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From the bottom of the barrel to the top of the tower. (and how I got there)

By January 11, 2010How To, Writing

As some of you noticed and inquired about (very sweetly and privately via email), I had a couple of weeks there around the holidays where I was down, down, down. Not just in the dumps, but I’d venture to say several feet beneath them. Sometimes, life does that to you. Sometimes it’s scattered showers. In this case, it was a typhoon.

I’d worked myself into a tight spot where pretty much everywhere I looked, I saw bad. Life looked sad and, to be honest, a bit hopeless. Work, writing, friends, marriage, kids, health, home…yep, all of it.

Over the course of the last week, it has all (virtually every bit) shifted – magnificently, magically, epiphanically, wonderously. I could wax thesaurus here for a good long while and continue to make up words that are creatively spelled, but feel right nevertheless. But instead, because I know times are a bit hard all around (and I know this because many of you write me and tell me so), I’m going to take a good look at this fantabulous shift. I mean, what if it can be reproduced, put into operation at will, bottled and sold (or generously given out for free here on this blog)? At the very least, what if it helps even one of you shift…if even just an inch. That would be nothing short of grand.

As far as I can tell, here’s what I did:


Oh lord, how I cried. At first I tried to resist it, but then I realized that at moments when I felt really shitty and I tried to fight it, I felt worse. So, I got to the point where crying was like medicine, a huge release that promised lightness at its end. I’d just be sitting here at my computer, feel it coming on, welcome it hugely, shed somewhere between 1 measly and 1,000 sobbing tears – and then pick my fingers back up and get back to work, knowing that I’d moved one step closer to feeling like me again.

Reached out.

When the sadness first came upon me, I had this odd notion that I had no one in the world to talk to. And then, the weirdest thing happened, although it really wasn’t that weird. Without thinking, I reached out to a friend. The perfect friend – who didn’t really ask questions, seemed to be able to read my mind, held me up just enough while never doubting that I couldn’t use my own two feet and passed absolutely no judgment (she also has an incredible business and blog which was featured in the WSJ). And then? This light flurry of fantastic friends that have known me and loved me for years (some for close to 30) started to trickle in. They just had this sudden urge to get in touch. Blood may be stronger than water, but good friends kick major ass.

The funny thing was, I didn’t feel the need to talk to these friends constantly and regale them with stories of woe or complaint. I actually felt very quiet as I turned the dregs of life’s fridge into something delicious with all of my stewing. Small connections scattered about and occasionally some nice long conversations bubbled up. But, I needed and wanted to have time to myself – it was the knowing that the friends were there if I needed them that was is the saving grace.


No, not into the guitar (though someone just showed me an inspired iPhone app for the ukulele yesterday wherein your iphone becomes a ukulele). I mean ‘pluck’ as in luck, pluck and virtue. As I discussed in my posts about finding a niche and writing a proposal, I stopped complaining about the lack of work in this economy, and I found a way to fix it. I made my own way.

Now, mind you, I haven’t actually gotten any work from that niche or that proposal yet – I haven’t even rolled them out. But the shift in my attitude and the action that I’ve been taking has done something huge for me. I started to feel like myself again, I started to feel strong and in control and energized. And so what I did get was three other ‘big, exciting, knock my socks off’ kinds of jobs. Yes, high fives all around.


The pavement, the pedals, the sticky mat. As a dear reader reminded me (hence this addition), I ran, rollerbladed, biked and yoga’ed every single morning. First thing I did (pretty much) when I rolled out of bed – no matter what. There is nothing, nothing, like starting the day with an accomplishment like running five miles. And the sweat is just like the tears – cleaning things out, letting things go. And the meditative experience, the time to think and plan and dream and…

Let’s just say the cycle of movement is like fluid grease to stuck cogs in the heart, brain and gut.

Swallowed pills. (but only just enough)

Note: I am not a doctor and this is not a medical blog. I am in no way shape or form suggesting that you take any sort of pill or supplement without checking with a medical professional first (which I DID). I am not a medical professional. Just a woman who has a great naturopath and has benefited highly from certain supplements. You may NOT sue me or hold me responsible for yourself or your health or your mental state as a result of anything I write here. Got it? Good. So long as we’re clear.

