Hitting Rock Bottom Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me

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woman sitting on pier by water

Two years ago, I was at the lowest of lows, otherwise known as ‘rock bottom.’ I had fought through six years of debilitating chronic illness only to have my heart ripped open when my long-term marriage suddenly dissolved before my eyes.

I found myself single for the first time in three decades. And for the first time ever — I skipped Christmas.

I had zero holiday cheer or spirit to give. Instead of shopping, decorating, or planning Christmas cards, I had boxed up my life and moved to my first solo home. And as I looked around at the boxes crowding this unfamiliar, empty space, I thought — I will never have joy again in my life.

I wrote the article below in the midst of that despair, about how hard it is to do simple tasks (let alone celebrate the holidays) while grieving and still in shock.

Not to sound overly dramatic, but I had fallen from a great height into a deep, dark abyss and I couldn’t see a way out.

The impact alone from such a fall had nearly killed me. I was broken, bloody, and bruised — at least emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I cried for help, but there was nobody to pull me up or rescue me. If I wanted to be saved, I’d have to save myself.

But — did I want to be saved?

What was the point? I had done my best and given my all, and still, I struggled and suffered. I had been betrayed, blindsided, abandoned, discarded. It was clear I was unlovable and would live and die alone.

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The emotional pain was intolerable. Even more intolerable than the physical pain that once radiated through every cell, muscle, and bone in my body.

Maybe, it would be better, I thought, to just give up.

Time and effort heal all wounds

The impact of hitting rock bottom shattered my heart and soul into a million pieces. And much like healing broken bones, I was told it would take time to mend and put my pieces back together again.

However, I had already fought back from the edge of physical death once. I no longer had the will to keep fighting for my life.

Maybe it was my survival instinct, but rather than bleed out on the ground and succumb to my invisible internal injuries, I slowly crawled my way out of that abyss.

When faced with a crisis, common advice is to take it ‘one day at a time.’ I could only take it ‘one minute at a time.' I needed a total system reboot so I could mend from the inside out before I could truly stand up and begin walking or running again.

I’m not going to lie — the extensive recovery process, much like the initial impact, hurt like hell.

There wasn’t a second of any day that I wasn’t in excruciating pain. And this process lasted for years. Two and a half years to be exact.

But it’s not true that time alone heals all wounds.

If you aren’t ready, willing, or able to learn from the worst pain of your life — and put all your effort into healing — you will just return to old patterns. From this place, you will recreate the same negative, unhealthy, dysfunctional experiences over and over again.

True healing takes intentional and conscious shifts in mindset. It’s grueling work and takes time AND effort. You have several choices.

  • You can lay down and die.
  • You can go right back and keep repeating the same behaviors/actions that landed you in the abyss last time.
  • You can choose to learn, grow, and evolve from the experience and start living your best life.

Rebooting your life

This year, I approached the holidays with a renewed sense of self.

I was able to look back and see that in the first year (2020), I was defragmenting my hard drives and rebooting my life. Ironically, I was healing while in the midst of a global pandemic when everyone seemed to be struggling.

Any step forward, no matter how small, was a miracle in itself.

It was not an easy year, but it was transformative on so many levels

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During this past year (2021), I moved out of the reboot/healing phase and into a period of flow.

As I looked around, I saw that my life wasn’t just functional, it was purposeful and full. I seemed to be manifesting and creating the best life possible, and I was no longer filled with fear, doubt, or anxiety. I had learned who I was under pressure, discovered my true values, and became completely unshakeable and unbreakable at my core.

Hitting rock bottom hadn’t killed me. It saved me.

I was finally free to live on my own terms. I broke old patterns and programming and walked away from situations and people who no longer felt healthy or good to me.

I traveled back in time to heal my wounded child — who so feared being unlovable and abandoned. But the worst had happened, and it didn’t kill me. I also wasn’t alone, disconnected, or defeated. My passions flourished, as did my work, relationships, creativity, compassion, and confidence.

When I identified my triggers, I was finally able to fully disarm them. And in the process, I took back my power. As a people pleaser, I had spent years abandoning myself, twisting myself to serve others first. It had drained and exhausted me, made me sick, and nearly killed me.

Most of my days now are so filled with passion, gratitude, and joy, that I can’t imagine going back to where I was two years ago — into that dark, unforgiving, abyss.

However, I also can’t imagine going back to my pre-abyss life. What I once fought so hard to keep, I now see was not actually serving me or allowing me to be myself or live up to my true potential.

Clinging to the known, avoiding the unknown

In truth, I had been falling in slow motion into the abyss for decades. But like the proverbial frog in the pot, I hadn’t noticed I was being slowly, but surely, boiled to death, until it was too late.

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After surviving my own tumble into the abyss, I now feel like I’m inside the matrix. Over the holidays, I looked around and clearly observed many people who seemed to be falling in slow motion towards their own inevitable rock bottoms.

Strangely, so many of us cling for dear life to the ledge, our feet dangling over the abyss. We think it’s better to fall or boil slowly — to stay stuck in known loops, rather than plunge into the dark unknown below us.

As I’ve learned, the more we slow down our descent, the longer we draw out the boiling process. We normalize the pain, dysfunction, and unhappiness until we are used to the heat. We don’t even realize how unhappy we are until we’re fried inside and out.

As much as we fear hitting rock bottom, I know now that the impact doesn’t have to equal death.

In fact, the dark abyss can offer us a wake-up call, and can ultimately even save our lives.

Lizzie Finn is a freelance writer, blogger, screenwriter, and screenwriting instructor. Her work focuses on health, happiness, relationships, TV/film, psychedelics, feminism, motherhood, and neuroscience. Check out her website.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.