Breaking Open: A Meltdown Story

Heart-Breaking-Open-300x300At around 4am on Monday morning, I was startled awake by a powerful force shaking my shoulders.

Heavy. Dark. Thick.

My mind began to race.  Thoughts of what I had to do that day flooded my mental hard drive.  Thoughts of what I had forgotten to do crashed it.

Thoughts of what I needed to plan, read, organize, write & create overwhelmed my entire space.  My bedroom was filled with ghosts of fear and they were whispering to me, loudly.

“You’ll never be able to get this all done.”

And then, it happened.

I had a meltdown.  Something I haven’t experienced in a very long time, but there it was.  Curled up next to me in my bed, spooning my body with an aggressive grip.

Heavy. Dark. Thick.

I won’t go into the fine detail (yet) but I will express that although it didn’t involve demonic chanting, it did contain a frightening energy that left me feeling numb, breathless, confused.

Heart heavy. Chest pounding. Arms tingling.

Do you even know what you’re doing? Who do you think you are?  Can you really accomplish all of this?  Don’t you know you’ll let everyone down? The questions kept coming at warp speed as a I frantically gazed around the room wondering where they were coming from.

Oh, that’s me.

Call it anxiety. Call it fear. Call it panic.  Call it woo-woo craziness. The label doesn’t matter.  The feeling matters.

And it felt…well, really freaking gross.

I stayed in bed, wrapped under the warmth of a duvet and a small fleece blanket my mother had made for me.  I stayed there until I saw the sun peering through the blinds.

And then, I got up.

Foggy head. Shaky steps. Weak Knees.

I crumbled to the floor and, I cried. Sobbed.  The room started to spin. And then, I breathed. 

I breathed through the tears. I breathed through the self-induced pressure and overwhelm (keyword: self-induced). I breathed through the ache in my soul that feared disappointing someone.  I just kept breathing.

This lasted for almost two very long hours, with one very big box of Kleenex.  And then, I got up.   

It’s amazing what clarity one can gain by breathing. And blowing a runny nose.  The answers to the warp speed questions came back and I was free to answer them with conviction.

No, I don’t always know what I’m doing and that’s, okay. No, I dont’ always know who I am and that’s, okay. Maybe I can’t accomplish all of this but I can try and that’s, okay.  I’m sure I’ll let someone down along the way and that’s, okay.

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. ~ Kahlil Gibran

You may be asking why and how this meltdown episode occurred.  After all, I usually appear to have all my sh*t together, right?  I could try to analyze it for you and come up with a rational and complicated response but the answer really is quite, uncomplicated.

I needed to have a meltdown.   It’s that simple. 

I needed to cleanse away the self-doubt that had been annoyingly tickling my feet over the last few weeks.  I needed to be with the shielded ugliness so that I could strip down to my naked beauty.

Meltdowns may not feel like a sunny day at the zoo when you’re in the eye of the tornado, but they can feel pretty damn good when you’re spit out on the other side.

And I simply needed to….Feel.  Not deny. Not resist. Not squirm away. FEEL.

I didn’t fight it. I embraced it. I didn’t turn my back on it.  I held it’s hand as it held me on the floor.

I was fully aware during each moment.  Fully present in the turmoil.

I knew with every cell in my body that “this” was here to lift me, not drag me down.

In moments of challenge, we always have two choices.  To break down or to break open.

I chose to break open.  

This brief moment of despair had transformed into a moment of empowerment, awakening and the realization that I don’t need to know all the answers.  I don’t need to get it all done.  I don’t need to always be “on”.

Through this meltdown I emerged. Strong-er.  New-ish.

Layers peeled like flesh off fruit, revealing the sweetness.

I will continue to break open with each recurring meltdown I have in the future – because of course there will be more – and if anyone ever tells you that they don’t have meltdowns, give them a really big compassionate hug (they’ll need the positive energy for the meltdown they’ll have after you leave).

Whether you’re the Pope, cashier at a grocery store, yogi, mechanic, spiritual guru, parent, or a high powered CEO.  Regardless of who you are and what you do, we all have meltdowns Deepak’s may just look a little different.

A little fuzzy from a meltdown hangover (which is much better than a tequila hangover), I kept moving forward throughout my morning.  One step in front of the other.  I tackled the priorities on my to-do list and gently put aside the stuff that could wait.

Action relieves anxiety.  Take the next step, regardless of how small it is. 

By noon I had accomplished more than I had all of last week (well, sort of).  I was ready to get outside and inhale some fresh air.  “Clear my head” was the term I used as I was getting off a call with a colleague.

