7 Easy and Fun Steps to Having a Breakdown (so you can have a breakthrough)
So recently I had a breakdown. Okay, I don’t mean a breakdown in the sense I was in a room with a lot of padding and my life story is soon going to be a Lifetime movie (fun fact - my true life story is a movie, but we’ll get to that in a moment) - no, by breakdown I mean I fell apart in the most wonderful way.
Now, as we all know, legit breakthroughs only come when we have legit breakdowns. That divorce, death, bad seafood incident. Not that a breakdown is necessary for a breakthrough, but we are such a stubborn species, and so resistant to change, it often takes a heaping pile of self-imposed shit for us to change which is absurd beyond belief. So why do we do that?
Good question. Let’s answer it, shall we?
This was my deal: I recently finished directing a movie adaptation of my true literary memoir called, “Creepy Kid.” It’s called that because that’s what my mentally-ill mother called me. For years and years and years I thought I was a Creepy Kid. Try as I might to run away from that early indictment, I never could. I thought I was creepy. Fucked up. Off. Destined to fail.
So over the past year, I spent over $30,000 writing, producing and directing an 18-minute teaser to get people interested in my yet unpublished memoir and the TV adaptation I wrote. I hired countless coaches to coach me through the writing of the book and the TV pilot. I hired a crew, a producer, a cast and put my heart and soul into filming and editing.
Why did I do this? To publish my book and have my TV adaptation (called “Woodbridge”) bought by Netflix so I could have the career I’ve always known I’m meant for. That career is being intimately involved in TV and film as a writer, actor, director, and prouder and being the big and brass entertainer and inspiring coaching force I was born to be?
Or, as my now dearly departed father would have said, “No shit, Sherlock.”
But what I was really doing (and this is why I had the breakdown) was to finally, once and for all, say goodbye to my mother, to let her go, to free myself from the woman who loved me and abused me and tortured me and fucked me up. I knew, until I let go of her, and flew into my future I’d never, ever have the life I know I was born to have because of that woman who loved me, abused me, tortured me, and fucked me up.
Our early conditioning is deep and it takes a will most of us have never encountered to eradicate and leverage that early conditioning for our happiness and success. We don’t see that the shit of our youth is the glorious gift of our present. It’s a fucked up thing, I know, to think that the very thing that we feel is holding us back is the very thing that’s fueling us to be who we are. Any other thinking is deeply fucked up, so you might as well drink the fucking Kool-Aid and agree that what doesn’t kill you really, truly does make you stronger IF you see specific value of that strength in your life and leverage it.
I finished the teaser. Endless emails and discussions with editors, cast, and crew. Money spent left and right and all on faith and with (mostly) grace. Days upon days of working on it and it was done.
So what happened when I finished it?
I got sick. Like, gross sick.
Like - okay, it went like this: I was at CrossTraining and I felt sick to my stomach. I never feel sick to my stomach. Sure, when I used to drink too much wine and ate a lot of bad food when I was fat I was sick to my stomach a lot. But now? Never.
So when I was in the midst of doing an insane Mule Kick with my trainer I felt this odd gurgling in my stomach. But physical pain is weakness leaving the body, right? So I powered through.
The day continued and I was nauseous, but I kept going. I had coaching clients too see, and I take the work of inspiring and helping others very, very seriously. I breathed and got through the day with clients and, dare I say, I slayed. I gave them tremendous insight and I was in the zone and the sessions were amazing.
Later that night I stumbled home and ran into the house and flew into the bathroom and flung open the toilet seat and vomited like I’ve never vomited before. Projectile. Exorcist velocity.
And what did I say as I was throwing up?
That’s right. “Mommy”.
For the next five days I experienced the most excruciating stomach pain I’d ever felt. It was like I was being stabbed in the stomach over and over…and over.
I had had this kind of stomach pain before when I was younger, deeply depressed, and ready to kill myself (I tried twice - suicide is something I get because, see, my mother killed herself so suicide and I are buddies in that I get it - I get it). I knew this pain. It was the pain of fear, the pain of terror, the pain of feeling I was about to be attacked and tortured again like I was as a boy.
