Fear and Strength (How I Found Success After Losing Everything)

change the world72

Kindness starts with being kind to yourself. Tell yourself every, single day something good and loving about you. You deserve it.


Suffice it to say that November 2007 – November 2008 was not my year. I’m tenderhearted. I hate conflict. No, really. I H.A.T.E it. But in November, 2007, when my second husband left me, sold our car for cash and defaulted on our house payments, then left the country after “falling in love” with the daughter of a high school friend of mine, my world was turned on its ear. Add to that the fact that I’d just lost my brand, new, exciting job (thanks, recession) and there was a hiring freeze at my previous company (thanks again, recession) and, let’s see, what else? Oh, yes. My sister lost her battle against breast cancer and, in the middle of all of those fun hi jinx, my first husband, an occasionally violent alcoholic who barely functions well enough to hold down his job as a developer at a well-known insurance company, took advantage of my struggles and kidnapped our daughter before working with his attorney in his small, central Illinois town to build a “case,” stating that I was endangering our daughter’s life by residing in the city of Chicago. You haven’t lived until custody of your child, who’s been required to attend a custodial court hearing, is transferred to your ex-partner and that child is pulled from you by having their fingers pried, one-by-one, from your arm as she’s sobbing, “Mama, no! Please don’t make me go live with him! Please, Mama! Please, no!”

Even though it’s several years behind us, my stomach still twists into horrible knots at the memory. I spent so many days in court that holding down a job was next to impossible. Trying to survive on $500 per month in unemployment insurance was also a stretch. I couldn’t keep up with my rent and I was evicted from my apartment. On the street with two suitcases full of clothes, a handful of photographs and children’s artwork, an ancient laptop, and my dog. I had to leave my cats behind because nobody would take them in. I, a writer, can’t dredge up the words to describe how frightened I was, standing on the streets, choking back sobs so no one would see me cry or know, God forbid, that I was now among the ranks of the homeless.

I wandered around a while, wondering what the hell I was going to do. After the sun went down, my tears flowed freely. Wordlessly, I dragged my suitcases down Division Street, wheels scraping, laptop bag slung over my shoulder, my sweet, faithful dog at my side. As I slowly made my way toward Ashland Avenue, I saw that there were a few coffee shops that offered free wi-fi and made a mental note. I wandered around and let the tears stream down my face. What was I going to do?? I’ll tell you this much: I’ve never felt so scared and alone in my entire life and I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy.

I saw, of course, many other homeless people as I wandered around. I had one, driving goal: what could I do to keep people from knowing I was now homeless, too? I who used to wear Ferragamo stilettos. I who used to live in a five bedroom house on a lake. How could this be? I was afraid to fall asleep so I walked and walked and walked. The next morning, I walked, bleary-eyed, back to one of the coffee shops I’d noticed the night before, tied my dog to a tree, went in, bought a cup of coffee, sat down at an outside bistro table and turned my laptop on (fun fact: there are many active outlets in public places all around the city, if you know where to find them so keeping my computer charged wasn’t too difficult). I logged into Facebook – strange choice, I know; I think I just needed to feel a shred of normalcy in this nightmare – and I saw a letter my lifelong friend, Mia, had written to the recession. A letter to the recession. What?? Yes, she did, and here is what it said:

Dear Recession,

Nothing personal but you suck and I reject you.

Love, Mia


What?? “You can’t write that – the recession is a thing, not a person! And it’s happening to all of us!” I said to her. “I can, I did, and I meant it,” she fired back. “The recession’s only going to ‘happen to you’ if you let it. And I reject that. You can, too, sweetie!” I should note here that Mia, had just launched a business and it seemed to be teeming with success. “Well, huh,” I thought, and I finished my coffee. Slowly, I packed up my laptop, walked to the trash can and threw my cup away, then gathered my things and began walking with my dog. “When will I start smelling sour?” I wondered with a sigh as I looked around, trying once again not to cry. But then I looked up and saw high rises. Lots of them. All occupied. I looked around. I saw families walking down the street pushing babies in strollers. I thought, “hm.” There was a hiring freeze in my field but people were still having babies. And now, more than ever, that meant child care was needed. In that moment, I suddenly decided to become a nanny. My path as a mompreneur suddenly became clear.

