Life after Rock Bottom

Picking yourself up, brushing yourself off and carrying on.

Last week I posted a blog about the power of hitting rock bottom.  I spoke about how the best things about hitting rock bottom are learning your own strength (and loosing the fear of living), finding out who your friends are, and being able to reinvent yourself (because you have nothing to loose when you are already at the bottom of the shit pile)

But all of these are advantages that you usually only get to seeing after the fact. When you are there, at the bottom of the shit pile with your tail between your legs and the wind kicked out of you, it is very difficult to see how things will ever get better again.


How do you pick yourself up and carry on?

First of all, make sure it’s finished. If you are at rock bottom the chances are you or someone else (or both of you) screwed up. You have to make sure that you don’t keep going there in your head. You will want to – that is the natural thing to do. You are obsessing about it day and night and unable to sleep or eat (or perhaps stop eating) but you actually have to just. Stop.

Say you’re sorry to the people you’ve hurt. They may or may not forgive you. That is none of your business.  Your business is to say sorry and mean it. Sorry doesn’t come with justification and excuses.  Justification and excuses prolong the agony. They don’t change anything.

Say thank you to the people who have stuck by you. Even if the situation was entirely the fault of the rat-fink-bastard (or bitch) who left you, the chances are you have not been a little ray of sunshine recently. Anyone who has been brave enough to put up with you probably deserves a medal.


Get up, Dress up and Show up.

I’m sure that’s a famous line from somewhere that I am plagiarizing, but it is also something that my mother always said to me. My mother is a depressive type, she is also the matriarch who has supported a family of depressive types through thick and thin so she really knows her shit. And she understands how important it is to get your ass up. Have a shower. Put on clean clothes. And go out.

Go to work. Woops, you just lost your job, okay, go to sit at the internet café and job hunt. Go have coffee with a friend. Go to the library if all else fails, but you do have to go out. I know you don’t want to. For the first week you may stay in bed and cry. You have my full permission. But as soon as that week is done get your ass out of bed and off you go.

Usually getting there is more than half the battle. A good idea for dealing with the desire to stay in bed for all eternity is to make small concessions. Set your morning alarm ten minutes later, but then get up when it goes off. And plan to spend one weekend morning in bed. You owe it to yourself. You need it. And if you plan it in advance then you are not giving in to the gloom. Then read a good book while you are there. You don’t want to be lying there feeling sorry for yourself. I always find reading something that transports you to a whole other world to be a great way to escape feeling like slitting your wrists until the feeling has passed.

Join a group and meet new people who don’t know your sad ass story

One of the most difficult things when you are at rock bottom can be dealing with everyone’s sympathy. I know, you need a bit, but after a while it becomes exhausting. Answering the same probing questions over and over and dealing with all the uncomfortable-ness.

New people are awesome. They are part of the new you. They don’t know how bad things got and so it’s easier to brush it off and move on. “Oh yes I just lost my job but I’m feeling really positive about a possible change in career path.” Or “Yes I am recently divorced, so what do you do for a living?”

They are not expecting you to tell them all about your suffering, and so in a way they actually allow you to let it go more easily than the people who love you and are worrying about you. That is not to say that you should ignore your existing friends, you shouldn’t. But injecting different personalities into your mental space can be very refreshing.

So where do you meet these new people?

That is the best part. You have to challenge yourself to do something new. Whether it’s joining a cooking class, a bird watchers group or a martial art, do something for yourself. Build a new piece of yourself from outside of the bad situation and you will find new people in it.

(Please note: Becoming a bar fly does NOT count as meeting new people or getting out. Drinking in hard times will only lead to worse problems)

I personally joined a Capoeira group that changed my life. And that brings me to my next point…

Get Some Exercise

Exercise is highly under prescribed for its anti-depressant values.

And yet probably the best thing about exercise is its anti-depressant powers. We all know that if you want to look good and be healthy you should get in your cardio and your gym time. We also all come up with hundreds of legit reasons why we just don’t have time (for example: I don’t give a shit).

If someone had told me when I was sixteen that sweating it out would give me an endorphin high I would have been all over it like a rash. As it is it took me well into adulthood to discover the powerful healing abilities of exercise on the human soul.

Exercise is a distraction. The less fit you are the better, actually. Because you will be too busy trying to deal with your body and the complaints you are getting from it to think about everything that is wrong with your life.

