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Rock Bottom

June 6, 2023

Some things in this post may already be in my first post on this blog, but it’s worth another visit to me.

Today marks one year since I hit rock bottom.

Rock bottom is a funny thing because it looks different for everyone. I knew I’d landed in some low places on my journey, but maybe I bounced back so quickly that it never fully felt like the bottom, or how I’d imagined it to be anyway. I didn’t bounce back because I was strong, I bounced back because I didn’t have any other choice.

After driving myself to Urgent Care, after dealing with spreading numbness for three days, feeling so strangely out of it, being freaked out because I thought I’d had a stroke, and then ending up at the ER for the rest of the day because it’s the ER and it was packed, I had started my descent.

I ended up being admitted into the hospital, but there were no rooms, so I spent my day in the hallway in a chair facing the EMT entrance without food because they weren’t sure what was wrong with me and if you have to have any kind of surgery, it can be dangerous to have eaten anything. I sat in that chair, wearing a mask, watching people come in on stretchers and all the hustle and bustle of the ER for the rest of the day. If you know me at all…this was nightmare, level 10. But I had so many nurses checking on me and reassuring me. I had the greatest doctor that day. I was so blessed.

My memory is pretty iffy about that day because I felt like I was having an out of body experience–quite similarly to when I had Covid the prior year. Everything felt like it was in slow motion and I felt like I was carrying weights around my shoulders. Just crazy.

Somewhere around midnight, a nurse who’d been walking back and forth by my chair for hours, stopped and told me he had seen me sit there all day and wondered if I wanted to be moved to the triage room that was available. He told me it wasn’t an actual room, but it had a bed and I could get some rest. Of course, I said yes.

As with all my life stories, this one had a crazy twist as well. He was making sure I was ok and being so kind, even drawing pictures out while explaining to me what MS actually was because I’d heard that term all day and wasn’t exactly certain. In those situations, you’re scared and you go straight for worst case scenarios, you know? Anyway, somewhere in all of that, he was talking and I was trying my best to pay attention, but I was so tired. I just remember him saying something about his best friend…in south GA. I asked where he was from and when he told me, I just knew that somehow, I was going to be alright. He was from my hometown–again–what are the chances? We spent the rest of the time talking about “back home” and it was so relieving to have that conversation with someone who understood. Even crazier, that night was one of his last shifts in that ER because he had recently become a NP. I will always be so grateful he was there that night.

Five days total, consisting of three days of steroids to regain my feeling (which thankfully worked), an MRI (which again, I had this kind guy who asked me if I wanted to listen to music–I did–Dermot Kennedy and Dean Lewis since it took almost two hours to complete), a spinal tap (which was terrifying, but the sweet nurses were incredible to walk me through and one even held my hand), and I was discharged feeling even more out of it than when I’d been admitted.

I came home to being terrified of what was wrong, terrified I’d get the spinal headache (I did), and just wishing I could take a shower without fear that I’d pass out or something.

All of that was completely terrifying, but what came next was my true rock bottom. While I was discovering some things I guess I’d just ignored for years, I was thankfully shown more love than I can remember in my entire life. Those people collectively built the ladder I would use to climb my way back up to where I’d deserved to be all along.

Maybe that’s the purpose of rock bottom?

It would take a few months of phone calls (, visits to a neurologist, finally coming to terms with starting treatment (an infusion that terrified me possibly more than the spinal tap) that I ended up not being able to take because I had an allergic reaction, for me to push my way through and try to figure out how to pull myself back together.

It then took a few months of physical therapy, a few months of therapy, and working with an amazing Registered Dietician to get a game plan. If it hadn’t been for the flooding of people rushing in to help me, to make sure I wasn’t alone, I honestly don’t know what today would look like. Just typing that makes me tear up because it’s so heavy, so real.

I have always been way too independent, but my rock bottom was something that broke me down and gave me two choices: ask for help or wither away to the point of never fully coming back. I’ve been called “strong” for most of my life and I’d gotten to a point where I didn’t WANT to be strong anymore. I didn’t WANT to need help. I didn’t want to be an inconvenience.

The people who showed up for me, near and far, breathed this beautiful new life into me. I will never be able to repay any of them. I’ve never had so many loving words sent my way at one time and it was overwhelming in the best, most needed way possible.

This past year, I got up every morning and faced whatever was going to be. In the beginning, I had a dark time where I was officially depressed. It wasn’t the MS diagnosis alone, but life things in general. But I decided I didn’t want to stay in that place–I was alive and I still had a few dreams left in me. It took me putting blinders on and staying focused on my goal: healing.

