What would you call it?

by Katrina on March 29, 2010

Recently I did a radio interview about working moms and talked about why I stopped working. My closest friends said I downplayed my nervous breakdown, making it sound like a really bad day (instead of a really bad year).

It’s true that I played it down. I was embarrassed. It’s one thing to write about it, it’s another to talk about it, live. On the radio. With a million people listening.

But I’ve realized that if I’m going to talk about what happened to me at all, I should be more specific. I should define what “nervous breakdown” meant in my case.

I’ll start with what it did not mean. I did not feel suicidal or psychotic. I did not get strung out on heroin, walk around downtown Berkeley yelling at garbage cans, or act outwardly crazy in any way.

I simply stopped, the way a watch stops when the battery dies. I couldn’t get my body to obey what my mind kept saying it should do. One Monday, I was giving a presentation to a potential new client. On Tuesday, I was at home on my couch weeping, incapacitated. I never went back to work. I never even cleaned out my files.

I didn’t plan to stop going to the job I’d had for the last six years. But when I thought about going to work, I felt I would vomit.

I spent the next few months in a profound despair, plagued by panic attacks, insomnia, and dread. I couldn’t stand noise—including the sound of the car radio on low, or my children splashing contentedly in the bath. I would randomly burst into violent shaking. I lost my appetite, and with it, an alarming amount of weight. My aunt flew out from New Jersey to help take care of the kids during the worst of it. My husband, I would like to state for the record, was as solid as a rock. He somehow kept working, took care of the kids, and took care of me until I could start to think again.

It was like waking from a cult. I wasn’t angry with anyone. I didn’t blame anyone. I just couldn’t believe I’d gone along with the whole thing, the whole terrible annihilating belief that you should give it all away—to your kids, to your job, to anyone who seemed to have a legitimate claim on your energy and your time. The whole idea that this was normal, even expected, behavior. It was horrifying to realize I’d let that happen.

This all started almost a year ago. The last 11 months have been about backing away from that edge, and making sense of what happened to me.

I don’t know exactly when I decided to call it a nervous breakdown. My doctor doesn’t like the term, which has no specific medical meaning. This is what Wikipedia says:

Although “nervous breakdown” does not necessarily have a rigorous or static definition, surveys of laypersons suggest that the term refers to a specific acute time-limited reactive disorder, involving symptoms such as anxiety or depression, usually precipitated by external stressors.

That sounds about right to me. I literally pushed myself to a point where my nervous system stopped working the way it’s supposed to. What else would you call it?

In the 1800s, it was common for women with insomnia, loss of appetite, and nervousness to be diagnosed with “female hysteria.” Treatment included bed rest, bland food, avoiding mentally taxing activities (like reading) and—this one is interesting—orgasms.

This term faded out in the 1900s and was replaced with more specific terms like “depression,” “conversion disorder,” and “anxiety attacks.”

Feminist pioneer, Betty Friedan

In The Feminine Mystique, (1963) Betty Friedan described the “problem that has no name,” the profound unhappiness, depression, fatigue, and lack of meaning many women suffered while they were supposedly living the American Dream. Most women, she noted, suffered alone.

How can any woman see the whole truth within the bounds of her own life? How can she believe that voice inside herself, when it denies the conventional, accepted truths by which she has been living? And yet the women I have talked to, who are finally listening to that inner voice, seem in some incredible way to be groping through to a truth that has defied the experts.

That sounds about right, too.

Over the last year, as I’ve gotten more comfortable telling my story, many working moms have confided in me their own stories. Some of them had their own experience of giving and giving until they crashed into a mental and physical wall and had to stop working. Some haven’t crashed, but harbor a deep fear that they will; they know they’re dangerously close to their edge.

And some can’t even have this conversation because it would mean looking at things about their lives that they’re trying very hard not to see. They are suffering alone. I think I know how they feel. Because a year ago, I was one of them.

What’s your story?

Leave a comment at the end of this blog post. Or email me privately: katrina@workingmomsbreak.com

A slightly updated version of this story appeared on The Huffington Post in Nov. 2010.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Angel H

It is no wonder that you got embarrassed discussing your breakdown on national radio. It’s just not something that we talk about. To talk openly and frankly about a personal problem feels like either feels like whining (which you posted about) or like confessing (and confessing means that we feel guilty…). But this gets back to the beginning of this whole problem, that it is our society that is driving women to this point of breakdown, not the flaws, insecurities and weaknesses of the women themselves.
You are very brave to tell your story so eloquently, please keep doing so. That way other women will know that it’s not themselves that are failing but this crazy world we are in.



I think I am having one. I am typing this on my iPad as I sit on the toilet with tears streaming down my face on a Sunday night. I work in a job where I travel on plane for about a week at least once a month. I moved my family from another state for this job. Then my last parent died. I lost my mom at 30 and my dad 10 years later. I found out when my plane landed he was gone. New job, new state, new house, mommy guilt, dad died all in about 18 mos. I have a husband a two cute kids. What is wrong with me? I tell myself people have it much worse.



