November 2019, I had a meltdown.
A fetal position, anxiety fueled, bed-sheets-knuckled-under-the-chin meltdown.
A week prior, my eldest son had turned 15.
The exact age I was when my mother was diagnosed with Melanoma.
I was cast back 40 years and saw my trauma, crystal clear, through the eyes of my son.
Back then, it was do anything to survive.
Do anything to mask the pain of seeing my mother slowly disintegrate at the hands of a clump of defective, dividing cells.
So I survived. One day at a time. One self-soothing behaviour at a time.
And over the years and decades these automatic, ingrained, unconscious compulsions – which had once served to calm my aching soul – had become self-destructive.
They would play out instinctively in response to stress, anxiety, anger.
My own private shame.
Worse still, they were being indirectly passed to my son. I could see it in the way he copied me, quoted me, behaved like me.
In the maturity of middle age I hadn’t dealt with my demons and I was unwittingly handing the whole poisonous chalice to innocent others.
I needed to break the cycle.
So I hauled anchor and sailed into foreign waters to slay my White Whale before it dragged me to the bottom of the sea.
Then, all hell broke lose.
I plunged into what I know now as withdrawals. Identical to a recovering addict.
My suffering manifested in the ultimate betrayal of the human body: insomnia.
Cruel, haunting, zombie-induced insomnia.
Night after night, I averaged 2-3 hours of sleep.
Nothing worked to reverse it. I took pills, I wrote for hours, I meditated.
I was flailingly rope-bound to this beast, as it breached again and again but there was no going back.
There was too much at stake.
Then, at the end of January, my White Whale surfaced for the very last time.
One final attempt to drown my chance of recovery.
Like a giant harpoon it traveled straight for me and my family, in the shape of an out-of-control car.
It’s young driver asleep at the wheel.
Crossing the double line it slammed into us while driving back from a Sydney road trip.
Our car bucked and spun, careering down an embankment and ploughing through a backyard fence next to the highway.
We were badly shaken, bruised, but alive.
That night after being discharged from hospital we all settled into a cheap country hotel for the evening.
Perhaps still in after-shock I stumbled into a deep slumber for the first time in three months.
Today the tempest has pasted, the waters have calmed, my ship is safe in harbour.
I am now in control of the habits which used to control me.
The cycle is broken. My White Whale is dead.