Those of you who know me well, know that I go out of my way to put the purest of pure things into my body. Usually that’s food related, but it stands true here as well. That said, I have friends who take pharmaceuticals to help them with all kinds of things, and I’m glad for them. And my kids just had pneumonia (yes, both of them – see? I told you things were bad) – and they took antibiotics and wow, did they get better fast. So…no judgment.

Is there a part of me that is worried about telling you all that I needed a little help of the pill variety in this case? Yes. I like to think that I can do it all myself. And I want you to think that too. But then I thought, Well that’s pretty mean! I would never come down on any one of my friends for doing this! So why be so rotten to myself? Huh, interesting. So, I’m telling you, laying it all out there.

I have taken two herbal/food supplements in deep times of stress that have really helped me. They’ve helped me fly (which is huge) and they’ve helped me make it through some hard days. Et Voila: L-Theanine (an amino acid that reduces stress) and Holy Basil (an herb that reduces stress and promotes feelings of well-being). For me, yes, they do both of those things. I use them when I need a little help…and it’s gratifying to see that as the days go by, I’ve needed a lot less help. Haven’t had any in some time now. And we all know how nice it is to get feedback like that. It’s like emotional ROI.


You bet your bippy. I never stopped. Some of it I shared with you here, some it I kept to myself (you can thank me later). Some of it was dark, some of it was brighter than bright. Writing is how I process, learn, move through. It is a great discharge. It imparts a great sense of accomplishment when it’s done (no matter how long, good or misspelled). I blogged, I made lists, I dreamed, I ranted, I worked. I wrote. Because that who I am and that’s what I do.

I should also add here that I read – gathering other writers and their words around me, a little coven of prolification and literary expression. Highly, highly recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Oh, and I became addicted to Kelly Diels’ blog, Cleavage, told her so and made a wonderful new friend. She is the consummate woman, writer and ball-buster. If you’re into amazing Buddhist nuns, try Pema Chodron.


Read into that what you like. But, no matter how bad I felt, I did something that felt good, to me and me alone, every single day. Still doing it actually (I mean, really, why stop). Why did I do this?

  • Because my instinct is to wallow in displeasure, to beat myself up because things aren’t going well – and I wanted to do the opposite.
  • Because I am the only one who is going to give me this pleasure for absolute certain every day – and if someone else happens to do something to or for me that gives me pleasure? Then that’s just a fantastic bonus.
  • Because I believe that I deserve it.
  • Because when you make yourself happy in one spot of your mind or body, it’s contagious. Seriously, it’s like all of your other bits can’t help but join in.

Faithed. (otherwise known as ‘knowing thyself’)

When it came right down to it, there was a little voice, a knowing, that I was going to be okay. That everything really was going to work out. Sure! You say. It’s easy for you to say that now! Yes, it is. But I said it then too, I said it all along. And I think this is the most important thing. Sure, life will continue to move up and down and sideways – some days will be great, some will not. But I’ll continue to move forward. True or not, one of my dear friends said, “You know, people kill themselves over less then what you’re going through.” That thought never did cross my mind. I mean seriously, kill this? Deprive the world of this?

Ha! I guess the final piece of this climbing out of the dumps, then, would be a nice healthy slice of self-esteem pie. You wanna piece?

Image credit: Unhindered by Talent

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Jason says:

    … and you began running again, you forgot that. As someone that will be observing the fourth anniversary of losing EVERYTHING, including my dog, in a few days, the only thing that kept me sane was the solace I found in running.

  • Edgy Mama says:

    Incredibly inspiring, Julie. You go.

    (And barrel only has one “l” typically. Yours might need two, though).

  • Julie: I’m glad you are feeling better, that life is treating you more kindly. You deserve it. And you have more friends than you know.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Jason! You are so right. How did I leave that part out…I might have to go add that in…but yes, physical exercise has been a critical factor and saving grace. You get bonus points for being such a good reader, for paying such close attention.

