What Can You Do When Your Life Is Stuck?

June 3, 2009

Is your life stuck? Do you find it difficult to move forward, because you’re too busy looking back?

I get quite a few messages from people who are going through bad times, like this one from Sid: (name changed to protect identity)

I feel pretty bad at the moment. In just a few weeks I’m going to be 37 and I’ve achieved nothing.

On leaving school I trained in one of the lowest paid trades around, also one I didn’t really want to do. Over the years I’ve tried to retrain but never seem to quite make it.

Now I still work in the trade I’ve never really wanted to do, due to depression I only work about 1 day a week and my girlfriend has to pay my way.

Yet another effort to move into a new profession has crashed and burnt along with all the money I put into the course.

Yes I do feel sorry for myself, but I clearly haven’t reached rock bottom yet as all I feel like doing is curling up in a dark corner.

I’ve read Robbins and other self help gurus but it all just runs off of me.

Sad huh? But I’m betting Sid’s not the first person to feel this way. So how can he unstick his life?

He Needs To Get Over The “Too Late” Crap

Have you ever had the feeling that things have got so bad that it’s too late to change your life? I’ve definitely been there. Something really bad happened to me and I missed a huge part of my twenties due to illness. And a lot of the time, I thought it wasn’t even worth getting well again, as it was too late to achieve anything meaningful. But that’s stupid thinking, that gets you nowhere.

Now Sid is only 37 and he feels as though he’s achieved nothing. He might be right, it could be too late – but only if he plans to die before he hits 38. And he’s got to forget about those first 37 years, cos he can’t change them.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking into the past at bad times, missed opportunities, wasted time, or whatever, when you really should be looking at what you want to do right now.

Your life is only over if you start banging the nails into your own coffin. And your experiences, no matter how bad, will always come in useful later on.

As for age – if you manage to hang round until 2035, some scientists reckon you’ll probably live well into your eighties. And some are even saying that physical immortality is possible.

Whose Life Are You Living Anyway?

Sid mentions that he trained in a low paid trade and one that he didn’t even want to do. And that’s something he can change.

Too many people do jobs that suck, for silly reasons, such as pleasing other folk. And a few decades ago, many of them would have stayed in the same crappy job, until they dropped dead or retired. But the world is changing – there is no “job for life” anymore and even if there was, you wouldn’t look like a failure, if you didn’t stay in it.

So Sid needs to forget about what other folk want him to do, or what might seem like a safe, respectable trade and think about what he wants to do.

You Don’t Have To Live With Depression

Sid says he’s only working one day a week due to depression. And the depression is something he needs to fix, before he can achieve his other goals. Nobody needs to live with depression forever. Like any other illness it can be fixed, through prescribed drugs, counselling, or whatever it takes.

I’ve found light therapy wonderful for fixing depression and it doesn’t have the horrid side-effects of many antidepressants.

Maybe a lightbox would help Sid too – but the important thing is that he gets help, so he can unstick his life.

Have you ever felt like your life was stuck? What advice would you give Sid?

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25 Responses to “What Can You Do When Your Life Is Stuck?”

  1. Davina on June 3rd, 2009 11:08 am

    Hi Cath. “Have I ever felt like my life was stuck?” Yes, many times. What advice would I give Sid? None. Realistically, I know nothing about Sid and how “depressed” he actually is. Plus, I have learned that until a person is ready to listen and WANTS to make a change, they will not absorb any advice — guru or no guru.

    From what you’ve written, it sounds like he’s pretty intent on finding that rock bottom he mentions. I would curiously ask him what advice he would give someone like himself. I would ask him to tell his “story” a number of times until he was sick of hearing it. He sounds like he needs to get “pissed off”. Then, he needs to ask himself what he REALLY wants. What is he denying himself?

    I hope he is getting the help he needs, and comes to believe that change is but one step away.

    Davina’s last blog post..Mindful Melancholy

  2. Betsy Wuebker on June 3rd, 2009 11:16 am

    Hi Cath – We’ve missed you around these here parts. I’m with Davina on this one. I’ve been stuck and depressed major-ly and minor-ly over the years. The most major episode I liken to crawling around in the murky bottom of the lake, only to look up and see the light at the surface. It’s been there all along, but you have to look up and then you have to push off and swim up. Only you can decide to make that move.