I am certainly one of those women who is dangerously close to my edge. I feel like I am shouting out “this isn’t going to continue working; I simply can’t do this,” and people nod and maybe laugh and then call to see if I want to do a swap.
I just keep moving, ‘doing this’ and watch in wonder at how fine everyone else seems. I have been warned to not compare my insides to other people’s outsides, but I do. Thanks for putting your insides out there.



Katrina, I am so glad you told me about your blog and I LOVE it.

I read your first post at work (on my iPhone, in the bathroom, between meetings!) and it made me feel unbelievably validated.

I know you from your professional life, and see you as an incredible, smart, successful, kick a#$ woman who managed to do it all, never lose your composure (and you always looked terrific in your Anthropologie outfits, to boot!). Your honesty about what you went through is so brave, and it helps other working moms know we are not the only ones suffering in our attempts to balance it all and meet everyone’s needs and demands. The toll that this takes on us is not to be underestimated.

I was especially moved by what you wrote in your first post about how you talked to your friends, relatives, etc. and learned that they were “barely getting by.” I could have written this myself: “I had no idea. Like me, they had been putting a brave face on their suffering. Like me, they all assumed there was something wrong with them.”

I struggle every day trying to accomplish everything in a full-time non-profit job that really is the job of two or three people, and wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t do it all with ease. I am utterly and completely exhausted beyond belief, and I feel guilty when I leave work “early” to pick up my child at daycare. I get online every night after my two-year-old goes to bed to do two or three more hours of work, but I feel I only have an all-or-nothing choice in my particular field: either quit my job completely, or continue at this pace.

It is frustrating that in many smaller organizations such as mine, there are no options that allow us to adjust our work to accommodate having a family. I know that I do a good job, and I essentially love what I do and am very fond of my co-workers, so I tell myself I need to learn to “deal with it.”

It was very validating to hear that other women, including you, have also gone through this, and I hope your blog can start something that can somehow, someday bring about change in the world of the working American mom.



That’s my post above, but the avatar image is wrong. Please ignore it!



Thank you, Dana and everyone who’s taking time to leave these comments. I know your time is precious, especially for the busy parents who are reading this. Many people have told me that the comments are really helpful to them–this isn’t just about my experience. Thank you, thank you.

About the avatar–they’re auto-generated. They only appear if you don’t upload a photo or image of your own. 😉


Irwin G.

Dads go through this too. It all started to come to a head when I left a nice quiet stable job and entered the videogame industry in 2007. Then my dad died in 2008. Last summer, I was off for three weeks and I broke down sobbing in front of my children. Literally over spilled milk.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that you are sharing these stories. My boss was sooooo hostile to parents, I can’t even begin to describe. She would suggest that I was spending too much time picking up the kids and why couldn’t my wife do it? That was was over a year ago and I’m still not really over it.

Now I’ve started a new job in a different industry for more money and much less pressure. I’m fortunate. But the stress lives on. Every night, we rush to pick up the kids, do 2nd grade homework (second grade!) fix dinner and sprint to story/bedtime. A 3 hour dragnet that two working parents barely pull off. It’s insane. And the childless world simply shrugs it off: We made the bed. We gotta sleep in it.



Hi Katrina –

thanks for taking on this enormous subject and bringing in both the personal and the policy.

I have a few stories to share. I am an academic, a professor. I support myself primarily with grants as do 75% of the other professors in my department; many of us support ourselves 100% with grants. I wasn’t working 100% time when I had my first child, but I could afford not to be 100% financially. I didn’t realize until later that by not being 100% I was slowing myself down in terms of my professional advancement. No one looks at your resume and sees that you’re not working 100% year by year. They assume you must be working 100% and gauge your output accordingly.

After I had my first child, I took a 4 month maternity leave and returned to work part-time. I knew that if I stopped working for a year, I would destroy my research career. I had joined a mom’s group for support and encountered a number of women who had quit their jobs entirely because they are their spouses thought they were the best person to raise their child. I didn’t necessarily think that I was the best person to be taking care of my young son. But I did feel guilty not being around as much as these stay-at-home moms were for their children.

I generally don’t talk too much about my kids in the work setting. A woman colleague mentioned to me that she didn’t realize that I had children until knowing me for over a year. She wasn’t married yet but said she could understand why I would omit references to family in the work setting. (that story comes from five years ago). Very recently, a senior person, “Joe,” told me that he felt that my keeping references to children to a minimum was an “appropriate professional posture” to take.

Joe’s advice came in the midst of a conversation where he was hearing about a tense email exchange that I had had with a collaborator of his. His collaborator, “Jane,” wanted to invite me to be part of an advisory group for a project that Joe and Jane both worked on. It turned out Jane did not have any funds to support my time on the advisory group (1 day meeting each year and a social networking cite to hear regular updates and provide guidance). I tried to explain to her that I could not work for free. She was offended. Others on their project were working for free. (actually they weren’t.) When I told Joe about it, I said that working for free means taking time away from my family as I have to devote time to bring in grants to cover me otherwise. I was reluctant to raise this directly with Jane.

thanks for reading.