The past couple of weeks have been hard. I’ve had to remind myself to relax my shoulders, unclench my teeth…breathe. For the last three years, the ending of May/beginning of June were the scariest, most lonely of my life. I was so scared I’d find myself in the same place again this year.

To drown out my fears, I’ve listened to A LOT of music. What keeps playing in my head is “Without Fear” by Dermot Kennedy. That whole album is great, but what a great title. So many great lines, so many visuals when I listen. I’ve also taken baby steps back into the things that I love so dearly.

I couldn’t tell exactly why I resonated with his music so much until he spoke last Friday night before one of his songs. He spoke of time…the thing so many of us are scared of losing. It passes, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. That’s a great thing when something bad is happening to us, but what about those fleeing moments with the people we care so much about? Even while in those moments…we know they will be over way too soon. I wish I had recorded what he said because it was perfect, but that’s the general idea.

Healing is no joke. It doesn’t matter if it’s from a car accident or a heartbreak or even a regret. It’s a journey with zero shortcuts and no roadmap. You won’t know if you’re getting close, you just have to keep going. There will be tears, anger, disappointment…but then there will be freedom.

I may have to live with whatever physical and emotional things MS will put in my path, but I can’t help but also be grateful for it placing me at rock bottom so I could rebuild what was always meant for me.

Go love people. Go be kind to people. Go tell people how you feel about them. You have no idea who you’ll save by doing so.


  1. Peggy says:

    You know I love you my sweet girl. I’m so sorry that you had to go through all of that by yourself. I wish I could have been right there with you. I’m praying God’s hands are on you to carry you through all of this.
    All my love 💜💜💜💜💜💜

    • Alisha McKellar says:

      You are so sweet! I know you would be because you were there for me before. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and it feels amazing having someone with your heart in my corner. I love you.

  2. Polly says:

    How serendipitous that your newsletter popped up in my box first thing this morning when I opened email from the weekend. Some would start this with, “believe it or not”, but you and I have had enough conversations of this sort that I know you will believe it with zero doubt that something just made me think about you all weekend long (while I was home taking care of a post-op husband all while nursing a weird case of tingling and numb toes from a horrible sciatica flare-up last week).
    And of course, just to confirm that nothing is accidental, you had to post the image on the very photo you gifted me two years ago-the one with the dune, the dune fence and the moody sun over them.
    Where to start, except to say that I am sorry you have gone through all this in the last two years, and I am also grateful that you are in the world as you, and I know because of that, your lantern will shine even brighter once you lift it up. I firmly believe you are one of the best storytellers I have encountered, and I just know that somehow your stories and photographs will light the way for others dealing with unexpected trauma life throws their way.
    If I could attach a photo here, it would have been of a phone photo I took this morning of a huge bouquet of sunflowers. This is something I have been doing for the last few years on our farm-I am now growing flowers among the fruit trees and the veggies. (speaking of flowers-in the round about way, if you ever have time or desire to, check out a little place called Floret in Washington State. They are the subject of a show on Discovery +, and their Season 2 is pretty much a study in self-discovery, life lessons, and legacy. I buy some of my seeds from them, and we save heirloom seeds for most of our other flowers. I have been doing weddings and donating the rest for the last 3 years or so, after work and after farm chores, and it has in a weird way and without being too dramatic, saved my life.) Anyway.
    So glad to “hear” from you, and I simply can not wait to see where this new chapter takes you. I have the firmest belief that it will be meaningful for you and countless others.
    Cheering you on as always.

    • Alisha McKellar says:

      Polly, I first read your comment and knew it would take me some time to find the words to respond. This is the most beautiful, thoughtful thing you could have said to me. You are right, most people wouldn’t quite believe everything that has happened since we met, but enough has happened at this point that it solidifies the fact that there are no accidents. I hope your husband is doing well, and I hope you are feeling better now. I didn’t even realize that was the same photo until you wrote that, but we can add that to our list for sure.
      Another thing we can add is the fact that my neighbor told me I should look into that show back when the first season came out. I was always out in my yard, tending to my small flower garden and I ended up with so many flowers that I would give them away. It meant so much to me that she said I reminded her of that lady.
      I recently watched the second season, and it was so powerful. I know you’ll understand the fact that I’d just taken the leap and planted my very first rose bushes two days before I watched it.
      There is something about a garden that helps us breathe. I’m so glad you have that space to grow flowers. It’s such an honor to tend to a garden.
      I’ve been working on my first novel since the summer of 2020, and I have went back and forth on finishing it. I think you just gave me the nudge I needed. Thank you.

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Photography has this magical ability to weave together our moments and our memories. Oftentimes, holding a photograph in your hand can have the same feeling as hearing an old song. 

I like being a part of that.

Atlanta, GA