I was standing on the deck in front of my apartment in my pajama shorts in the freezing cold. It was only a few days after Christmas, and instead of sleeping soundly with my boyfriend, I watched as the police made him get to his knees on the ground and put handcuffs around his wrists.
For months, I had watched as he spiraled toward drinking excessively and giving in to depression. Suddenly the tiniest thing upset him, and what used to be just little spats became screaming matches. That night, after putting my children to sleep, I realized that he was again drunk and had finally reached my limit.
A once happy and loving relationship had resolved into a tense situationship that no longer was making me happy.
I climbed into bed and quietly told him that I knew he was too drunk to leave at that moment but that I wanted him to pack his things and go home in the morning.
He hurled insults at me, yelling loud enough to wake my children. He called me a fat whore and a stupid bitch. I walked over to the door and opened it, telling him if he wanted to call me names, he could leave right then, and this caused him to push me down to the floor. My head hit the wall just as his foot made contact with my leg.
Watching the police arrest him for assaulting me that night left me feeling as if I had hit a new low in life, even though it wasn’t really my doing. I stood on that deck in the winter wind feeling as if things couldn’t get any worse and unable to see a time when it would get any better.
I felt as if I had again hit rock bottom in my life, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
Rock bottom is a place I’ve visited a few times.
Recently, on the Girl, Get Your Shit Together Podcast, I discussed this topic at length with my co-host Kerry McAvoy, PhD. Talking about all the lows I had hit so far in my life really made me examine what rock bottom really feels like when you’re there.
Having talked with others who have hit monumental lows in life, mainly in NA and AA meeting rooms, there is one thing that we all seem to have in common. It was in those rooms, where those who were trying to piece their lives back together, that I came to realize that there was something that was holding them, and me, from getting our lives back.
The lies we tell ourselves can act as hurdles on our way to digging out of the hole we have made for ourselves. We convince ourselves of the same three lies that keep us from moving forward.
The first lie people tell themselves when they hit a low point in life is that they are alone.
The last time I felt I had hit rock bottom was after my on again off again boyfriend of two years assaulted me. I was living in a town where I barely knew anyone. The closest person to me was my mother, and she lived almost four hours away.
Many times, my mother, friends, and other family members told me that this man was no good for me. Every time one of them started to say to me to leave him and move on with my life, I would assure them that I would end things with him. But my words were empty, and I would continue to stay with him despite their warnings.
Because I didn’t listen to the people in my life about how bad my ex was for me, when things went south and I ended up alone, I didn’t feel like I could reach out to anyone. For days, I would wake up but wouldn’t get out of bed, convinced that I had to find a way out of this situation on my own. My tiny little one-bedroom apartment now didn’t feel like home. It felt like a disaster area that did nothing but remind me of the night I was assaulted.
I wanted to move, be closer to my family and friends, and be somewhere that felt home again. But I didn’t think anyone in my life would help me. I was sure that they would all be so disappointed with me for staying so long. Or maybe they would think that I had gotten what I deserved.
Finally, feeling as if I had no other options, I reached out to my mom. The very next day, she was there to move me home and help me with anything that I needed. She never said I told you so or made me feel like I had made a mistake, even though I had. Not long after, I had to start explaining what happened to my friends. Each of them was supportive and kind and made me realize that I shouldn’t have been afraid to reach out to them.
I was never alone, even at my lowest point. That was just a lie that I told myself because I was embarrassed. When I needed someone, the people in my life showed up with zero judgment, just love, and kindness.
The second lie people often tell themselves is that they got themselves into this mess, so they need to get themselves out of it.
This lie goes hand in hand with the first one. Often, people who are experiencing a low in their life don’t reach out to others for help because they don’t feel like they deserve help. I know that when I hit a recent low point in my life with my ex, I thought that I had done it to myself and needed to take responsibility, and the only way I could do that would be to figure it out on my own.
But that was just another lie I was telling myself. No matter which way I looked at the situation, I couldn’t get out of it independently. I couldn’t even wrap my head around my mental state and emotions long enough to figure out what my next step should be.
Maybe times, when you are knee-deep in a situation, you can’t see the way out on your own. You think you have done this to yourself, and no one will want to help you fix it. This is simply not true.
One of the best things you can do is reach out for help. Your friends and family will want to know what you are going through and want to help. Depending on your situation, you may have to make some amends to the people in your life. As long as you apologize for your negative actions and express your willingness to change those behaviors moving forward, you will find that those who love you will want to help you.
The third lie people tell themselves is they will never get back to a better way of life.
When you are standing in the deep hole you’ve dug, the rock bottom of your life, looking up at the life you used to have, it’s easy to think you will never get back to that place. The walls might seem like they are closing in on you, and you can’t fathom how you will be able to find your way back to a better, happier life.
While it probably won’t be easy, that doesn’t mean it is impossible. It might be one of the most challenging periods of your life, but there will always be a way to grow and become the person you want to be.
I know that I never thought things would get better each time in my life when I have hit a low point. But each time, with a lot of work, self-reflection, therapy, and passing of time, I found myself in a better situation than I was before I hit rock bottom.
Rockbottom doesn’t have to be a place you stay forever.
Finding yourself at a low point in life can be hard to come to terms with. Even harder is making sure you aren’t getting caught up in the lies you tell yourself. Rockbottom can be a lonely, unforgiving place, and telling yourself that you are alone, with no one to help you, and that you will never make it out again will only make it worse.
Hitting a low point in life can test someone’s resolve. It won’t be easy to get back to the life you had before or even a better version of what that life was, but it is possible. As long as you don’t let the lies you tell yourself stop you from striving toward getting back to a better place. Commit yourself to positive thinking to help you climb out of the darkness. Tell yourself that you are worthy of an extraordinary life, that you will not settle for anything less than that.
Whenever things get rough and believe me, they will remember that you are not settling. You will not stop until you have climbed above ground and are standing in the sunlight. Remember that every step of the way, the negative self-talk going on in your head will cause you to want to give up, but you can’t. As cliche as it sounds, things will get better with time.
Ashley Shannon is a queer single mom of two kids, one with autism. She writes about relationships, mental health issues, being a single parent, and sexuality. She is currently looking for the perfect school bus to turn into a traveling tiny home and can be found on twitter @as_publishing.