My Nervous Breakdown

Alan Bigelow offers an interesting new flash narrative, My Nervous Breakdownl on the nature of sanity and culture.

Upon entering the narrative, the viewer hears the rhythmic cadence of an exhausted march. We’re presented with a top-down view of a brain, with separate sections representing four different areas of the narrative.

The first section I read was the topmost, “What My Therapist Said,” and I expect this is the section with which many people would start. I wasn’t prepared for the sensory overload I received immediately upon entering this area. From an unsettling sound clip of a woman singing—looped playing forward and then backward—to the old, home-movie feel, the therapist’s words were surrounded by a sense of dread. The effect creates an interesting pull away from the background world.

The repetition of the line “my therapist said” suggests both skepticism of the therapist’s authority and detachment from the therapist’s representation of sanity. This detachment is further realized in the section “My Brain Is,” in which repetition of the titular line presents a kind of self-realization and independence from the carnival of the outside world that we experience as background to our thoughts.

My favorite section is “The Metaphor Room,” which consists of soothingly calm, drifting video and invocations of water, floating, and lightness throughout. The text in this section is the most blatant in its invocation of the insane. The section seems to suggest that the only way to be at peace with our insanity is to embrace it. The final section, “How to Dream a Suicide,” echoes this sentiment, as many of the suggestions it offers of clever ways to commit suicide sound more like living than dying.

I found my thoughts returning to this short narrative for several days after I read it.