I’d like to say the process was smooth. It wasn’t. I had to find someone who didn’t mind dogs who was willing to let me couch surf. And have access to a shower. Thanks to Craigslist (yes, I know, not the preferred method, but desperate times call for drastic measures), it wasn’t long before I was sleeping on a sofa bed while I hunted for nannying gigs. I found a job – it didn’t offer much pay but it was a job and I took it. From there, I worked up to being able to afford partial rent in an apartment with three room mates (we’re friends, to this day). Then, a new job, higher pay and my own apartment…. waaaaaay on the edge of the city but it was mine.

Eventually, month by month, year by year, I moved up in the ranks of professional nannies. I’m now a highly successful nanny certified via the International Nanny Association and the proud co-owner of Sharp Mamas – a thriving baby concierge business that teaches new parents, parents to be, extended family and nannies how to work together to raise children with confidence. We’ve partnered with world-renowned physicians and experts, creating innovative ways to educate new families on a wide variety of subjects. I love being an entrepreneur. I’m proud of my company’s success and I’m very, very proud of the strength I’ve discovered within myself.

I’ve never forgotten how it felt to have absolutely nothing and I never will. It’s a terrible, lonely feeling. And you want desperately for people – someone… anyone!! – to see you and to help you believe it’s going to be okay. I’m glad I had the wherewithal to do what I needed to do. And my heart breaks for those who don’t know how to find their way out of their own dire situations. Maybe I can’t change their circumstances but I remember how it feels to be in their shoes. And I’ll never forget. And so, I can’t save the world but I can – and I always will – do what I can to help anyone, no matter what.

If you’re reading this and life isn’t going well, please, please be encouraged. Whatever it is you’re going through, you’ll get through it. Just keep going and know that, as long as you never, never give up, things WILL get better. Keep going. Keep fighting. Persevere. Find your path to success – it’s out there waiting for you! And I hope you – yes, you… no really. YOU! – know I’m right here rooting for you.




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  • Wow.

  • Kim stole my word.
    Just wow.
    Amazing, amazing piece to read.

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    Rock on, sister. You are one seriously awesome individual. To do what you did in the face of extreme adversity is simply incredible. <3

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    Great stuff Kelley

  • You.Are.Amazing.

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    I so needed to read your story right now are situations our similar & it is so very hard to lose everything. I have never felt so alone, like im on the inside looking out. Story gives me hope.

  • In reply to Angel61:

    Angel61, I'm so sorry to hear of your situation - it is SO very hard but be encouraged and know that it's temporary. The stuff... it's just stuff. It'll always be a part of you and it's difficult to let it go but at the end of the day, it's just stuff. And if you have children, they are ALWAYS a part of you. One day at a time, just step forward and then step forward and then step forward again... you can do it. You'll grow from this in ways you never imagined. And it WILL get better. ♥

  • In reply to Kelley Farrell:

    As my world has crumbled yet again,I read your story for the simple fact I had to hear stories from someone,anyone that has been where I'm at and who felt as scared and alone as I do right now. I'm trying to stay positive and I have faith that God will see me through this yet one more time. Failure is how I'm feeling, desperate and yes, ashamed. I don't wish this on anyone,it's got to get better,I am telling myself this everyday just so I don't throw in the towel. I am trying to look people in the eye again,which is hard when you feel so low. To anyone that is hurting,please hang in there , we will walk this painful journey together and we will believe that we can and we will survive. Thankyou to anyone and everyone that seen something in me,when I don't see it in myself.

  • You are an inspiration and will for sure change one life if not many more.

  • Since I was 16 and could enter the working world I told myself I would work hard and I would be rewarded and recognized for my hard work...... and I did working my way up the corporate ladder. I was humble and respectful and always paid it forw5ard. Since I always have tried to take every challenge in life and turned it into a positive I thought I was blessed to have achieved so much as a women with only some college. I had amazing mentors along the way. I had achieved so much. Me the young girl so ready to learn and grow from all my experiences had made it to V.P of operations. Now at 42 I struggle to understand how to start over and who I am. The companied closed down with very little ønotice. I remember what my young daughter said to me.....now you can be a real mommy and be home with me. WOW here I was devasted about how I would continue to support us as a single mom but my daughter saw it in a different light. We lost our home and all of our things are in a storage pod which i am a step away from losing. I am hopeless for the first time in my life and as a child I remembered what that looked like for my family and I thought my daughter would not experience those same things. I searched on line and typed in I have lost everthing and came to your article. I cried when I read it. I could relate to the fear of homeless and felt compelled to write this. I have discovered that I have not lost everything I have my daughter and that others share my story and that there is always hope even when you are hopeless if you just look again at someone elses story. Thank you for sharing your story.
    - LifesChanged

