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From Rock-Bottom to Slowly Turning My Life Around And Finding Happiness

“I can’t begin to explain the depth of hatred I had for myself. I was working 80, sometimes 100 hours a week with overtime and I still couldn’t make it. Why? I had no friends. Why? I had zero prospects of a relationship and felt zero love from anyone. Why? I hated myself.”

Hello! Who are you?

Alright, let’s start this off with a bit of an introduction. My name is Brandon, I’m 36 years old. God that feels ancient now… I currently live with my wife and my dog near the east coast. I was recently able to buy a house (I have literally no clue how I was able to pull this off, it took forever and I still can’t believe it.) 

I’m going to be real with you, this year has been one of the most difficult years of my life. We bought our house in December of 2022. I was laid off from my job in Feb. of 2023 the week our first mortgage payment was due. I was drowning, had no clue whatsoever how I was going to make it and somehow, it all did.

I got hired at the new company I’m in, making double what I was making previously doing something VERY similar and I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for that.

It took me really digging into what I’m insecure about and a lot of reflection to find what I was truly passionate about and I still jump between hobbies. My most recent fascination has been painting. My perfectionism makes me hate almost every single piece I make but I’ve been told that I’m getting better which is nice and honestly, it’s one of the best ways for me to get past perfectionism and let myself fail.

It doesn’t matter if it looks awesome, it matters that I had fun doing it. I constantly have to tell myself to stop being mean to myself or getting frustrated while I’m doing the thing that’s supposed to make me chill… It’s kind of ironic but it genuinely helps. 

Drawing in general has been something I’ve always found absolutely confounding. I can’t fathom how some artists do what they do. I didn’t understand how someone can take a model and put them on paper so I decided to demystify the process for myself.

I started watching youtube videos and ran face-first into figure drawing. I started with circles and cylinders. I spent a few hundred hours trying to understand anatomy and still have no clue what I’m doing. Initially, I saw little to no progress… and then slowly things started coming into focus and now I draw daily. It’s my zen time.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I constantly struggle with ADHD and anxiety, far less so these days. Emetophobia and depression were my worst enemies back in the day. Currently, it’s a struggle with imposter syndrome. I constantly feel like an idiot and I don’t know anything but I regularly get recognized for good work… because I’m so used to working 80 to 100 hours that doing what I do now feels like a vacation.

The peak of my struggle was when I was 24-26. I had enough of a really bad situation and decided to move out despite my family insisting it was my responsibility to keep my mom from getting evicted from HER house by putting myself further in debt. There were a number of other colorful conversations before I got sick of the hoarder situation and bailed. 

I was working two full-time jobs to stay in my single-room townhouse in Missouri. 7-4 pm I was in a warehouse getting boxes and running papers to shred and 10p-6 am I was working in a gas station trying not to pass the hell out. It was an absolute nightmare.

I couldn’t pay my bills, the money just wasn’t there. I could barely sleep because of the timing. I couldn’t see friends, not that I had any at the time. I had zero hobbies because all I could do was try to survive.

I was consistently falling asleep at one job or another. The lack of money got to the point where I had to eat a ranch dressing packet and hot cocoa for dinner because they were free at my morning job. It was hell on my body, but I’d be damned if I was going to walk back to my family’s house. I was going to do it alone if I had to die for it.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

At my worst, I had a decision to make. I was alone in the townhouse in a bathtub debating whether or not I wanted to live anymore. There was no happiness in my life. There was no light. I hid everything from everyone. Nobody could have seen me struggle because I was too busy working to show anything.

I can’t begin to explain the depth of hatred I had for myself. I was working 80, sometimes 100 hours a week with overtime and I still couldn’t make it. Why? I had no friends. Why? I had zero prospects of a relationship and felt zero love from anyone. Why?

I hated myself.

I hated myself and I hated my situation. Something had to change. It was going to be my life either ending or changing. I chose to change.

I can say with all confidence that had I not gone through the shit I’ve been through, I wouldn’t be the man I am today, and I like me quite a bit.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

After my decision to keep living, I had to reacquaint myself with being uncomfortable. I started looking into how to be happy and really thinking about the things that made me miserable and how I could change them or even if I COULD change them. 

