would he have preferred that you dropped everything round to him AFTER you had a breakdown?

    No matter, you did the right thing for you, the rest is his issue!

    The most important word you must learn to use is the word 'No'. This I know as I'm trying to learn to use it myself!

    I have just, somehow or other, landed myself AND my husband on our Residents Committee!! Sigh...

    Take care ;-)
    xx Jazzy

  24. Jzzy - great advice from the lady on the residents' committee *snort* ;) Thank you.

  25. Definitely a decision well made if he couldn't even bring himself to thank you for all your hard work to date.

  26. Motherporridge - that's a good point. He did say hello to me in the street yesterday to show 'no hard feelings afterall' - but I did put in three years of hard work, where is my thank you?

  27. You have made the right decision - that was actually a no-brainer! You have to look out for you, because no one else will put you or your needs before theirs. We are individual, and as such deal with everything differently; only you can know when you are pushed to your limit. Too bad if he does not understand!

    What you were dealing with was a whole lot, sometimes we just have to step aside and let it be.

  28. Thank you Genie - I am feeling the benefits already. A big weight off my shoulders.

  29. good for you making the right choice for you, its so very hard to do

  30. Alyson - very hard to do but so worth it for the feeling of relief afterwards. Thanks for commenting.

  31. Think about it like having to put on your oxygen mask before helping others - sometimes you need to put yourself first

    Well done for doing it

  32. A good analogy Muddling Along - thank you.