“You may need to get a pacemaker”, my adult congenital cardiologist said, in her mild Indian accent poised with wisdom, as if she had just told me the temperature outside, or given me directions to the store, or said some other mundane comment.
Meanwhile I was fighting back tears. “I’m 34. I’m not ready for that. What if something goes wrong? What if it limits me? What if I feel worse?”
Pause… let me back up 34 years. I was born with a heart condition called Ebstein’s Anomoly, in which my tricuspid valve in the left ventricle (or maybe right ventricle, I don’t remember) is misplaced. A misplaced valve makes the heart less efficient, bigger, and leaky with fluid/blood that is suppose to be getting pumped out, but ends up coming back in. A common sister condition, because of the enlarged space, is that extra electrical pathways can exist (or be formed, from what I understand) which sets the heart into rapid or uneven rhythm.
This sister condition is called Wolf Parkinson’s White, or WPW. During high school and college, my WPW would send my heart into a rapid pace of 170 BPM. It sometimes started in the middle of Cheerleading Practice… and sometimes it started in the middle of doing nothing. It would last anywhere from an hour, to the worst time which was over 8 hours. I’ve had 3 cardiac ablations (they use a catheter down your neck and/or up your groin and zap the extra pathway by freezing or burning it). For the last 10 plus years, since my last ablation… I’ve still had an inefficient heart, but I’ve been “fine”. I’ve been a Body Building Champion and a Regional Team CrossFit Games Competitor since.
But then something happened. No, not my heart… not yet. This was about 5 years ago, when I decided to step away from being a competitive athlete for the time being. I was healing my relationship with my body, with food, with myself. The decision to stop training to compete put me in an upward shift with relaxing around food, actually drinking a little more wine lol, and not training for 3 hours a day. It felt right. It felt needed.
The downward spiral…
also took place through these past few years. I had full awareness that my mindset was “well, if I’m not doing something extraordinary with fitness… I don’t really care. I don’t want to just have ‘normal’ goals like running a 5k or whatever… because I’ve done so much more than that. I don’t want to be ‘normal’.” That word kept coming to mind as if I was some arrogant biatch so much better than “just doing yoga” so you know what? The rebel in me went through a lot of phases of NOT working out at all!
I got lower back pain. I lost most of my muscle. My joints got more achy. I became the least flexible I’ve ever been in my life. And… low and behold, about 6 months ago… my heart palpitations came back.
When I Hit Rock Bottom…
I just couldn’t get motivated to get consistent with my fitness, let alone decide I wanted to train for anything, “normal” or not.
We love to hear stories of rock bottom to cream of the crop. Rags to riches. Breakdown to breakthrough. But the truth is… I thing more than one outcome is possible when we hit rock bottom.
Outcome Possibility #1
Ok, so you hit rock bottom. Maybe it’s with eating unhealthy foods. Maybe it’s with a health condition that you know you should have been taking care of better. Maybe it’s the result of improving one area of life, and another one tanked. Maybe it’s with substance abuse, emotional health, or a toxic relationship.
One possibility is that we rise up! We become that miracle story of turning our life around “overnight”. We make up our mind, and boom! We are on the up and up and we don’t look back.
This is the hero story. This is the story we want to relate to. This is the story we all want to be the main character of…
But I want to just call life like it is, and admit, that I, and others I know… have hit rock bottom and find that there is not just “one way to go”. There are many ways to go.
Outcome Possibility #2
You might be thinking, “Ok, so if someone doesn’t see that the only way from rock bottom is up, then they haven’t hit rock bottom yet.” I understand that reasoning… and I also would invite you to not judge anyone else’s definition of rock bottom. So, if someone doesn’t rise up, what’s the other extreme?
Someone has just hit their bottom, the lowest of lows. The point at which they can’t even see a way out. Maybe they don’t go further down… but sideways. Or maybe they take one step up and then slam back down.
This is not a hero story. This is not sexy. This is a reality we want to avoid… but you know what, it might be a reality just as common as the hero story… but this story isn’t told. Because no one wants to hear “oh, yeah Tessie… her health started failing. Bounce back? No… she appeared to have every opportunity to do so… but she didn’t.”
Outcome Possibility #3 (rock bottom or not!)
