When Rock Bottom Becomes a Bottomless Pit

I tried to get myself something to drink yesterday morning, and tears fell into my glass of ice before I could manage to move it out of the way. They just kept flowing. I must have cried for at least a dozen hours in the past week. I wish I could throw out the painful feelings as easily as I tossed out my tear-stained ice.

I used to think that I’d discovered what rock bottom was to me. I’d been in life-threatening situations more than once, and that’s not counting the danger I was in because of my own desire to end the searing pain that comes with PTSD, depression, and some of their causes.

I figured that rock bottom was that time I bought a rope with a plan to use it or worse still, when I slit my wrists. The thing is, I didn’t end up using the rope. When I slit my wrists, I left myself with surface-level wounds that I cleaned and hid. I wasn’t seeking attention; I was seeking an end to the pain. I have googled “quick, painless ways to die” more times than anyone would like to know, but it can get worse than that.

Those were all horrible experiences, but I don’t think any of them ended up being rock bottom for me. It seems that most people refer to rock bottom as the moment when you hit the lowest point in your entire life so that you are motivated to change. That wasn’t the state I was in when I decided to work towards healing, though. In fact, what motivated me to get help wasn’t painful at all. It was gentle encouragement from a very dear friend. That felt wonderful and safe.

When I speak of my rock bottom, I am talking about that empty, aching feeling within when it feels like nothing will ever feel even a tiny bit okay again. What joy I’ve found in this world feels as though it’s been ripped away over and over again all at once. It’s an emotional ache so extreme and strong that I feel a physically painful sensation in my heart.

In getting help and working towards healing, I’ve discovered that this feeling can get worse. It can get progressively worse. Sometimes I free fall further down into the pain than I’ve ever been. I can always fall lower and descend further into the depths of pain that exist within me.

What I used to see as rock bottom was just a ledge, and beneath that is a lot more pain. You see, I found a seemingly endless well of pain within, a bottomless pit that contains all the emotional pain I’ve long neglected and glossed over and avoided like the freaking plague.

This is horrible, no-good, really bad news, right? Well, I have come to see that it’s not the case. Opening up an access point to all this pain isn’t the worst thing that has happened. It’s among the better things. I thought I was going about my life in an okay way despite the pain I’d experienced but buried. However, I was not fully living life or owning myself and my choices. I kept self-destructing in a million ways big and small. It is only in reaching down into that pit and slowly processing the pain that healing is taking place.

Luckily, so many problems that seem insurmountable are fixable. The pit may be bottomless, but the pain won’t last forever. A lot of things won’t work out in my favor, I’m sure, and that’s okay, too. Maybe some dreams won’t ever come true, but you never lose your ability to keep dreaming new dreams that can be equally as wonderful. Maybe the one you love will never love you, but romantic love isn’t the only valid, special kind of relationship. Whatever problems you may face, you can cherish people and experiences without worrying about the outcome of a situation, and life still holds wonder if you keep going on.

I’m in the middle of a long excavation process where sometimes I’m digging into the depths of misery within me. Sometimes I’m skating along the surface as I recover, and sometimes I’m ascending to greater heights of future possibilities. It’s inevitable that I’m going to trip up on really painful, rocky terrain along the path to the better life I’m seeking.

Life doesn’t just stop to allow for this kind of healing to happen, so I have to find the right balance for me to heal and still deal with life. You’ve heard of lifestyle blogs. Well, this is a blog about the changing lifestyles I’m experiencing. I have faith that these painful things won’t always be an overwhelmingly big part of my life, but I intend to chronicle my quest to deal with life in the best way I can even within the battle against past trauma, depression, and PTSD.

Pain is temporary, and that’s one of the things I’ve allowed myself to learn. When you hang on to the things that make you come alive and persevere through the tortured moments, the pain lessens if you deal with it. It truly does. Pain lessens, and life goes on.