Exercise in the form of a martial art, dancing or anything that requires concentration and a little skill can be beautiful. Doing something with your body that feels beautiful has amazing healing powers on your soul.

Exercise releases happy hormones. It’s a fact, it really does. It makes you feel better.

In the case of a break-up, exercise has the wonderful added “fuck-you” bonus feature. It says, “Look, I am hotter than you thought and I can do things for myself. So there.”

Groups are a great place to meet new people, too.

For me joining a Capoeira group was so much more than I ever expected it to be. I had been looking for a yoga group to help me through my depression post break-up. Unable to find one that operated after working hours I ended up at Capoeira. I had no idea that it would change my life the way it did. I was so inspired by the beautiful movements I was seeing that I couldn’t leave it alone. The idea that I could learn to do them was unbelievable. Long story short: I learned a new skill, discovered a great passion, found something creative and beautiful that I wanted to do, got really fit and made friends who are still, five years later, some of my very best friends. I had no idea when I walked into that first class just how much I would get out of it.

There are almost as many different sports and disciplines available as there are people to practice them. Have a look around your area and find out what’s available.

If all else fails even going for a run will release endorphin’s, take your mind out of its rut and help you build your self-esteem.  (If you are in a wheel chair you can still pump weights. No excuses here people!) just do it.

Listen to cheesy pop music

Music is a gift to the soul. It can comfort you, encourage you, help you get motivated or make you weep.

Something we all do when we are down is listen to down music. That’s cool. That is totally fine as part of your week of self-pity and the evenings of crying yourself to sleep. BUT, if you want to get better you have to embrace your inner geek, turn on the radio and get down to some funky, happy tunes. It is absolutely mandatory that you do the whole sing in the shower, dance in the mirror thing. you need it. Because silly is important. Laughing at yourself is important. Choosing to be happy, even for a moment or two, is important.

As soothing as your sad, beautiful music is (and it is) it is not going to lift you out of a stupor.

I recommend a three stage music program:

  • First, find any album that you love that makes you feel better (even if it is sad) and listen to it for the first week.
  • Next, turn on the radio or ask that friend who always has the latest pop, and find a happy song that you like (or at least can live with). Use this song to help you get moving in the morning, and any other time that its difficult to keep going. It can even be a few songs, but they must be happy and you must feel slightly ashamed to know all the words.
  • Last of all keep finding more soothing, happy sounds (for some of us Rage against the machine is soothing – please don’t judge someone else’s choice) and get a set of head phones. When shit gets tough, listen to your melodic friends. They will help you.

Try to remember that you won’t feel this way forever. Get enough sleep, eat your veggies, and look after yourself. You will be okay.

Some additional Thoughts on Picking Yourself Up when you don’t think you can carry on:

  • Drink Coffee – It helps
  • Keep a diary. Somehow writing things down helps you to let them go. You can always burn it later.
  • Get outside. Being on the beach, in the forest or just out in the open air all have magical, healing qualities.
  • Find your art. Something that inspires you. Be it cooking, photography, writing, dancing, flower arranging, whatever. If it feeds your soul make time for it.
  • Make time. For you. No one else is going to give you time to do the things you want to do. You have to schedule it in like you are booking a meeting.
  • Turn you r phone off. Or at least turn your data off, and go off line. You need a few hours a day to focus on your own stuff. That is never going to happen while you are checking your phone.
  • Spend time with people who love you.
  • Okay so that is a tall order for most of our busy minds, but within your phone-less space find ten minutes to just try and quiet your mind.
  • Acknowledge negative thoughts and emotions and let them go. You can’t stop yourself from having them. But you can choose not to let them rule you. I like to say “I have feelings of anger about that.” And then I observe the angry feeling and let it pass. I don’t say “I am angry” because that allows the anger to define me.
  • Give yourself time. Healing takes time. End of story.
  • Have FAITH in yourself. You are able to get through this, whatever it is. You have to and you will. You are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for.

*a note to friends and family of the person who is going through it all… try to be patient. Don’t take their behavior personally – it really is not about you. Be encouraging without being too bossy. And for goodness sake don’t ask them how they are. They are doing crap until they tell you otherwise. A good idea is to bring small, healthy meals. Also chocolate. And occasionally wine as long as you stay to drink it with them. It is also up to you to gage when to start harassing them out of the house and into some activity.  Lastly if you don’t really want to be there, don’t be. Your discomfort will be felt. Just don’t expect a Christmas card.

thanks Stocksnap and Abigail Keenan for the Image.



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