Building up from rock bottom

What I'm about to say is written from the point of view of someone who is now glad to be alive, although that wasn't always the case. 


I was sitting in the outpatient psychiatrist's office sometime in 2016, two years after my first episode of psychosis. He was the latest in a series of psychiatrists. Unbeknownst to me he wouldn't be the last I would encounter. That particular moment I was emotionally battered by having been recently sectioned and discharged for the 3rd time that year alone. 

We were discussing raising my antidepressant medication yet again. “This is as high as I'm willing to take it”, he said, updating my prescription. Out of vague curiosity I remember asking him, “what would I be like without antidepressants?” His reply was simply, “you don't want to know.”

In those days all I wanted to do was go to sleep and not wake up. I was secretly stockpiling meds and willing myself to overdose, but one day in frustration at myself I binned them all because I knew I didn't have it in me to take my own life, however miserable I was. I'm glad of that now, although at the time I was kicking myself. 

That moment was significant because in a weird way, feeling that I wanted to die yet choosing to live - which I did on some level when I binned my meds - whatever I did from then onwards was a bonus. I inadvertently gave myself permission to do what I wanted, when I wanted. If I wanted to sleep, I slept. If I wanted to eat, I ate. If I wanted to buy some little trinket, that's what I did. 

Not an entirely helpful approach to life, but binning those meds gave me a strange sense of freedom. It was as though at each moment I asked myself, “given that I don't want to be here, but I'm choosing to be, what would I like to do?” That unconscious question was one of many little pieces of the jigsaw that slowly helped me reconnect with myself and regain some small pleasure in life. 

In the present day I can honestly say that not all, but most of the time, I want to live. I still have bad days although they are more spaced apart now. I still take antidepressants (albeit at a lower dose) and may always do so. I have had lots of therapy, prayer and various other types of support. There have been a multitude of improvements in different areas of my life. 

I'm back working in a job I enjoy, in a way that is flexible enough (and with a boss who is understanding enough) to accommodate the ups and downs in my mood. Since my breakdown I've developed a faith, and a great support network. I have a home. I have become better at managing my money. The list goes on. 

I am continuing to cautiously build upwards, slowly but surely. Building my resilience. My stamina. How much I can contribute. My social circle. How much I can give as well as receive. The sky's the limit…and yet I don't want to forget where I've come from…rock bottom. Now and then I remind myself of that decision to bin my meds and how I owe it to myself to take care of that broken person. I want to help prevent myself from ever reaching rock bottom again.

You may want to reflect on how you can begin to build upwards from rock bottom?

What would you like to do if you had the freedom to do anything?

If you are isolated and need to talk to somebody right now, phone Samaritans on 116 123. They are available 24 hours a day.

Bryony Bennett 

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