When Everything Falls Apart

This is a guest post by Petteri Ollila, @PetteriOllila.

Have you experienced the moment when everything in your life seems to be going well and then, suddenly, something unexpected happens and it feels like there is no hope and nothing is ever going to be the same again?

Like when you find out that you have cancer, or one of your parents has died in a car accident or you lose your job.

Those incidents are usually very shocking and force us to adjust to the new situation quickly, but sometimes everything can also fall apart slowly, like when you work for a company for a long time and get a little bit more frustrated year by year, and start to think about different options in your life.

The feeling can be awkward, especially if everything seems to be going well externally, but you just don’t feel good inside. There is only hollow feeling and emptiness left in you, even though some years ago you were full of energy and motivation, and you were able to achieve many things.

I have had that feeling many times in my life. You are definitely not alone.

It can be very frustrating when you know that something has to be done, but you have no idea what it should be. All you know is that something is terribly wrong in your life.

The Peaks and Valleys of Life

Life is filled with peaks and valleys. Often everything goes well and those are the peaks of our lives, whereas sometimes nothing seems to work and we are in the valleys of our lives. The most comforting thing is that it is often in the valley that we discover the light – not the peak as you might suspect.

I was walking along the coast of Helsinki a couple of days ago and I saw this tree on a hill when the sun was setting:

The tree didn’t have any leaves on the branches even though it is almost midsummer in Finland, while everything else around the tree looked green and fresh. It made me think about how difficult it would be to appreciate the summer if there would be no winter, and how we would get too used to the beauty of green leaves on trees, if they never fell off.

It is really difficult to make any drastic changes in our lives when everything seems to be going well and there are still leaves in our trees.

If you let confusion, anger and anxiety be, and accept even the worst things in your life, often something great happens.

You find happiness.

Sometimes it can even happen overnight, when you realize all the new possibilities in your life that have opened up when everything went to pieces and you had nothing to hold on to. Maybe it forced you to think about what you really love to do in your life and made you realize that the things you thought were important in your life, actually might have been someone else’s dreams.

The deepest valleys in our lives often help us to find answers to the following questions:

  • If I didn’t have to work for money, what would I do?
  • If I had only one year left in my life, what would I do?
  • Who are the people that are really important for me in my life?

It is the pain that helps us to stop and find a new direction, so let’s be grateful for it. When you are having the worst time of your life and feel that there is no hope, take a deep breath, let all the feelings come to the surface, and remember that the most beautiful spring of your life is probably just around the corner.

Petteri Ollila is a happiness hunter, trying to find the holy grail of long-term happiness at his blog Happiness Hunters. If you want to learn how to feel good, you will love his new free e-book “The Guide to Happiness: 9 Effective Steps to Improve Your Mood Permanently”.



Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner


The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”

And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.

Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.

If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.

Running For My Life -from zero to ultramarathoner

Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I'm blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You're invited, by the way.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Great article.

    What touched me most was this sentence of yours: “The most comforting thing is that it is often in the valley that we discover the light – not the peak as you might suspect.”

  2. I love that quote about the deepest valleys. It’s so true how hitting rock bottom is often the very thing that allows us to reach our full potential. I was listening to a Wayne Dyer tape just yesterday where he said “Successful people always see things working out.” Even in our worst of times if we can hold the belief that things will work out then I think we can really reach our full potential

  3. Petteri, thank you, this is a great article. I always ask people to think about what they would do if they had 6 months of perfect health, and then would drop dead at the end. I’m glad to see others using the same idea.

    These types of questions make us consider the values we hold, not just the actions we take. I also like to ask, “What would you do if you knew there was no way for you to fail?”

    Again, thanks for the post!

  4. Beautiful article! I”m so glad you are bringing our attention to simply accepting the valleys and not pushing them away. I so much agree that suffering is often the impetus to move us deeper into true selves, while stirring us to open our hearts more fully to the struggles and sorrows of others as well. This makes for a better you and for a better world!

  5. wow, that was a melancholic post

    Yeah, it’s sometimes hard to accept the ups and downs of life. We always want to have the mountains of life, but a mountain is nothing without a valley. I have found happiness through accepting things as they are, not as they should be. A daily smile. Just looking.

  6. Ironic, I posted this quote I came up with on my FB page yesterday:

    “I don’t sulk about setbacks because I know I’m doing what I love and what I love is much bigger than any stuff that may pop up while doing it.”

    It’s at times the moments of pain that move us away or towards this “place of love.” Sometimes it takes surrendering to it. Sometimes it requires embracing the anger you hold.

    I’ve seemed to require going through the lows to appreciate the highs. Here is where we (i) find (my) our Karma. One can’t be with out the other. We’d not know what the dark was without the light and we’d not appreciate the light without the dark.

    Don’t want what you don’t want. It’s being beautifully human when we experience these moments where we’re in pain or unclear and it’s exactly where we supposed to be in order to walk into our awareness.

    Be open and surrender.

    Great post that lights the embers of purposely moving into that light.

  7. Petteri,
    So clearly and finely written. Thank you. I read along and felt along and answering those questions helps reaffirm some of my thoughts about the recent discoveries of what is really most important. Perspective is a beautiful thing and lonesome trees will blossom sooner or later too. Thank you!

  8. Wow Petteri,

    I seriously enjoyed your post. Very fine writing, you obviously have a knack for writing.

    I really enjoyed your tree metaphor, and I agree, life is full of moments that will spring up at you when we all least expect it. And it’s those moments that will either make us, or break us.

    Good stuff!

    –Parker

  9. Thank you all!

    There are many good points in the comments and I don’t think I have much more to add. Understanding that we are not going to live here forever, and that no one knows when it is your time to leave, helps to appreciate even the smallest things in life and makes it easier to follow one’s passions without caring about other people’s opinions.

  10. i am actually going through a very difficult phase right now and this article – the only one i read today while searching for some meaningful help online – did provide the support that i was looking ford.

    i may forget reading about it tomorrow, but it will carry me through today, which i doubted many things would, and for that i am very thankful.

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