Why We Need to Face Rock Bottom Alone. ~ Freya Watson

Via Freya Watson
on Apr 4, 2014
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Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry, and you cry alone.

For a long time, I couldn’t help thinking that the second part of this saying is far from true. As a society, we seem to love a good moan.

It’s part of our bonding process. I talk about what’s wrong in my life, you sympathize and we have common ground.

Like emotional Lego, common wounds are part of what we use to ‘fit’ together.

We have forums and support groups ostensibly dedicated to helping those with shared afflictions to live more fully, but in reality many end up being places for a good shared cry.

“I’m lost and it feels as if you have stuck a knife in my gut. The pain is so incredibly physical I can barely straighten up and it seems like I have been crying for hours. It’s three in the morning now and there’s no way I’m going to be able to sleep. I have no idea how I’m going to get ready and just go to work in a few hours time, acting as if everything’s normal when my life has just fallen apart.” ~ (Letters to a Lost Lover)

There’s a big gap, though, between the crying we do on a friend’s shoulder or the shared angst of a forum and the deep, soul-level, despair that hits us once or twice during a lifetime, when it feels as if we’re drowning in our own lives.

That kind of drowning is always a solo journey for so many reasons.

Most people will, at some stage or another, go through a dark night of the soul. It’s not an experience that’s reserved for an elite minority. Sometimes it’s prompted from outside—the death or departure of a loved one, serious illness or a substantial change in circumstance.

It can also appear from nowhere, a dark desperation that leaves us barely able to keep our head above water.

Yet keeping our head above water is usually exactly what we try to do. Whether through sheer effort, medication or even therapy, we try to keep going, trying to keep swimming along, just as everyone else appears to be doing.

It’s only if the inner pressure builds to a point where we can no longer keep up the duality that we give ourselves permission to let go of the effort, falling back into the water of our lives to drown or be washed ashore somewhere in the future.

It always seems such an isolated place to find ourselves.  It’s not just because there’s still a stigma attached to any kind of mental breakdown that we keep the depth of our desperation to ourselves, although we’re always much quicker to admit to flu, arthritis or gallstones than we are to say that we’ve reached a point in our lives when the idea of going on living holds little appeal. And it’s not only because we don’t want to be seen as having failed at the most basic skill of all—the ability to navigate our way through life.  Usually we’d only be too happy to have someone reach out and pull us from the depths of our despair, if that were possible.

Despair takes us deeply into ourselves, and therefore far away from others. It’s a journey inwards, down into the depths of our souls—like Orpheus journeying to the underworld. And our underworld is usually not somewhere we care to spend much time in, apart from the few of us born with a natural fascination for the shadows. It can be scary, full of unfamiliar emotions and urges.

Thoughts of death, murder, suicide can all reside there, alongside feelings of violent rage, pure hatred and utter self-contempt. Even if we get to a place within ourselves where we feel comfortable enough to share these feelings with another, do we even have the language to express them? They are such primitive, instinctive parts of ourselves that it is almost impossible to allow their energy to release through words. They need to be felt and experienced—and that is very much an individual journey.

There are a few things which can make this journey a little easier for ourselves or for a friend.

Knowing we’re not alone is a huge comfort. When we know there’s someone there who can throw us a line if we really need it, it helps to give us a sense that there is a normal world out there which we may eventually return to. Sometimes it can be more practical than that. A friend calling round (with prior notice, of course), can give us the motivation to take a shower and put on fresh clothes, or they may bring a well-needed meal at a time when we’ve been barely eating.

Spending time in nature allows our energy to ground and clear of its own accord, tuning us back into a deeper rhythm that we may have lost touch with – the slow rhythm of mother nature and her cycles, which is so different to the fast pace of modern life. When we fall, we can fall no further than the earth—and willingly allowing her to hold our physical bodies (as our mothers may have held our infant bodies) can bring a deep peace.

Giving physical expression to strong emotions that come up can help to clear them through us, helping us to see more clearly what may lie beneath. Anything from howling, growling and biting (a pillow, foam wedge or something similar) to kicking and punching a mattress, or stomping can all provide a wonderful release. The dark, primitive forces, the repression of which are often at the root of deep despair, need to be acknowledged and expressed. When our energy has to work hard to keep strong forces at bay – like those that are experienced after a loss or severe disappointment – we have very little left for life. Finding a way of accepting and safely releasing those forces can be a turning point from despair back towards hope.

Simplifying our lives when we feel up to it, can also help. When we feel as if we’re drowning, it’s often because life has become too much and we’re no longer able to cope with even the most basic things, like eating and washing. If we consciously pare our lives back to the bare necessities it takes some of the pressure off. And this includes taking time off work. Chances are if we don’t deliberately simplify our lives for a while, nature will find a way of ensuring that we do so that we can deal with the inner processes that are important for our soul’s growth.

More than anything else, giving ourselves permission to drown is perhaps the most important thing we can do.

When we stop fighting with ourselves, beating ourselves up because we can no longer function as we are used to doing, it clears the way for the next stage of our lives. Deep despair signals that deep inner work needs to be done, work which has the potential to raise us to a new level in our lives. It’s a lonely road, but we can make it less lonely by walking it deliberately and embracing the small supports that can help us through.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Sokrowenno Art Group at Flickr 


About Freya Watson

How we ground our heart-felt truths into the everyday experience of relationships, work and family is the foundation for a lot of my work. Finding our 'truth' is a challenge in itself, but living it day to day is an even bigger challenge. My books are available on Amazon and you can also find me on Facebook and read more on my blog.