Off I went to my sacred space in the trees for what turned out to be the most beautiful celebration of everything wonderful in my life.

In yoga philosophy, Santosha asks you to discover the  happiness and joy in every moment, regardless of the current circumstance.  Even if the circumstance is dark and wakes you up at 4am.

It’s not always easy to do (that’s why they call this spiritual stuff “work”) but it’s possible when you have the right tools.  What I have come to understand is the quickest way to snap yourself into a state of contentment is to take note of everything that you are grateful for in that moment.

I started to recall everything that I was grateful for from the time my eyes opened up to a dark cloud that morning until now  (as I write this, it’s 10:29pm on Monday evening).

Please allow me to share today’s gratitude list with you.

Dear Universe,  TODAY I THANK YOU FOR:

* My meltdown.

* My comfy princess bed, crisp clean sheets and the perfect pillows.

* Hotels that let you take their plush bathrobes home.

* The one cup of coffee I have each morning and stevia that doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste.

* Unconditional support from those who love me.

* My mother. My father.

* Fluffy eggs, perfectly ripened avocado and sweet pink grapefruit.

* Candles that fill my office space with the scent of joy.

* Colleagues from around the world who understand my vision and continuously offer support.

* My printer working today.

* My son’s post-birthday morning smile.

* Blue Sky Sunshine.

* An afternoon trail run, escorted by butterflies.

* Gentle ripples in the river.

* Lovers who take the afternoon off work to have a picnic by the river, with Corona. (“Life’s Good” he said as I ran by)

* The faint scent of pine trees and memories of summers by the lake.

* The boyfriend who drove his girlfriend’s bike up the steep hill for her  (which by the way, made me cry. So sweet.)

* iPods and Audiobooks.

Eckhart Tolle and a massive, massive A-ha moment.

* High school girls who skip school to tan on the roof of their parents house (I so used to do this – with baby oil)

* Crunchy Green Beans and steamed wild salmon.

* Friends who can handle hearing all your stuff in a 10 minute conversation (thanks, Gem)

* Friends who give you the courage and permission to write vulnerable blog posts (thanks, Meg)

* Cute Italian boys who make me smile.

* Yoga students who show up for class on the sunniest day of the year.

* Yoga teachers who inspire me to be more carefree and spontaneous.

* Comfortable, cute shoes.

* My neighbours (two young men) who work in their garden barefooted. Laughing the entire time.

* Awareness.

* The courage to embrace suffering.

* Hotels that let you take their plush bathrobes home.

* Candles that fill my bedroom with the scent of peace.

* My comfy princess bed, crisp clean sheets and the perfect pillows.

* My Life.

….and to think, this day began with a meltdown.


Do you have a meltdown experience that left you “broken open”?

I invite you to share your thoughts about this post below.

23 Responses to Breaking Open: A Meltdown Story

  1. Todd Lohenry says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for your transparency…

  2. Tara kadlec says:

    Beautiful Jackie. I can relate :) xoxo

  3. Lana says:

    Thank you for being so real, Jackie. You have inspired me to breathe today. – Lana

  4. Jackie says:

    Beautiful Jackie, Take care! xoxo

  5. Once again, Jackie, your timing is impeccable. I have a friend who’s going thru this same thing at just this moment; taking it as a negative, beating herself up about it, questioning her worthiness, etc etc. I am so happy to share this with her. SWEET!!

  6. Kerrie says:

    Thank you for again coming to my side when I mistakenly fall back into a pattern of believing I am alone in the world. Your courage to feel and then to share is inspiring- thank you.

  7. Jessica says:

    Bless you, dear Jackie.

  8. Lori says:

    A true inspiration you are… always.

  9. Brenda says:

    Thank you Jackie for keeping it real and sharing. I can relate…knowing what it is like to feel and then feel the other side. Hugs

  10. Beautifully expressed.
    A breakdown = a breakthrough.

  11. Amanda says:

    I honor your courage and strength to share your experience, like most others, I can relate whole-heartedly. Typically as mothers, yoga instructors, wives or just in our feminine nature we tend to be ‘strong’ coming across as always having our ‘shit’ together and fully composed. Its important to allow the body to release and let go in order to take the next step forward. Beautifully written, thank you. xo

  12. Daria Prysiazniuk says:

    I truly love the way you enveloped me into your real and raw world of emotion, pain and beauty. Thank you for sharing what I too go through at times. Every experience, person, energy, ect…. is such a beautiful teacher. :)