Hey hey cousin,
I think the comment you made about “female hysteria” in the 1800s telling of something, though I’m not quite sure what. Maybe that our problems reach deeper then we think? And go back further to before women were even predominantly in the workforce. I’m not sure.

I was thinking about this recently after reading some of Tolstoy’s short stories, written mid 1800s, and he described women as being totally strung out in child-raising (and they had tons of servants too! I mean sometimes I feel overwhelmed, but I like to think that if I had a personal maid and cook and laundress that it would not be the case, now I’m not so sure. . .). The more that I consider the problem the more it seems to me that it partly comes down to community. I’m sure in the past a lot of that community came from family, but we are so spread out now. And we need more than emotional support, we need physical support. I think that I wouldn’t have been able to cope with all the things that have occurred in the last couple of years if it weren’t for the community that surrounds me, I’m curious at what point in western civilization we started becoming so nuclear and “independent” and whether things became harder for women at that point. And it’s funny because my pride won’t even let people help me out sometimes. I feel I have to suffer, like I have to do everything myself, and that I’m some sort of failure if someone brings me a meal or something.

There are lots of terms people throw around like being “balanced” I think a lot about the word “balance.” I think that sometimes that seems like too easy a fix. Like all you have to do is go to yoga and then your problems are easy. I’m not saying that it’s not good to take care of yourself, but I just think that the word balance doesn’t mean much to me. For instance nothing about my life is balanced, I had four babies under the age of two, right? Life is hard and not balanced but I still have to deal with it. So what do you do? That’s what coffee is for. Haha, I’m just kidding. I don’t know I’m still trying to figure it out. I used to work part time and even though I loved my job I was miserable, so much guilt! I’m happier being at home and happy that we can financially swing that, but there is definitely a different kind of crazy that being home with small children can bring on, and I’m learning about that too.



Yes Logan – about going it alone – being nuclear and independent. I really think that may be at the crux of the problem. We are communal animals. I don’t think we are meant to live in these little boxes seperate from each other. What’s worse, there are many voices in the current political cacophony that are calling for just that. “You take care of yours and I’ll take care of mine” and “why should I have to pay taxes to pay for your (enter social need here).”

“No person is an island” – I’ve always believed – but man it is really tough feeling the love the way things are right now. I mean really – is it so difficult to see that maybe, just maybe it is a good idea for EVERYONE in the wealthiest country the world has ever known to have affordable access to health care? This is a NO BRAINER and yet we barely have the communal will to make it happen. Likewise with just about every issue involving children and families. I just don’t get it.



So many rich stories.

There’s a thread here in the comments about going it alone. Pretending you don’t have kids when you’re at work (Irwin, Lily). Pretending you can do it all on your own (including my cousin Logan who had TWO sets of TWINS within TWO YEARS–yikes!).

In my case, I was just so incredibly busy I couldn’t imagine asking for help. I couldn’t stand the idea that I would owe someone a favor. When would I have time to repay that favor?



I’ve been on the verge of tears or anxious for no apparent reason for days now. And hiding from the threat of the entire world crashing down around me for what feels like as long as I can remember (or at least since getting pregnant over 6 years ago).

There is so much good in my life and friends don’t want to be pulled down so bemoaning the challenges aloud do little to build a support network – actually it makes people run the other direction and that simply fuels the feelings of being in this alone.

Thank you to a friend who passed this along – and to you for writing. I’ve got some reading – and sharing – to do.



Thanks for sharing. I am definitely on the edge, and recently started a Rx for an antidepressant because I was feeling so overwhelmed by everything. It’s so hard to be a working mom. I’m seen in my office as an “example” for the new moms who have babies (my kids are 8.5 and 7). “She can do it, so I must be able to too!” What they don’t see is the times I sit on my stairs crying because I can’t do it all, and don’t know how I can possibly squeeze one more thing into the day. It’s good to know I’m not alone in this place, because most of the time, it feels like a very lonely place. I’ll be back to get some inspiration from you.



My friend Holly calls this “comparing our insides to other people’s outsides.” Sometimes we do ourselves and others a disservice by pretending everything is just fine.

I’m glad you’ll be back. I promise to do some stories that are a little more uplifting than this one. 🙂



Hi and thank you so much for sharing this. I did the exact same thing about 3 weeks ago. I just flat came home for lunch from work and could not return. My youngest child was about to graduate but, was on the verge of failing a couple of classes because socializing was his main focus! My mom had a mini stroke and was attacked by man in her neighborhood all within a few weeks. I was planning a graduation party for my son, mailing out invitations, wondering the whole time if he would walk across the stage! I began to feel that “vomit” feeling you talked about when thinking about getting up for work, then nerves and panic, then hives that covered my whole body. They would disappear and leave me looking fine. No marks, nothing and then return at a moments notice. I wanted to hold up. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to do what was right. Finally one day, my body just did the same as yours. It stopped and would not allow me to go back to work. I called work and told them I needed to go to my mothers and check on her. I did, I went the next morning, drove 6 hrs to her and brought her to my house. We healed together for about 10 days. She helped me with my son’s graduation party (yes, he made it! Thank the Lord!). I helped her with things she wasn’t able to do and together we were two women on the mends. I felt and still feel a great sense of relief.
Thank you for sharing. I needed this encouragement so much.