Weird Wonders that Trod in Alongside Deep Depression

Lately I have been simultaneously going through a rough patch and feeling like the luckiest woman in the world. I know that may sound bizarre and contradictory. I sometimes face an odd intersection of depression, idealism, optimism, and a deep, abiding appreciation for the lovely things in my life.

When I’ve tried to speak to some people about my depression, they have been extremely supportive and truly rallied around me in such a way that inspired me to get help when I needed it. When I tried to discuss it with others, however, I was told things such as: "Just get over it!" and "You have it better than most people in the world. It’s wrong to be depressed in your situation." Perhaps the most painful was, "What about people who are really sick?"

Those words added to my anguish. I already am extremely aware of the frustration of PTSD and depression. These hurtful comments added heaps of guilt on top of mountains of grief. If I could have changed places with someone who was dying but wished to live, I would have many times. If there was some way that I could transfer my life force to one who wasn’t afflicted with this condition, I would have done that, too.

No matter what anyone says, emotional pain is very real, and I believe that suicides often occur when one’s emotional anguish exceeds the coping skills – and the hoping skills – that the person has. If it feels like things won’t get better, it can be so hard to keep going through such excruciating pain.

It’s a stark, serious thing, this struggle, and I wouldn’t wish depression or PTSD on anyone in the world. However, I must say that I’ve seen and experienced some cool things as a consequence of these struggles and even as a result of being told that I am not entitled to the anguish I can’t help but feel.

I am an idealistic dreamer; that much is true. It has colored my kind of depression and pointed me toward the beautiful art and artists that have saved me. However, I in no way wish to romanticize the ugly reality of being depressed or having PTSD for those who (like me) suffer. I don’t know if I’m the only one who has silver linings etched around and within my depression, but I’m guessing that many of us do.

What I do know is that utterly wonderful things have come my way alongside my battles with depression and PTSD. For one thing, it taught me to savor every moment that isn’t a painful one to experience. I enjoy simple moments of existing without searing emotional pain. I appreciate seeing the sun, the trees, and the sky; every time a breeze passes by, I try to breathe it all in with pleasure.

Simple pleasures are treasured experiences. When I eat, I tend to savor every bite. Starting a new diary and reading a terrific book are cause for celebration.

Depression taught me that extremes aren’t necessarily bad. Having an extreme love of life can get you through some bad times, and it may seem ironic that I do deeply love life even within the times I’ve felt I needed to die.

People have laughed at me for getting too excited or too empathetic, but I feel so deeply and fully that it is utterly overwhelming. I feel compelled to express it sometimes. You know what? I don’t really mind being peculiar in that way. I don’t want to stop feeling things so intensely.

When I’m lucky enough to meet kindred spirits and kind souls, I cherish them with all my heart, and I appreciate every minute that I get to spend with them. I don’t take anyone I love for granted, and my own pain has taught me to go to great lengths to try to avoid inflicting pain on others, although I know I don’t always succeed with that goal.

My depression taught me that material things don’t hold any kind of true value. When you’re in a life or death situation, some things come into crystal clear focus even when you are not thinking clearly about everything else. My favorite material stuff has sentimental value. The only time I enjoy shopping is when I’m buying gifts that I think may make someone smile or feel good for at least a moment. When I spend money on myself, it’s usually on experiences, not things.

The depression lies to me and tells me I’m entirely unlovable. It’s said this so long that I oftentimes come from that place of feeling unlovable as I make my way through each day. However, that awful feeling also opened my heart in some ways and left me with a deep capacity for love. That’s partly just in my nature but it's also something that has increased over time. I think depression taught me a great deal about love, although there’s nothing lovely about the struggle itself.

I have a rather light spirit, and I feel positive about things as often as I can whenever I am not struggling with these painful things. While depressed people in the media are often depicted as havoc-wreaking, morbid terrors to be avoided at all costs, real-life people who struggle with PTSD and depression come in all types. I’m willing to bet that most of us just want peaceful lives, and the last thing we want is to cause problems for anyone.

We also come with all kinds of blessings. Things aren’t always dark in here. There are good times to be enjoyed on the other side of the worst times and, every now and then, within them.

