When a trifecta of painful life circumstances culminated in me hitting my lowest point of bipolar depression, I had no choice but to rebuild myself. So I set the bar high, aiming for becoming the best possible version of myself.
My Lowest Point with Bipolar Depression
They say when you hit rock bottom, there is only one way to go—and that’s up. For me, rock bottom came after a series of traumatic events.
They also say that bad things come in threes; this was the case for me, when I experienced three major hardships over a period of 1.5 years back in 2008–2009.
I knew this was my rock bottom because I was extremely depressed and isolating; I was struggling with feeling suicida1. Instead of hurting myself, I finally started to help myself—in a major way.
My rock bottom motivated me to focus on myself and do the healing work necessary to rebuild and restore my sense of self.
From this experience, all I can say is that I wish I had done the emotional healing work earlier in my life. This is because I know now that rebuilding my sense of self could have helped me tremendously—to the point that I could have avoided feeling so depressed that living with suicidality became a part of my reality. And since doing the healing work, I have maintained my sense of self and stability—through good times and bad.
A Trifecta of Loss
Living with bipolar depression and anxiety for many years, I struggled a lot with life, especially with low self-esteem and poor interpersonal relationships. The trifecta of pain that brought me to my lowest point was the combination of the loss of my job, a personal assault, and the loss of my father. Together, these were the straws that broke my back.
Rock bottom can be a very dark place of hopelessness, unhappiness, and despair. On top of that, I was grieving. It felt like far too much to bear.
There was an unexpected silver lining, though. After losing my job and gaining a small inheritance from my father, I had the rare benefit of both time and monetary resources to focus on my own well-being and my emotional needs.
Amidst my struggles, a series of goals about how to improve my circumstances became clear to me:
First, I remember saying, “I don’t care about right or wrong, I just want to be happy.”
I also thought to myself, “I don’t want to get in my own way—in any way—anymore.”
Then, after I was personally assaulted, I knew I needed to work on my assertiveness.
Last, for my whole life, I had struggled with my voice. I had never been a confident speaker—I experienced a lot of fear and insecurity around speaking at all, which eventually manifested in vocal-cord problems requiring speech therapy and surgery.
From this state of mind, I set out to do the emotional work that could help build my skills where I was lacking, with the hope that it would help me to find my voice as well as my sense of self. Win-win.
Finding a Way Up from Grief & Bipolar Depression
I cultivated all the commitment and determination I could to pick myself up from the proverbial fall. I was working with my psychiatrist and in a DBT program, which I loved. I also had a chance meeting with a life coach and started working with her on personal development.
This became my full-time job (since I had none) and I became really interested in learning about behaviors, spirituality, healing, growth, positive change, and transformation.
Rock bottom is the perfect opportunity for change because it made clear to me exactly what behaviors and mindsets weren’t working for me in my life and for my happiness. I was sick of my own nonsense, as they say, and was so ready to be free of ways of being that were not serving me—like anger, fear, and anxiety.
Learning to Heal from & Let Go of the Negativity
I also realized, for the first time, that I had a lot of negative energy, experiences, and trapped emotions within me that I needed to unload, heal, resolve, and let go. I sought to clear the negativity within, like a detox or deep emotional cleansing.
That negativity was not who I was; actually, it was keeping me from who I am. I had a ton of anger, guilt, shame, resentments, and tension that—over time—I found ways to release. I also had to learn how to be loving toward myself. To be compassionate, accepting, comforting, supportive, forgiving, and nurturing to myself and the little girl within. This also called for identifying and putting a stop to the ways I was invalidating, punitive, and disrespectful to myself. I used to put myself down, beat myself up, and be hard on myself. I learned to stop with all of that and to become a source of unconditional love for myself and others.
All of that was the big emotional work, by the way—clearing my unhealed pain and negativity and establishing self-love within and with positivity.
Healing—From a Necessity to a Hobby to a Career
Although hitting rock bottom was, in some ways, an opportunity for me, as I mentioned, it doesn’t have to take being at that point for any of us to do the emotional work necessary to improve our circumstances. I wish I had done the emotional work instead of spending so much time playing Yahoo! backgammon or Scrabble.
My own personal development was an interest, a hobby, and a way of healing—which I spent five years and many thousands of dollars pursuing. I am highly grateful to have done this work; it’s been rewarding, liberating, and validating.
It is the reason I got into life coaching as a career, and it is what I coach.
I have a client who says, “If you can do it, so can I.”
She is right.
When we end up broken, this is to validate that we all can rebuild—into our best versions of ourselves. If we do the inner work.
Debbie Jacobs is an advocate, writer, and healing specialist living in Alexandria, Virginia. She lived most of her adult life with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, and then was diagnosed with bipolar. She speaks out on how self-improvement is life improvement and believes we all can live happy lives by making positive changes to ourselves. Her influences are Louise Hay, Napoleon Hill, Les Brown, and Tony Robbins. She does positivity life coaching and is in the process of writing her first book on her healing process of accomplishing positive thinking, positive effective coping skills, and healthy self-esteem—what she calls “freedom and happiness.” She shares her work to motivate, inspire, and help others make positive changes to themselves for their freedom and happiness, too.
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