    So…four years out. I truly hope this finds you well. And thanks for reminding me – I’m losing the dogs too. See you out on the road…

  • Julie Roads says:

    Edgy Mama (aka, AF) – I needed 7 ‘L’s, but I thought that would be too extreme. But now I just look like a doofus that can’t spell. Dear WordPress, please put spellcheck in the title bar!

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    I think this is the perfect antidote here for anything that could ail anyone. It’s like a recipe. Everyone who is feeling like a slub should try it.

  • ilinap says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I want a piece of that pie. All I have here are chocolate pecan and maple pumpkin pies. And I love the word “pluck.” Homonyms excite me in ways that they shouldn’t. Good for you to climb out of the hole. I must heed this advice, for my business is as bad as it’s ever been. I feel like I got laid off, which sucks since I work for myself.

  • Van says:

    I love this post- now I feel bad that I let my holy basil plant die in a frost before I knew it could promote feelings of well being if eaten in a caprici salad.

    This Saturday I wanted to push my boyfriend out of the speeding car door after a bad argument. Instead of physically assaulting him (tempting) I quickly pulled into an antique shop and roamed the interior maze of color vignettes until my stress melted away. Antique stores are incredibly inspiring and stimulating for me. $48 bucks later I felt renewed are the flowing rage was forgotten.

    Jumping back into creative projects is what saves me from the abyss.

  • Amanda says:

    Julie, you’re an inspiration. I love the transparency and the honesty in this post. It’s just all out there for our consumption. Nailed it.

    Can’t wait to see what’s next.

  • Sandra Foyt says:

    Even though your message is inspiring, it’s painful to read. It reminds me of moments, experiences, that I’ve had, that I imagine we’ve all had. When things were rough, and you feel like you’re heading down a bottomles pit.

    Perhaps that’s why this is such a powerful article, and one I want to keep on hand when it’s my friends who need to know that there is hope.

    Thank you.

  • Julie Roads says:

    I’m really appreciating all of your comments. It’s hard to be this transparent, to show so much weakness…I do it because I know that when other writers do it, it really helps. When people try to hide the unpleasantness that we all experience, it inadvertently sends a message to readers that they are even worse off than they think – because they are the only ones dealing with it.

    I also do it because this is MY blog and no one can tell me not too. Oh how I love the illusion of power and control.

    Thank you for being such wonderful readers and for being brave enough to comment and show up here yourselves…

  • I am glad to see you are feeling better. The nice thing about hitting bottom is you are reduced to the emotional essentials, the very essentials we all need to find value and meaning and purpose in our world. The bottom is a blessing disguised as a dirt floor.

  • Cari Noga says:

    Ditto me behind the other commenters glad you’re feeling yourself again. My pithy local auto glass shop, which always has some inspirational quote on its sign, had up something today that I thought was especially appropriate for Cancers (yes, me too, 7/14): The tide is at its lowest ebb just before it turns. Sounds like your recent weeks are testament to that.
    Here’s to a new high tide! (Though I live on the Great Lakes, which have no tides…maybe there’s a post in that!)

  • Julie Roads says:

    Cari – I love that. Are you sure there no tides on the Great Lakes. Being from St. Louis and all, I remember the first time I stood on a ‘beach’ on the shore of Lake Superior. There were very big waves and I thought it was the ocean…

    (and yes, there’s a post in that…there’s a post in everything).

  • Debbie Phillips says:

    Great piece, Julie!!
    Not a woman I know who can’t relate.

    Thanks for your courage to say what is.
    Soooo freeing for everybody!
    Love and hugs to you. xox

  • Julie, amazing writing! I felt every word of it! Thank you for putting yourself out there! I had a weekend like this! Thanks for validating that we’re not alone. We all get them. We rise from them. We learn from them. Thank you for being open and making yours a teaching and relating moment! Now, lets eat PIE!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Oh, Melissa. I’m so glad this post touched you…your feedback means so much to me. And, I’m really hungry – that pie, figuratively and literally, sounds divine.

  • Andi says:

    I am of the philosophy that EVERYTHING happens for a reason, even the bad stuff. And we can’t know why at the time, but its reasons will come to us eventually. Being wired for positiveness will allow you to get out of it faster and use it like you have to make a lesson out of it and to help and inspire others – which you DO.

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