Heading for a Land of Sunshine or Savoring Joys in the Midst of Depression

Want to know something? I'm so over not yet being over depression. Since elementary school, I’ve experienced on-and-off suicidal feelings, and I wish I could make them go away once and for all. I'd like to just wave a magic wand...and...poof...banish all such thoughts from my kingdom.

You see, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that I struggled with depression as a young girl, and it tears away at my life still. I actually go through life feeling worthless. I have come close to suicide many times. I once bought a rope with the intention of using it to kill myself, but I returned it to the store because I was out of money and wanted some more chocolate before I exited the world.

That's kind of how it goes with me. I like chocolate; I love life. I just don't appreciate the nearly constant mental anguish I have faced at some points in my life. Chronic emotional pain is tricky. Sometimes it knocks you down on an otherwise pleasant day, while other times bad news can send you suddenly spiraling from just okay to grasping for reasons to continue to exist.

When people talk about their experiences with depression, I don’t always relate. I’ve heard people say that they wouldn’t live a day of their lives over again, and that just breaks my heart. That is not true at all for me. I have good days that I would relive if I could. I hear and respect the lived experiences of others, and I have searched for ways to relate my experiences.  

Meanwhile, I savor all the happiness I can find in life, and I inevitably find some meaning in each and every day. I try to be of service when I can. I enjoy my career, and my cherished relationships with friends and family give me immense joy. Art in so many forms enriches my life; I adore many things in the world.

It’s like my kind of depression is a smothering tent that keeps hovering and closing in on top of me, but I see an opening where I peek at the beauty of the world beyond the suffocating darkness. I keep pushing it back, peeping my head outside, and reaching beyond it, trying to grab on to the wonderful reality that is here, too.

Nevertheless, the misery within that tent has held me down. For years, I felt that everyone would be better off without me. I tried to keep my friends at somewhat of a distance, despite my great love for them, because I didn't want them to be wounded if I had to go through with my suicide.

Sometimes I try to be okay for one more day or one more hour. Other times I’ve just wanted to be able to feel I could get through one more minute.

After I entered and eventually left an abusive relationship that I’d risked everything to be in, I was more devastated than ever, and it deeply wounded the part of me that had allowed me to be extremely, highly functional even within the depths of despair that depression caused me. In the midst of this agony when I was merely trying to survive, when I could not even look towards a new day without immense pain, something totally unexpected happened.

I felt a truly happy moment in time. In fact, I experienced the happiest moment of my life. It was brief and fleeting. It was silly in its scope, and I’m pretty sure it meant little to nothing to a friend who was there as well. Yet, somehow, within that flash in time, the self-hatred I’d always felt melted away for just one moment. I felt a wave of undiluted hope and a surge of utter joy. The glee was so new to me that it felt a little bit like being in a foreign land. While I have gone through life feeling worthless, for that blissful moment, I felt worthy of being there and having that experience.

What would perhaps be a silly second that passed and would have been easily dismissed by most was very significant to me. I can’t even tell you exactly why, but I can tell you that what I discovered within this feeling made me stronger. It helped me realize that the pain isn’t ceaseless and unending. It made me feel less like the monster that the depression has always made me believe myself to be.

This feeling awakened in me the need to build a life where happy feelings were possible on a frequent basis. So I asked myself: What sort of life do you truly want to create for yourself, and what sort of person do you truly want to be? As I gain more coping skills and work with more power to overcome this enormous obstacle in my daily path, I ask myself those two things more frequently. I give more thought to my answers that are still evolving.

I want to be my true self, and I am discovering more about who that is as I strive for self-improvement. As far as the sort of life I want to live, I answer this question anew as I deal with the depression and confront it and try to get a handle on it.

I can’t tell you that I don’t struggle now, but I am facing it head-on. Don't worry; I'm not in imminent danger. I am not giving in to the dark feelings. I am being proactive and taking the best care of myself that I possibly can. I’m forgiving myself when I can’t. I am getting help each day and every time that I need it. Mostly, I am keeping my heart open to the lovely things in life because I have a lot of hope that there are many more moments out there worth feeling and experiencing.

