Use these things as practical inspiration.
Photo by Filippo Cesarini on Unsplash
I am writing this because lots of people’s lives are falling apart. I want to be the light for those experiencing darkness. There is hope. You can come back from whatever has set you back.
Take a forest bath
Shinrin-yoku in Japanese means forest bath. Bathing in the forest means bathing in the atmosphere of the forest using your eyes, ears, nose and hands.
I don’t live next door to a forest. I could barely get myself out of bed. At my lowest point, I spent an entire six months in bed. But one idea that helped me was walking in nature. When I didn’t know what to do I got in motion. Motion helped me shake off the overwhelming emotion of it all.
Walk off your stress.
Build up the courage to ask for help
Asking for help is the hardest part. It takes everything you’ve got to get out of a dark place. Admitting you need help is hard.
I really needed help when my life fell apart. Living felt empty. I just wanted to fall asleep so I could escape my reality. The trouble was I couldn’t even sleep. My mind would keep talking to me all night.
When I was 26 my life fell apart. I walked away from a business and discovered I had severe mental illness. My romantic life was in shambles. I attached my self-worth to my dating status.
Married equaled winning. Single equaled ‘loser.’
I acted like a tough male. I had the fast car and fancy clothes. People thought that I had balls of steel. What they didn’t know was it was all an act. If Hollywood knew, perhaps I would have got an Oscar for the performance.
I was afraid to ask for professional help. I wanted people to think there would be an epic comeback. What I didn’t understand was that I was the reason for the downfall. I needed fixing, not the business.
Going to a psychologist seemed impossible. Psychologists are only for crazy people, right? It shows up on your medical records, doesn’t it?
I fantasized about ringing a mental health hotline because telling the family doctor seemed like a bad move. What if they talked? One day while sitting in the car eating a foot-long sandwich, I made the call. The lady on the free hotline was nice. She gave me the contact details for a psychologist. I made an appointment.
For the first time in my life I had to admit I wasn’t okay. I had to admit I needed help. Doing that is one of the hardest things you will ever do.
Only once I asked for help did circumstances start to change. “If I can ask for help, then what else can I do?” was the freeing thought.
It’s okay to ask for help.
If the ask is genuine and packed with human emotion, no matter how busy the person is, they will at least point you in the right direction.
Attend a cringe-worthy event
Imagine going to your first seminar. Imagine being asked to dance in front of strangers and shout out answers to deeply personal questions. That’s what I signed up for. The moment I entered the seminar I felt regret. I felt stupid.
To make it worse, the most popular guy from my high school happened to be at the same seminar. He came over to say hello. I went red. His excuse was that his mother dragged him along. I didn’t have an excuse. I made something up, but he saw through my lie. I moved my stuff to the other side of the room so he wouldn’t see me. I didn’t see him for the rest of the event. Then on the plane ride home he accidentally sat next to me. It was fate. I had to stop hiding from everything and everyone.
While at the event, the whole thing felt stupid. But I committed to following through even though the exercises seemed so stupid. It was the first time I’d done something uncomfortable in a long time and actually followed through.
Within a few hours I began to notice a change. My life started to shift. I stopped telling myself stupid limiting stories.
At the end of the first night I was supposed to do this lame thing called a “firewalk.” I told myself that I was going to skip this part and only pretend to go. The host of the event took me by surprise.
He spent hours and hours teaching us how to prime our minds to do things that scare us. By the end of it, he had us all in a trance, making us believe we could do anything. I thought it was him. More than six years later, I know it was in fact me who had control.
It became time to walk on fire. I was scared because I hate fire. I suffered a bad burn as a kid and it scarred me for life. Right next to me was another guy I made friends with at the event. He was a banker just like me. We got on. He was doing it and assumed I would too. We agreed to walk across at the same time. Right before we walked out they added fresh coals to our path. We both walked across and made it to the end.
