Hi. I’m Robb. And I May Have Had a Nervous Breakdown.

About ten days ago, I just about had a nervous breakdown.

I’ve written before that I’ve suffered through a few panic attacks in my life. It’s a not a fun experience. I’ve been able to reduce a lot of the anxiety that led to those panic attacks by eliminating most caffeine from my diet. I now drink a lot less coffee, and most of the coffee I do drink now is either half-caf or decaf.

But what I experienced on that Friday morning had nothing to do with how much coffee I drank. “Nervous breakdown” are about the best words I can use to describe it.  

Now, I understand that the term “nervous breakdown” is a non-technical one. It’s a little bit like saying that you “put your back out.” It describes what happened but not necessarily the medical or technical reality. I’m not a mental health expert – obviously – so I don’t have the exact words to describe what happened. I suppose that “nervous breakdown” is as good a term as any.


This episode had been building for a long time. Honestly, I’ve known for a couple of years that I haven’t been dealing with my emotions well. I’ve made some changes in my life – trying to eat better, exercise, taking breaks from Facebook, for example. But, as it turns out, those have been small bandaids on a gaping wound.

Sensing how frazzled I’ve become, a couple of months ago, I asked the Vintage Oversight Team for a break. I need a sabbatical to rest. That sabbatical started yesterday.

Further, Vanessa and I started seeing a therapist. We’ve gone a few times now, and it is very nice to have someone to talk to who won’t be freaked out about what you have to say. I don’t have to guard my words at all when talking with him or wonder if I am overburdening him with my stuff. He’s given us some helpful insights so far, and we’re hopeful that therapy will really be a long-term solution to some of my struggles.

But none of this was able to prevent what went down.


Zhan-Wang3In short, it felt like my whole world was blowing apart. The sensation I had was that everything was fragmenting and flying in different directions. It’s like I could see bits and pieces of my life as they hurtled away from each other – and from me. It was an unsettling feeling. I wanted to reach out and grasp everything and hold it together. But I couldn’t. It all was just blowing apart.

On that Friday morning, I was so overcome by this feeling that I couldn’t function. All I could do was weep.

It felt like all of the things in my life that are most important, all of the things that matter to me, all of the things that I worry about on a daily basis, all became uncertain all at once. My marriage, my family, my church, my work, my relationships. All of it. Everything. Uncertain. At the same time.


And so, on that Friday morning, in the midst of our small fight about something else, I told Vanessa what was really bothering me, some news I had been carrying around for a few days and hadn’t shared with her. I had told myself that I didn’t want to freak her out. In reality, I didn’t want to freak myself by saying the news out loud.

The revelation uncorked a flood of emotion that left me deeply shaken.

Several days later, with the support of a kind and gracious wife, some very caring friends, and the wise words of a counselor, I am feeling a lot better. I have the sense that things are going to get better. And, because of my sabbatical, I’ve got some extra time and space to invest in some much needed soul care.

Still, it’s a strange thing to experience a breakdown like this, maybe even more-so as a pastor. Later this week, I’ll blog about how I’ve been processing all of this in light of my pastoral ministry.


In the meantime, how about you? Have you ever had a “nervous breakdown?” How did you get through it?


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