You plan your life a certain way. You work hard and make sacrifices. And then suddenly, it falls apart. The rug is pulled out from under you or the overhead lights snap on and you realize that nothing makes sense anymore. You feel lost and afraid but mainly, you feel alone. Your “friends” don’t want to hear that you have anything besides the “perfect” life they see reflected in social media snapshots. Your family worries about you enough as it is so you smile and pretend everything is fine at the dinner table. Every day waking up gets harder and harder and you feel trapped in a downward spiral. It’s scary because you are not the gal who gets to fall apart. You are the one who is supposed to have it to together. So what do you do when you don’t?
1. Stop thinking you’re special. You are not the first person to have her heart broken, or hate her job or be down to her last dollar. There are so many women out there who have gone through exactly what you’re going through and emerged from the other side stronger than ever. It’s hard, if not impossible, to think beyond yourself when you’re trapped in the fog of misery and it doesn’t help that so many of us keep silent about our struggles in order to maintain that “perfect” image but stop for one second and instead of sobbing “why me?” ask yourself, “who else?”. Google it. Go to the bookstore and browse the self-help section. Watch a talk show if you must, but one way or another, remind yourself that your situation is not unique. Try to learn from the testimony of others. Don’t be afraid to “shock” your therapist or your pastor. Don’t feel guilty about being depressed even as you acknowledge that you are blessed. You’re not special. And that means you’re not alone.
2. “Center” yourself. In God is a Lawyer Too: Ten Laws of Unlimited Success, Cecilia B. Loving shares that “one of the most important laws of success is to stay centered…then, you won’t be vulnerable to the things that go on around you.” Stephen Covey echoes this sentiment in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, noting that “people can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.” When your life feels like it’s in chaos around you, you have to stop focusing on the storm and remember that you are the eye of the storm, moving forward regardless of the changing circumstances around you. How do you center? As Ms. Loving points out, “you can center through meditation, through prayer, through movement, through music, through silence, even through reading inspirational things.” Find the act that brings you back to you. To the part of you that is and will always be. As a Christian, my center is the core of faith that I place in God. No matter what is going on in my life, if I focus on that faith, I will remain centered. I may not be happy, or smiling or sleeping well, but I will be aware of the one constant in my life and that is what will make me centered.
3. “Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.” Why do self-destructive habits feel so good when we’re already at our worst? Overeating, calling that ex, slacking on the job. We’re already dealing with one mess and yet we go and create several others as a means of distracting ourselves. It’s much easier said than done, but when one thing is already going wrong, you may not feel like you can extricate yourself from that disaster of a job or a relationship, but please please please don’t go piling more bad decisions on top of it. You will eventually emerge from the fog and when you do, you don’t want to step directly onto a walk of shame. Tell yourself that you can make one good decision a day. Just one. Eat a vegetable. Send out one job application. Attend one networking event. Get out of bed and shower. It doesn’t matter how small that decision may seem and you will struggle with it, but just keep telling yourself you can do one thing that you will thank yourself for when you emerge from the fog and eventually, you will find the strength to do that one thing and many more.
I wish I could have given this advice (and more) to Allie, the main character in my book club’s book this month. She seemed to be living the dream but when it started unraveling, so did she (cue Katy Perry’s Pearl).
What advice would you give to somebody who feels that her life is falling apart?
What has helped you get through difficult times?
This post was inspired by the novel The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson. Allie thought she had the perfect husband, until she finds him and another woman in a compromising position in their own apartment. Join From Left to Write on April 1st as we discuss The Idea of Him and join us for a live chat with Holly on April 3. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.