23 Responses to “Why We Need to Face Rock Bottom Alone. ~ Freya Watson”

  1. Bonanza says:

    This gives me hope today. Thank you.

  2. Nate says:

    Beautifully written and powerful read. Thank you.

  3. judy says:


  4. ddg says:

    Just what I needed at this stage of my life…a good read. I have been going through this for over a year now but it isn't always that deep. I am growing.

  5. Phani says:

    Thank you.

  6. Maureen says:

    So beautifully expressed; wonderful reminder and actually quite uplifting. Thank ou

  7. Ollie says:

    Great Article. I experienced exactly what you describe. It’s now 6 months later and life couldn’t be better.

  8. This is such a nice piece of writing . Very deep infact and I really like the way it has been put forward . Has soo much common in my life too !

  9. Robin Kelly says:

    A subject which deserves to be spoke about! We all go through these times. It helps to bond with another regarding such deep despair! It's productive to talk it out at times. Sometimes we have to be alone to get to where we need to be… But, it such a reassuring feeling for someone to acknowledge they know we are in that awful place! Thanks for. Such a fantastic article!

  10. kelzang lhadon says:

    Got an experience,faced reality n knew a wisdom in life frm going thru the rock bottom.Now i know how to move frward in life.

  11. JohnH says:

    Great advice Freya. As you mentioned, despair can drag us away from others often into a spiral of shame. It might be helpful to find a way to provide service to others to keep the connection to fellow humanity, but also to help us realize the "suffering" is not personal, but communal. We can often get what we want by giving that to others.

  12. Langdon Alger says:

    Just what I needed. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this inspirational piece!

  13. Alex says:

    The Tibetans call it the Karmic broom

  14. Suzi Nelson says:

    Yes, you have been to the abyss, gone down for the third time, fought for air, struggled towards the surface to tloat again. Your words are "dead" on. I know that you know. Thank you for your time, energy and creativity which gives this silent journey a loud voice. The voice is yours, mine, ours. I am not alone.

  15. Bird Watcher says:

    Hello, A very accurate article about hitting rock bottom as they say, everyone's journey is different, mine felt like a two year old ordeal, with ups and downs, false hopes, inability to be consistent with the positive steps to come out of it. But it does come, for some that bottom is torture and agonizing stays in hospitals, and then a dark grave, for others it varies. Some say they get tired and sick of being tired and sick, others find their family to be that lifeguard force that helps pull them out of the abyss, a big majority, myself included, find that it is a higher power is what can lift us up, and a total surrender to this wonderful and moving force. Thank you, it is a blessing knowing we're not alone, that there are enlightened people that trace, map and feed sources of information like this one.

  16. debaumer says:

    A great article, and yet still I think, hope, wish there must be more for those of us who experience year after year of that dark night?

  17. Erica says:

    One year ago to the week this described totally my dark night in a way I couldn’t ever have verbalised. I couldn’t imagine at the time that I needed to go through it to be in the place I am now, as far removed from that dark place (where I felt I was drowning in black tar) but also just as far removed from my previous “existence”.

    Thank you for such a clear insight to such a dark moment.

  18. Mel says:

    This is what I want to say to someone who has reached out to me during a time like this: Thanks to you for being there in spirit and offering to be with me in person too. Sorry I haven't been able to let you all the way in yet. Don't wait for me, but please don't leave me. That makes a lot of sense, right? Sorry for being an absent friend or potential lover. Don't get me wrong, I want to give back; I really do…in fact that is what I love to do. I hope the time will come soon that I can…<3

  19. Arjun says:

    I am at this point now and it could not have been better described. I am going through all that was written and even more. But nevertheless I fundamentally have a strong urge to be happy and spread goodness. Even then, I am no where near to that.

    I cannot thank how good it feels to know someone has been through it, came out and wanted to write an article on it. You have done a thing that will silently be valued.

  20. Jim says:

    Thank you for this article. I found myself in deep despair after I found my wife was having an affair with a younger man. I left, and while I had support from friends in abundance I still felt the pain of lack of intimacy. But without this horrible period I would never have gained the insights I feel Today. Not a journey I would wish on anyone, but it guided to meeting someone vastly different, and my life is better and better.

  21. Diane says:

    A really great article, but for some despair hits not just once or twice but is a lifelong bedfellow. For some, struggling alone with despair gets really old – none of the things sustain you in the end. After years and years of despair, after trying to dispel it, after trying to sit with it, after trying to share it, some finally just opt to take it out in the end.

  22. Katie says:

    This is one of my favorite articles on EJ I’ve read in a while. After losing my health, job, mother, long time mentor, cousin, marriage, cat, home (in that order and in the past year), I felt totally alone. I see how I couldn’t have used that time as a transformation without doing it myself. It’s empowering to know I’m strong enough to survive, while opening my capacity for compassion for others.
    Thank you!

  23. Anil says:

    There are times in our lives when almost everything seems to go wrong. When your best friend/intimate partner to whom you could trust with your life, when that person is the one who declares that you dont count in their lives anymore – and you find yourself alone like a lost planet and in the depths of despair. Not only do you feel horrible about being treated that way, you also feel at your wits end as to how they of all people could 'ditch' you?? You begin to question your own judgment, you begin to question Love itself and it is a turning point in your life. Either you become cynical to the core or you continue to hold your belief and conviction that Love does indeed exist somewhere.