Heads up! This isn’t a going to be a pleasant post. But it is a necessary one. It’s necessary because I feel like I need to share this part of my story with others. And it’s necessary because it just might help someone who is walking through a similar and difficult dark path right now. Yeah, I said dark. It’s an end-of-my-rope moment. The kind of snapshot within my history that isn’t polite to pull out when you have company over.
Let me offer a small disclaimer here as well. I don’t recommend that anyone run out and spiral toward the deep, dark bottom of life in order to finally find the motivation they need to change. I share this part of my story with the hope you’ll see that a little light can be found in the darkest of days.
I learned some valuable lessons. I discovered that I still had a bit of untapped strength left in me. And I found deeper parts of myself. Parts that revealed a profound sense of my own spirit in a way I’d never experienced when life seemed…well, normal.
Here’s My Story
I had recently walked through my first divorce (yes, there has been more than one of those in my life). My marriage had slowly dissolved over a period of years. It was sad and depressing. In fact, because of the lengthy decline, I walked through some of the early stages of grief while still married. Yet when the unravelling finalized and the divorce papers were signed, I wasn’t ready for my pending nosedive.
I lost a lot through the divorce. I began to question everything I had come to believe about myself and the way the world worked. There were no easy answers that came with those questions. Only uncertainty. And a daily dose of awkwardness. I walked around with a constant, nagging sense that nothing worthwhile or valuable really lasts – at least not in my world.
As the weeks passed, I entered into a period of self-loathing. I stopped taking care of myself. I stopped caring how I looked. I stopped exercising and confined myself to my couch. I isolated myself from the world around me. My friends started noticing. Most conversations would begin with “Are you alright? Are you doing okay, Tim?”
The truth is, I wasn’t doing okay or alright. I was miserable. I was alone. It hurt like hell and I didn’t have any idea how to turn this thing around. People would offer me a book or article or even try and talk to me. None of it made a dent in what I was going through.
I won’t belabor you with all of the details of my struggle. We all handle pain in our own way, some ways are definitely more healthy than others. I wasn’t concerned about health. I was doing whatever I could to numb the feelings. I slept a lot. Life seemed to require a lot more effort than it had before.
It had been a little over three months since the divorce had been finalized. I was wallowing in a mixture of self-pity and numb existence. Any positive thought about my future was only a futile hope that I knew would sucker punch me the first chance it got.
One night, I went to the store and bought a banana cream pie. That’s it. Just the pie. I came back to my apartment, grabbed a fork, plopped on the couch and started eating it. Right out of the tin. No need for slices. Diving into the middle of all that whipped cream topping, I was going to eat the whole damn pie.
That’s when the moment occurred. I was about halfway through the pie and I caught my reflection in the blank television screen across the room. The image was a bit blurred but I could still make out all the wretched details. There I was, sitting on the couch with whipped creme hanging on my cheeks, holding a fork in one hand and the half-eaten pie in the other. And it disgusted me.
I actually don’t think disgust is a strong enough word. What I felt requires adjectives. Words like stomach-turning, putrid, utter disgust. I was abhorred by the reflection on the screen. I felt nauseated (you try eating half a banana creme pie) and mortified by myself in that moment. I was disgusted, not because of all that I had lost, but because I realized how much I had given up. I didn’t like who I was, but more that that, I hated who I was becoming.
In this one moment, I suddenly woke up to the realization that I had the ability to make choices about my life. While I had lost a lot, I didn’t have to lose myself. I could still pursue those things that were important to me. I could still learn from my mistakes and make some changes. I could still grow. Though I had been devastated, I didn’t have to lose everything.
At Just The Right Time
As I reflect back on the days leading up to that moment, I am reminded of all the ways my friends tried to help and encourage me. Many of the steps I began to take, motivated by my disgust, were in the books, articles and advice they offered. I guess I simply wasn’t in a place where I was ready for them.
I was fortunate that my self-loathing didn’t result in more intentional acts of self-harm. I didn’t want to hurt myself. I just stopped caring about myself. That’s why I’m grateful, that for one brief moment, I saw what I was becoming and it turned my stomach.
If you’re going through, what I tend to call, the “valley of suck,” I hope you’ll find some part of my story comforting and hopeful. I would never have put disgust on a list of motivational techniques. I don’t think it is. It simply became the wake up call I needed in the midst of a downward spiral.
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