  13. This is valuable and brave sharing – this reminds me of a phrase, I had only recently heard from separate sources during a time when I felt challenged – the phrase is : Dark Night of the Soul – there is a whole origin story to it – but it can be that night or longer period of time – where we feel, lost overwhelmed, even though we think we are on our path. We might feel disconnected or abandoned by the divine. But it is a time of spiritual growth, cleansing, detoxification. It can be about realizing we are not alone, that the universe is watching out for us, but we actually have some stuff blocking the way that needs clearing. The Night of the Dark Soul is apparently the often painful clearing event after which there is greater intimacy with the divine, and we may feel more steadfast upon our path. Best wishes & thanks again for your bravery in sharing ( btw, the friend who encouraged your sharing is gold)

  14. Thank you for this post, Jackie. I really appreciated the rawness of it. I’ve been there and you are so right, every meltdown breaks you open a little more and it opens your heart a little more. Gratitude is what gets you to the other side and makes you grow in such beautiful ways. I don’t mean to be cheesy, it’s just the truth. 😉

  15. Thank you for that…. it makes me feel better to know that you experience FEAR the same way I do…. I know that I feel it, keep feeling it and when I stop feeling it, it goes away…. and I move on….. and I’m ok. (smiles)

  16. Jerry W says:

    Jackie, welcome to life. (I say this with compassion) From my experience, it will continue. But necessary too , as you note. Can’t have the Highs, without the Lows. I hope it also reinforced you to Love yourself. I beleive it has. Yes , try to stay grateful. God Bless your sweet soul. JW

  17. Yvonne Potter says:

    Thank you, I have always been hard on myself and your message helped me realize to be thankful for things we take for granted.

  18. Mandy Joy says:

    Beautifully written, Jackie. Gratitude for posts like this appearing in my feed, showing me, as always, that all is well. :)

  19. Jessica Belbin says:

    Well it’s good to know I’m not alone. It’s good to know that someone I admire has had the same experience as me. My meltdown(s) seem to be a dessert trifle these days, just layered on top of one another, although less tasty. I hope there is clearing and cleansing through them but I don’t see that yet. I understand there is, just like the trifle, fruit to be found in the meltdowns, I just haven’t seen it yet. Life feels like a blanket of darkness sprinkled with very few holes of light right now, I want to believe it will flip soon to be a blanket of light with just a few holes of darkness.
    Thank you for sharing Jackie, it helps.

  20. Dianne lynn says:

    I agree with the importance of knowing that you are not alone.
    I teach yoga in the Fraser Valley where I have just rocked my own life by choosing to leave my marriage because I am lost in it.manipulated in it..abused in it… I have a nine year old daughter and due to details beyond my control we ended up homeless..staying with friends. I have ended up more alone that I thought I ever would as many of my husband’s and my mutual friends jumped from the sinking ship..not checking in on me but choosing to support him or through awkwardness deciding to disconnect. Then for the first time I visited a Transition house..privately consulted my meditation teacher about loss and letting go..and taught my students from the raw experiences I am having and how yoga and its teachings are supporting me.. Finally I decided that I was worth unearthing and re-finding, I leaned on my colleagues and have taken 30 days off to travel back through to my Saskatchewan roots and I am finding myself again..
    Unrolling my mat tentatively each day, not knowing what will surface but facing it anyway. Fatigue, laughter, tears, sobs, anger, thought storms, despair, joy, power… Sitting on my meditation cushion braving waves of thoughts and heart break…sitting still in determination..where is the next breath? Oh there it is..
    In between the pain and letting go are brilliant shining ideas and excitement. The unknown future like a shimmering highway in the prairies…I know that my beautiful life will unroll in front of me and that we all can learn from each others experiences. So I speak it even though there is shame and fear and I teach from it knowing that it may happen to you or maybe it happened already..
    May all of you know that yoga is your community. A practice that welcomes and holds you. Together and alone. All my love to all of you. We are in this together. Thank you Jackie. My dearest friend talks about you all the time. I would love to meet you one day.

  21. Joy says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing! I am in these moments at the tail-end of breathing through it. I hadn’t had a melt-down in a year and a half. I was surprised with myself, but I recognized right away that with my intention of unraveling deep-seeded knots and my current reality of moving into new spaces in all realms, breaking open is actually a blessing, if I can breathe into it and keep it open, there is depth and range and joy and peace. Thank you for the affirmation!

  22. Lori Masse says:

    Jackie – absolutely beautiful. I know that story well so thanks for sharing. Namaste my lovely.

  23. Terrie says:

    Thank you for sharing. That is exactly what I needed to hear… I’m still breathing… 😉

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