    I do feel physical activity can spur a mental change. Even taking a walk and getting yourself out of the house can be a lift. Doing it every day can be a game-changer. Sometimes you can’t change circumstances, but you can always change your reaction and assessment. Somewhere in all of that will be an answer and the beginning of the plan. This post was helpful to me and the stuckiness in my own self. Thanks.

    Betsy Wuebker’s last blog post..ABOUT OUR LOONS AND THEIR PONTOON

  3. cathlawson on June 3rd, 2009 3:51 pm

    Hi Davina – that’s a good point, Sid did mention that he hasn’t actually hit rock bottom yet. As you say – if he keeps telling himself his story, it may drive him to wanting to make a change.

    Hi Betsy – thank you. Hopefully I’ll be around more for the rest of the year :) And I’m glad it helped. I completely agree on the physical activity thing. If Sid can motivate himself to get out and do something regularly, it may help.

  4. Vered - MomGrind on June 3rd, 2009 3:54 pm

    I agree that feeling “it’s too late” is a big mistake. It’s never too late, and making a career change in your thirties isn’t even such a big deal. Lots of people do it. I remember reading about a successful author who wrote her first book when she was in her sixties.

    Vered – MomGrind’s last blog post..Bizarre Vintage Ads

  5. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on June 3rd, 2009 8:34 pm

    I’m with Davina and Betsy – it reads like Sid is not quite ready to make the change. He’s trying but he’s letting his negativity get in this way – If it weren’t for the depression, the suggestion I’d make for him would be to push the negativity as far as he possibly can, take it to an extreme and really paint the world black and then look for little ways to move away from the darkness.

    Of course, the depression complicates it and I wouldn’t want him to do this sort of exercise without a fully trained professional assisting him.

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome’s last blog post..Stop Saying “Someday” to Your Writing

  6. Natural on June 3rd, 2009 11:25 pm

    i heard a really good interview yesterday with christopher gardner. he’s the author of Start Where You Are. his life was made into a movie, the pursuit of happyness.

    we can’t look back too much and live in the past, we have to start right where we are now.

    we have to find something we are passionate about – as mentioned in the interview i heard, that as soon as we wake up in the morning we can’t wait to do it.

    Natural’s last blog post..My Bad

  7. Marelisa on June 4th, 2009 1:05 am

    Start meditating, exercise, stop making excuses (37 is not even remotely old), start writing a gratitude list every night, and start moving forward in tiny steps (they’ll soon add up).

    Marelisa’s last blog post..29 Ways to Suck Out the Marrow of Life

  8. Blogger Make Money on June 4th, 2009 2:28 am

    When my life is stuck, I’m going sleep and when I woke up I will take a deep breath and start blogging.

    Blogger Make Money’s last blog post..How to Make Real Money Online

  9. Kathy | Virtual Impax on June 4th, 2009 12:34 pm

    One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m always “down” right before I make a really incredible breakthrough.

    I really didn’t recognize this “pattern” until a really observant friend pointed it out to me. I was feeling “stuck” – down- depressed and was “wallowing” – and he said – “Kathy! You ALWAYS get like this as you’re working through the muck. ”

    Sure enough – I had a breakthrough in my business shortly thereafter.

    When I’m working on solving a BIG problem or creating a new direction for my business – I get in those “funks”. (Problem ith blogging now as I make those transitions – it’s transparent!!!) However, now that I recognize the pattern – it makes “riding” it out a LOT easier.

    Hope that’s what happening with “Sid”… maybe he’s on the brink of discovering the missing piece he needs to create a really BRIGHT future.

    If anyone can provide that – it would be YOU!.

    Kathy | Virtual Impax’s last blog post..A Not-So-Secret Business Success Formula

  10. Dot on June 4th, 2009 1:41 pm

    “While there’s life, there’s hope.” This saying used to sound hokey to me, but as I’ve aged, I’ve realized how true it is. From my perspective (age 62), 37 is youth, full of life. Yet when you’re deeply depressed, as I’ve been, too, the words sound empty.

    If “Sid says he’s only working one day a week due to depression…” then he’s clinically depressed, and he needs to get treatment from a qualified professional right away. Clinical depression is a serious illness and not something a person can usually get out of by themselves or with coaching and a positive attitude. Sid might want to look up “llicensed psychologists” or psychiatrists in his local area if he doesn’t already have one.

    The information on light therapy is very interesting, Cath, and I’m giong to look into that more. I’m not sure it would be enough to reverse clinical depression, but it might be of help to me in addition to the drugs I have to be on because of a chemical imbalance.

