Six months ago, I hit rock bottom. I found myself sobbing on the curb in a gas station parking lot. This is the story of how I got there, and how I’m clawing myself out today.
The overarching themes in the barrage of recent body blows were and continue to be a feeling of not being valued, a feeling of being taken advantage of, and recognition of dishonesty from people I trusted. From a deceiving landlord to a toxic job setting to getting laid off at another job to theft–twice–to a broken heart to hate mail from a stranger to unsolicited criticism from loved ones and most recently, getting hit by a car, the other shoe just kept on dropping.
In December, my pattern of self care began to morph. All I wanted to do was sleep but then I couldn’t sleep. I went back and forth between eating sparingly and eating ravenously. I became apathetic about everything, even cute dogs, and if you know me you know I’m overly empathetic and compassionate. Apart from noticing that I wanted to do nothing except lie on the couch binge-watching Netflix, I realized something more was going on when I saw this apathy in me.
Everything in the present was crashing into me all at once and doors of the past that I thought I’d slammed shut were blowing wide open. I came out of work one night after a particularly distressing day after a particularly distressing weekend to find that my new bike lights that I’d just replaced from theft two weeks earlier had been stolen from right in front of the big glass windows where I could see my bike all day long.
I’d planned to ride to my sister’s that night to tell her I needed help but someone stole my fucking bike lights. This one single act pushed me to my breaking point. Later, one of my friends would point out that I wasn’t crying about the lights. It was just that–a breaking point.
I grabbed my bike and began pushing it a few blocks toward the two-mile hill home, but then I stopped on the sidewalk next to a telephone pole. I leaned my bike against it and just felt like, This it it, I’m done. What more does the universe want from me?
Standing next to a telephone pole with my bike in the pouring down rain, I have never felt so much anguish just trying to exist. It felt like there was a target on my back, like the universe was conspiring against me. I crossed the street, threw my bike onto a curbside lawn in a Shell parking lot, and bawled my eyes out.
That night was the lowest point of my life.
I called a friend to see if she could pick me up and she immediately hopped in the car to come get me. For twenty minutes I waited on the curb, sobbing into my hands, but after ten minutes I heard a soft, tentative voice say, “Excuse me? Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
I looked up to see a concerned middle-aged woman. I told her I wasn’t hurt but I couldn’t get home and was waiting for a friend. She said she would wait with me and repeatedly offered to buy me food or water or bring me a blanket because I was shivering. Her kindness briefly helped restore some of my brokenness. Her name was Becky.
My friend talked with me for a couple hours after bringing me home. After she left, I reflected on the hour-long phone conversations I’d had with two friends the night before, and the phone conversation I was supposed to have with a friend the next day.
It was getting increasingly more difficult to work in the customer service field where I had to always smile despite not feeling like smiling. Some people say if you smile enough you’ll start to feel like you mean it but everything I do in life I do with authenticity. Pretending my smile was real didn’t make it feel more real. It made me feel like a fraud.
I truly didn’t think I was in danger of intentionally harming myself, but I was so incredibly exhausted. I thought I might fall asleep in the bath tub, faint from hunger or sleep deprivation, leave the stove on, or worse. I didn’t want to die but it was taking so much energy to live.
I have been seeking stability ever since the hurricane, but the stability I’m building keeps cracking slowly like a chisel working on a porcelain vase until finally it shatters and I have to start all over again. I keep standing up for myself, molding and holding onto hope, but then I get crushed, and it is making me so very, very tired.
I wanted to be hopeful that night that things would get better, not worse.
But I couldn’t sleep. I cried all night long and in the early morning hours, I texted my best friend who I didn’t want to bother because he is so busy and always so selflessly giving so much of himself but who I needed. He saw the urgency in my words and he did everything in his power to get me the help I needed from afar, including researching doctors. I made the first appointment available that day.
Step 3: Visit the doctor.
Step 2: Get on the bus.
Step 1: Get dressed.
It took me twenty minutes to put on clothes. I stared at my closet for two minutes before grabbing the pair of jeans I knew all along I would wear. I put on underwear and then jeans, then I laid on my bed for another minute. I scooted back to my closet to grab a bra, rested, then grabbed socks and rested again. I laid in bed for another ten minutes before getting up to pick out a shirt.
It took every ounce of faith in myself to get out the door and step on the bus, and every ounce of strength to transfer to the second bus. I cried the whole way.
I saw my reflection in a mirror at the doctor’s and realized how much I didn’t look like myself. I looked like I felt: a stranger walking around in someone else’s skin. After my appointment with the doctor and social worker, I picked up medication in the pharmacy. While waiting for the bus home, I realized I was standing right in front of a grocery store. I had needed to go to the store for four weeks but couldn’t find the energy to do so. I made myself step inside and pull things off the shelves. It didn’t matter what I put in my basket as long as I put one foot in front of the other.
I cried the entire bus ride home.
I spent four hours outside of my apartment that day, and it was excruciatingly exhausting. My sister came over that night and I filled her in. Like so many others, the first thing she said was, “I am so proud of you.” She said it made her think so highly of me that I was trying to get help, and she could see the strong woman beneath all this pain.
Finding the energy that day to get the help I needed was the hardest fucking thing I’ve ever done. I still don’t know how I did it.
In the days following my doctor visit, I sat down on the floor while cooking because standing required too much of me. But I reminded myself I was cooking, progress that replaced the energy bar meals of late. Small tasks were monumental to-do’s but I made a little-big goal every day until things have slowly started to get better.
People keep telling me how resilient I am; “resilient as fuck” as one friend said, a “stunt woman” according to my therapist. They call me resilient but I feel like I’m dying inside.
But somewhere deep inside me I believe in myself enough to continue to put one foot in front of the other. I’m continuing to fight for my rights, to harness some ethereal willpower, to not let my demons win. Somewhere deep inside me I know they’re right: I am resilient. Not impenetrable. But definitely resilient.
Before I went to the doctor, I read an article by Sandra Marinella in Well Being Journal titled, “Your Life-Changing Story: The Story You Need to Tell.” It caught my eye because that is why I write about my vulnerabilities, and that includes sharing what it feels like to hit rock bottom. I write because it helps me heal and I write because I know I’m not alone. I want to help people and I want people to understand. I think and I hope my writing does this.
I want to thank my immediate support team (they know who they are) and everyone who has been there for me through not only the ups but especially the downs. I want to thank all of you reading this. Mental health has a stigma that it shouldn’t have. It is very real, very painful, and very scary, but we cannot and should not hide from it.
Being the support for someone struggling with mental health is a huge and exhausting task, but it is an honorable one. I have for a very long time not wanted to inconvenience the people I love by unloading my struggles on them, but these very people have helped me see that it’s not a burden–I’m not a burden–and they are honored to be there for me. I am honored to have them be such a present, reliable, and unconditionally loving part of my life.