There is a scene in the movie “Bridesmaids” in which Annie (a 30-something, single woman, played by Kristen Wiig) goes through some serious, yet comical and totally relatable (at least, to me) mishaps and has to move in with her mom. She has lost her job, her apartment, her business, her boyfriend, her best friend and most definitely, her dignity. Her mom, (played by the late, great Jill Clayburgh) tries to comfort her by pointing out that Annie has hit rock bottom. Following up with, “I’m telling you, hitting bottom is a good thing, because there’s nowhere to go but up!” That movie has always been a favorite. I empathize with Annie more than I care to admit. But that particular line stands out above all the rest, because it’s so true.
A few months ago, I was there. Rock bottom. My heart and my trust was broken and it led to a series of events that I wish never happened. Being desperate to numb or block my pain, I started drinking heavily and making bad decisions. I hurt people that I care about. I acted selfishly and couldn’t seem to focus on anything besides my own hurt. I lost sight of who I am and now have to live with the versions of me that were created by other people, based on how I acted. I was desperate to feel anything other than heartache. I wanted to erase reality. I disappointed people, and as someone with anxiety and depression, I can say that being a disappointment is the worst possible scenario.
One night, I had a major meltdown. I drank enough to not care about anything. I embarrassed myself and let down the people I love, (one being my son). I woke up the next morning with foggy memories of my drama-filled night. I couldn’t make it through work that day. I called my boss from my office and couldn’t get the words out. She offered to drive me home or to a hospital but I refused. I felt completely ruined and I knew I needed to scream the entire way home. At home, I looked up at my staircase and dark thoughts came flooding into my brain. I got in my car and drove to the hospital.
I didn’t want to be anymore. I was telling myself that this world would be better without me. That I’m nothing but a disappointment. No one will ever love me. I am nothing. Because of past traumas, I have abandonment issues and in this moment, I had never felt more alone. I had no one, not even myself. I couldn’t count on myself for anything. I hated myself so deeply. I knew everyone else hated me too. I had already stopped eating but that wasn’t enough. I needed to hurt myself more. And my mind was racing with thoughts on how I could do that. I was beyond spiraling. I was already fully out of control.
I was so deep into my despair, all I could think about was the people who have hurt me and why I was never good enough to keep them around. Why does everyone leave me? I’m just not lovable. I repeated all of this to my doctor several times in between sobs and panic. On top of that, I was shaking so much that I feared someone coming in with a large needle to sedate me. The mind is so powerful. I couldn’t stop the hurtful self-talk. Next, I was overcome by feelings of guilt for being so selfish and only thinking about all of the pain I feel. I’m not sure which voice was louder, the depression or the anxiety, but it kept screaming that I just can’t do anything right.
My doctor talked to me for quite a while and asked me all of the important questions. He increased my anti-depressants (again) and prescribed me something for my nerves. He referred me to an inpatient program in which I would be gone between 4 to 6 weeks. I knew I couldn’t afford that, even with my health insurance. And I knew that I could not be away from my son for that long. I had to figure this out on my own. And I had to figure it out fast because with each passing hour, my thoughts became more dreadful.
I stayed home from work the next day and allowed myself to just be whoever I was at that moment. I felt so many emotions. I cried, I decided I would keep starving myself, I threw up, I slept, I felt sorry for myself and mourned over my own loneliness. I wondered how I could possibly go on. And then I remembered a quote from one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, where she says, “I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.” And then I started to pray. I asked God to please take away my bullshit. God gets me. He has numbered every hair on my head, surely he knows all the bullshit I’m talking about. I bet (hope) He has a sense of humor.
The next day, I found a new therapist and made a few appointments. I also joined a bible study group. I reached out to my church family who embraced me so lovingly. While every morning was a different emotion, ranging from anger to despair to hopefulness, I could feel the darkness lifting. Even in those moments of grief, every day I wanted to fight my way out of this a little bit harder. Within a week, I began celebrating little victories, like making it through the day without tears, or finding my sense of humor again, or wanting to live. Deep down, I knew that I just needed time. I’ve been broken before and I have always pressed on and walked away stronger. In the middle of my climb up, I had a setback, but it didn’t drag me back down. I refuse to go down the road of self-hate again. I never want to feel worthless again. I just can’t be so hard on myself anymore. I need to love myself as if my life depended on it, because it does.
It’s been roughly 6 weeks since everything fell apart. It doesn’t seem right to say that anymore though, because now I feel as if things fell into place. Sure, I regret how I behaved in my madness, but the reality is that I can’t change any of it. All I have is right now. I learned from it and I want to do better. I want to be better. Life is just a cycle of experiences, good and bad, that we are meant to learn from. Sometimes, we need a little bit more than just reflecting on our life choices. Sometimes we need to be reset. For me, that was hitting rock bottom. On my way back up, I took notes of what got me through and what is inspiring me to reach the summit.
- Be gentle with yourself. We are human and humans are messy. We all screw up, get hurt, make a fool of ourselves, hurt people we care about, let our emotions control us and do things completely out of character. Forgive yourself. Remember that you are worthy of the same love that you give away. An ugly time in your life does not make you ugly. Stop beating yourself up and filling your head with lies. You are loved. You will overcome. When you feel like you’ve let everyone down, remind yourself that even though it might not be okay, it’s understandable, because you are human.
- Apologize and move on. The people who are meant to be in your life will not only forgive you, but will love you through the storm. Keep these people close. They will make sure you know how loved you are (yes, even when you’re a disaster).
- Celebrate your progress, let go of perfection. The first day of my meltdown that I didn’t cry, I had to share it with my friends. “Hey, I didn’t cry once today!” and it felt so good. Maybe it was a baby step, but a step forward nonetheless. But, remember you are not perfect and you just might take a few steps back. And that is okay. It is all part of your process. We all have our own process and no one needs to understand that, but us. Trust your process and be proud of yourself for acknowledging the setback. Then go back to 1 and 2 as needed.
- Pray. I believe that I have gotten through this because of the power of prayer. My church has prayed over me, they have seen me cry, they have reached out at all hours and just like God, they will never give up on me. What a blessing it is to know that every single thing that has happened to you in your life, God had His hand in. He knows what you will do tomorrow and 20 years from now. And though we might not understand what He is doing or why we have to be hurt, we know that He does all things for good. Trust in Him. Give your pain and your problems to Him. He’s got you.
- Never EVER feel shame about getting help. Whether you need more medication, a therapist, seclusion or constant companionship, there is no shame in any of it. You do whatever you need to, to climb back up again. For me, it was a combination of all of the above (and maybe a few drama-filled tantrums). But hey, it was my process!
Hard times won’t last forever. If you feel like you’re stuck at rock bottom, know that it will get better with time. As much as you feel like you just can’t wait, you’ll amaze yourself with just how strong you can be, because you need to be. Because you are needed, and loved and worthy. Hitting the bottom is not the end. It’s a chance for a beautiful beginning. A reset. Don’t be afraid. There’s nowhere to go but up!