Thank you so much for sharing this story. I’d forgotten about the hives. Had those, too. And yes, it’s so mysterious how they come on so violently and then leave without a trace.



I also felt the torment of the hives during my panic episodes… not fun.



Thank you for starting this blog, Katrina, documenting this important untold story in our society. Your stories are compelling and your insights are sharp. And I love your writing style. As a dad and full-time teacher I find myself nodding my head in agreement at practically every paragraph. Hat’s off to you for a job well done.



Thanks for directing me to this post. Such a great and honest exploration of what so many of us have experienced. The next step for all of us might be exploring our common causes (the quote from Friedan gets us close, I think) and identifying preventative measures … I love your line at the top of your blog ad it implies we CAN have it all.



Katrina–I posted under the Warning Bells post about my experience, but in brief: I used to work 60 hours/week freelance, and did not even take maternity leave during labor or on the birth days of my children. But now, when they are school age and it should be easier, I seem to be incapable of handling nearly as much as I used to. I’m fried, and now working only 20 hours. This does mean I have them after school, whereas they were in daycare for 10 hours when I worked non stop. But still. I have been through batteries of health tests, and they have found some things… a touch of iron deficiency, low oxygen levels, sleep disturbances–but nothing severe enough to explain how tired and inefficient I am. Burn out is a BIG price to pay, and I have to caution all women to do whatever is possible to avoid it now, before it happens, or the crash may come at a higher price, at a most inconvenient time. … I sure hope I can return to the land of the living one of these days!



Thanks for sharing that. Yes, burning out is no joke. Major physical set back. I was shocked by how long it took for me to start feeling like myself, and still, I don’t think my nervous system is resilient like it once was.

A friend clipped an article for me on adrenal exhaustion a few months after I stopped working–something to look into. There are certain foods to eat and others to avoid to feed your adrenals, which take a big hit under chronic stress…



I’ve heard about that, read a little about it. I should find out more. Thanks.



Thank you so much for your candor. While I haven’t had a breakdown like yours, I’ve had similar experiences prior to having children and I find that now that I’m trying to balance having a 2 year old with having a freelance/part-time schedule, I struggle. I struggle, first of all, to feel that I’m a valuable person when I don’t have work. And then when I do, its hard to watch the house become a disaster and to find ourselves eating cheese and crackers for dinner (we just did last night). I feel like my life is a full glass and everytime I add something, it means that something else spills out and drips all over the floor.

I’m so happy to have been introduced to your blog. Thank you for writing about this. I’ve been meaning to post a video blog about moms and work, since I find its yet another contentious topic that comes up among other mothers. Often, I find that mothers who work say things to me like “I dont know how you do it,” (staying home with my son most of the time). And moms that don’t work often say things like “I’m so glad I get to spend this precious time with her/him.” Just seems to me like everyone’s trying to justify their position and there’s very little actual talk that goes on about what we, as mothers, WANT.

I have rarely encountered a woman with children who wants to work all the time or who doesn’t want to work at all. The vast majority tend to fit into the “longing for part-time, flexible work” category. And while this can be a challenge to find, I think it can be a beautiful way to spend the time we want with our children and also have some satisfaction in the external work-obsessed world. I wish there were more work opportunities out there for mothers of the flexible, part-time variety and am curious what you’ve found in your own journey with work and motherhood and talking with your readers. Does it seem that’s what most women want? And what kinds of work are women finding in the flexible, part-time realm?



Agreed. My short answer is that I have been able to carve a niche for myself, working part time from home as a web consultant and I’ve never been happier, but it certainly came with trade offs.

I’ll address this in a future blog post. I’d love to hear what other people say about it.



Congratulations to you for finding that niche!! That’s inspiring to hear. And bring on that future blog post! I’d love to hear what others say, too.



Hi Katrina!
Thanks for creating this. It is a form of therapy to share with others, especially with these circumstances. I really value this blog. In addition, finding your own hobby or niche is another awesome way to relieve stress and find some joy in life. I am still searching for my own, but perhaps it will come to me. I am glad that you found your calling! We all appreciate it!



Wow! Love this blog! it really hits home. I am a school teacher with two young boys and I constantly feel emotionally and physically drained. I just can’t do it all. I always feel like a failure. The irony is that my husband has no feelings of failure whatsoever. If the house is not in perfect order–it doesn’t seem to reflect on him. Unfortunately, that guilt falls solely on the women. The strange thing is–I don’t feel stressed at work. I go there and give it my all and feel successful. It’s when I get home that I start to feel overwhelmed with it all–dinner, homework, laundry, bath. I literally work from the moment I wake up until the moment I climb into bed. And I feel like during the week–I’m so busy that I’m not spending “quality” time with my children–I’m simply slaving away and getting everything done. Is that really how it’s supposed to be? Btw, I was a stay at home mom for 5 years. That job was certainly not easy and I worked my butt off then, too. But I felt like I had much more balance in my life and I enjoyed knowing that my family–my household–was my full-time job. Now I have two full-time jobs.