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    She took what i gqve her to take. And apperantly it was to much. Cause after almost 5 years im still up late crying as i look at my kids asleep. Their lives distrupted and lacking what they should get naturally from a loving parent. Im one of the most dedicated dad ive known and yet i cant say i am doing my best. Being an honest person only gets u so far. At some point its either adapt to society now as it is with fake and judgmental selfish spirits running the show. Ready to hurt u and break u if u let em. Or move on and try to not lose all of who u are and were and make it day by dqy always k iwing it didnt have to end up like this. Some5imes moving on isnt ok lik3 for me. Moving on i. My life means accepting things now as they are. Im never going to be able not know i got let down and so do my kids. Its pain like anything else that consumes ur entire sense of happiness and surpresses so hard u never will turn it into the way it should be. U cant move on from some5hing u will always want back becaue u valued it so much. Me saying im ok means n9thing cause i wont ever be again. I kn9w it wasnt my glfaupt im here at this point. But it is my fault for being so deeply passsinqte about fqmily. I dedicqted my life to one one goal. Raise kids in a family setting. Through thick and thin. It was and will always be what defines me. Now im a shell of the person u see on the outside. Inside i cant move on and yet to be ok around other peole means i act fqke cquse im not ok. But telllng someone ur n9t ok will get u n9 where but alone evenore. No 9ne cares that u are a spirit rarely seen thes3 days. U are simply not there in socio5y anymore.
    Im a 37 year old man who did what i was taught to do which is love respect and give . I cant chqnge me. But todqys socioty wont accept good people anymor3 cause tbey are afraid to ever feel the pain cqused from opening ur heart to someone. Ive owned to successful businesses and mqde a good life. But n9w adays i care less if i eat or have a dime. Money means nothing to me. Ive lost parts of me i cant be anilymotrllre. Cquse those trairlts stemed from how i felt when i was happy. Before i reqlized. The life im in wasnt real and i was naive then and didnt know n95 to give away to much of myself cquse if i did i might never get mysepf back. Lesson learned to late. Dont feel sorry for me. Listen to the sinciere loss i feel daily. And avoid ever getting ur heqrt broken. Its a situation i have found myself in that never should have been allowed in my life. But it has and i cant change it. No matter what even if i did find it a little easier tomorrow than i did today. It wilp still be in my heart ....

  • In reply to Robert Anderson:

    NEVER...AND I MEAN NEVER give up on love!! You obviously have a ton of it to give, and keep giving it to those beautiful children of yours! A man like you IS Valued by Many women out here!!! Trust me! Many women feel there aren't Enough men who have family values left in this world. So, I hope and pray that since you wrote this you have found someone worth taking a chance with again! But whatever happened to you happened so you could learn who was the WRONG person for you, so you could end up with the Right person! I think everyone responding to Kelly's column has hit emotional rock bottom. I know I have, but there's only one way to go from the bottom, and that's up! I really hope you're headed that way!
    God Bless,

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    In reply to Robert Anderson:

    I recently had concluded those same feelings and thoughts. They are not right or wrong, in fact they are accurate in the way that others have far less feelings, honesty. But let me tell you that you just need a break. Take Ur break from serving others in the right way , but don't change because people like you are fighting in the most humble way and our army needs to grow. I heard this saying, "hate is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die " take a break , don't change Ur ways, the world starves for people with love and compassion for what is right. You are not alone. Stay good and learn what you can to keep your peace inside. From what you are saying things will turn in the right direction and if you turn from what is right , you miss out being there when it does. And it always does.

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    In reply to Robert Anderson:

    Been there I'm 48 and in your shoes plus I'm standing for the restoration of my marriage.I have nothing what's going for me I look really younger than I am and as limo and weak I feel with bills lingering and small pay as the author of this arrests she rooting for us album gonna try and start my own thing spray God is with me know that he is be well it will get better.

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    I just got completed school about 6 months ago. I walked far and hard 8 miles a day for a year and a half. I got me a car to drive. I passed my EMT exam and finally made it through. I got hired by Sunstar Paramedics and they just fired me because I brake a little to hard in the ambulance. I am loosing everything and I am so scared. I worked so hard for this I am litterly brought down to tears. I am so mentally and physically exhausted it is not even funny. I have no idea what to do.

  • In reply to Steven Stoll:

    Dear Steven,

    I've been thinking about your post for the past 5 days now. I remember feeling EXACTLY what you described as if it happened only yesterday. That sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, the dread... and the overwhelming sense of failure. I remember it all.

