Hitting rock bottom . . . we've all heard about it, right? That point one is supposed to reach when they are completely willing to make any change necessary in order to transform his or her life. We often hear this phrase being used in reference to drug or alcohol addiction, but I think it is just as applicable to our relationship with food or unhealthy lifestyle patterns. I have mixed feelings about the "hitting rock bottom" concept though. Today I wanted to write about my two views on it and hopefully inspire a big conversation about it with all of you.
I definitely had a rock bottom moment on my autoimmune journey and it definitely motivated me to change. It happened a little over a month before I was diagnosed. I even declared it on Facebook. I was absolutely at the end of my rope and I announced my intention publicly to work tirelessly in seeking a diagnosis and internally I told myself, "When I know what is wrong, I'll do whatever it takes to heal." I actually had no idea when I made that declaration that my diagnosis would be Celiac and that a Paleo approach would be how I would heal. The only thing I knew about either is that I had heard the words before.
My life was more and more reduced to a nightmare. One of my worst moments was attending a school wide holiday party at my daughter's elementary school. She and I had just moved back to the States and were temporarily living with my sister while we waited for my husband to get a new position. The school party was the first thing I had done on my own since being hospitalized in Europe and then returning to the U.S. I was malnourished and weak, I was sweating profusely, and I basically sat against a back wall barely containing a serious panic attack, while trying to seem enthusiastic for my child, who desperately wanted to make new friends. None of my outgoing personality, none of me, the woman that had made friends all over the world, was there in that crowded elementary school gymnasium. I was completely unable to speak to any of the other parents and followed my daughter around in a daze trying to muster a smile. At that point I was still terrified of driving, but on our way home I was grateful to be driving, even in the dark, because my daughter could not see that I was crying. I was so ashamed that I could not even navigate a simple school gathering anymore.
Changing my life to focus on my health meant doing alot of things I did not want to do, but hitting rock bottom got me motivated. I had more and more debilitated experiences like the one described above and I simply could not take another second in my own miserable body. One of the things I had to do even happened before I hit bottom. I had to give up my life overseas, which was a decision filled with heartbreak. I was medically evacuated three times before I fully had the realization that my health status was not an appropriate match for the adventurous, stressful life I was leading in an undeveloped country. After hitting bottom and getting my diagnosis I began the hard work of transforming what I ate and how I handled my lifestyle, including redirecting my money into proper nutrition and self-care.
You may not like to admit it, but conquering a disease or at least coming to a place where your health is manageable and you are happy again will probably mean giving up a lot of the things currently in your life. I find that the hardest leap to make is usually lifestyle factors that are keeping people trapped in illness. Over-scheduled, over-committed, negative relationships, and high stress jobs or home environments are often the most important thing that needs to change. From there, being willing to leave the addictive foods that are killing you behind is usually the next biggest obstacle. It normally requires a rock bottom experience, sometimes multiple experiences, to be willing. I am grateful for my rock bottom, there was value in all that painful experience.
All of that said, I also think rock bottom is too far. It is a widely held view in our society that we should allow ourselves or our loved ones to hit rock bottom. You hear it all the time, "A person needs to reach their bottom, so that they'll want to get well." I think we let it go much too far with that mantra though. I should have recognized how out of control my life was getting at the hands of illness sooner. I spent years, literally some of my "best" years, accepting my poor health. I let doctors and others tell me it was all in my head for too long. It was in my power to make dramatic shifts in my own health all along. A diagnosis was crucial to my battle, but I should have made huge adjustments sooner. My body was screaming for help and I should have paid attention, pumped the brakes on my lifestyle, slowed down internally, ate less crap (things that I knew were crap), and overall treated my body more like a gift.
Rock bottom is usually a really firm foundation to rebuild from, but it also requires far too many sets of stairs to reach daylight. What do you think readers? Did you have a rock bottom experience(s) that prompted you to change your health? Are you still waiting for the bottom and not yet motivated? Do you or a loved one need to be told, "Rock bottom is way too deep."?