I had no idea today was World Mental Health Day, but how fitting is it that last night I had a mental breakdown?
I am a Freshman law school student. Between memorizing laws, reading cases and preparing for oral recitations almost everyday, I have a career in government. On top of that, I have a part-time online job.
I’ve always been proud of how I handled stress. Even in College, my terrorizing and hard-to-please professor admired how, in her own words, I was an “example of grace under pressure” to my fellow Journalism major classmates.
That really stuck with me not because it stroked my ego, but because of how inaccurate it was. In my last year of College, I felt anxious and restless most days. I was feeling depressed – to the point that I could lie in bed for hours and stare into space. I could, but I cannot. If only I had that kind of time. No. Instead, I would get up, dress up and work without feeling anything. I was on autopilot.
And I was the best pretender of things. I knew how to emanate a strong, calm and confident image. And sometimes, maybe that’s a bad thing.
When deadlines and bills collide, my mind becomes an empty hall of hectic murmurs. I tend to procrastinate, not because I don’t want to do my job or to study but because I become paralyzed. I guess that’s how I arrived in a compromising situation last night – when I openly cried in public.
Last night, I was preparing for my Criminal Law class. As per usual, I flipped through my books and photocopies of cases and I got to this handout my professor gave us. Something about “Special Aggravating Circumstances” and how it affects the “Indeterminate Sentence Law” or something.
Unfortunately, I cannot delve into that topic because Number 1: I never got to finish reading it; Number 2: I was slowly, surely, breaking down mentally.
I stared at the paper for a good hour, reading the same line over and over again. And not a word made sense to me. Instead, I was staring into white A4 space. I decided to take a nap, wishfully thinking, “What if I never woke up?”
The past few months in law school were not as affecting to me the way it affected others. While my classmates cried because of low scores and less-than-satisfactory recitation answers, I was pretending to console them, all the while feeling empty.
I decided to skip class last night and just go to a massage place instead, hoping it would relieve me of what I was feeling.
It’s a unique massage place: done in open air under the night sky with about 50 massage chairs, 50 masseuses for about 50 clients at a time.
Annalyn, my favorite masseuse, wasn’t there. Her colleagues said she took the day off. That was another blow. The universe was teasing me.
But I acquiesced, letting another woman in her early 40’s take over. She started kneading my shoulder muscles using her palms and fingers.
But her style of massage didn’t suit me. Her touch was way too light. Even her “hard” massage felt like a tap on the shoulder. Or maybe I was too numb? Either way, the feelings that I kept locked in my throat since that afternoon just poured out through my eyes.
The tears kept coming and I couldn’t stop them no more than I could stop a waterfall. I was gasping for breath, as if my lungs were trying to catch up with my tears.
I felt frustrated for not absorbing a word of my Criminal Law readings, I felt guilty for skipping class, I felt frustrated for letting the the new woman do the massage, and I felt stupid for crying over such petty things.
Everyone in the massage place looked at me. A male masseuse approached me and asked if I was hurt from the massage.
I croaked, “No, I’m okay. I’m just really stressed.”
I cried in public for the first time in my life, and I felt both embarrassed and guilty for making everyone feel worried.
The female masseuse reached for my hand, bowed her head and started praying for me. Like a murmur to the gods would fix the way my mind worked at the moment.
I apologized to her, guilt churning predominantly in my gut. She looked up from her prayers and just smiled kindly at me and said, “God bless.”
I appreciated what she did. I appreciated that she did not look at me like I was an alien. She looked at me like it was normal for grown-up, career woman to openly cry in public like a little child.
When I got out of the massage place, I went to a dark corner and cried some more for a good five minutes.
How I got to that point, I can offer no explanation, but I have a theory: Sometimes we all break. Even if you’re strong-willed, empowered or successful, you have the right to your own feelings. To be vulnerable.
Today, I woke up a little sad. But like I did in College, I got up, dressed up and worked, and felt many things. Maybe sometimes, that’s a good thing.