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Writing Rock Bottom

My main character, Eve and I have a lot in common. We both lived in bodies very different than most folks. We both suffered years of chronic pain. We both endured a body-altering surgery. And we both believed a new body would change everything. Instead, we both found ourselves falling toward a place called rock bottom.

Fix is the story of Eve’s fall.

Anyone who has dealt with chronic pain, grief, or addiction has contemplated rock bottom. (I do not include depression/mental illness because this is something very different.) Rock bottom is a place where the pain stops, or at least stops getting worse. It’s an end of sorts. A place where Eve might lie on the cold surface of despair and rest. But those of us who’ve experienced the fall toward rock bottom have discovered it doesn’t exist. There is no bottom to pain or grief—there is only the falling.

We meet Eve at the beginning of her fall. She is watching her life as it moves farther out of focus. Mentally still attached, she gives us a picture of that life as it’s tumbling from view. But Eve is an unreliable narrator, as most of us are when we’re in crisis. Is the life she tells us about real or imagined?

The deeper Eve falls, the more idealized these memories become. Self-awareness is almost never an epiphany, but a slow awakening. Desperate, she snatches at the images circling her head like flies believing the possibility of returning to this life is waiting at the top if only she can grab it.

But you can’t create truth. Eve can’t get a hold on these images because they aren’t real, and they slip through her fingers one after another. Returning to this old life is not a possibility because it never existed. With the “way up” now seemingly blocked, Eve does something very natural but also very dangerous, she shifts her hope from reaching the top of the hole to reaching the bottom…which never felt closer to her than it does in this moment. More lost than ever, and lulled into inaction, Eve waits to hit that place where none of it will matter.

But our pain and grief always matter. They’re the ingredients we need to heal. Until we understand this, we fall toward nothing. The hole is as deep as our own self-loathing, and that only deepens as we fall. Eve now turns from an idealized version of herself to the harshest version she can imagine. With this damning image of herself widening the abyss, she leans into the falling.

Everyone who falls eventually makes the sickening realization that there is no rock bottom. No place where bad things stop. Where pain stops. Where we, or the events in our lives are reset. Everyone who falls confronts the endlessness of the fall. And everyone who confronts it has a choice to make: keep falling or face the reality of why you fell. Eve must acknowledge the fact that if the idealized version of herself is false, so must be the heinous. But far worse than this—she must do it knowing that if she accepts this more complicated version of herself, she must also accept that the pain and grief are hers forever to keep. No one climbs out of pain and grief, you climb with it.

Falling toward rock bottom changes a person. It changes Eve. It changed me. The irony of Eve’s story is that she got exactly what she wanted—her new body changed everything—not from the rearrangement of her parts, but from the self-acceptance she finds in a hole.