People often ask me questions like “what did your rock bottom look like?”. I shouldn’t have a hard time answering this, but I do. The reason is that I have had several rock bottoms over my lifetime and each one looked very, very different. There is no straight line through those moments. Instead, they are like waves where you rock up and down before the slow climb back to healing begins.
Was it when I spent six straight months binge drinking? Was it the times I was cutting myself? Was it when I got let go from a student placement because my mental health was so bad? Was it the time I was fired by a heartless manager and as a result of the stress was diagnosed with hypothyroidism? Was it each time I was in the hospital for self-harm? Was it when I was drowning in grief after my dad passed away? You can see why this is not an easy question to answer. Mental illness is like the most dizzying ride on a roller coaster ever and the ups and downs don’t seem to stop. You might level off for a long time but up ahead there’s always the potential for another dip. Anyone with an addiction will tell you something similar to what I am saying; that rock bottom can be hit many, many times, so to pinpoint it down to one single event is next to impossible.
There’s another part and that is I don’t like thinking about those times either. Who would? But they are part of my story and as I open myself up to telling these tales I must expect questions like this. In fact, I should welcome them. Its important sometimes to ask the tough ones and I appreciate anything that makes me think harder. I want to be challenged and having moments that are uncomfortable makes us grow. Still, I don’t like remembering what those bottoms looked and felt like – there is grief there still for the lost time and pain I caused myself and others. Worse, there is also fear that one day I may end up back in that place. And so my daily motivation is to keep focusing on recovery with everything that is in me and with every breath I take.
What I will say is this. Being at the bottom of the dark hole that is my illness is not something I would wish on anyone. It’s a place of fear, anger, desolation, loneliness, and so much more. There aren’t enough bad adjectives to truly describe it. Your mind is a fog and every decision, every physical and cognitive movement made, is a herculean effort. You are barely surviving and death feels like it would be a sweet release. Not everyone makes it out of rock bottom and that is what drives me in my advocacy. I have been there, and I have made it back, time and time again. If you feel that you have hit the wall, fallen to the ground, and that getting back up again is too difficult, I encourage you to take it slow, take a deep breath, and inch by inch begin to rise. Even if you feel you cannot do it, I know you can. There is always hope.