at rock bottom

2 Ways for Finding Purpose in Life When You’re at Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom

My stepfather hated me. I couldn’t do anything without him telling me how worthless and weak I was. I was never once gifted with those four golden words that every young child longed to hear from their parents, “I am proud of you.” That was not my childhood. Being worthless was the life I grew to know. Instead of love, I received pain. Instead of praise, I received neglect.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I was only 12-years-old.

I was at rock bottom at 12-years-old. As ridiculous and unbelievable as it may sound, I hated every aspect of my life.

My family was poor. I mean ate out of the neighbor’s trash poor, and I was neglected and emotionally and physically abused. I would go to bed every night with blood running down the groove of my back from the “discipline” I would receive for the mere fact of existing. I was broken and empty.

The Decision

One night, after receiving my daily dose of discipline, I grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper. I reflected on the 12 short years I had on this earth and let my heart bleed out on to the blank page.

After a few moments, the page was filled with scribbles that symbolized my life.

I wrote that I loved my mother, brother, and sister. I wrote down my dreams and aspirations of the future. I wrote down my dream car (Ferrari 458) and where I wanted to live (California, baby).

Finally, after scanning over the piece of paper a few more times, I wrote in giant letters over the entire page, “NOTHING MATTERS”. My family, my dreams, and my life was not enough. I was scared and I wanted to take my own life to escape the hand I was dealt.

The Thought Loop of Nothing

“Nothing matters”. I repeated that phrase in my head over and over again as I folded the page into a small square and put it underneath my pillow.

“Nothing matters”. I got out of bed and navigated through the darkness of the house to the bathroom. The cold tiles felt hot underneath my feet.

“Nothing matters”. I opened up the medicine cabinet, shuffled through each option I had at my disposal and grabbed the bottle of Tylenol from the shelf.

“Nothing matters.” I sounded out each letter as slow as I possibly could, allowing each letter to roll off of my tongue and float into the dark void of the night. The letters drifted and finally landed softly against my eardrums. I felt a sensation of chills shoot through my body, starting at my feet and rushing to the curly hairs on my head.

A Message in a Bottle

I was saying these two words all wrong.

I allowed myself to be lost in a thought loop that tore me down to the very roots of my soul. I was saying these words as if they were one phrase and only allowed it to have one meaning. However, as the letters drifted to my ears, they underwent a transformation.

A hidden message that was playing hide-and-seek with me my entire life, revealed itself.

“Nothing (pause) matters.”

I had nothing, did nothing, and was nothing and since I was nothing, I substituted nothing with I.

“Nothing matters.” converted into “I matter.”

I mattered to the people who loved and cared about me. I mattered to my future wife and children. I mattered to the future relationships I would have with my friends and colleagues.

My entire life, I only focused on the negatives. I was stuck in the illusion that my present perception of life would follow me to my grave, but that is not how life has to be.

Life is an ugly, formless clump of mistakes and pain that can be molded with deliberate and careful hands to make something so beautiful from something so ugly, it is almost impossible to comprehend.

However, many people, maybe including yourself, believe this clump of life can be molded without an external force. However, there are two aspects of your life you have to change from this moment on to mold your own work of art.

1. Take Responsibility For Your Life

First, you must take full responsibility for everything that is present in your life.

You must take full responsibility for the good that arrives, but also the painful and inconvenient. You must be able to accept the fact that you have played a part in everything wrong that is in your life. You must figure out how to fix it.

You have to ask your self, “What can I do right now, at this very moment, to create a better tomorrow for myself, my family, and my future?”

You have two decisions to make. To either be the victim or accept the responsibility for yourself, but you already know you only have one choice.

2. Win The War, Not Just The Battle

Second, you cannot win the war against the world if you can’t win the war against your own mind.

You have to dismiss the illusion that you cannot overcome this moment because of the perception in your mind. This very moment may be the lowest moment in your life.

You must remember that if this is the lowest moment in your life, then there is only up from here.

You must remind yourself that you matter. Life is going to hit you in the mouth, and you must remember that the wound will heal over time. It may take a week or a decade, but you must remember that the pain will subside and be replaced by the happiness you deserve.

You Matter

Today, I am a student at the United States Naval Academy. I am dating the love of my life, and have a healthy relationship with my mother, brother, and sister.

I eliminated every negative aspect of my life because I was not able to focus on the clump of life on the turntable in front of me with these distractions fueling my illusion.

I had previously bought into my own lie. I believed I was nothing and couldn’t do anything with my life. I allowed my present situation affect my future self.

My life changed when I gave my life a sense of power and purpose. I took a conscious effort to transform my nothing into my something, and this realignment of values in my soul changed my life… because in the end, even nothing, matters.

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Article Author

Austin Shellhammer

Austin Shellhammer

My name is Austin Shellhammer. I am a student at the United States Naval Academy. I enjoy reading and traveling and spending time with my friends. I am the oldest out of three, and a mama’s boy. I live to help people going through the same struggles as me because I never had the support of a mentor.
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