The Bottom by Elsie Ramsey

If you’ve been given the diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, it’s likely there exists a moment in time (often more than one), that was singularly horrible for you. A year, a summer, a weekend—the duration isn’t significant because in the moments when life becomes unbearable, time ceases to exist. We don’t ever forget these interludes and that’s not always a bad thing.

What bothers me is how society likes to have the final word on whether your personal crisis was really a crisis. Put differently, did it meet the criteria for “bottom” or “rock bottom” status, if the interlude hit a level of depravity inappropriate for polite conversation. Through an absurdly reductionist metric, serious breakdowns are ones that resulted in hospitalization and/or death. If we’re being lenient, at least the inability to leave bed, eat and sleep in simultaneous connection.

By those standards, the most excruciating periods of my life just weren’t that serious. I say that’s blatantly false and if you’d been there to witness them, I’m confident you’d agree.

There should be NO qualifying criteria applied to breakdowns. Engaging in such judgements delegitimizes the pain many of us battled while showering, going to the office, and trying with all our strength to render invisible.

And while we’re on the subject of universally experienced dismissals issued to depressed people, who remembers that time someone accused you of choosing to be unhappy? How was it for you? Did you die a little inside after the shock subsided? I did.

The hostile pronouncements that by taking some nice long walks and relinquishing that indulgent embrace of victimhood, (plus, don’t forget the yoga and meditation!), the whole breakdown would have blown over. Or never happened in the first place.

The perennial fresh air cure! Its proponents are everlasting and undeterred. The fact that walks are still so frequently recommended to depressed people as curative is simply tragic. I love walks and nature time; both are essential components of the routine I’ve developed to feel well, but without the full compliment of psychotherapy, medication, spiritual practice and human connection, walks would do exactly nothing.

What I’d like others to know is that by understanding my deepest episodes of emotional pain as no different, qualitatively or quantitatively, from anyone else’s, I’ve cultivated a feeling of pride in my strength and will to live.

Pride in asking for support as soon as I feel my depression starting to pick up steam.

Pride in the relationships I’ve forged with therapists who’ve walked next to me through many dark, scary places.

Put simply, I’m proud I made it. And if you’re reading this, you should be too. Anyone who has experienced a bottom, and you know who you are, deserves to know their pain is legitimate. With or without hospitals.

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