“So, what now?” my therapist asks expectedly.
“I don’t know; I wasn’t planning on still being alive right now,” I respond, fidgeting in my seat.
I left my therapist’s office a little over two weeks prior to this session with a plan. I had just turned 25 and I felt completely defeated, like my mental illnesses had completely destroyed any chance I had at living a healthy, happy life. I had tried so many medications, so much therapy, and I still kept returning to this dark place. Having fought for so long with little relief, all I wanted to do was throw my hands in the air and be done. I was confident that this time, my plan would work. I could be as nonexistent as I felt. Everything I looked at and experienced was tinged with pain. I felt completely immune to any semblance of positivity. I felt I had lost my ability to find hope and the only thing I truly believed was that I was never supposed to be here. This mindset went on for weeks, as did the planning, yet I told nobody about the finality of it all. I didn’t want anyone to try to help me, as I felt that I had tried too much already to no avail. I truly, with everything in me, wanted to die.
I left my therapist’s office that Wednesday with the certainty that it was the last time. It was a bittersweet feeling, believing I was ready to leave this world, as it hurt me to believe I would never see my loved ones again, but it hurt far more staying alive in the pain I felt I couldn’t escape. The idea of suicide felt like a welcome relief.
Needless to say, my plan backfired. I’m still not sure what exactly propelled my car toward the hospital after driving in circles for what felt like hours, but it did not feel like my own foot pushing the gas pedal, nor my own hands steering the wheel. I knew as I stepped toward the registration booth in the Emergency Room that I was about to surrender everything and there was no going back. I lacked confidence that anything would get better, but I knew I had to step forward. As ready to leave as my mental illnesses had convinced me I was, there was a tiny piece of me that felt I still had unfinished business here. I couldn’t leave my loved ones, not yet.
I encountered a lot of people during my two week hospital stay. The days were inundated with individual assessments with doctors, therapists, nurses, conversations with peers who were also struggling, words with family and friends, and hours upon hours of group therapy. From the first counselor I encountered in the Emergency Room who told me, “you’ve gotta stay” to the group therapist assuring me that I do belong here, hopeful words were steadily stacked upon each other and I tried my best to soak them in, to really feel them, to let them envelope me like a soft blanket that perhaps could finally keep me warm. However, I still felt cold. I had tried so hard for years and I still felt cold.
I was discharged from the hospital still feeling pretty hopeless but I knew I had no choice but to move on with my life. To move forward. It was the most bitter pill to swallow, the knowledge and understanding that suicide is not an option and that I have to continue fighting this battle. I got back to town that afternoon, paid all my bills, picked up my new medication, and returned to work the next morning. I didn’t have much time to relate my overall experience to my life post-discharge until I met with my therapist a few days later.
After explaining the events, thoughts, and emotions preceding the hospital stay as well as my thoughts and emotions in that moment, my therapist leaned back in her chair and said what continues to be the most hopeful statement given to me throughout this entire experience:
“I want this to have been your rock bottom.”
I never used to believe in a true “rock bottom” because every time I thought I’d felt as low as I could get, I was proven wrong. When my depression takes over, it feels like my emotions spiral down a never-ending black hole with no bottom in sight. I always felt like what’s bad could always get so much worse, and even when it didn’t get worse, the possibility of it made every step I took seem so pointless. People would tell me “it gets better”, but I always knew that it would get worse again. It always did. It probably always will, but I think that the idea of my rock bottom having already happened has so much hope in it.
It’s hard to believe that anything could feel more painful than what I endured this summer. Maybe it can, but maybe that was it, and the vast space that is “maybe” was the closest to hope I’d been in a long time. And during a time when hope is so hard to find, that is everything. Maybe the only way to go is up. Maybe it can only get better from here, and never worse than what it just was. Maybe there actually is a bottom, and maybe that was it. Maybe that can be it. Maybe nothing can hurt me as badly as I was. Maybe if I decide that as truth, maybe nothing will, and that makes my future so much less scary.
Choosing to believe that I’ve already lived through what could be the worst days of my life makes the days in my future immensely less daunting. It makes them feel doable. It makes them feel bright. At the very least, brighter than the dark that was my rock bottom. I know that pain is inevitable in my future; I know tomorrow could very well be a terrible day. I know that there are many stressful and negative experiences that I’ve still yet to live through, but that’s the thing: I will live through them. I’ve already made it past the worst when I truly thought I had nothing left in me.
When I finally saw my therapist after my hospitalization and explained everything to her, I felt lost. How does one go on with life after having their mind set on death for so long? We started with a worksheet. What transpired from that was the evaluation of every piece of my life, for which I created goals. A game plan.
Somewhere in between then and now, my perspective changed. It was a strange, gradual transformation when I gained the intention to live again as opposed to settling for the necessity. I swallowed the reality of what my life entails, and I’ve learned to accept it and do the very best I can. Doing the best I can makes me feel productive and proud, so I’ve decided to keep doing more of it. Most days it means ripping myself from my bed and getting in my car and driving, even if at first it doesn’t feel like my own foot pushing the gas pedal, nor my own hands steering the wheel.
I’m proud because I’ve built this life from the very bottom up. With my bare hands, skin bleeding and bruised, heart broken, I built this life. To my surprise, I found that rock bottom can be a pretty strong foundation. From a space beyond what I thought I would be able to endure, I rebuilt. Some pieces of my life I’m building for the first time, often without a roadmap or glasses. Sometimes it doesn’t feel right because I had adapted to living in pain and darkness for so long. Nonetheless, as I kept getting out of bed, as I kept driving, kept crossing things off my “to do” list, living with intention became a little easier. I now realize that I’m no longer learning to accept simply being alive, I’m learning to accept being happy. I’m learning to adjust to living a life I never thought I could have. A life I thought was over, should have been over. And after everything I’ve been through, it makes being alive to create this life so much sweeter. This life is a prize and I’ve earned it. I fought long and I fought hard and I will continue to fight.
Because as finished as I felt in the midst of this hot summer, I realized I never actually was. From rock bottom, I rose. I climbed. I moved forward. From rock bottom, I made it.