Thanks, Pam. I was just talking to a friend this morning who was saying she feels fine when she’s working, and great when she’s just hanging out with her daughter, but absolutely TERRIBLE when she’s trying to do both at once.



Yes, that’s the problem – trying to do BOTH things at once, be an amazing, “present”, organized, caring mom and also being a dependable, capable worker…when I have to do both – which often happens, it is real life right? I am the most insane person. I feel like I want to get in the car and just drive away to anywhere…and I want to pick a fight with my husband – who by the way is juggling the same thing I am – bus schedules, play dates, activities for the kids and a full-time job. I told my husband this is by far the worst chapter in our lives – both working all the while juggling elementary school-aged children. It stinks.



Thank you for writing this blog post. I am a working mother, working 50 hours a week and the majority of my household income. I have a very stressful job and I can tell you I am going through this right now after finding out my husband will be losing 2 more dollars in pay by the first of the year and we are already teetering bankruptcy because of medical bills my daughter incurred this last year. I want nothing more than to be able to see my daughter on a consistent basis and not have to think about anything but her when I leave my job. I take great pride n everything I do especially work and I always push myself to the max but this week it all came crashing down and I thought about walking away from everything just don’t know where to start. It’s was very helpful for me to sort out where to begin to untangle this mess of mine. Balance is key and there is nine right now.



I am so happy I stumbled across this blog. I googled “What does a nervous breakdown feel like” and your link was several down the list, after all the ridiculous advertisements and ad-blogs that are nothing more than a place to hide links to drug companies.
I am dangerously close to the edge. In the past month I have screamed and cried quite a few times that I just can’t go on like this anymore. It feels like I’m trying to wear shoes that are one size too small. It hurts so bad, but everyone else does seem to be doing it, so what the heck is wrong with me.



Thank you!!

I’ve suffered from panic and anxiety for some time now, and it didn’t stop 3 1/2 months ago when I had my first child, a little girl. I had a great pregnancy until the end, when they feared I would develop pre-eclampsia. I had to leave my very stressful job 4 weeks early to stay in the hospital, and I ended up having her via (surprise) emergency c-section at 36 weeks + 5 days. We had closed on a new house 3 days before. My baby was healthy, but small. She had feeding issues and I was completely overwhelmed. Plus I felt bad that I just left work hanging. I had my husband call HR to let them know the situation, and I texted my subbordinates…but I never called the VP or CEO. Part of the reason is that I blame them, as they had me traveling throughout my pregnancy, strenuously working trade shows and going from appointment to appointment in fast-paced cities like LA and NY. I was at a trade show at 33 weeks, and everyone was commenting that it’s amazing I was there (in Atlanta, in the middle of the summer) working, much less getting on a plane. It didn’t feel right, but I didn’t have a choice about going. Well I guess technically I did, but that would put my job in jeopardy. The way things went down left a bad taste in my mouth. After talking with a co-worker, my (female) VP was overheard saying “She better not have that f-ing kid today” on the day I was admitted to the hospital because me and my child’s life was in danger.

I took my leave, and thankfully I signed up for disabillity insurance so I received 60% of my paycheck when I was out. Things were tough having a preemie. She had horrible colick, reflux and a hernia. Then, just as I was getting ready to return, I broke my ankle and had to take an additional 3 weeks off. Yesterday was my third day back, and I started to get all the symptoms you spoke of – the vomit feeling, the hives, the crying. THE CRYING!! I feel like there’s a giant X on my back now, and I’m just trying to live my life like the rest of us. Career, house, husband, baby, dog, car, family…and none if it feels “right”. I am thinking of going to a therapist for anti-deppressants, but they scare me. Plus, I’m afraid to ask for any time off to do that. As my friend told me, the days go by slow, but the years go by fast. Hopefully things shift into place, because I’m at my breaking point.



I feel weak. I have a 5 month old daughter…not a 5 year old or a 15 year old…and I am barely making it. I don’t know why I cry all of the time. I don’t know why I can’t handle myself. I don’t know why I am so out of control. I am only 27 years old. I feel like I should be able to do this…and I can’t but I still am. I work 40 hours a week and add about 5 hours to that for commute time. It makes me depressed thinking about how much I am missing of my daughter’s life. I get jealous when she smiles for the daycare teachers and won’t smile at me when I leave her. I feel guilty thinking about leaving work because they were so nice to me during my maternity leave.



I didn’t take the time to read the comments, because I have no time. I am on the edge of my sanity and just thought writing it out anywhere would help me clear my head. My husband has a broken leg and is completely incapcitated and helpless for at least the next two months, albeit appreciative for me doing everything. My three year old is sweet and precious and precocious and potty-training and wild. My 13 year old dogs are loving and old and almost totally incontinent. My full time job is so stressful and crazy that sometimes I feel homicidal. Kidding. Kidding. Prayers and cyber hugs welcome. I laugh when I clean up the dog crap every day and cry when I do pee-pee laundry and dishes, and everything else, every 5 minutes.



