Musings

The Meaning Behind My Meltdown

Written by Jennifer Nini

I am going to take a departure from my usual look-how-green-my-life-is posts and talk about something extremely personal.

I mean, deeply personal.

Now I'm doing so not because I'm an over-sharer. And unlike the new brand of 'influencer' I'm not writing this to contrive an appearance of being 'human' to commoditise my 'authenticity'.

Take it, leave it or don't believe it but here's my truth:

Last week I had the meltdowns to end all meltdowns.

Extremely uncharacteristic of me.

Vulnerability is at odds with everything that I had been raised to believe. Overt emotional outbursts were not tolerated when I was a child. I was told in no uncertain terms that life is hard, just deal with it, best get on with it and just be grateful for living in Australia. No ifs, no buts, no crying. Crying won't get you anywhere.

But you know what? That meltdown was the best thing that could have happened to me in light of my very long to-do list, self-imposed high standards and perceived external expectations.

An ugly episode that featured physical exhaustion, heart palpitations, heavy breathing, coughing, uncontrollable crying on my fiance's shoulder, snotty nose. The works.

It wasn't pretty. I was an absolute wreck. 

Jennifer Nini The Social Copywriter

So what contributed to this?

If you're on my subscriber list you will no doubt be familiar with the circumstances but for those of you who are not, here's what led me to being a basket case:

  • I am involved in three different business concepts which is beyond most people's beliefs and even capabilities. One start up is all-consuming, but to be involved in three? Just out and out crazy.
  • Partly due to the cold winter season (I'm in Australia remember) and partly due to my workload, I got sick. Cold virus. And for the first time realised I couldn't call in sick because... I work for myself!  So I continued working which made recovery that much slower.
  • I went to the doctor for a check up because I was sick and found that I am also dangerously Vitamin D deficient. The doctor told me it was the worst case she'd ever seen AND if I don't get it sorted I'll be at risk of osteoporosis by the time I'm in my 50s. Just great.
  • We also hired three new trainees to help with my workload in the long term. But for those of you who've employed staff in your business can attest - the huge commitment in time and resources creates more work in the short term.
  • Amongst all of this, I had to fly to my hometown of Melbourne (Australia) as mum turned 60 and my sister got engaged. I couldn't afford to take time off work so amongst the family time and catch ups I was still logging in the work hours. The road to recovery came to an abrupt halt. I got sick again.
  • And then on top of that I ran a free seminar on marketing to help businesses in my local community get up to 'digital speed'. With my workload and the preparations for the seminar it is little wonder that even though it was a 'success' I felt mentally and emotionally depleted.

Now can you see why I was a mess?

After the seminar on Tuesday, I cried. I cried on my fiancé's shoulder. I cried because I was exhausted. I cried because I felt like I was letting people down. I cried because I had so much to do and I couldn't work out how I'd get everything done. I cried because I just needed to. I cried because I am human.

Jennifer Nini, speaker, ethical blogger, digital marketer

And contrary to what we're told, crying does indeed get you somewhere. You surrender, you release, you cleanse.

Now I'd like to say that life got better after that messy breakdown. But I'm a writer. Life doesn't follow fairytale format. There's often a plot twist.

My life is no exception.

Jen's Meltdown - Part II.

Late Saturday afternoon after finally finishing up at the office (yes I worked part of my Saturday) we returned to the farm only to find our dog Dusty struggling to walk. In the hours to come he slowly deteriorated, his hind legs seized and then he collapsed. We found three ticks on him. Worst sign ever.

Having suffered through one of our other dogs passing away from a tick bite, I knew what was in store. We debated driving the hour back into town for Dusty to see a vet. We decided to stay and help Dusty in the only way we knew how: to love him through it.

We'd seen Dusty sick on a multitude of occasions. We live on a farm and he is not granted the same protection as dogs living in a sheltered, urban environment. Dusty is a farm dog. He roams outside of the boundaries when he shouldn't. He challenges snakes and goannas when he shouldn't. He eats rotting dead animal meat and he really shouldn't. Ben and I can't protect him from any of this just as a mother can't protect her children from unknown perils. With freedom there is also danger. With the highs there are also lows. Such is life. Even for a dog.

