I think there is this illusion that if you hit rock bottom, that will be your breaking point, that it will be the start of recovery or the massive change you make in your life to get where you want to be. JK Rowling once said “And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
For a long time I’ve loved that quote, but looking at it now it feels like it paints rock bottom as some solid place that exists, where things cannot get any worse, and that in order to get any better, you’ve got to hit rock bottom first. You hear people say it all of the time. “It’s not until they hit rock bottom that they’ll want to get help, they’ve got to hit rock bottom first.”
I’m not so convinced any more.
Where is rock bottom? How do you know when you’ve hit that solid place? I don’t think it exists. I don’t think there is such a place, or at least, I reckon rock bottom is wherever you choose to make it. It’s wherever you are when you choose to make a change, when you choose recovery because no a mental illness is not a choice, but recovery is.
Sure I’ve had moments that I could call rock bottom, but there isn’t one singular one, and I do not believe you have to get to that point before you can change. It’s an illusion. Your head will tell you that if you get bad “enough”, then you can get better. Your head will tell you that if you just lose a little more weight, take one more overdose or hurt yourself bad enough, then you are allowed to get help, allowed to get better. But it’s a lie because it is never enough.
One of the most important parts of recovery is being able to face the fact that your mental illness causes thoughts inside of your head that are not true, that your disorder is based on nothing but lies, and that is hard. It turns your world upside down when you realise that everything you base your self-image, self-esteem and beliefs about the word from is all lies. None of it’s real. You’re destroying yourself for reasons that don’t even really exist anywhere outside of your brain.
It’s hard to remember that, believe it, for long enough to make a real change.
Aside from whether rock bottom exists, how does it go when you decide to make a change? Do you just bounce back? Do you hit this magical rock bottom and wake up thinking “right, this stops today” and never look back? Is it that easy? Is it as simple as deciding to get better, and getting better?
I did something this weekend that led to me being hospitalised for a couple of days. Before I did it I thought it would either a) allow me to escape everything forever, or b) it would make me feel better afterwards. I thought it would be my rock bottom.
It wasn’t. I’m not bouncing back. I’m not feeling anywhere close to how I thought I would. I feel alone, numb and detached and I am most definitely not bouncing back anywhere. I am, however, fighting. Piccoli Passi. Baby steps. I am reaching out to the people I can, and trying to accept that I cannot turn to my family because they don’t have the capability to deal with finding this out. It’s lonely, really, and I think that is one of the hardest parts.
I can’t simply decide to get better, and wake up tomorrow fixed. But there are small decisions in every day that I can make, that will get me there in the end, like considering a year out again, making myself a snack when I can, spending time with people and being honest with those I trust. Though ‘there’ may not be where I expect, these small changes will help. Some days I’ll make the wrong choices, some days I’ll lose sight of the fact it’s even a choice at all, but it’s about moving towards a place where you take more right choices than wrong, where you may not win some battles but you will win the war.
There really is no magical breaking point that you just so happen to stumble across. There is no magical wand. There is no snapping out of it. But there is a choice, and if you make the choice to survive and fight, and keep hopeful that it will not always be this way, then things will improve in time. It won’t always be as bad as it is right now. It might go backwards sometimes, but some days you’ll smile. Some days you’ll go for a nice walk in the sunshine, feel the breeze against your skin and look out across the water realising how luck you are to have this moment, even if you’re still hurting deep inside, even if you still cry yourself to sleep. Some days you’ll enjoy the little things, you’ll feel loved, you’ll love others, and you’ll be relieved to breathe and be calm.
Maybe there is no rock bottom, no ideal time to change and no way to bounce straight back. But there are moments that will take your breath away, moments that will make you feel calm and happy, and moments where you are ok with being right here.