Have you ever hit rock bottom and felt like nothing good could come out of it?
You’ve hit rock bottom, nothing is aligning in your favor, and you fall into a deep, dark depression. There’s nothing more isolating than feeling alone in suffering. There’s nothing harder than fighting a fight that doesn’t seem to have an end or a purpose.
But I’m here to tell you this:
If we allow it to, our deepest pain can lead to truer versions of ourselves and guide us to our greatest potential and purpose. For this reason, I believe that when we hit rock bottom, there is a deeper meaning in that. I believe rock bottoms come to break us open. To break us into place.
When I was 17, my mental health hit an all-time low. It was the whole shebang: family issues escalated, the friction around me added to the anxiety I already struggled with, and to cope, I started starving myself. Within two months, I had lost thirty healthy pounds and was diagnosed with anorexia.
My life was consumed with doctor appointments and weekly weigh-ins; my social life shriveled to nothing. I don’t have the words to describe the spiritual emptiness, loneliness and the hollow ache I felt inside during the years that followed as I fought to find my way up from rock bottom.
It was during this time that I heard a quiet, yet firm, voice inside that said: “Keep going. This is preparing you for a greater purpose than you can imagine. Pass through this pain and cross this bridge. Trust. Have courage.” I didn’t see a way out of the darkness that consumed me during this time, but I knew I had to give my life a purpose because I felt utterly dead inside.
The Power of Our Inner Voice
I began to write music as a way to express myself and dig into the endless pain I felt inside. For the first time in years, I started to feel emotions again. I felt I was falling apart. I felt like a stranger to myself. But in reality, I was breaking into the place.
I had one of those “meant to be” experiences when I had the opportunity to work with a music producer and sound engineer who took me under his wing and began to mentor me in songwriting. Although my feelings of defeat and worthlessness felt all-consuming, he helped draw out not only my singing voice—but more importantly—my inner voice.
This is the voice we all have inside. The song of our soul. It is our duty to find this “inner voice”—our true selves—which often rises to the surface after hitting an all-time low. This is why when we hit rock bottom, this can become our greatest gift even if it appears to be the darkest alley. I believe in you and your inner voice. It’s time to tune in to that strength inside.
Here are 7 steps to rebuild yourself when you hit rock bottom and turn your pain into your purpose.
1. Be Vulnerable
Many of us have inner walls that divide us from our true selves. We feel entrenched in shame and we lose connection with our hearts. We need to get inside these walls so we can heal. In order to do this, we need compassion and self-honesty. Songwriting helped me because I was able to grapple with my strong emotions in a creative and expressive way.
I recommend doing something that has the same effect on you. Something that engages you with yourself. I’m not talking about watching TV and vegging. Go play on an empty basketball court. Journal. Walk in nature. Listen to music and cry. This is part of the “breaking open” process. Get gritty. Find the mess. Connect with your emotions. Don’t run from the pain.
2. Let Go of Toxicity and Pressure
Life changes direction. We’ve all experienced this. Oftentimes, we hit rock bottom because life has a greater purpose for us and we need to reset our course. During this time we may come to realize the “life-plan” we had for ourselves wasn’t up to par with what our true potential is. Living out our greatness requires us to have courage.
Let your heart speak and follow your intuition even if it seems counterintuitive. When faced with important decisions, don’t base them off outside pressures: listen to that inner voice. Let go of anything and anyone that brings negativity into your life. Evaluate who and what these things are and let them go.
3. Find Your Tribe
I’m 100% in favor of finding what works for you and never settling for mediocrity.
Hate your job? Figure out what it is that’s not working and take action. Dissatisfied with your relationships? Evaluate who you feel most yourself around and who you feel the need to build those walls up in front of. Your authenticity will naturally attract your tribe. Community is huge. Cultivate meaningful connections.
4. Embrace Your Imperfections
There’s an ancient Japanese word–“kintsugi”–used to describe the method of mending broken ceramic together with a beautiful, gold lacquer. The philosophy is that the very pieces that were once broken—now mended together with gold—are more beautiful than the original, untouched piece. This applies to us. The parts of you that feel broken are the very areas where your strength, courage, and compassion come from.
Don’t be afraid of your imperfections. Instead of judging yourself for them, get curious about that inner critic. Negative self-talk is a sign that there’s some unaddressed issue and it’s time to tune in with compassion. Consider seeing a therapist. Call a friend. Allow others to uplift you when you feel down.
5. Let Go of Who You Think You Should Be
In order for us to be rebuilt, we need to let go of the illusion or “idea” of who we think we are supposed to be so that we can embrace who we actually are. This does not mean settling for a less-than-you-can-be version of you. It means meeting yourself where you are and not where you think you should be. When we allow ourselves to be where we are, something magical happens.
You’ll be surprised by how much you can enjoy yourself when you come into who you really are. Outside pressure and insecurities within are exhausting. Spend time alone to reconnect with your soul. Pray. Meditate. Read. This will bring serenity into your life.
6. Align With Your Values
Evaluate your values, your priorities, and what’s most important to you. When our mind and heart are in harmony, we naturally find where we’re meant to be and how to live out a more meaningful life.
Do the inner work—allow yourself to break open—and trust that you are falling into place. There is beauty in surrendering the things closest to your heart. Be specific about what you need to release control of. For me, it’s battling the idea that I need to make money off of my music in order to be “legit.” When you let go of the outcome or your fixed idea of what you think you want, you make space inside for the greatness that is yours to come.
7. Be Patient
Healing takes time. The road is not straight, but the reward is invaluable. You may find that as you work through your pain, unaddressed issues from your past come up as well. This is an important part of the process. I believe in you. The words I felt so deeply whispered into my heart when I was at my sickest—empty and alone—I repeat to you:
“Keep going. This is preparing you for a greater purpose than you can imagine. Pass through this pain and cross this bridge. Trust. Have courage.”
When we hit rock bottom, it is our invitation to rebuild the pieces of who we were, into the transformed person we are called to become. It’s not about putting the pieces back in the places they were, but realizing our imperfections add to the masterpiece that we already are.
I’d love to hear from you! What’s your favorite way to cope during difficult times? Comment below.
Author Bio: Colleen Bartlett is a mental health advocate, songwriter, and blogger whose passion is to bring awareness to mental health through her writing and music. She believes in the indomitable resilience of the human heart and spirit and hopes to help others tap into their inner brilliance by sharing her own experiences with honesty and warmth. Check out her website: www.colleenbartlett.com
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