    Dot’s last blog post..Creating a Household Notebook

  11. cathlawson on June 4th, 2009 3:18 pm

    Hi Vered – I was thinking of you when I wrote this because you made a massive career change and you’re around Sid’s age.

    Hi Alex – That sounds like a pretty good technique. As you say, Sid needs to get help for his depression first though.

    Hi Valerie – It sounds like a great book. I’ll definitely be checking it out, as I loved The Pursuit of Happiness.

    Hi Mare – I love your gratitude list idea. And meditation can help people achieve amazing results.

    Hi Kathy – I’ve heard a lot of people say that. And imagine if you gave up, just before you made that breakthrough.

    Hi Dot – It does sound like Sid is truly depressed doesn’t it, as opposed to feeling a bit down.

    The light therapy is awesome. And you’d be surprised how effective it is compared to drugs. I really thought I’d have to go back on the drugs but the side effects are horrid, so the light therapy was a last resort.

    You know, in some ways it works better than the drugs. The drug I had makes your body use the limited seratonin it has more efficiently, whereas the lightbox makes you produce more.

    I’ve only been using it for a short while but I’m really impressed so far. Here’s the one I use: http://www.britebox.co.uk

  12. Robin on June 5th, 2009 12:06 pm

    Hi Cath – I think I used to feel like Sid in my early 30s – I had been a school teacher but wanted to be a musician but felt it was too late and was depressed. It made a difference to me finding out about our limitless possibilities for living – but I think I wanted to change, or I wouldn’t have found out about it (at the time I was searching frantically in feminist literature for understanding).

    It’s possible Sid doesn’t really want to change – people like that will say nothing works for them, but really they feel safe the way they are. (Cath – I am at Mum’s in the country and I am trying not to do any blogging, but I thought I’d peek and see if you had done a post – and I found a link! – thanks) – R

    Robin’s last blog post..Sondra Ray – Rebirthing And Physical Immortality

  13. Laurie | Express Yourself to Success on June 5th, 2009 12:09 pm

    When I get stuck, I start cleaning and organizing – and sometimes I really have to force myself to do it. I don’t mean clean out the cutlery drawer. I mean clean up and throw out boxes of stuff that I’ve held on to for far too long that keeps me attached to long-gone situations and unhelpful memories. Sometimes it takes me days to do. It helps me clear out my mind and the action gives me something to do with a positive, freedom-feeling result.

    Laurie | Express Yourself to Success’s last blog post..Body Language Communicates

  14. Sid on June 5th, 2009 12:12 pm

    Readers might not believe this but I am ‘Sid’

    I’m completely blown away that the post I wrote back in February has been read and heard.

    I suppose this really shows the power of the internet – it’s incredible that people from all over the world have seen and remarked on how I felt.

    At that time things seemed pretty bleak to me. Each night I wasn’t sleeping and I felt I didn’t know how to move on.

    The night I wrote that post was the first time I found this site – Thank you Cath and all the people who have taken the time to contribute, I can honestly say that it’s been so much help to me.

    Things have improved over the last few months. Firstly even though I didn’t finish the course I was taking to retrain, I did manage to get my fee’s back due to problems with the way the course had been run. This has meant that for the first time in around 2 years I have escaped from my overdraft.

    Due to posts on this site (The Silva System) and someone mentioned Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’ , I’m starting (once again) to read self help/inspirational books. Recently I’ve read ‘The Field’ by Lynne McTaggart. This book really ties in strongly with the Law of Attraction theory, but from a solely scientific view point. If skeptics of the power of Law of Attraction or Human interaction with the universe need more of a scientific slant on things this just might be the book to read.

    As I mentioned in my post I was due to be 37, this happened in April. I knew I needed to make changes so the first one I made was to give up drinking alcohol. I have felt much much better since doing so. I never drank a lot (3 glasses of wine a night) but that did seem enough to change the way I felt, and not for the better.

    Besty suggested physical exercise, this is indeed something I have just started to do. I’m only a couple of weeks in, but it’s nice to feel my blood starting to pump round my system.

    Marelisa spoke of meditating, I’m just starting to do this. I realise that I’ve stored up a lot of negative crap over my life and I need to lets go of it.

    Looking back at my first post I feel kind of ashamed to feel like that. I live in an extremely safe part of the world, where I enjoy complete freedom of choice as to how I live. What have I really got to complain about?

