Bless her heart. She was so sweet and offered me such a kind and sincere compliment. I didn’t mean to look incredulous–I really didn’t. It’s just that the compliment that she so generously paid me seemed so…well, crazy.
She approached me after I had given a presentation for a local business association and told me how much she admired how “together” my life was. She said that she had seen me a few other times at various functions and had read about me when I was recognized as one of twelve Colorado Women of Vision. She said that she was inspired by how upbeat, energetic and “with it” I was.
As I stood there listening to her, I kept feeling as though I should turn around to see if, perhaps, there was someone else behind me that she might be talking to instead. I mean seriously…together? With it? Me??? She had to be kidding, right? For Pete’s sake; just that morning I had not-so-gracefully spit toothpaste into my hair and pulled out of my garage before realizing that I was still wearing my slippers–not the black pumps that went with my outfit. Did she honestly think that I had my life “together”?
Of course I thanked her warmly before heading on my way; but even after I left the event, her words stayed with me. As I write this now, two weeks later, her words are still with me.
I think the reason that her comments have left such an imprint on my soul is because, while she sees the person that I am now (though, seriously, I am not nearly as “together” as she thinks I am), I still remember the person that I was before…
I remember the sad, scared young woman who felt hopelessly trapped and suffocated in a marriage that stripped her of her personal power and left her emotionally depleted after years of being controlled and domineered by a mentally unstable spouse. I remember being so consumed with anger and self-loathing that it manifested in the form of a dangerous eating disorder that was hell bent on killing me. I remember wasting away to nothing before finally being diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and receiving treatment. I remember lying awake at night worrying about how to escape my nightmare of an existence while still being able to provide a good life for my two precious little boys. I remember being shoved, spit on and called atrocious names by my (now ex) husband. I remember it all. I wish I didn’t…but I do.
In short, I remember what rock bottom feels like and because I remember so vividly how low my lowest point was, I sometimes find it difficult to wrap my brain around the love, joy and abundance that fills my life now. I know that I’m not as “with it” as that sweet (though somewhat delusional) woman thinks, but I most certainly have come a long way. Somehow (through much trial and error and a whole lotta therapy), I managed to find a way to make my comeback stronger than my setback. This is great news because, trust me, If I can bounce back from rock bottom, absolutely anyone can. All it takes is a little understanding of the mechanics of bouncing…
HOW TO BOUNCE
- Understand that it doesn’t matter how far you fall, it’s how high you bounce that counts. Don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking that you’ve fallen too far or that there is no hope for your situation. There is. As long as you still have a heartbeat, you still have hope. Think about those little, super balls that you get from the vending machine at the grocery store. Sure, those balls will bounce a little when they are dropped from a height of a foot, but think about how much higher they bounce when they are slammed to the ground from a greater height. You too can do the same. Some of the most well respected, celebrated individuals in the world are people who were slammed to the depths of despair, but who chose to use their rock bottom moment as a catalyst for change. You absolutely can do the same.
- Focus on the positive–no matter how impossible it seems. Even during the most difficult moments of my rock bottom experience, I still had plenty to be thankful for. I had my two sweet sons, my loving parents who provided incredible support and dear friends who believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Sometimes it’s hard to see and appreciate the good that surrounds you when you feel lost in a dark place but I promise you, that good is there. Being able to successfully bounce depends upon our ability to fill ourselves with gratitude and positivity. When we are able to see the good that still exists in our life, that good will serve to inflate us so that we can’t be kept down. Imagine yourself trying to push a big, beach ball under the water in a pool. You might be able to hold the ball under the water’s surface for a few seconds but eventually, the air that is inside the ball will cause the ball to rise and pop up, beyond the resistance of the water. Make the effort to find positive things to focus on in your life so that you too can be filled with enough gratitude, faith and hope so as to inflate your spirit. One of the best ways that I found to keep myself focused upon the positive in my life was to keep a nightly gratitude journal where I wrote down five things that I was grateful for every day. Some days it was a stretch, but no matter what horrible things were going on in my life, I always managed to find five things for which to be grateful. This daily gratitude practice played a big part in helping me to learn how to bounce.
- Give yourself some grace. No one bounces perfectly. Allow yourself time to wallow and feel sorry for yourself. Lick your wounds for a few days. Cry, punch your pillow, let your emotions out. Most importantly though, forgive yourself for your predicament. When I was going through my struggles, I got so mad at myself for ever allowing myself to end up in such a desperate situation. It wasn’t until my therapist suggested that I cut myself some slack that I started to ease up on myself a bit. He shared the Maya Angelou quote with me that says “do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” He pointed out that the reason that I was so mad at myself was because I now knew better but was angry at myself for not behaving differently back when I didn’t know better. It wasn’t fair, he said. He likened it to being mad at a toddler for not doing her own laundry despite the fact that she has no clue what laundry even is. Forgive yourself for not knowing better but then commit to doing better now that you do.