    I know there's nothing I can say to change how you feel right in this minute but I'm going to tell you something that I hope you'll remember when you're ready. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. This feels like it's everything. I know. But it's a fraction of your life and it does NOT have to become your destiny.

    The next time you feel overwhelmed by that sensation of failure I want you to stop what you're doing right that moment and I want you to say out loud: "this is NOT how my story ends!" Then, I want you to think about what you really want. I want you to get determined to experience good things because, damn it, you DO deserve good things. We ALL do. And I swear to you - SWEAR to you - it's out there for you.

    You're in my thoughts and I send you my very best wishes,


  • l have also lost everything Job, Home, Friends, Family l have nothing mean people laugh at how poor l am and l am finding it very hard and am overwhelmed by the hardship l am going through right now, but after reading your story l feel empowered l now believe a bad situation can also turn GOOD. Thank You So Much Kelley

  • In reply to salma:

    I read your reply. People Are Mean! But that just means they haven't been tested, and that when you get back on your feet you'll have a That much more to be proud of yourself for. You will make it through the storm, and be a stronger, better, more compassionate person because of it! I would recommend you read or listen to Joel Olsteen...he REALLY helped me believe things will get better! I'm still in the struggle phase, but I've got my hope back largely because of him. There was a time after I had lost everything, that I actually lost Hope! And that's when I Knew things had to change or I'd sink. We all want a fast forward button, but it takes as long as it takes. And then we will appreciate all the good in our life even more. Gosh, I appreciate the way little things in life way more now, like when I go in for coffee and they already have it made because they remember what I like!
    Take care and be strong, you aren't alone, lots of us are going through this more or less Alone, Mo

  • Hi Kelly,
    your story is really highly inspirational..
    i have lost one important relationship in my life.. but when concentrated.. got a long list of other important things in life i am blessed with.. i thought inside that if i lost everything even then i have got my internal courage to move on..it would be only a phase of life..which is always temporary..and has to change...so have patience and move bit by bit.. hour by hour ..day by day...live in the moment..you will definitely shape your future...try and identify your strengths...good luck to everyone.

  • Kelly,
    Thank you So Much for your words of encouragement! Life can be ridiculously hard sometimes! Things we Never dreamed of happening become our reality, and we have so few choices, as I can see you & I are among the fighters and survivors. I'm still in the thick of the battle, largely because of my own health issues that have prevented me from working for the past four years! I have NO family, and realized that most of the people I considered to be friends were in reality what I like to dub as "rent-a-friends". They were there as long as the Gravy Train was in town taking them to lunches and dinners and events. When I at first became physically unable, and then financially unable...they dropped like flies! I was heartbroken. Seriously heartbroken! I had just lost My mother to her battle with cancer, also been through two divorces, and therefore had literally no one but myself and God to lean on. I was just really glad that I was smart when I was younger by putting away for a rainy day and getting disability insurance! It literally saved me from the streets. But, I'm at the point of where do I go from here? It's time to literally reinvent my life! I can't go back to doing what I did before at this point as my career was too physically demanding, and as a career woman, my work DEFINED ME! So, who am I Now??? That's the question I keep asking? What else would make me Happy and pay the bills? I know that when the time is right, the right thing will come along. But I have never felt so ALONE and So scared in my life! I went from being a confident successful business owner and practicing physician/surgeon, to being a full time patient with no one to help Me when I need it the most!
    What I have learned is how to choose friends, and the people I surround myself with more wisely. The friends who have stuck by my side are True Friends. And I will use them as a basis for what to look for in friends in the future.
    I'm not one to sit on the pity pot, but this week has been especially hard, and I needed inspiration, so thank you for giving it to me, and reminding me that no matter how dark the tunnel, there is Always light at the end! I wish you continued success, and remember to always save for that rainy day, because, as you well know...when times get tough, we are who we rely on.
    All the best to Everyone going through tough times and roughing it out!

  • Kelley - I appreciate the write up. I had to give up so much due to dire circumstances. Although my job situation has always been precarious since the recession, I managed to put myself through graduate school and maintain some kind of normalcy. Your blog reaffirms how much power we possess within us. The only option at this point is to keep going with my head up high. I sincerely thank you.

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    what an incredible comeback! Thank you. I am going through some very similar yet very different circumstances. 2015 was my worst year EVER, and i mean EVER.. you have encouraged me! thank you so much, you are a brave soul!

