The first time I hit rock bottom, my fall was slow. After months of being unable to find a job, I was losing myself in a pile of shame and self-loathing. I still had school fees to pay. My savings were dwindling. I stayed home and avoided friends and relatives. It wasn’t just that I was trying to save money: I was embarrassed to face anyone. But staying at home was equally bad. Watching my family come home from work every day made me feel even more guilty, even more useless.
Every night, I went to bed terrified. I had always been lazy in school and hence, I had never done well. Maybe this was all I was meant to be, I thought to myself. Maybe I was always meant to be a letdown.
The second time I hit rock bottom, it happened overnight. I didn’t see it coming. It was when I fell gloriously in love. It was the kind of love I believed only existed in the movies. I met someone who was as broken as me and I thought, hey, we could be broken together. But we wanted different things and it ended even before it began. It was mutual, amicable even. Yet, I was back in my pit of depression, rejection and self-loathing.
Both times, crawling out of that hole was difficult. Both times, this was how I did it, and how you can, too:
- Embrace the pain
Rock bottom isn’t just any ordinary rut. For me, it was a pit so deep that I couldn’t even see the blues in the sky anymore. I was stuck in a fog. A fog made up of my fear, desperation, shame and sadness. On some level, I knew there was light on the other side of it. But I didn’t want to move.
I didn’t want to be struck by the full force of all my feelings. I didn’t want to feel pain. I didn’t want to feel weak.
So, there I was, falling further and further into a pile of self-hate until a friend told me to be kind to myself. It took me a while to realise what she meant.
Being kind to yourself means that when you feel fear or shame, you should let yourself feel it without judging yourself. Don’t fear the fear. Don’t be ashamed of your shame. Don’t make things harder for yourself than they already are. Instead, tell yourself that it is alright to feel weak. It is alright to cry. It is alright to be broken. It is alright to reach out for help. And when you let these feelings wash over you, it is alright to be scared. After all, you’re only human.
So, I took her advice.
I passed through the burning, stinging fog. I moved towards the light.
- Colour in the silver linings
Light brought sight.
I began to notice all the good things I had missed before. I saw my strengths. I saw my cheerleaders.
Silver lining 1: I wasn’t completely out of a job. I had two home tuition students. I loved teaching them. I loved that I could be as academically and emotionally supportive as they needed me to be.
Silver lining 2: My family. My parents and brother have never ever made me feel unloved or unaccomplished. At the end of the day, they’re always there – supporting me through my failures, reminding me of my successes. They have always had complete faith in me. I never really understood why. One day, I decided to just stop questioning it. I decided to have faith in their faith. I decided to have faith in myself again.
Silver lining 3: My friends. One morning, I woke up and found the same message from five friends who don’t know one another at all. All of them wished me a good morning. Five different people woke up that morning and took time to wish me well. In that moment, it hit me. All this time I had spent whining, pining and crying over a man who didn’t choose me, I didn’t see the people who actually did.
The love I receive from my family and friends will always humble me. It is unconditional, sometimes undeserved. When I was at my lowest, it became a driving force that compelled me to get out of rock bottom.
- Understand what’s outside the pit
Rock bottom is actually a blessing; it is a chance to restart.
Once you’ve climbed out of it, the world beyond can be anything you want it to be.
There’s a fabulous quote from J. K. Rowling where she says, “I was set free because my greatest fear had been realised, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” Here was a lady who had nothing except her imagination. With sheer determination alone, she created a magical universe with the Harry Potter series, transforming not just her life, but also influencing the lives of millions through the well-loved franchise.
So I asked myself who I wanted to be. I had always imagined becoming this sassy, smart, confident lecturer/author who was always on the move, always doing something, always changing lives or spreading ideas. I wanted to teach. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to start writing again. I wanted to be me again.
But not just any me. I wanted to be me, 2.0.
I wasn’t going to be scared of failure. Even if I was scared, I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for companies to reject my resume. I wasn’t going to let heartbreak stop me from being myself. I wasn’t going to wallow over a man who clearly didn’t want me. I wasn’t going to make excuses for myself anymore.
- Take stock, plug the gaps and most importantly, KEEP MOVING
The first thing I did was to stop sending out resumes. I was going to make it on my own. I decided I was going to be a full-time home tutor. But there was a higher demand for subjects I didn’t have the necessary background and skills to teach. The old me would have whined about it. The new me decided to get up and move.
I went to the bookstore, bought textbooks for three other subjects and I studied. I studied what to teach. I studied how to teach. As time went by, I found more and more students, each of them challenging me in their own way. It was exhilarating. Now, I have a job I truly love.
As for getting over heartbreak, I had to find myself again. So, I started spending more time with the people I loved. Instead of staying in my room, I spent more time in the living room, with my parents and brother. I started meeting more of my friends and reconnected with those who’d drifted away over the years. I even started learning how to play the piano, something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a child.
Best of all, I started writing for leisure again. I’ve always wanted to contribute to a site like b.philosophy. And now, I’m writing this. For you. To you, this will either resonate or sound like utter rubbish. That thought alone terrifies me. But I won’t let it cripple me.
While my heart’s closed for business and internal renovations are in progress, I’m glad to report that these days, I’m truly happy.
- Make rock bottom your launchpad
Climbing out of rock bottom is a process.
The negative feelings of past hurts and failures don’t suddenly disappear. They simply fade into the background. They will always be there. Sometimes, a random memory can trigger your fears and sadness again. But that’s alright. In the long run, they’ll become reminders – not of how you fell, but of how you picked yourself up.
We’ll need the reminders. Life has a way of throwing the toughest challenges at us when we least expect it. I know I’m capable of slipping into a rut again. I might even take another harsh tumble down the pit of depression at some point.
But I also know that because I’ve climbed out before, I can definitely do it again.
And you can, too.
So, if you’ve struck rock bottom, that’s a good thing. Take time to regroup. Rethink about who you want to be and how you want to live. You fell. Now, get up, suit up, relaunch yourself into the world and fly.