The Mythology of the “Breaking Point”


Everyone has a breaking point.

Everyone normal that I know uses the expression of being “past their breaking point”.  I never understood that expression.  To me, if you are past the proverbial “breaking point” shouldn’t you be in a mental health facility, wearing white jammies and slurping apple sauce a la “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?“.

So loved Jack Nicholson in that one.  Brilliant!

When my Dad was beyond his breaking point, he’d do things around the house.  Things that took days of being outside and away from his wife.   Sometimes he wanted help, but frequently he didn’t.  He found other things to do so that he wouldn’t lose his shit.

When my Mom was beyond her breaking point, she’d take two Tylenol #3 (prescription) pain killers and a tea mug that held about 2 pints (not kidding) of strong tea and self-medicate to a dark bedroom with a small television propped up on a dresser.   We weren’t allowed to bother her when she checked out, which was almost every night.

When my first husband would reach his breaking point, he would check into a video game that took four or five hours.  Sometimes he’d surface for food from the basement office.


I am not sure I have a “breaking point”.

To me, adversity is common.  I’m not looking for sympathy I am just saying that if you place me in a round, padded room with no sharp implements, I’d still find a way to trip, fall, bruise, or take bystanders down with me.  Graceful?  Not so much.  A magnet for transition and adversity?  You betchya.

Someone said to me “Wow, this year has been a lot of trial, tribulation, change, adjustment and shaking up… you must be at your breaking point!  I would have lost my shit by now.”

And I’ve been thinking about that statement all week.

Logan’s surgery is next Thursday.  Thankfully we seem to have maxed out the deductible so there should be no additional giant medical bills, lab test charges etc. heading our way.  Medications and stuff… sure.   A good thing too, because we’re still trying to pay off the last surgery.

tumblr_m2t12qXKeT1qfoe7mo1_500And we hope this is the last one not for financial reasons obviously.  Because we want our son to be okay and not have to go through all this painful and scary medical stuff.  Come on Plano doctors … be better than the last ones and fix this shit for good please.

My first impression of American Healthcare … not so cheery.   But dealing with our anxieties (we’re both prone) and Logan’s anxieties, and the financial anxieties … and some other important business transitions I have been making, looking for a new rental house and trying desperately to “set up house” somewhere in between moving, wedding, immigration, buying a new car, surgery, immigration (yep again), car accident and second surgery next week…

[Insert long deep breath].

What is the point of indicating that you are at a breaking point really?  Does it help you navigate or problem solve what’s in front of you?  Nope.   Does it help you get through the bad stuff faster if you simply shut down and try to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Nope.   Despair, discouragement, depression… these emotions do little to help the situation.   When they enter the marbled floor of my brain, I give them assigned seats, duct tape their mouths and tell them to frankly … shut the fuck up.

They don’t help but I don’t allow them to hinder me anymore.  I’ve learned to park them however temporarily until I navigate whatever adversity is in front of me.

And then sometime quiet, on a dog walk by myself I’ll do that thing I do where I tell them they can get out of their chairs.  They are allowed to bring a date.  Her name is Self-Pity.  And then I tend to sit somewhere and cry for a spell and let it out.

By myself. It’s how I process, vent and roll.    But please don’t think I am suggesting it’s particularly healthy.  As much as I am proud to be able to manage these emotions completely on my own (and getting so much better at handling anxiety and my ADHD in adverse situations) sometimes I feel I am turning into a stone.

Which worries me a little.

I suppose it depends on the person.  Perhaps if I allowed myself one of those mythological “breaking points” I would be a little more human.   But you see, I grew up surrounded by people with low-thresholds before their own individual breaking point.

When everyone around you gives up easily, someone has to be the rock of Gibraltar right?  Everyone can’t lose their shit or everyone is screwed.  I decided a long time ago that the “breaking point” was something of a luxury that others could enjoy, while I figured out how to fix the problem instead.

And I don’t want a personal breaking point for me ever.   I don’t want to ‘give up’ even for a day or week or month, or wave the white flag.  I’m too stubborn for that.  I want to win.

But I realize the cost of not having a “breaking point” is to live without a certain degree of self-empathy.  And while some people pull-in to coddle themselves in hard times, I am flogging myself harder to propel through.  That must be a personality archetype of sorts (not that I think it makes me better… I think it makes me tragically flawed).

9058467-largeEventually I’ll have a good, private cry about it.  Taking a lesson from my husband who is pretty much exactly my mirror reflection when it comes to problems and keeping things on the down-low.  In fact, he’s better at it which I admire.

Kevin would never blog about it.  But I am clearly still trying to figure myself out.   Somewhere in the small bits of time between the mini tsunami’s of circumstance.

And always a little voice reminds me that the world is full of true misfortune, disaster, loss, illness, violence, insanity and unspeakable horrors.  Compared to a bad day in Bangladesh, I have no problems.

I do miss so many of the vices I used to have.   I’m down to medicating with fruit smoothies, the odd banana, and working, working working… The unsinkable Ms. Smythe still very much at the center of me.  Rawr!

My biggest aspiration is to evolve to the point where I stop measuring my strengths and weaknesses against parents that stopped being parents 23 years ago, and simply understanding myself as the apple that rolled very far from the tree.