I fully expected to feel better after my emotional free-fall. Isn't that what usually happens? You 'let it all out' - emotions which have bubbled under the surface get expunged, released and set joyously free? The issue gets air-time and you can start to move on? Isn't that how it works?
Apparently not. For days, weeks, months, my rage stayed with me; lingering, regrouping, clustering and huddling, just waiting for one look, one word, one action to justify another massive explosion. Fragility was written large all over my face. Friends tactfully probed, offering gentle support, the children wrote me comforting and uplifting messages hoping to bring me back to them, while my husband trod quietly and delicately around me, not knowing how to fix things - the ice cracking dangerously with every footfall. I hated being so weak, I hated being out of control and more to the point, I hated everyone noticing, which only stoked my anger more.
Right in the middle of all this, I was dealt a final blow. My first commission for a broadsheet paper suddenly came my way. It's what I had wanted of course, but not now, not just yet. With only one published article under my belt, the learning curve I had to take on would be almost Himalayan. I'd be thrust so far out of my comfort zone I wasn't sure I could find my way back. The timing couldn't have been worse.
Even so, I decided to give it a go. Relying heavily on the advice and guidance of those more experienced, I muddled my way through, making mistake after mistake, worrying and fretting about interviewees, quotes and word counts. With self-confidence about as wobbly as a jellyfish, my stress levels started to rise, reaching a peak one morning, close to the deadline.
It had been a bad night and I'd barely slept. Dragging myself up to make the breakfast, my body suddenly decided it had had enough and started to take over - alien-like - quite beyond my control. One minute I was filling the kettle, the next I was struggling for breath and sobbing in spasms. It was as if someone had punched me in the chest, winding me in the process. Was this what I thought it was? Was I really having a panic attack? Over one little article?
People rallied, as they always do. My husband took the kids to school; friends, relatives and mentors, talked to me for hours on the phone, piecing me back together little by little until at last I was back on track - limping and wounded - but back on track.
I finished the article and it was done, but I took no pride in it. Part of me - the part I know well, the 'me' of everyday - had been observing everything from afar, judging and analysing in a detached manner. I was ashamed and embarrassed by the terrible fuss I had made over it all. Clearly, something big was going on: I needed some time to recover, to rest, to take stock, understand what had happened. In short, I needed to take a long hard look at my life.