When I was a little kid, I lived on an Air Force base in Montana. The neighborhoods were safe and parents didn't have to worry so much when their children went outside. I remember playing in my yard and with the other kids in the neighborhood without parental supervision. This was the late 70s/early 80s, back when we felt kind of safe in the world.
Even though we could play freely outside, I remember often hearing my mother say to us, (with a thick Japanese accent) "You're going to give me a nervous breakdown!" Maybe it was because we would climb on things we weren't supposed to, or we'd come home with scrapes and bruises, I'm not really sure. I just knew that my mom was going to have one of these and my brother and I would be the cause.
I honestly thought my mom would fall down on the floor (what I interpreted as a literal 'break' 'down') and either pass out, start shaking (what I thought 'nervous' meant) or something of the like.
Growing up, I always thought there was actually a time where I gave my mom one of these 'nervous break downs'. I was about four or five years old and I went somewhere to play and one of the Security Police officers picked me up in the police car. He said to me, "You've given your mom a nervous breakdown."
I don't really recall much else about the situation, just that I finally did it.
When I had grown up, I asked my mom about that time when I was a kid and the police officer picked me up because she had that fateful nervous breakdown. She told me she never had a nervous breakdown and was never in the hospital. What happened was that I decided to travel on my own somewhere in the neighborhood and my mom couldn't find me. She had to call the police to help her. They found me far away down the street playing, and so they picked me up and brought me home. All these years, I thought I had driven my mom to her mental breaking point. And all this time it was just a figure of speech!
While we were on our recent trip, Maya and I were playing and she said to me, "Mama, you're driving me crazy!" It was a bit random and didn't make a lot of sense. I told Jeff about it because it made me laugh. He said, "Where did she get that??" and I realized that she was just repeating a phrase that I must be saying pretty often.
I guess this is my watered down version of my mom's 'nervous breakdown'.