    I think the main thing I’ve struggled with is my fear of living, most people are scared to die – me included, but I’m often scared to live. I’m not sure why this is? I even find it slightly scary that my February post has been read and taken notice of.

    Is it odd that I should be scared to make an impact on the world around me?

    I think I’m going to stop writing now, sorry if I’ve gone on too long.

    I hope what I’ve written has make some sense.

    Thank you all again for taking notice of me, I can’t really believe it!

    I would leave my real name but I not quite really for that.

    I am real though and it was me who made that post back in Feb.

    The email I left for Cath is real.

  15. Patricia on June 5th, 2009 5:14 pm

    I really liked your post Cath and all the comments are very good too! Especially Sid’s.
    I will just throw in this little story I heard the other day – we have a counselor in town who asks folks like Sid to go for a walk with him or run for a couple of weeks at odd specific times and if they follow through with that exercise he will take them on as a client and coach them to some small success. I thought there was some wisdom in this practice.

    One of the important lessons to be learned at ages 15-19 is depression and how to use that emotion to your advantage and how to relieve it. It is truly about anger with one’s self and it is directed inward. It is a vital emotion for our overall well being and long life that we learn to use it to our become our best.

    A person who is in some kind of emotional messy situation (bullying,parents dysfunction, drugs, alcohol, gangs, video games,etc.) often avoid learning these lessons and then feels something is wrong if they need help or they have to learn the lessons latter in life.

    Depression is such a powerful emotion because it teaches us so much about how we change and grow…one step everyday towards becoming better and better as a person.

    Patricia’s last blog post..How We Met Entry #3

  16. cathlawson on June 6th, 2009 6:57 am

    Hi Robin – Hope you’re having a nice time at your mum’s.

    That is interesting that even you felt that it was toolate at one point. I wonder if you had to feel that way, in order to go out and learn more about physical immortality.

    Hi Laurie – It is weird how getting rid of physical clutter also seems to clear our mind but it really does seem to work.

    Hi Sid :) I hope you didn’t mind me doing this and thanks for coming back. And please don’t be scared that you found your post on here. I haven’t been writing on here much this year, or I’d have included it early.

    I didn’t want to respond in the comments section and I figured that if you didn’t read the post, doing it this way would help others in the same situation.

    It sounds like you’re moving in the right direction now. And I don’t think your fear of living is weird. I’m guessing a lot of people feel like that to some extent.

    I don’t know how much of “Think & Grow Rich” you’ve read so far but according to Hill it seems like some type of fear holds a lot of people back – especially fear of dying or ill health.

    And I guess you can overcome those fears to a point but I’m betting it would be tough to reach a point where you didn’t fear anything at all.

    Are you still depressed Sid? Have you tried getting help for your depression?

    Hi Patricia – That is a good way to discover whether a potential client is committed enough I guess.

    Only thing I’m going to disagree on is that depression is an emotion :) Maybe it is in some cases but many people suffer depression because of a chemical change in the brain.

  17. Kim Woodbridge on June 6th, 2009 10:39 pm

    When you are depressed and everything is going wrong it’s hard to see that it will ever be any different. I felt this way at the beginning of 2008 when my marriage fell apart. I was going to be 40 and I thought “that’s it – my life is done”. But through focusing my energy on my website and through the support of my online friends, I got through it. And now everything has changed – happy being single, leaving my job and freelancing full time … Of course, back when things were so dark if someone had told me what the next year would bring I wouldn’t have believed it and I would have continued being miserable.

    I don’t know what sort of advice to offer – you can get help for depression and you can talk to yourself in a more positive way.

    Kim Woodbridge’s last blog post..How to Create a Custom Facebook Fan Page

  18. Sid on June 7th, 2009 2:24 am

    HI Cath,

    You asked if I’m still depressed? Well things have improved over the last month or so but I’m not out of the woods yet. I know that it wouldn’t take much to pull me back.

    As for getting help, Id rather work through it on my own. I’ve been for counselling twice in my life. Once in my mid 20′s and again 3 or 4 years later. I understand that many people have found therapy a great help but, I didn’t really. I never really trusted the therapist.

    You mentioned Light therapy. Up until a few weeks ago I had gotten to the point where I was no longer opening the blinds in the day – shutting the world on and me in. I’ve now started to make sure I pull the blinds each morning and open the windows. Getting the light back into my home has made a me feel much better. Light therapy really sounds like something I should look into. I wouldn’t want to take any kind of drugs so this seems like something which might work for me.