Part-time, flexible work – don’t believe the hype! I thought this would be the answer to my prayers but I was so wrong. I am not in work enough to be able to do a good job and I am not at home enough to be able manage the house and look after our one and two year olds. So pretty much the same situation I was in working full time, except with less money, and the knowledge that I am a massive failure at both work and at home.

Seriously considering leaving my job before I have a nervous breakdown! Last week my boss asked me to present at a conference. In the past I would have been pleased and honoured to be given such an opportunity. Now, I refused point blank to even consider it and spent the rest of week having mini panic attacks and wondering what I could possibly have done to make him dislike me so much that he would ask such a thing.

Crazy doesnt even come close to what goes through head at times. I am just so exhausted. I keep telling myself things will be better when I get some sleep!



I just read in our local paper about your book and this site. I just happen to have a friend who owns an indy bookstore so I will be sure to tell her about your book! The reason I am writing, and I’ve never done this before, is that after reading your story about your breakdown and reading all these responses, some of which are heartbreaking, I can tell you I SO very much identify with everything that is shared here. I work full-time and am the primary breadwinner. We could not live on my husband’s income alone and of course, if I made less, we would have to make many changes which is fine, but I actually enjoy my job very much. To share, I do feel okay at work–I am productive, calm, focused on customer service, etc, but then I get home and no matter how easy or light the day might have been, I feel physically and mentally exhausted. I feel like I am expected (by whom?) to do it all and I also find it difficult to not only NOT ask for help, but to actually refuse it when offered! “No, I can do it.” “I’m fine, I can take care of it.” Then I think I have to help everyone–not just the kids, but the husband, the widower dad, the 2nd career-searching brother, PTO, church, etc. I feel as if I am never caught up and if I take a break, I will only get further behind. I also feel that I can’t tell my friends how hard this really is as they may see me as flawed since it appears so many other mothers do “everything.” I have stood in my kitchen and wondered why I was here and how did I get in this mess and then go on because I have to. Nearly 2 years ago, I kept having the felt that all this was going to kill me and that I just couldn’t do it anymore–not that I felt suicidal, I just felt I couldn’t continue. If I could have, I would have just laid on the kitchen floor and cry for days. Fortunately, I went to my doctor and after knowing me for 14 years she convinced me that I needed something to help me cope. I also have a very loving and supportive, hard-working husband and some very wonderful close friends and a large, caring extensive family, but I still felt guilty for needing help! So this should have been the start of the happy ending, but after ignoring a variety of gastric discomforts for the last 2 years, my body finally decided that it was going to make me pay attention to the signals it was giving me. I ended up in the hospital for five days not knowing what was wrong or if I was going to die. Since then, I realized it’s not worth it to be so mentally and physically stressed from trying to do it all to risk my health and well being. I also realized I didn’t need to be a crazed maniac for things to get done well; it’s not worth it for me or my family. So now I am paying attention to my body and how I respond to stress and hectic situations. I try to focus on the things that are my responsibility at home and work, I try to remember that I don’t need to take on other people’s problems, I don’t need to say yes to everything and everyone, I try to recognize when I’ve hit my limits, and most of the little things can really be overlooked. Lastly, I am focusing on how blessed I am and trying to enjoy life more. Thank you for sharing all the comments here; knowing others are experiencing the same things I am helps so much.



Thanks for sharing Pam. I agree that you must remember to include your own health, physically and mentally, in that long list of priorities. It is important, but easier said than done, thanks to the society in which we live in. (Deep breath) But it is definitely worth the effort! How can you be a good mom or a good anything if you aren’t oiled and tuned to full functional capacity?

I also liked that you mentioned that you are trying to remember how blessed you are, as well as trying to enjoy life. You are right. I tend to forget that, often. As a Christian, I feel guilty of not trusting God enough in this situation. Does anyone have any advice on getting back in touch with the Lord? Are there any of you struggling with faith, especially in this situation? I feel that I have lost touch with most everything, including God.



Hello everyone. I really found comfort in knowing that I am not alone, and I want to contribute, so here is my story.

I am 25 and I have a 2-year-old daughter. We live in the care of her father, who is my boyfriend, yet we are not married. I stay at home with our daughter and he works full-time. I consider myself a full-time mom, housekeeper, and I am a full-time student taking courses online for my AS degree in Health Science. (It’s almost parallel to Nursing).

My routine life of the “happy” mom, housewife, and student stopped abruptly about three months ago right after Thanksgiving. I began feeling symptoms of anxiety that were kind of un-explanatory. I first thought that they were from driving (my boyfriend drove, and I was the passenger) for six hours in the heavy holiday traffic from northern California down. But as the symptoms came and went, I noticed that they were getting stronger and longer, and the intervals seemed to be getting closer together. (That slightly sounds like going into labor, no?)

