How to Hit Rock Bottom with Class: An Introspective Journey to Cutting Out the Bullshit
My rock bottom included finishing off 3/4 of a bottle of champagne in bed alone one night while signing up for a monthly membership at the YMCA. Classy shit right here, and I was the one who initiated the “break up” of a short-term relationship. I knew I had finally hit rock bottom after a year of falling while hitting ledge after ledge on the way down. And it was freaking lonely at the bottom. People don’t like to witness that hot-mess. I didn’t know exactly who I was anymore. I still don’t, but I’m working on putting myself back together slowly piece by freaking piece.
It’s hard to unpack so much at once, but I’ve put myself on a tough introspective journey to try to put behind me one of the toughest years of my life. I feel like I’ve gone through multiple forms of grief and it has been relentless; a long-time coming divorce, death after death (after death after death), loss of friendships I thought would be life-long, a first break-up and also grieving the loss of who I used to be. The loss of my identity, who I thought I would be—what I envisioned my life would be. I’ve been utterly pummeled by life. And I had to retreat even further from the world I had known to simply survive.
Assessing what is actually important seems normal once you get through the initial stages of handling loss. I found myself far less ruffled in contentious situations. I used to pride myself on email response rates, excited by having goals and passion projects, and being a highly productive member of society. So how was I to deal when I lost all passion for most things that weren’t PokémonGo and a large glass Rosé? I had to take a big step back, and Lean The Fuck Out of any form of expectation—internal and external.
I started seeing patterns
Through therapy and coaching I quickly identified some key patterns in the ledges I was hitting through the fall, that I’m working on changing. As an eldest child, my striving for constant affirmation and approval is a common pattern in psychology, but it didn’t matter how many promotions and awards I received — I still felt (feel) like I’m not good enough yet. And I’m quite frankly exhausted of feeling never good enough, which has been brought to the forefront as a single person dealing with the horrors of modern dating.
- I go out of my way to help others without their asking—and am always disappointed when they don’t appreciate it or even notice me sometimes. “Didn’t you see me lay down on the train tracks? That train just ran me over again!”
- Being alone (for an evening) made me feel like a failure, this meant that no-one liked me enough to be with me.
- I date the same person over and over. Men with clear self-centered ego issues that I think “if they love me enough they’ll fix it for me”. They don’t.
Therapy helped me realize that I was placing my self-worth on how others chose to treat me. And I was teaching many people that they could treat me anyway they wanted and I would keep coming back for more. I also found people lashed out at me, even when at my lowest points and kick me when I was down. That behavior says more about them, than about me, but it took me a long time to figure that out and not let it pile onto the grief and deprecating patterns. I thought that if I saw their behavior change to show me love and appreciation then that would mean I had worth.
I defined a Practice: Organic Nourishment
Through naming those patterns that were having a negative input into my world, I started to cut those things out and focus inwards. After losing the desire to write, I went silent. I lost my voice. I couldn’t quite finish editing my next podcast episode, which ironically is about the tumultuousness of passion projects.
I started to make a promise to myself. The phrase or mantra “organic nourishment” gave me permission to prioritize self-love. What I mean by “organic nourishment” is investing in myself—body, mind and soul—without setting rigid expectations or commitments. This could be carving out an evening just for myself to sit and read at a coffee shop. When asked if I had plans, I would respond “Yes. Yes I do.” Being disciplined a little bit more about exercise is also part of it, and giving my body good fuel (no more coffee for lunch for Alison). It’s getting back onto my yoga mat, not in a regular schedule, but just getting there.
And fueling myself with self-kindness has allowed me to recognize better when someone inputting into my life is a stinky pizza.
A Stinky Pizza?
Yep. You heard me. The gist of Ruiz’s analogy is that by filling your world with good and loving inputs you’ll be able to better recognize the bad ones when they show up. If you’re filling your own “kitchen” with healthy food and anything you want, you won’t be starving and opt in to unhealthy things in your life.
Hey dude on Tinder/Bumble/OKC, you’re stinky pizza aren’t you?
I’m building better boundaries
Sometimes you discover (and perhaps knew all along) when something is not a positive input into your world. This can be a habit or behavior of your own, or it can be another human’s interaction with you. In The Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz writes about how when we have a reaction to something someone does or says, it’s not actually about them — it’s about us. They happen to be touching an open wound that causes us to flinch. Without healing the wound, we are always vulnerable to unintentional reception of pain. And it’s really easy to point the finger at the inflicter, but it’s not really about them. At these times it’s empirical to take a leap back and determine, is this actually something deeper within me reacting, or are they just a soul sucking zombie?
To protect oneself and focus on improving the things that you can control, sometimes—quite frankly—you just have to cut that shit out. Hold it at a distance. Instill better boundaries. Reduce the exposure. Remove yourself from the toxic situation, or find a way to recognize your pattern and reaction in the moment, and implement your practice. Delete Tinder from your phone. Again.
I’m balancing the inputs
Right now, I’m approaching everything as that practice of Organic Nourishment. It’s about crawling back upwards out of that hole, ledge upon ledge, step by steady step. While not forgetting the valuable lessons I learned on the way down. I’m ensuring the positive inputs outweigh the negative and curating the life I want for me and my son.
When you do that, you build up your boundaries and protect yourself from those soul-sucking-zombie-poison-throwers. It also allows you to be your best self for the most important things in your life.
And take a freaking break once in a while.