I looked down at my feet afterwards and they were badly burned. For some strange reason I felt nothing.
I woke up the next day and my feet were still badly burned. I couldn’t feel a thing, even though the damage was visually disgusting. I made it through the next three days without feeling any of the burns. I realized that something had shifted in my mind.
It wasn’t that the pain from the burns wasn’t there. It was that I couldn’t feel the pain because there was a far greater purpose.
My mind had blocked the pain. I was in state of life-changing euphoria.
The learning from that firewalk stays with me until today. I can prime myself to do anything if I properly prepare my mind. You can too.
Pro tip: before an uncomfortable moment in your life, replace the voice in your head with the voice of someone stronger, using your earphones. Switch on an inspiring person to tell you that you can, rather than your own mind that will tell you, you can’t.
Visit a homeless shelter
This one isn’t designed to make you kind. It isn’t about becoming a do-gooder or trying to look impressive in front of others on social media.
A homeless shelter is where I discovered my selfishness problem.
When you volunteer at a homeless shelter you quickly discover your own problems are pretty tiny in comparison. The first morning I volunteered there was a woman in her 50s who came in crying. She’d been raped and beaten by her partner and spent the night sleeping in the street. This happened daily.
All she needed was one person to be nice to her. She was dying to feel cared about. I had no idea and didn’t pay too much attention. I went to the kitchen and got her breakfast. I came and filled up her coffee cup. I smiled.
I felt the shift in her. I came back 15 minutes later and asked if she wanted a second serving of breakfast. I wasn’t trying to be kind; I thought I was just doing my job as a waiter and providing good service — the sort of service I would want if I was homeless and had to attend a soup kitchen.
Seeing the change in her transformed my perspective. We chatted a little. I got to hear her story, and by doing so, got to escape my own story.
I realized that if I could find a way to help someone other than myself, then something might change inside of me. I began to see I’d spent my entire life serving myself. I was obsessed with myself and what I had to get out of life. I never helped a single person. Every conversation was a financial transaction. A romantic relationship was a sexual transaction.
A visit to the homeless shelter can lift you right out of rock bottom.
Helping others can reveal your own selfishness.
Take a journey to an unknown destination
My life has fallen apart multiple times. In 2016, I left a long-term relationship. She begged me to come back and my invisible selfishness illness had re-entered. I was back at rock bottom again.
I took a journey to the land of freedom: America.
There was no plan. It was last minute. While in San Fran, I thought a job in Silicon Valley for a unicorn tech company would help me rise up again.
Instead, all I saw were happy couples kissing and holding hands. It was torture. San Fran wasn’t a fairytale either. There was homelessness everywhere. The tram cars had people in the morning who would scream the whole way and beg for help, due to their mental illness. The onlookers, including me, seemed completely oblivious as though they couldn’t hear or see anything other than the screen of their rotten apple.
I thought a fancy job would rebuild my life. I learned that a job wouldn’t cure anything. I came back to Australia and committed to work on myself once more. This involved reading about psychology, studying healthy relationships, and dealing with my selfishness illness.
A journey to an unknown destination without any plan can help you have the sort of insight you need to make a comeback. Your home is a bubble. An unseen destination is a way to look in the mirror at yourself, by observing people in a foreign land.
Look beyond your current circumstances
I found myself always documenting exactly where I was at. What changed was when I realized you can see your world better than it currently is.
You can dare to look into your future and imagine it being free of your current problems. Your problems don’t last forever unless you let them. You will find the answers to why your life fell apart, but they may take some time for you to discover.
The first time my life fell apart I dared to dream of a life where I could take my dark past and use it to help others with their future. I didn’t know how. I hadn’t discovered the vehicle to the destination which became writing. But I made a conscious decision to imagine what was possible, rather than spend 100% of my time in the present.
This time in your life will pass. There will be a time when you rise up again.
The best part is, by having your life fall apart you will get to rebuild it again your way.