I felt like a fool for having this pain. I didn’t want this pain. I wanted it to to go away. I was ashamed of it. Here I am - Mr. Positivity Connected To The Universe - and I’m falling apart like a rag doll attached to the front grill of a speeding garbage truck in the old movie “Duel” (directed by my hero Steven Spielberg). Torn, dirty and ready to die.
The pain went on and on and as it did so came the tears. Endless. Crying on my couch, clearing the fridge, making pasta, bending over asking God to take the pain away, meditating, reading on why this was going on, knowing why it was going on.
I laughed. I mean, fuck - I teach how the physical body is a pure representation of what is going on with us emotionally. And where I was living the very thing I was teaching.
Healer heal thyself.
Now during these endless days (during which I called my sister endlessly - God bless that woman for being there like no one else is in my life) - I had a writing deadline due.
I paid thousands and thousands of dollars to a famous TV writing coach in LA. The draft of the TV adaptation of my memoir about my abusive childhood was due to her and I had a scant four days to send it. Four days. An hour long drama that had numerously intricate emotionally precocious parts to it. I could barely get off the couch and I was supposed to nail my new TV show.
TV writing is like a Swiss watch. Put in the wrong screw and it won’t work. You can’t make it work and you never will unless you are clear and precise. It’s felt and mechanical.
I care very much about the future of the TV show adaptation of Creepy Kid. I grew up on TV. I lived in TV and the movies as a kid. When my mother was coming at me with her fists and words, I lived in the movies to find my freedom. I lived for Willy Wonka, I lived for musicals (what? I was a gay kid - it’s what we do), I lived for screwball comedy, fantasy. As I got older and a teen I lived for super depressing movies but as a boy I always wanted the fun stuff because that was who I was, not this battered child being battered by a woman who was battered herself.
So here I was. Sobbing on the couch, feeling awful, feeling like I should get it together, confused why I was feeling so bad - time to celebrate! But my body was telling a whole other story.
So I woke up on a Saturday at 8am and I said to myself, “Today is the day you’re going to sit your ass on the couch and rewrite this fucking thing, and you are only getting up to shit, pee and put food into your mouth. That’s it, Bryan.”
It was five hours into this self-imposed exile something happened. I knew something was breaking loose. I knew what I was writing was good. No, not good. Great. Like “Six Feet Under” great (my model for the perfect TV show). But I didn’t want to think too much about it. So I wrote and wrote and wrote until my fingers literally ached. Until sweat poured down my cheeks. Yes, I’m even dramatic while writing.
I turned it into my writing coach. Went to bed. Exhausted, but like after good sex, complete. Drained.
The next morning I awoke and was afraid to open my eyes. I was afraid of what my body would tell me. Would I be in more pain? Would I need to go to the ER? Was the stomach thing an ulcer? Was I going to be more depressed and anxious and would those former days where I couldn’t get it together haunt me and would I again be oddly sweating on a freezing Friday in Manhattan from endless panic attacks and would people ask me if I was okay and had the Bubonic Plague?
I rose and felt good. Light. Odd. Went into the kitchen, made my morning coffee and sat on the couch. In silence. I’m hyper vigilant about my body and a genuine health nut (emphasis on nut) and I scanned my body and felt…good. Odd. Light.
I mediated and decided to watch the 1 minute and 45 second teaser for Creepy Kid. It’s the one that’s super emotional and uplifting and shows my mother abusing me and kids in town bullying me and my sister loving me and, most importantly, me walking away from my mother and into my future. Normally when I watch it I cry a hurt cry that feels warm.
I watched it and felt the tears but they weren’t warm. They were…lukewarm.
The next day I had the call with my writing coach.
“Michael,” she said on Zoom. “Michael, this is the best thing you’ve ever written. This is brilliant. You nailed it. What did you do?”
I cleared my throat and answered, “I had a breakdown. I lost five pounds too, by the way. Highly recommend it over paleo.”
She smiled in a way that said I was funny (but not funny) and she said, “I don’t want you to have another breakdown but let’s just get real for a second. Stop hiding your pain. Stop waiting for others to love and accept you. Show it and the right people will show up. Some people won’t like it. They can’t go there. They don’t want to go there, but you? You live there. That mix of tragedy and humor is your sweet spot. Work that shit. It’s you.”