- Seek help. There is absolutely no way that I ever could’ve bounced as high as I did if it weren’t for the help that I received from the people who cared about me. My dear friend Melisa got me to a doctor when I needed it, my parents brought me a truck load of used furniture when I had to move my boys and myself out of our home, my counselor helped me to come up with a plan for putting the pieces of my life back together again and my friend Kathy watched my boys when I had to work late. So many people came to my aid when I needed it and for this I will be forever grateful. Don’t think that you have to do everything yourself–you don’t. Be humble enough to recognize that you need help and then be willing to ask for it.
- Find something that you can control. Control was a huge issue in my own personal collapse. I had relinquished all control in my life to a husband who used that control to manipulate and dis-empower me. I wasn’t allowed to dress the way I wanted to dress, befriend the people that I wanted to befriend, pursue interests that I wanted to pursue, listen to the music that I wanted to listen to or express thoughts or opinions that differed from his. This complete lack of control in my life is what lead to my rock bottom break down. As I began to work through these issues in therapy, my therapist urged me to start taking back the reins in my life and to begin calling the shots again on the things that I could. Sure–there are some things in life that can’t be controlled, but a big part of staging a successful bounce is learning to take control over those situations, attitudes and behaviors that can be. At the very least, you do have the ability to control your response to the things that are happening around you and that, in and of itself, is enough to set the stage for a powerful bounce.
- Remain interested in life. What happens when you spike a football on the ground? Does it bounce back up in a straight, upward trajectory? Nope. It’s oblong shape causes it to bounce off in a wonky direction. A nice round basketball however will bounce up in a higher, more predictable fashion. The same is true of us, if, when faced with a setback, we strive to keep ourselves engaged with other aspects of life including hobbies, friendships, physical fitness etc. By making an intentional effort to remain well rounded, we make it more difficult for our setback to send us off in a wrong direction. Instead of focusing solely on our difficulties; remaining well rounded will help us to bounce higher, straighter and with more predictability.
- Distract yourself. One key component to a successful bounce is the ability to see the big picture. When we are faced with a monumental problem, it can be difficult to see anything but the problem. However; no matter how bad things may be–they aren’t all bad. Do your best to find things that will take your mind off of your problem–even if just temporarily. For me, meditation is a lifesaver; as is running, writing and reading. Find something that you enjoy doing and that takes concentration and then, do it. Let yourself get lost in the activity so as to distract and detach yourself from your problems for a while. This strategy is one of the best ways that I’ve learned to help compartmentalize difficult situations and keep them from suffocating me. I also use this strategy at night if I’m having one of those nights where sleep is eluding me and anxious thoughts are running the show. I don’t get up and go for a run, but I do start reciting my ABC’s. I add a little twist though–as I run through the alphabet in my mind, I think of things that I am grateful for that start with each letter. This distraction is usually enough to settle my spirit so that I can drift off to sleep. Rarely do I make it through the entire alphabet before dozing off.
- Remember the vision that you have for your life. If you are a regular follower of FabYOUlous Life, you already know that I am a big proponent of vision boards. Not only do I think that a vision board is a powerful tool for inspiring action towards our dreams, I also believe that it is one of the most powerful bounce inducers that we possess. When I was in the clutches of an insidious eating disorder and suffocating under the weight of an oppressive and toxic marriage; there were two things that kept me going–my love for my two precious little boys and a vision that I had of the life that I longed to live. The Bible says that “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). I believe that without a vision for the future, the spirit certainly perishes. If you find yourself facing a setback or experiencing a dark and difficult situation, take out your vision board (or make one if you don’t have one–you can click here for full instructions) and spend some time imagining yourself living into the big vision that you have for your life. Let that vision take root in your soul and buoy your spirit with hope. Back when I was in the darkest of my dark days; a life filled with love, joy and fulfillment seemed a ludicrous thing to hope for; and yet, despite its absurdity, I clung to a vision of my life that reflected exactly that. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. By clinging to my vision of a better life for myself and my boys, I was able to formulate the plan and begin taking the steps that were needed in order for me to gradually start moving in that direction. The vision of what I wanted in my life was the single biggest contributing factor to my bounce.
Though things may seem dark and challenging now, you don’t have to succumb to the struggle. Implement a few of these bounce inducing strategies and let your comeback be stronger than your setback because trust me…there’s no better feeling than being on the bounce.