Before I hit what I consider to have been my “rock bottom” a few years ago, I had always imagined it to be so different than it actually was.
I had imagined rock bottom as perhaps being jobless, homeless, addicted and likely broke.
According to the usual stigmas that surround this concept that we all seem to speak of surprisingly often, that seemed like a realistic vision.
But, for me—this was not the case.
While I did not technically have a job, I had decided to go back to school, and while that gave my days some purpose I was also living in a reality that I just could not handle anymore.
Along with some other circumstances, my marriage was a nightmare, and due to a pregnancy and determination to not turn back to the usual suspects of vices, I had to stop and face everything that I had been running from for decades.
And I had been running from a lot.
It was as if all of those situations during my teen years and 20s that I had not allowed myself to fully feel all contributed to a giant wave that caught up to me when I had no choice but to stop. I had nowhere to go, nothing to use to further enable avoidance, and when I stopped and turned around I looked up to see the epic dark tsunami crashing toward me.
Looking back, it was the most pivotal period of my life thus far.
My emotions were of course exacerbated by the pregnancy-induced hormones, and I was just so afraid. I was just as afraid of my future as I was my past. It was the place of both depression and anxiety. My world, which I saw through a lens of fear, was colorless—varying shades of grey, black and white.
I was extremely isolated. I was scared to death of being a mother. My marriage, which we always felt could go nowhere but up, just kept sinking lower, and other relationships were strained, at best. Most of the friends who did not exit my life altogether I pushed away many times with angst, frustration and shame over my situation.
Time slowed down to where the seconds seemed like minutes, minutes like hours and the days became each their own lifetime of survival.
Some days I did not even know if I could or wanted to have to manage anymore.
I was judging myself for the labels that others had inflicted upon me, as well as for all that I believed that I was not.
I remember well the moment that I was at my lowest. I was alone at my house (and what felt to me alone in this world). Crying in a ball on my living room floor, I felt everything fall away, and it felt truly as if the world in that moment stopped spinning. I was writhing, emotionally.
I was so desperate in that moment for love that I did the only thing that I could think of to do to get me through it.
In that moment I remembered a story that a friend had told me a couple years back about trees. She had told me that there is a certain culture that believes that the spirit of the older version of a tree is there all along—it is there to guide the younger version of the tree from the time it is very small until later when it is thriving abundantly and balanced.
This story stuck in my mind, and it was in my worst moment of sheer desperation for guidance that I finally chose to meet myself. Curled up in that ball on my living room floor, I closed my eyes and pictured an older, wiser, gentler version of myself holding me. Nurturing me. Brushing my hair off of my tear soaked face and stroking my eyebrows with her fingertips the way that I now do to my two little girls.
This may sound crazy.
This may sound pathetic.
This may sound desperate.
But it was this desperation for love that finally showed me what real self-love is, because it was at my rock bottom where I stopped running from myself.
It was at my rock bottom where I chose to meet my self.
I met her and she was beautiful. She was loving. She was accepting and she was gentle.
She was none of the awful things that I had believed myself to be or feared that I was not.
She was the version of myself that showed up to guide me.
I learned how to really love myself for who I am underneath it all, because what I had perceived as an older version of myself is not actually older. She was and is always there. She is that part of me that never changes, underneath all of the layers of emotion and insecurity and everything else that I have picked up along the way.
It took quite a while to recover from the existential crisis that my life had become, but it began for me by making better choices and taking baby steps in the shifting of my perspectives. This was not easy and I will not sugar coat things to make them appear as if my entire world turned to color in that moment.
But bit by bit, shade by shade, the color did gradually seep back into my life, and it did so in a way that is more vibrant now than it ever was prior to my rock bottom time.
I truly realized the power of both stillness and choice—not only in the decisions that we make about our lives, but also the power we have in choosing how we not only see the world, but ourselves.
It was all worth it, and I am unbelievably grateful that things got to be so challenging that I felt I had no choice but to surrender.
I still find myself running from things now a bit at times—I am still human, but I feel much more at ease because I turn to means of self sabotage as avoidance mechanisms far, far less than I used to prior to this time.
I have learned how to love myself and I have learned that facing things is never nearly as scary as we fear it will be. It is in loving ourselves that we can let go of the shame for the pain we have perhaps inflicted onto ourselves and possibly others, and when the shame begins to slip away, there is no longer a reason to run.
My rock bottom was not a place, but rather a time when I was so unbelievably weak and vulnerable that I chose to be strong.
I used that strength and the grit that I have had ever since I was a young girl to consciously decide to see my life through a much different lens—a lens of gratitude for all that is and for all that I saw myself to be.
I learned that gratitude displaces fear, and it is always—always available to us. It is one of our most powerful tools that we have at our disposal.
My rock bottom was the moment that I learned that it is truly in running from nothing that we gain everything.
Author: Katie Vessel
Editor: Emily Bartran