Here we come to the end of the piece and where I do what we screenwriters are taught and give you the ‘promise of the premise,’ meaning, the title of this bog post.
Look, this is the truth: I resist this whole thing in these circles of transformation and coaching where people want a list of 7 things to do to be happy. I was dragged into this work because so many people are so fake in it. While I know they mean well, they aren’t saying anything new.
But I’ve stopped being such a snarky bitch about it because lists do clarify. They do bring order to the questions and that’s a good. But because I find this world of coaching full of people who should not be coaching, I am intent on being the kind of person who, through example, proves why he was born to coach. No artifice. No bullshit. We have enough of that in the world today. Bye bye posers. Hello authentic peeps.
This is my version of the much-loved lists to transform your life (because you know, a list can do that because life isn’t complex or anything)…
Enjoy my beautiful ballers…
7 Easy and Fun steps to Having a Breakdown (so you can have a breakthrough)
- Deny that you’re influenced by what happened to you as a kid. Go ahead and say, ‘I am not my past’ without doing any of the inner work to feel the false beliefs you were taught as a kid. Make sure you say an affirmation over and over and don’t go ‘there’ emotionally and watch how that will definitely bring a breakdown. Denial of this order is perfect for emotional and bodily chaos.
- Fake it until you make it. Very important. This is the most effective way I know of to make sure that you have a breakdown because, you know, the truth that the universe doesn’t hear a fucking word you say but only what you really feel is just, like, something people like me say because, you know, ‘fake it until you make it’ isn’t a big load of steaming horseshit. I’m clearing my throat.
- Ride yourself everyday and make sure you make a list of things to do every day and if you don’t achieve those 5 or 8 or 10 things tell yourself you failed and that you need to get it together the next day. Use words like “Hustle harder,” and “Toughen up,” and “Get a thicker skin, bitch.” Especially do this when you lift weights. Very effective. This is a really, really awesome way to have a breakdown. Can’t recommend it more highly. Hustling until it hurts is very effective. #hustlermartyrdom
- Tell people you aren’t doing #3 when you are really doing #3. Tell people that you’re talking to yourself compassionately and overuse the #selfcare hashtag, but don’t really do it then blame the weather, your lover, your job, Trump, Facebook friends, Instagram, your weight gain, your unhappiness, your annoyance and general uncomfortableness in life. Awesome way to go and a sure fire recipe for a fast and efficient breakdown. #lexaproanyone
- Keep being super lazy about how you direct your thoughts on all the shit you don’t have yet, and complain about how can’t get it together and be all victim-like, and keep complaining everywhere about how everything is fucked up and how global warming and poverty and Trump’s atrocities are something we must DO SOMETHING ABOUT but then, you know, don’t offer solutions but just keep talking about how fucked up the world is and what hasn’t come and what’s wrong and oh my gosh - this is such a good way to have a breakdown. Do this and you will have the best breakdown ever. #amazing
- Stop loving yourself so radically that you end up not wanting to fuck yourself. Like, be the kind of person you’d mack on after two Long Island Iced Teas and then dis yourself when the lights come up at 2AM. Definitely recommended for an awesome breakdown. Make sure you don’t want to be your own hook-up because it’s narcissistic and lacks humility, and because it’s important everyone knows you’re humble and not here for your own happiness. #winning
- Hire people like me, yes, because you do want teachers who love themselves and get themselves, but know that you only hire them, only read them, only listen to them because they reaffirm what you know, in your gut and in your heart, are the right things to do in your life. Letting others dictate what you should do, and moderating your life for their happiness and approval is the best and most awesome way to have a big, fat breakdown that will cause you to smoke weed, drink, fuck a lot, spend too much money and feel you’re unworthy of what this Universe is blasting to you right now, Baller, and that’s the feeling of awesomeness and excitement and thrill and joy and limitedness and the truth - THE TRUTH, THE BIG KAHUNA - is that those who try to hold you back, your oppressors, are the things/people/Presidents that give you the hope to loosen the rope the start another day (that’s a song lyric I stole and I’m not sorry).