Mandy Nicholson

The Creative Genius Corner

Lessons, musings and advice from the author of ‘The Life I Won’

What to do when your life falls apart

You know when a film first starts and you meet the main character and see what her world is like? You watch as she goes about her regular business. She seems happy. She has a routine. Everything is going swimmingly. 

And then, about 20 minutes in, something happens that throws her totally off course. 

That’s when the film really starts. That’s when you get to watch her try to fix it all—to get her normal life back. 

But she can never go back to what she had before. That’s not the way films work. Through the challenges we watch her overcome, she grows and she changes. What she ends up with at the end is actually better. She gets what she needed all along…not merely what she wanted. 

And I think that we love those films because they’re a mirror. 

If you think about it, our lives are our own films, and it’s the way that we handle the big shake-ups—overcome the challenges that disrupt our status quo—that leads us to a happy ending. 

I know this a bit too well…

,…because my life fell apart.

I’ve come out on top, but it took a long time. 

And now I’m here to give you the biggest lessons I learned…so that when you inevitably have a bit of a wobble, you’ll know how to fix your life quickly.

What happens when you hit rock bottom?

In March of 2009, I had it all. 

Through a combination of luck, hard work, and talent, I’d climbed the corporate ladder and was perched comfortably at the top.

I was an executive bringing in 6 figures. I’d busted through glass ceilings and brought other women with me. I popped out of bed each morning at 5 a.m., bright-eyed, energised, and ready to go after a new day and a new adventure. 

My husband stayed home with my beautiful children in our beautiful farmhouse, on sprawling land where our beautiful dogs could run free. 

I was the breadwinner in my family, but I didn’t mind the pressure. It was thrilling and fulfilling, and I lived for the constant ticks of achievement. 

But I woke up one morning in that March of 2009 and something was just off. 

The trees didn’t seem as green. My energy didn’t feel as high. My excitement for work was nowhere to be found. 

As it turned out, my intuition knew something I didn’t…until, about an hour later, when my car ended up in a ditch, and everything went black. 

It’s hard to describe what happened when I left my body, and I doubt you’d even believe me. But when I came to, everything was different somehow.

In the months that followed, I had more downtime on my hands than I’d ever experienced before…and I soon realised that I had been running full speed with life and work for so long that I hadn’t noticed the parts of my life I’d actually hated all along. 

Now I was forced to sit still—to take stock and to evaluate the world I’d built. And with that clarity, everything crumbled.

Can you fix your life after rock bottom?

It was a chain reaction.

I realised that my husband was useless. I’d been working so hard that I hadn’t noticed he spent his days playing video games. He hadn’t been caring for the kids while I was away…he’d been checked out for ages, just sitting them in front of screens so he could do as he pleased.

My amazing son was diagnosed with autism. He is and was still amazing, but we had to learn new strategies to keep him comfortable in a world built for different brains.

My beloved dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

I lost my job because—now get this!—sales went down while I was away recovering.

I learned that the business I’d invested in for my sister was in extreme debt. Debt in my name.

My husband admitted that he had taken out credit cards in my name and piled up debts.

I filed for bankruptcy.

I lost the house.

I got divorced.

I hit the rockiest bottoms of all rocky bottoms.

But I sit here today back on top. I clawed my way back. I worked hard, and I learned a lot along the way.

So if you’re worried about hitting rock bottom…if your life is falling apart at this very moment…here’s my crash course in getting your life back together.

Lesson 1: It’s not ‘Will I hit rock bottom?’…It’s ‘When will I hit rock bottom?’

Here’s the uncomfortable truth: rock bottom is coming for us all.

It will look different for everyone, but it will happen at least once in each and every life.

And the best way to deal with it when it does happen is to know that it will happen.

When we’re able to accept that hard times, just like good times, are an unavoidable part of life, then we’re already braced for impact. We’re not shocked when the hard times come, and we can handle them with a level head.

This is how to avoid poor-me syndrome.

When your life falls apart, it’s not because you’re being picked on by the power that be. It’s not because you’re unlucky or everyone is out to get you.

You’re not that special. Nobody is.

It’s simply a fact of life. So deal with it as a sea captain would:

When a storm is coming, a ship doesn’t drop anchor. The crew lifts the anchors so that the ship can rock and roll with the wind and the waves. To drop anchor would be a disaster—the ship would get ripped apart.

You’re the captain of your ship. Rock with the waves.

Lesson 2: Ask yourself, ‘What skills do I already have to get my life back on track?’

My rock bottom came with a lot of admin and a lot of people management.

I just so happen to be great at those things. Those are skills my career had trained me for. When I realised that, I felt empowered. I knew how to handle these kinds of hurdles.

When your life falls apart, take a breath. Take a step back and take stock.

List out the problems. Now think as clearly as you can.

What do you already know how to fix?

I am willing to bet that you have the skills to overcome the bulk of your issues.

What are you great at? What have you been trained for? How can you apply those skills right now?

Lesson 3: Take action when your life falls apart

We have 3 basic reactions to stress: fight, flight, and freeze.

You’ll naturally gravitate toward one. You won’t even be able to help it.

And each will have its place. There are times when you’ll need to flee. If leaving a situation is the best option to keep you safe, then flee. Right now.

If you’re a freezer, then freeze only long enough to assess your situation. Sometimes it’s best not to take hasty action.

Those of us who are fighters….well sometimes fighting can make things worse. Remember, riding the waves rather than fighting against them can help us survive.

So no matter your natural response, you’ll eventually need to take strategic and focused action.

Step one is assessing the issue.

Step two is making a plan.

Step three is actioning that plan.

We can’t let ourselves sink. Nobody is coming to bail us out. So get going.

Lesson 4: Never underestimate having a positive attitude when you hit rock bottom

Wallowing is easy.

And wallowing can feel really really good.

There’s something about experiencing that deep, human emotional pain that can pull us under to a place where we just want to float.

Sometimes, it feels good.

But you know what feels better?

Dreaming. Envisioning a great future. Holding on to hope that we can get there.

So here’s the secret: let that dream consume you.

Live and act as if you’re already in that perfect future. Hold on to that positive thinking, because everything around you will have no choice but to live up to it.

It’s just the way our world works. It responds to us.

Give it good things to respond to.

Lesson 5: Choose honesty with your kids when your life is falling apart

Kids know when things aren’t right. Their instincts are more pure than any adult’s.

And when they can feel that something’s wrong, it’s important that we reinforce their trust in themselves.

It’s tempting to shield them. But shielding them will only cause them to mistrust their own instincts.

When we are open and honest, they learn that life is hard sometimes, and they also learn that it’s okay that life is hard sometimes.

When we calmly fill them in and then show them how we take action to make things good again, they learn that hard times aren’t something to panic over.

When we do this, we raise strong kids into resilient and steady adults.

If you’re wondering, ‘Will my life ever get better?’

Yes, my darling.

Rock bottom doesn’t last forever.

It might feel like it when you’re in it. Time is funny that way.

But from pain comes growth. When you make it through—and you will—you’ll feel invincible

Trust me. I know.

And I’ve detailed the whole journey in my book, The Life I Won. It’s full of every lesson I learned and every step I took to get back to the top.

Click HERE to buy it here for the complete story!

Love & Colour

Mandy x

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