The Magical Powers of Hitting Rock Bottom (and 5 ways to let it drive you, not drown you).
It takes a very particular kind of human being to take a crappy situation and turn it into wild fire; someone who is driven by the challenges that life throws their way and who relentlessly learns from their mistakes and works to better him or herself and others.
I have never in my entire life thought of myself as this kind of person.
As a matter of fact, for most of my late teens and early 20’s I made it into my life’s mission to romanticize depression and just “embraced it”. I was haunted by guilt born from my first romantic relationship when I was barely seventeen, internalizing a series of extremely damaging beliefs that kept me convinced I deserved to be as miserable as possible.
This, of course, made existing quite a challenge, since I was just living in an endless loop of negativity. I am quite sure that at the darkest times of my life I must have been truly exhausting to be around, and at one point I genuinely think I was poison for those who had to spend long periods of time with me. To be honest, one of the first things I learned about happiness was to stay away from negative people. Takes one to know one, right?
But my negative attitude wasn't the biggest of my problems. Throughout my 20’s I was a complete emotional mess. I abhorred myself, had zero self-esteem and, I’m not gonna lie, I hit rock bottom a few times. And you know what they say about rock bottom, right? that once you hit it you can only go up? Well, that’s not entirely true. You see, you can always just stay there. Sit on your ass and feel sorry for yourself, and occasionally attempt to climb, only to slip, fall back down and sit there some more.
I would personally not recommend this to anyone, though. Mostly because when (if) you are able to make it out of the pit (and some never do), you’ll look back and the only thing in your mind will be “what a dumbass”.
Trust me, I know.
After a lot of hard work and a long time of climbing (about five years…. yes, it was THAT bad) I finally feel like I’ve made it out. I am genuinely happy and working towards building the life that I want for myself, the life that I know I deserve.
However, be clear that loads of people need professional help to accomplish this, either because they have a biochemical imbalance in their bodies and need mediation, or because they have serious emotional issues they need to work out before being able to move forward. And this is super okay! The important thing is to seek help when needed, and to understand that that help will only take you so far. YOU need to carry yourself for most of the way.
So, take this from someone who made rock bottom her home for a long time: it’s not worth it. Staying there, I mean. In the long run it is so much easier to work on yourself, take your time to heal and get out of that funk, than to sit there and suddenly realize that years have gone by and your life sums up to nothing you can be proud of. That you haven’t built anything because, how could you if you just kept falling down?
Believe me, this realization hits you hard and it leaves you with a choice: you either stay there, or you do the work and climb out.
And it’s not easy.
Actually, it’s hard AF and it requires some serious soul searching and intent (I went all the way to Iceland, but that’s a different story). But, once you see yourself rising it’s impossible to stop, you’ll be driven by your own desire to GTFO and get better. Be better.
However, the magical powers of hitting rock bottom will only be effective if you allow what you perceive as a “ failure” to become an opportunity. I mean, you are already at the bottom of the pit, right? There is no way it could get any worse, so what do you have to lose?
Then, put on your positivity cap and start thinking differently. If your bad habits have shoved you into the pit, then it’s time to change them, if your beliefs pushed you down, it’s time to revise them. This is a process that needs to begin with introspection. Who are you? what do you want? where do you want to go? who do you want to be?
Here are five things that you can consider if you’re working on climbing out of the pit and making the climb work for you, not against you. However, bare in mind that everyone is different, and therefore you’ll have to find the strategy that works best for you. A visit to a therapist or a life coach might be a good idea, since they can give you guidance and help you along the way.
- As you sit at the bottom, remember that it is OK for you to be there.
Everyone and their mother hits rock bottom at some point. EVERYONE. Whether they keep falling in, or find a way out, is completely up to them. Remember; hitting your butt hard on the bottom of the pit can be a life changing experience as long as you let it. Who knows, maybe if you hadn’t been fired, or if your girlfriend hadn’t left you, that amazing thing that is about to happen for you might have never come your way.
2. Think about how/why you got there in the first place.
Why did you fall into the rock bottom pit? Was it something that happened to you, or is it something that you allowed? Write it down on a piece of paper, take a moment and reflect on it. Once you have identified the problem, you’ll be able to device a strategy to start the climb. The strategy will depend on what your situation is; maybe you need to work on gaining better habits, or on your work ethic. Maybe you need to sit down and write a life purpose statement so you can identify what values are the most important to you. Once you’ve written your statement keep it accessible on you phone, or write it on a white board, or put it up on the fridge. The point is, have it somewhere where you’ll be able to see it everyday so that you won’t get lost and fall into the pit again.
3. Empathy is key. Start with LOVE.
This is the greatest piece of advice I could ever give anyone. As a longtime resident of the rock bottom, I used to feel very lonely and unloved. I was making the mistake most rock bottom dwellers do; we feel so bad about ourselves that we think we’re unwanted, so we don’t reach out, when the truth is that if you reach out there will ALWAYS be someone who’ll reach back. So, love. Just love and be grateful. Start with yourself and work from there. The second you start offering love rather than fear or anger, your life will change for the better. I did the 100 happy day challenge a few years ago, and it honestly changed me. Now every time I feel sad I fight back with kindness and gratefulness. For example, I’ll send texts to my friends telling them how much I care for them, or I’ll call someone I haven’t seen in awhile and invite them for a cup of coffee. Seriously, try it. It works (if you let it).
4. Let haters drive you
This one is my favorite. Although, I should make clear that I firmly believe that anything you do in life you should do for yourself, there is something extremely satisfying about proving wrong someone who hated on you. Showing to those people who said ” you can’t” that you most certainly can, and did, is one of the best feelings in the world. BEWARE, though; doing something just to prove another human being wrong could drive you right back into the pit if it doesn’t align with who you are and what you stand for. This tip is not about vengeance, but rather the sweet, sweet gratification of showing haters how great you are, even though they weren’t able to see it.
5. It’s ok to slip as you climb, but if you do, hold on for dear life.
Falling back into the pit as you climb out is soooo easy. Specially if you don’t have the confidence and a healthy sense of self worth, so that when something negative happens to you on your way to the top you refuse to climb on the pity express right back to the bottom. Again, it’s not worth it. All the hard work you did to get this far will have been for naught because, trust me, you’ll have to start all over again. So, if you are trying your hardest and, for example, your boyfriend leaves you (true story, btw), DO NOT BOARD THE PITY TRAIN. I repeat. DO NOT BOARD THE PITY TRAIN. Rather, put on the pity helmet (if you must), let go of the pain, focus on the top and keep climbing.
And keep moving forward.