Things started to change for me when I turned 27. I had therapy in my teens because of some behavior shit I was going through, ADHD related and I was an active kid. I remembered during a session my therapist tried to get young me to journal. I wasn’t having any of it. It was pointless at that moment. Why would I want to write shit down? I’m literally living my life, why write about it? I started journaling at 27.

I realized that I was an absolute bastard to myself. I had internalized dialogue that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemies. I consistently thought I was worthless because I associated how much money I made with my worth as a person, but that has since stopped.

I constantly compared myself to all of the vacation-taking, wealthy parents having friends I had grown up with. I stopped that by actively monitoring my thoughts and journaling when I was in mid-depression / anxiety.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I found that all I could write about my life was negative things. There was no positive. I reread my journal to see what it was about life that I hated the most during my worst episodes. I had no time to myself.

During my longest work hours, on breaks and stuff, I started reading again. It was something I did as a kid and it was the only thing that brought me happiness when I was in school. If I hated my life, I may as well live someone else’s right? If I had nothing that I could write that was good about my life, I forced myself to start reading and writing down things that I liked about the characters in the books.

I forced myself to write positive things even if the negative column was so much larger because if I didn’t see some good in living, I was going to choose not to and I wanted to live damn it. It was around December 2013 that I found the book “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson.

That book saved my life. 

It was the first time I had read anything about another individual having the blackest of depression. It was the first time any form of media broached the topic of just ending it. It was the first time I realized that I could give it one more shot to make my life something worth living.

I listed the things I hated about myself that I wanted to change:

  1. I can’t afford to live.
  2. I have no friends.
  3. I will never be in a relationship.
  4. I hate my body.

Those four things were what I had to change in order to become who I wanted to be. I looked up how to escape generational poverty. My family had been taking out payday loans since I was a toddler. It was the only thing I knew. I didn’t understand life without it because I was stuck in a trap of overconsumption.

I stopped spending money. Everything. Hard stop. I spent nothing unless it was a bill and I paid extra towards loans. It took me a year to finally be able to breathe. I did hundreds of hours of overtime and I finally escaped the worst fiscal situation I will ever be in.

I didn’t have any friends because I wasn’t able to take the time to go see them. Everything was dedicated to work to afford all of the shiny new bullshit keeping me trapped in two jobs. After I paid off my loans… I don’t have to do 20 or 30 hours of overtime now… What should I do? How about I call up some of my old friends and see what they’re doing? They’re all married with kids now and in different states? Alright. Time for new ones. But how?

With my extra time, I joined a non-competitive volleyball league I found on Craigslist of all places. When I say non-competitive… I mean I don’t know why we bothered calling it a volleyball league. There was a dude that would regularly bring a wooden sword, unironically, onto the court and swing at the ball. Everyone laughed, it didn’t TRULY matter. We were just there to hang out. I made some okay friends in that group, none that I hang out with now but they were there when I needed ANYONE.

I started researching decent-paying jobs in some of the newly found downtimes and found that basic Excel skills could get you 15 an hour! That was damn near what I was making for TWO jobs! I’m in. I watched God knows how many tutorials. I broke spreadsheets, practiced formulas, and made paintings (true story) in Excel. It didn’t get me a job. But I found a call center that was starting at 12 an hour! Let’s do the thing.

It was a different kind of hell. Customer service might pay pretty decent these days, and it’s a great way to get your foot in the door, but I swear if I ever have to do it again I’ll cry. Hard.

Within a few months, my phone voice got me a “team lead” position. Don’t know what to say?! Send it to Brandon! No title, no promotion, just a transfer and I’ll handle the hard stuff. Did I mention I was making 12 whole dollars an hour?! And I only had to work 40 hours a week to (kind of) make due?! I was in heaven.

During my time at the call center, I finally learned how to do small talk. “How are you doin’ today?” “Livin’ that dream!” The typical office bullshit that works well enough when you kind of have to care, but also works when you need to get through a grocery line without looking like you’ve never touched grass…

Well. My life at that moment was better than it had been in the last 26 years. Things were looking up and I finally had a bit of confidence. I never thought I’d be in a relationship. She’ll definitely say no right? May as well shoot my shot.

“Hey so… I have noticed you around and I was wondering if you’d like to go on a date. I’m not looking to hang out, I’ve got enough friends, I’m looking for a relationship. Are you interested?”

I met my wife in a call center. 