I was happy to finally come home, but the next couple of nights, I felt extreme panic and anxiety. My heart would pound out of my chest. I could not breathe well. I felt that I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt highly alert and hyper-sensitive to EVERYTHING. I was extremely scared out of my mind, and I thought that I was going insane. I was frozen to the couch or my bed, too afraid to move. I felt isolated in the prison of my own mind. What drove me even more crazy was not knowing why or what was happening, and why I couldn’t control myself or get a grip. This was a nightmare to say the least. I felt so crippled and scared for not only myself, but also for my young daughter. I wondered If this was going to be permanent, or was this a heart-attack?

After a couple of days, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went into a clinic, and I had to ask my boyfriend to leave work to take me because I was too frightened to even drive. I went in and we waited for three hours to be seen. I couldn’t even look up to see other people in the clinic. I was so paranoid over something that I didn’t even know of. It was so scary and frustrating at the same time. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU! I repeated this over and over in my head. I kept trying to change the subject in my head, but couldn’t. The fear was enormous and it’s even kind of uncomfortable to talk about it now. The Dr. seemed to not really care and just wanted to prescribe me some meds that I wanted to avoid. I urged him not to do that. I felt that the anti-depressants would just be a Band-Aid. I wanted answers; REAL answers. I wanted blood tests, I wanted every test they had. If I couldn’t talk myself out of these feelings, then something must be going on physically. I thought that they should test my thyroid, because I read something about problems that can trigger these kinds of symptoms. Well, I came back for a blood test, and my blood came back perfectly healthy! I still wish they did an EKG or something, but they didn’t. The Dr. did prescribe some mild anti-histamine meds that are also used for surgical patients awakening from anesthesia who may feel panicky. I only used one pill out of the forty prescribed. It only made me sleepy, which is NOT what a busy person/mom like me needs. It felt like a cheap Band-Aid.

I didn’t come back for a follow-up because that same Dr. who saw me was impossible to make an appointment. He was backed up for the next month and a half. Maybe I should have gone back, but he did not seem helpful or caring at all. He just seemed to want to prescribe meds and be done with me. I felt that this was very un-thorough and I have yet to make a new appointment.

I also want to mention that after this episode, I quit smoking cigarettes and caffeine all at once. It wasn’t only because smoking is obviously unhealthy, but because I felt that stimulants made my anxiety worse. I don’t even drink that much, but now I totally avoid alcohol altogether. I’d like to say that I was strong and quit on my own, but really, I am just too scared! I guess it was a sort of “blessing” in disguise. Even now, I feel afraid of drinking coffee or alcoholic beverages.

I began to feel really bad thinking that I could not be a good mother to her anymore, nor could I be a good “wife.” My boyfriend has not asked me the big question yet, and I thought he would definitely not ask after this breakdown.

I have been told that I am really good at most anything I do and that I have so much potential. I was a fool to believe this, as after having my daughter, I was determined to get an education and get a career that would provide enough for her and I to make it on our own, especially because I wasn’t married to her father (if that even means anything as far as security goes nowdays). I also left my job to pursue my education.

The job was extremely fast-paced and stressful, and very cut-throat, in my opinion. My co-workers and I worked hourly with commission added. Management seemed to be tired of maternity leave after maternity leave, as I was the 4th or 5th worker to take it within the last 1 1/2 to 2 years. They wanted to keep me because I busted my a$$ for them, but I could not stand that this company had no sympathy for moms, or even pregnant women, which makes up the majority of their workers.

So when my daughter was born, I came off of maternity leave and bonding time very shortly and began working part-time, until I could no longer handle being a young mom, a worker, a homemaker, a student, and a companion.

As for support, I do not have much besides my boyfriend, who does his best, but I still do not understand why he can’t decide on getting married. We have been together for almost five years now. I also have no close friends or family members in this state. Everyone lives two states away in Texas, which really bums me out.

As many others have noted, I feel so tired and alone. I also refuse any help offered to me. I am slightly a perfectionist and I am stubborn. I falsely believe that I can handle it all, or that I don’t want to burden anyone. I feel lost. I feel that I lost interest in anything I once loved. I wonder what is wrong with me. I feel like I have no purpose sometimes, but I know that isn’t true.

My daughter is brilliant and super smart. Everyone says I am doing an amazing job with her. I would love to think that that was true, but I feel guilty of putting more time into my schooling than I do with her (I have maintained a 4.0 during the last 2 1/2 years of community college). I can only take a little credit, she is just naturally brilliant.

Even though I did not go back to seek treatment, I do not recommend this for anyone reading. I have been reading many books and researching and I have some background knowledge of both psychology and physiology. I am also stubborn, as I have mentioned before. I feel that I need to learn for myself what is going on due to the fact that I have not encountered a Dr. that really cares anymore. However, I am still on the hunt for one. I feel that the more I know, the better I feel about my condition, so I keep studying many disorders like panic disorder, depression, and now, mental breakdowns.

I do not feel those severe, disabling panic attacks anymore, so that is good. But I still feel anxiety that is a little excessive at times, which is a little more than normal, and very annoying. I have found comfort in accepting that there is a problem with my mental health, but I can get better. Also, I am not perfect, and I never will be. It is okay to try, but I must remember to accept a loss now and then. (You can’t always win.) I have tried to lessen my load and accept help from others. I try to remember that I am the only mother to my daughter and she is more in need and more important than my weird anxieties.