Today, I had a single vegan fortune cookie after lunch. My fortune read, “You are heading for a land of sunshine. You will always have good luck in your personal affairs.” Despite the fact that I’m a skeptic who knows it was a random cookie that I grabbed from the box, I am just idealistic enough to shrug and try to imagine that this optimistic fortune will, in fact, come true. 

My Name is Robin, and I'm A...

Welcome to my little home on the internet. Relax. Kick your feet up. Can I get you anything? Perhaps a YouTube link or an inspiring meme? No? Well, I appreciate that you’re visiting me here.

What I’m actually serving up are posts on my passions. This blog will likely be about my life, a variety of things I love, and some things I don’t love but just have to live with. It will be about my pursuit of the most joyous, kind, authentic, and love-filled life that I can create for myself.

You see, I’m determined to get lots of joy out of life despite the fact that I live with nasty, unwelcome intrusions by the name of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and what I long referred to as situational depression. (Unfortunately, it persisted in several types of situations, so I guess it’s just the regular type after all.)

There is a stigma around these things, but I refuse to cower down to my fears of speaking openly about these afflictions. That is what they are; I won’t sugar coat things. I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy, not even those nasty middle school bullies. While I plan to be open about my own struggles and triumphs when it comes to living with these things, I will fiercely protect the privacy of others in my life.

Now there are lots of brilliant online posts about depression like this one and its sequel from Hyperbole and a Half.  Among her other well-written musings, Lisa Jakub also writes beautifully about anxiety. Licensed therapist Joyce Houser wrote an incredible book about how therapy heals and helps with these types of problems.

I appreciate these writings by authors I admire and am moved by them. They’ve brought me immense comfort. I could never write as beautifully as they do. At the same time, I think that one’s struggle with depression and other disorders can be as unique as it is universal, so it is my hope that sharing things about my own personal experiences may be of some use.

Although I know it’s the most talked-about issue in the land and sea of cyber space, I may occasionally write about weight stuff. I cringe at mentioning that part because I am all for body acceptance, and it’s never my wish to body shame anyone, including myself. For several personal reasons, though, I’m on a diet, exercise, and weight loss plan. On a possibly related note, I’ll be writing about recovery from eating disorders and my huge collection of workout VHS tapes and DVDs.

Mostly I’ll be posting about writing, travel, vegan food, philosophy, books I’m mad about, dancing, music, daily walks, altruism, art that makes me shout, theater, beauty, cinema, achieving goals, volunteering, my love of God and respect for all peaceful religions, my heroes, microwave meals, and the entertainment that lifted me up as a kid. You may find yourself reading about the fun and occasionally panic-filled reality of being child-free by choice when I’m not yet fully committed to that choice.

I’ll be sharing about life as an author, my adventures in freelance writing, and the ups and downs of owning my own business. Also expect posts about the upcoming publication of my first children’s book and my first-ever national book tour!

So that’s what you can expect to find here in addition to memories of Marta Heart, the greatest dog who ever lived. While the content of this blog is likely to shift as my life changes, I expect to be going on about Marta well into my hundreds. If you’d met her, you’d still be talking about her, too.

By the way, as my domain name suggests, I’m Robin Raven. Yes, that’s my real name in the sense that it’s my legal name. No, I wasn’t born with it. I chose my last name when I was a teenager, and I picked it without knowing that characters named Robin and Raven made up a famous Teen Titans couple. That being said, I rather like it, which is why I picked it. Although I’ve gone through my adult life being teased about it, I still love it, so it’s probably here to stay, although I may add another last name on the end someday.

I’m a work-in-progress. I’m striving to improve myself, make positive changes in my life, and become the more self-actualized person I want to be. That sounds vague, but I mean it with a passion and determination that has only recently been awakened. I am so done with being self-destructive, and I am totally over settling for less than I deserve. I deserve to be happy in this life, and so do you. Thanks for joining me on my little journey!