Our first date was Straight Outta Compton and Buffalo Wild Wings. I know, it doesn’t get much more classy right?

We moved in together a year later. We’re still together and I love her more every single day of my life.

Oh right! The Excel thing! Remember when I was practicing those formulas? My buddy just got a new job at a small software company… I wonder what it would take to get a job there… You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I called my buddy. I handed him my resume and he passed it off to his team lead and I got an interview. The test? Excel formulas with Call Center experience as a skill that was mandatory.

14.65 per hour. I will literally burn the world down to get this job. I stress about it over and over. I took the test. I was positive I bombed it. I got a job offer 2 weeks later with the best (only) insurance I’ve ever had, PTO, and holidays off? What the hell is a holiday?

I continued to study Excel and got about 2 years of experience under my belt. I started to study SQL. It’s basically Excel but in sentence form and a bit more wordy because why not. It can’t hurt right? I started applying for other jobs. A recruiter reached out to me.

“If you can get me 45k a year, I will walk out of this job today. I know SQL, I know how to use Excel and I know my way around a computer.”

“We’ll submit you for a job here shortly and reach back out.”

There’s no way in hell this is gonna happen. I got a call the next day. 

“They’re willing to go at 21 an hour, is that okay?” 

I put in my two weeks that day. From there on, I was finally able to breathe. I stayed at my next job for 5 years learning more SQL and business practices. From there, I learned a little PowerBI and somehow got myself into a Junior BI developer role. 34.50 an hour. I almost fainted and I ugly cried for HOURS. 

That was the job that laid me off after we bought our house.

Feb 23rd, 2023. I am called into a meeting with HR and my VP. They read a script and I ugly cry about the economy being horrible and because of fiscal downturns (our company was one of the ones that relied on “whales” [people with millions that park it in high-yield bank accounts] to keep their money in the bank even if the fed raised rates elsewhere. Guess what? They didn’t.

Guess who had been applying to jobs because they saw it coming. *This guy*. Never stop looking to improve your situation and yourself. I was hired after a month of being unemployed making more than I ever have.

If I had decided not to take my next steps… If I had decided that life wasn’t worth living and that I was incapable of change… I would be on the ground. I never would have met my wonderful wife. I never would have gotten to experience the highs and lows of learning and specializing in skills. I never would have gotten my beautiful pup and I never would have been able to see Japan, one of my two life goals.

It took being dragged through shit for a lot of years to cement in my mind now that I am one of the luckiest men alive. The only reason I am where I am is because I made a decision to try to change my world and it came with some REALLY hard lessons.

I think the only thing I didn’t address was I hate my body… I’m still a fatass. I just kinda embrace it now because unfortunately, I haven’t wrapped my mind around the effort being worth the return. That is changing currently as we are walking at least 3 times a week with the dog and my diet has changed drastically. Small steps and a little time. Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination

You deserve happiness too.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I try to share my struggles with people that want and are ready for change. I’m not trying to ram my story down peoples’ throats. The hardest part about all of this is knowing WHEN to share it. Someone might want to change, but not truly be ready. That is actually an okay thing.

Sometimes the timing just isn’t right. If you’re really ready to change your life and dedicate the time and effort (yes it sucks ass during the hard times but it gets easier) then by all means, let my story motivate you.

You, the reader, are completely capable of changing your life. It’s really about being able and willing to put in the work and a tiny bit of luck that will change your life.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

The person you are is dictated by what you do after you hit rock bottom. My rock bottom was sobbing in a bathtub with 2 choices sitting with me. One was loaded, the other was a drastic change. I chose to live that day and I hope everyone out there does as well. We all deserve happiness.

Everybody fails. Sometimes it’s more visible than other times. Forgive yourself for being human, and allow yourself to move on. You deserve peace.

If you struggle with beating yourself up about EVERYTHING as I do, start talking to yourself like you’re a stranger. Better yet, ask yourself if what you’re saying to yourself is something you’d say to someone you love. I bet it isn’t and I bet you deserve to be treated better than you treat yourself.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination. 

Where can we go to learn more about you?

I don’t really do social media if I’m being real. I’m on Reddit but it’s used primarily for nefarious purposes and yeah… Social media sucks. Avoid Facebook and Twitter like the plague. TikTok is just as bad and is designed to be addictive and distracting. Find comfort in silence with yourself, it’s a better investment.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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