So on a Saturday evening, awash with grief, emotionally exhausted from the month that was, I watched as Dusty lay on the wooden floor of our 100 year old Queenslander, his once strong body convulsing. I hugged him and told him how much I loved him and needed him to live. I prayed to the universe. I looked into his eyes as if to will him back to life. But mostly I drank champagne - Ben drinking his beer - while we sobbed over our handsome dog.

And against all odds, Dusty survived. 

My fiance Ben McGuire and my dog Dusty

My fiance Ben and our dog Dusty.

The learning lesson.

The next morning with barely a hang over and watching as Dusty jumped and licked and wagged his tail like nothing happened, I suddenly learned the lesson. No matter how important purpose-driven work is, its meaning can pale in comparison when faced with what's truly important - losing someone you love (Dusty is not a 'thing').

So no matter how 'conscious' you are trying to be: eating organically grown whole foods, shopping mindfully, trying to transform capitalism for the better, meditating for 10 mins a day, taking deep breaths, practising yoga, contributing to ethical Kickstarter campaigns, helping to promote sustainable business, trying to minimise your environmental impact, basically trying to change the world, all of this does not make you immune to natural laws.

What goes up must come down. 

But what comes down can still pick itself back up. That's what I'm doing now...

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About the author

Jennifer Nini

Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess. In 2010, after studying Fashion Business, she began this blog to explore her interests in fashion, politics, social justice and sustainability. Jennifer is also the founder of The Social Copywriter, a digital agency harnessing the power of copywriting and content marketing to help mindful businesses reach more people. When she's not perfecting a sentence or coaching business clients, you will find her at her permaculture farm reconnecting with nature.

9 Comments

  • So glad you’re pup pulled through ok! They are definitely not ‘things’, my girl is my fur child!

    Great post, everyone deserves a good meltdown from time to time and it can be healthy to release all that pent up stress and emotion.

    Feel better! Cheers – Alyssa

    • Thanks Alyssa! Feeling so much better after a cry and a good yarn to some friends. Energised and ready to face the world, but not carry it like I was trying to do before LOL! 🙂

  • So pleased your dog (and you!) are ok!

    I was listening to a fascinating BBC 4 radio programme about crying. Today, crying is seen as weakness for women, but for men it can be viewed as a strength- someone in touch with their feminine side yadder yadder. But crying is how our bodies deal with our emotions & helps us to process – and keeping it in doesn’t allow your kind to process it. Your breakdown was clearly nothing more than your body’s way of forcing you to slow down. Afterall, you’re ignoring all the other signs (like getting ill). I think you should get some rest & you’ll be ten times more productive and focused (although I ain’t no doctor & you’re a stubborn thing!). XXXX

    • Absolutely agree and you are right, resting is so hard to do in light of my current situation. But the crying was such a blessing because it made me realise that I can’t do it all myself. That I’m taking on too much. And I need to prioritise and say no to the things that don’t add value to my life. I need to delegate more, take the time to plan strategically so I’m working ‘smarter’ not ‘harder’. Best thing about a meltdown is you come out with much clearer vision. So grateful for it. Thanks for your advice Charlie, I really appreciate it xx

  • I really loved this piece. I also agree with you, that meltdowns (sometimes) can be really helpful. It’s my body/mind’s way of telling me I’m taking on too much, and there’s nothing like a meltdown to wake you up and get you to reorganize your priorities and back off a little.

    I’m so glad your dog is okay, and I’m glad that you’re picking yourself back up! I hope you start to feel better! xo

    • Thanks Sarah for the well wishes. Dusty is back to his usual self. He’s lived on the farm his entire life and has had many tick bites but this is the worst he’s ever been after being bitten. I’m hoping these recent tick bites have helped build up his immunity. And I’m feeling much better so thank you. A meltdown is like a storm. After it’s over, the sun shines again 🙂

    • Thanks Erin, yes much better. That was a sign to delegate and start saying no instead of yes. I’ve gotten back to the basics – putting first things first. And no I haven’t heard of this plant. We have neem trees on the property for natural mosquito repellant but I’ll look into this. So long as it doesn’t disturb the ecology or have adverse affects on our farm I’d be interested to plant some. Thanks for the tip! FYI we’re on about 120 acres, much of which is covered with trees and some forest so you can understand my apprehension to introduce a new species that may disturb the ecology of our natural environment 🙂

      • You’re welcome Jennifer. I completely understand where you are coming from. Hopefully you will be able to plant some Kunzea around your home.

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