At the time, I thought attempting suicide was my rock bottom. I mean, how much further down could I go? I was 20 and drowning in depression and Binge Eating Disorder. It seemed like my life was falling apart (the gymnastics one I knew seemed to be). I couldn’t see anything but a failure.
One night, after I had spent some weeks just wanting to disappear, just wanting the hurt to end, I swallowed two handfuls of pills (and then right after thought oh shit – what did I just do? and hurried to find some teammates who took me to the ER). A stomach pump and rectal exam later (to check for internal bleeding — yeah, that was loads of fun), I was back in my dorm, assuring myself and everyone around me that I was okay. Yeah, sure, Robin, you’re okay.
No, that wasn’t my rock bottom. At that point I was (kind of) still asking for help (though admittedly I wasn’t open to listening to any replies). Sometimes I wonder about the psychologist and psychiatrist I was seeing at the time. How in the world could they have let me back out into the world? Couldn’t they see how much I was hurting? Was I that good of an actress? It strikes me today that maybe they did see me hurting and could see through it, aware I wasn’t ready to help myself yet, and thus they couldn’t really reach or do much for me until I was ready to do something for myself.
My rock bottom came about five years later. I had stopped asking for help for the most part. I was a hot mess though highly functioning in my life (I kept up with work, bills, etc., because what would others think of me if I didn’t?!?). I was engaged, I had a job with great bonuses and benefits, and I had a cool car and my own apartment. I was living what I thought was supposed to be the dream, and scraping my face on the bottom of a deep hole: now bulimic, depressed, and starting to enjoy a tad too much wine to take the edge off. Man, I needed to numb out at the end of the day. How else could I make it through to tomorrow?
Yes, this was rock bottom. When I thought about the future, I couldn’t really picture much, not at the rate I was going. I knew if I kept doing what I was doing, I was going to implode or explode. What I was doing wasn’t sustainable or healthy (to put it mildly). Something was going to give, and it probably wasn’t going to be pretty. And I felt stuck, unable to ask for help. To admit I was struggling would be opening myself up to judgment and labels. And I was so afraid of being judged and labeled. The opinions of others were what mattered. What might have mattered to me, my own opinion? Unimportant. Stuff it down. Outside approval was my golden standard — and I was killing myself for it.
Shortly before the holidays and feeling stuck in my personal rock bottom, the thought of starting the next year of my life in the same painful ditch began to hurt just a tad more than keeping the status quo. Thinking of dealing with reality and making changes sucked, but somehow not making any changes was worse. One specific thing I remember about this time is how I hated the way the skin around my eyes had started puffing up with each vomit session, as well as the red dots from broken blood vessels that were taking longer and longer to go away. It was getting harder and harder to hide the really rough days, and I was almost out of energy to keep up the facade.
I didn’t find a magic pill or have a come to Jesus moment (though maybe some do). My engagement and the upcoming wedding did provide a bit of a kick in the pants; there was a date on the calendar and invites would be going out. I knew I didn’t want to keep going this way; an implosion or explosion was imminent if I did. My fiance and his daughter deserved better. Heck, life had to be better than this, right?
I started to keep myself out of the bathroom, to sit a few minutes longer on a chair when I felt the pull to make my too-full stomach quit aching. I still binged a lot, yet something in those few minutes of waiting post-binge took hold and let me know throwing up wasn’t a long-term solution if I wanted out of rock bottom. Days became weeks became months that I hadn’t thrown up. Slowly, oh so slowly, something was shifting inside. I was starting to listen and open to help. I was starting to climb out of rock bottom. It was going to take time (and a lot longer than I thought). However, I was starting.
I was still very stubborn and fearful, and I continually wrestled with myself. I started working with a life coach. She was a huge blessing, helping to peel back some of the layers (though I couldn’t bring myself to share the absolute rock bottom layer). In hindsight, I see that starting wherever I was able to begin was enough, helping to clear away some of the internal junk so I could start to see that staying in the status quo was going to be worse than trying something different.
Looking back, I’m grateful for the grit of my younger self. I’m not totally sure where that hurting young woman found it. Grace of the fierce sort showed up somehow, to be sure.
Sometimes I think about how it might have been if I’d admitted to myself that I was struggling, heading towards rock bottom, and opened to help sooner. I think I might have suffered less and the healing would have been quicker, though maybe not. Perhaps it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. Maybe the if change happens is more important than the specific when change happens. I survived the tumble to rock bottom and eventually made the climb out.