The magic of rock bottom
Rock bottom is that point where you get so sick of the misery you ask yourself whether it is worth continuing – you want to escape so it’s either end it all or do something drastic –anything at all to feel better.
by Honor Newman
Do you recall a moment in your life where the thought passed through your mind – I CAN’T DO THIS ANY MORE! It’s too hard. I’ve struggled and struggled and it’s all too painful and I want to give up! Throughout my teens and 20s I suffered from depression – not just of the occasional mopey Sunday afternoon type, but of the serious, chronic type. I’d been on lots of different types of medication and visited psychiatrists and this was, in my view, one of the most shameful humiliating parts of my existence. I struggled against it for many years, having periods of being okay and then not okay again. I was told all sorts of mistruths about my ‘condition’, among those being that I would have to be on antidepressants for life and that I would always be vulnerable to depression, at risk of postnatal depression, and so on.
However, when I hit my lowest point it turned out to be the greatest gift of my life. Yes this is an ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ story that I have written to inspire those in the midst of depression, mental illness or serious life challenges, who wonder if they will ever find a way out. I would have loved to have read something like this at my crisis point because it would have given me hope – that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and not only is there a light, it is a very, very bright one.
I’ll say one thing about depression – it’s really hard not to feel like it is your fault. What I mean is you feel horrible and, because of this, you think you are horrible. It took me a long time to overcome the feelings of shame and aloneness but, when I did, I realised how pointless they were. What helped was talking about this feeling, but that required me to recognise it didn’t have to be there and, because it was there for so long, it was hard to do that.
Rock bottom is that point where you get so sick of the misery you ask yourself whether it is worth continuing – you want to escape so it’s either end it all or do something drastic –anything at all to feel better. You may have exhausted all the self-abuse strategies – promiscuity, all-night benders, chain smoking, drug addiction, co-dependency – and realise that none of it really provides the peace and serenity you desire.
You feel desperate, insane and totally fed up with your life as you know it. Then something strange happens when you reach the depths of that place – you tap into some unknown reserve of inner strength and rise up like a phoenix from the ashes and take action. It is then that you may make that therapy appointment, quit something that makes you feel like sh¡t – a job, a relationship, etc.
Life beyond mental illness and/or your crisis still won’t be a bed of roses – but it will be an inspired journey because you will know on a deep level that you don’t want to go back there, and that will motivate you to make the necessary changes to stop that from happening…
As part of finding your way out you will have to unravel and untangle what went wrong in a way that helps you understand it. This understanding is valuable in that it helps you learn from your mistakes and forces you to learn new and better skills in order to move forward in life.
Honor is a psychologist based in Melbourne. Her work specialties include perfectionism and feminine psychology. She is author of the book, “The magic of rock bottom”.