    I don’t feel my depression is down to any sort of chemical change, I think it just might be a learnt behavior. I agree with Kim – Time is a great healer with many situations in life. Add to that techniques like ‘ focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t’ I hope I can turn my life around and start to feel proud of myself. And proud that I’ve lived my life well.

    This site, it’s contributors and yourself Cath have been a great help to me. Thank you all so much.

  19. Patricia on June 7th, 2009 2:56 am

    I believe that all emotions are just chemical reactions in the brain…some get too much or go to a wrong pathway and those need to be retrained or were not trained in the first place…
    Just my feeling! Trying to teach a child with a lesion in the brain over long term memory – taught me so very much…when I came to this concept, I started making progress even with myself FYI

    Patricia’s last blog post..How We Met Entry #3

  20. Jason Cohen on June 7th, 2009 2:10 pm

    The only thing you know for certain is that if you don’t change something, things won’t improve.

    So change anything. Why not?

    If they improve, great.

    If they get worse, perhaps you’ll hit the “rock bottom” that you appear to be seeking, which you believe will be the trigger for real improvement.

    Even if they stay the same, your loved ones will appreciate that you’re trying to do something.

    Jason Cohen’s last blog post..Audio Interlude

  21. Steve Errey - The Confidence Guy on June 7th, 2009 3:35 pm

    Right now I am stuck – and it’s not something I’m jumping up and down thrilled about.

    I’m sick as a dog and so can’t be going about the things that I want to be doing, even down to planning what comes after I get better. It’s frustrating, but I haven’t got the energy to be frustrated :P

    I know it’s temporary and I know I’ll be back on top form at some point, and for now that has to be enough. To help get unstuck I’m doing whatever I can to accelerate that process (eating healthily, not drinking acohol, resting, etc) and that’s where my focus is – anything else other than getting unstuck is secondary.

    Steve Errey – The Confidence Guy’s last blog post..Taking a Break

  22. Cath Lawson on June 8th, 2009 9:54 am

    Hi Patricia – That’s an interesting theory. It bugs me that it’s only the pharmaceutical companies who can afford to research these things properly. And they want us to spend money on drugs to alleviate symptoms – not to get well. It sucks.

    Hi Mike – That is so true. To solve any problem- you’ve got to find what works for you. And what works is never going to be the same for everyone.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..What Can You Do When Your Life Is Stuck?

  23. Avani on June 8th, 2009 3:58 pm

    I believe whatever it is that we regret today are going to be same things we will regret 10 years later wishing we started doing them when the regret begun 10 years back. From hindsight it will truly seem like it’s never too late. So better start now.

    Avani’s last blog post..Following My Heart

  24. wilhb81 on June 8th, 2009 4:03 pm

    Honestly, Cath. That guy who named ‘Sid’ had to jump out from the “Misery’s hole” as soon as possible. I admitted that it’s very hard to make the first move, but everything will be alright soon after it…

    wilhb81′s last blog post..Business one-liners 54

  25. Ian Denny on June 10th, 2009 6:25 pm

    “What’s the worst that could happen?”

    That may sound like a throw-away comment, but whatever you do in life, when you ask that question of yourself consider the answer.

    Are you absolutely certain the sky will fall down?

    When you consider the consequences of any action you take to change your life for the better, I strongly believe people over-analyse.

    And then delay action for too long. And I’m as guilty as anyone.

    But the older I get, and when I look back on the successes and failures, none of those failure had the dire consequences I expected.

    And believe me I’ve had HUGE failures.

    I went bust once. Started up again and everything was going brilliantly. And for a while we were bucking the credit crunch. One side of the business was up 40% BECAUSE of the crunch. But the other side of the business fell off a cliff edge – down 95%.

    Second company went bust.

    This time round, I’ve completely changed career. Was it easy changing? Absolutely not. I felt like curling up in a ball.

    And when I asked myself – “what’s the worst that could happen?”, I faced the answer.

    It was potential bankruptcy (after having avoided it last time around)

    It was loss of the family home

    It was insufficient finance to get a new business off the ground

    And a dozen other things I could bore you with.

    Needless to say, the sky hasn’t fallen. None of what I expected has happened – although there’s still a chance some bad things might happen.

    But having overcome the initial barrier to my “third time lucky” venture, it’s showing great promise. I have a new income. It;s something I’m really enjoying.

    There is hope…

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..How You Can Boost Sales Without The Hype

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