The 3rd possibility is a combination of the first 2, and honestly, where I think the majority of us end up. As humans, there is something universally felt regarding a desire to be better; better for our loved ones, for ourselves, for the world, etc. This is why that hero story sticks with us… ok, yes, maybe it’s also because it’s the storyline of like 99% of movies and things we see in culture every day… 😉
The 3rd outcome possibility is navigating change with awareness and acceptance of our humanness: that all-to-familiar pattern of “I have tried everything and just can’t seem to change. I keep falling off the wagon. I’ll never be able to quit this unwanted habit. I can change some things so easily, but others are just so hard for me.”
When we don’t fight these tendencies, but rather work WITH them, we will be more likely to move past them and actually see progress with the habit change we desire.
One concept that further explains this is “what we resist, persists.” By putting all our focus, attention and energy on what’s wrong, we give it power. We give it a front row seat. We put the expectation of “things going wrong” at the forefront of our mind. So when they do go wrong or stay the same, our inner critic/ego can say “see! I told you.” And that turns into a piece of us (however small) feeling satisfied and right. And the evil subconscious cycle of self-sabotage continues.
If instead, we embrace our challenges and tendencies, get to know ourselves more, and experiment with different approaches to achieving behavior change that align with our unique motivation… then, and only then, can we begin to truly and sustainably move forward into transformation.
The Bottom Line of Rock Bottom… and 3 Tools to Help You Elevate Back Up!
So, is it “easier” to change when you’ve hit rock bottom? Maybe. In fact, sometimes we might almost wish things would just get worse because we know when the stakes are high, the pressure is on, it’s a life or death situation… THAT’s when we can change.
Trying to change with the seemingly weak reason of “just wanting to be better” doesn’t poke the bear enough for it to move the needle. We need harsh accountability. We need that gut-deep “why”.
But if you are either able to change something without hitting rock bottom, or if you hit rock bottom and aren’t able to change right away… THAT’S OKAY TOO!
TOOL #1: A guide with 7 Personal Development Lessons from executive mental coach Michael Balchan and a daily journaling exercise from ME to keep you in gratitude, reflection, and celebration!
TOOL #2: The Food Belief Personality Type QUIZ! Learn your food belief type in order to become more aware of your tendencies and relationship with food. Then follow the Homework guidance to help you work WITH your food belief type, not against it, in order to become a healthier you!
TOOL #3: The Food & Body Breakthrough Mini Course! The 7-Step Food and Body Breakthrough Method was created by me over years of client work, education, and my own personal experience and lessons. It is a proven method based in positive psychology, emotional intelligence, eating psychology, and transformational behavior change practices.
If you’re looking to dive a little deeper, and learn more about how you can truly breakthrough any food and body challenge, then this Course is for YOU! You’ll receive a full audio lesson detailing out the 7 steps, which you can work through at your own pace. You’ll also get an accompanying workbook, which allows you to put the actions into practice along the way. Plus, you’ll be supported by me and a close circle of like-minded people in the online community when you join.
If you feel like you wish you could muster up the commitment, determination and consistency to just take on all the habits you desire to have overnight, you’re not alone. I’m with you! But at the end of the day… I also believe we ARE ALWAYS moving forward and up… even if we are sort of moving sideways in our sh*t storm… even if we get all the way up and crash back down… every dip is a lesson.
Every battle to be brave is won. It might take some of us longer than others. It might not always work out the way we wish. Don’t worry about how close or far you are from rock bottom. And by “don’t worry” I just mean… focus on the up.
Focus on where you want to go. Focus on that next teeny tiny step up. Because if there is one thing I realized in my boycotting of being “normal” it’s that what I was truly scared of is disappointing myself, not having fun, feeling like I could be doing more, or a lot of times, fearing I would be judged for not being as strong/fit/athletic as I used to be.
And it seems so stupid, but what did I do instead? I didn’t take care of myself at all almost! And what did I think would be the result of that? That I wouldn’t be disappointed in myself? lol Or that others WOULD look at me like “oh yeah, she’s strong.” (side note… the fact I was worried what others thought at all, is part of the lesson, but just making a point here)
I’m making the point that the very results I was trying to avoid… because I resisted my journey… are the results that came to fruition. Has this ever happened to you?
I work with clients all the time on this concept. They try to lose weight and try to lose weight and ultimately get to the point where they are trying to force change. That change might last for a little while, but because it was pulled in with such force, hastiness and lack of deeper transformation… the change is not going to be sustainable.
The mind is still the same, so the new body conforms to the old mind… and guess what? The body eventually retaliates right back to where it came from. Or worse.
What’s one desired habit you’ve successfully created? Comment below to practice acknowledging yourself!