My sister and I talk over the phone when we can, and she mentioned that maybe it is normal as a mother to feel this way, but yes, in this case I have fallen off the cliff, and I am slowly climbing back up. Perhaps this is true for some moms, like some sort of natural instinct, but even instincts can hurt you, especially when out of control. I hope I am better for it. With that note, I have had a hard time growing up in my teen years do to some mental abuse from my step-father, but I have always looked at it now as a glass half full. He taught me what I didn’t want to be, and he caused me to be a stronger woman. Of course, I wonder if what he did has anything to do with this recent breakdown.

As I have come to learn more and more about these mental conditions, I have been coming across blogs such as this. I know this is long, but I hope my story helps someone out there on their journey as well.



Using Ancient Rome 3D in Google Earth, you can explore Rome as it appeared in 320 A.
But unfortunately not every request will get approved.
But it seems Memorial Day wasn’t important enough to Google.



I can’t believe there is someone out there writing about this – and people are writing back! OMG!!! This is my life over the last year! It really took a nosedive when my husband started to travel more for work and I’d find myself panicking that I was having a heart attack at the end of the day, or my pulse would rise and I’d begin to panic that something was seriously wrong. I work in financial services, dealing with other people’s panic over their own financial lives, have two boys under age 7, married to a man that travels a bit, and also have lots of interests of my own. I was just telling my assistant yesterday how sometimes it just gets to be way too much, just having to keep toilet paper stocked is a lot AND that that job will never go away, we’ll always need toilet paper! AUGH!!!! I’m bookmarking this blog for sure. Thank you thank you thank you.


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Thank you for this. I currently work in a job that doesn’t necessarily have a high level of stress, but I am having trouble figuring out a balance for everything that is going on. I often find myself wallowing in my own tears on the couch late at night or early in the morning wondering how I will be able to get up and get through the day. It’s very comforting to know that they’re are other moms (and dads too) that go through the same thing.



I am 39 yes old a mother of 4, ages 21, 20, 15 and 11. 3 girls and 1 boy, my kids and husband have always been my happiness and all I did was for them. But you never know when life will change in an instant, I started working at age 18 at a new business and worked my way from the bottom to the top as being the office manager, I soon learned a lot about myself, my boss couldn’t find anyone that could fill the position we needed after firing an employee that worked with me for 10 yrs, so all responsibilities feel on me, meaning any job in the office I did, from doing new hires to cutting checks, after the first year I could see I was starting to struggle and by the 2nd yr I knew things had gotten really bad for me and didn’t really know why or how so fast. I mean I loved my job and the people I worked with, but after talking with my boss almost on a daily basis he knew the old me was gone, told me I needed help, that I was stressing over nothing. I figured my problems to be that I am the type of person that doesn’t deal well with change or not being in control, now almost 3 yrs later and left my job now for 6 months and one Dr after the next I do not feel much better, still having serve anxiety and can not understand why I can’t get things together, I think I have tried every medication made for this, I want to be the old me but can’t seem to get anywhere, I feel awful because I feel I am letting my family down and they mean the world to me, praying for relief



I’m a sleep deprived mom of 2 currently going through a separation with my husband. It’s all getting too much for me me and though I’ve told close family and friends I don’t think they actually believe how much I’m struggling, or understand it. I’m surviving on 3hrs sleep a night cuz my 9mth old is poorly atm. So for the past 4 nights that’s all I’ve had. And there’s no chance of rest during the day with a 4yr old also.

I suffer with anxiety and depression anyway but this lack of sleep is causing me to now have panic attacks so I definitely feel ‘ close to the edge’



I need some advice or help



I am currently going through a ‘nervous breakdown’ only I don’t have a supportive husband which makes things 10x more difficult. He tells me that everyone has stress and it shouldn’t be an excuse not to work and that essentially I have to work.
I thought I would have this breakdown much earlier, after all I have a preteen and two teenagers. I think maybe I have had episodes of a breakdown during which time I would abuse prescription drugs and alcohol while still functioning as a normal human being (at least on the outside). It was a seemingly minor incident that caused me to totally shut down. I am just floating in a sea of unknown. I go from not wanting the kids, to not wanting the job, especially not wanting the husband to just leaving it all behind. I am on anxiety medications but I think this build up is too much for even my medication to bear.
I am so happy to see others expressing their stories. I am sick of people (men especially) telling us its all in our heads and we are overreacting.



I’m a full-time working mother of 2 young children. One day, last month, I was driving my kids to the aquarium and had a severe panic attack on the highway. I barely managed to pull my car over as I was feeling dizzy, my heart was palpitating, and my hands were sweaty and shaky. Since that day, I lost my ability to drive and I’m now on a 2-month leave of absence at work. I’m hoping to can share with me your secrets for recovery from your nervous breakdown as I obviously have that right now. Besides medication, what else worked best in helping you recover? Thank you. -Judy


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