Psych Corner: How Do You Pick Yourself Up After You’ve Hit Rock Bottom?

One of my closest friends is just about to wrap up two of the hardest years of her life. I don’t want to divulge all the details of her marriage, but she basically put her faith in her husband, sacrificing so much of herself, their time together as a family, and her proximity to her family. Ultimately he took that faith, that gift, and ran with it. He started making decisions without including her, and, in the end, all that he had promised never came to fruition.

After years spent expecting the world and forgiving her husband’s time away, forgiving his solo decision making, comforting their kids when they missed their dad and receiving so little in return from him, she had had enough. She was done. She hit her rock bottom. Her husband, who, for the record, is a really good man, felt defeated and embarrassed by his empty promises; he hit his rock bottom too.

Recently she shared with me that she had been considering leaving the marriage when her husband came home from a business trip and said, “I’m done, I’ve walked away from the business, and I am not leaving you and the kids again.”

She told me that this gesture really saved their marriage and that they are now rebuilding the damage that has been done.

Rock bottom sounds so scary.  Actually, it is scary. But sometimes it takes these scary, heart-wrenching experiences to really gain a new perspective, to get a jolt of renewed appreciation. Let me be clear, it isn’t the only way. But there are times that it really is needed.

What I love about my friend’s story is that she and her husband both reacted to rock bottom by making swift and brave commitments.  She reacted by taking steps toward regaining some of her identity that she felt she gave up for him. He reacted by walking away from something into which he had invested a lot of time, money, and sacrifice.

Those were brave decisions; hard decisions. But rock bottom requires this type of action. It requires that a renewed commitment be made to overcoming whatever dragged you to the bottom; a commitment to right your wrongs.

Everyone’s rock bottom looks different. The amount of damage and hurt caused during that fall down may be more or less severe, but there are a few things that are really important for you to do when you’re ready to pick yourself back up.

  1. Motivation and commitment to change. In my friend’s situation, her husband’s motivation was his love and care for his family; his unwavering devotion to his wife and their future together. This is a powerful motivator. Find your motivation and commit to a path of change.
  2. Awareness of the issue. If you’re going to pick yourself up from rock bottom, you’ve got to have some insight into your issues, or your vices, or whatever it is that caused your descent. If you don’t know, ask the people around you that love you and know you best.
  3. New information. This one is not always needed when it comes to rock bottom, because sometimes the fall is jarring enough, but new information can be really powerful. Reading a book, listening to a podcast, talking to a therapist or trusted adviser, or any other sources of new information you find helpful and relevant to your situation can help to support your steps toward change.
  4. Practice over time. Expect that there will be times where you find yourself slipping back into old habits, but don’t let this stop you from resetting and persevering in your path to change. Making a come back from rock bottom will take time, learning new behaviors, reactions, ways of thinking, whatever it may be, takes a lot of practice. So stick with it and expect some setbacks, but don’t let it throw you off course.

Rock bottom is not a delicate or pretty way to gain a renewed sense of perspective. But, hey, real life can be messy, hard, heart-wrenching, and just tough.  So if you find yourself at your rock bottom, challenge yourself to be brave and to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and make a commitment to change.

Morgan C
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