  • I relate very much to the stories on here and for the last 2/3 years of my life has resulted in me ending up a lonely 42 year old man with 'nothing' - I look at Robert's post and think I was just exactly like that, but the other way round, I lead a life of front and bs, many years I was the play maker, the performer, the man who had his flock of sheep and was loved and adored by those who crossed his path. I had a 13 year relationship, which ended when I met someone else, although it had been dead in water for sometime. My new relationship lasted 4 years in total, it was intense and lacked direction it ended and that was the final straw, I broke and walked away from everything because my lifestyle was killing me, i was permanently on anti-depressants, I was buying new car after new car, i had a massive house which I allowed my ex ex to remain in (through guilt) but was in negative equity, I was borrowing money from anything n anyone, I was sleeping with whoever paid me attention, I was paying for others, I WAS which simply defined me back then. Having suffered genuine heartbreak I knew 2 years ago I had hit rock bottom, I was in love and yet could not have it, but in all honesty I lost my identity, ever since then I've been working on me and me only, I walked away from the ex who started treating me like an option, those 'mutual' friends gone, I gave up the house to the mortgage company, I gave my cars back and faced substantial debt, I had nowhere to go but I had my well paid job, that came to a abrupt end few weeks ago leaving me with nothing, in addition my 13 year old cat (loyal friend) died in my arms and anyone who loves their animals know this as being so heartbreaking, my friends well just are not, I'm now living in a room of the ex ex who has now made a very good life and happy (I now feel in the way) I'm a complete failure and that's because I never lived for ME all those years ago. You see in Robert's case I'm trying to be more like him but as you can see no matter what side of the fence you play from, it's exactly the same when you start this path and phase of loss, it slowly engulfs you to a point of make or break, losing my one last security in job has pushed me to the edge and pretty much hold up my hands and say take me now as what's the point anymore facing up to these things trying your best whether right or wrong choices when in fact the best part of my life was when I was fake - says a lot that doesn't it!
    Kelley and DrMo your stories are great and have provided a little comfort, thank you

  • WOW. I was left for another woman barefoot and pregnant with our 3rd child in the midst of winter in a country where I have no family or friends. You give me hope. I was able to keep my two cats though. :)

  • In reply to mellowyellow:

    What did you do?

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    Am Kate Wilson from united States This is a testimony that I will tell to every one to hear. I have been married four 4years and on the fifth year of my marriage, another woman had a spell to take my lover away from me and my husband left me and the 2kids and we have suffered for 3years until I met a post where this man Dr ATIAFO have helped someone and I decided to give him a try to help me bring my lover back home and believe me I just send my picture to him and that of my husband and after 48hours as he have told me, I saw a car drove into the house and behold it was my husband and he have come to me and the kids and that is why I am happy to make every one of you in similar to met with this man and have your lover back to your self. His email: atitafospelltemple@yahoo.com .or call +2347067607073.

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    my life is been a downward spiral for a while now and I don't know where i went wrong i tried to do everything right i still cant get it together ... last week my mother suddenly died i get to the point of whatever...what did I do wrong? I used to say that suicide is the most selfish thing on this world unless you don't want to be a burden for someone else. I'm not a burden to Noone as a matter of fact I'm all alone, so why suffering? I do not drink, but this morning as I was looking for coffee I found a bottle of some type of alcoholic drink and I had the idea what if I take some of it with a every pills I could find around this tiny apartment where the walls are closing on me and i wondered who is going to miss me and how long it is going to take before they realize that I'm gone.. I came to the bathrom looking for pills then I googled what to do and I found this story... well what do I do Now? I don't know yet, but I know for sure not today.

  • In reply to Marie Aniscao:

    I hope you didn't do it...

  • I'm currently going thru it. I'd like to thank you for sharing your story and that little bit at the end. This is exactly what I needed. All though tomorrow when I wake up in my car I may need to re-read it lol.

  • Thank you Kelley for the inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story and giving me hope. I was meant to read this today. I have been having a hard time coping with losing everything. My career. My home, my health, every material thing, Financial stability. How did I go from a townhouse in downtown Chicago to a critter-loving tiny apartment in the hood? It's been hard. I've been stuck wandering...for 3 years. I was the one who was doing well, went to college and made something of myself. Now I have to ask family members for help with a $20 copay at a clinic visit. Evictions, repossessed car... Why? What is the lesson? I guess it's not about falling. It's about getting up!
    Thanks again. I needed this.

  • I feel alone right now even though Im not entirely alone in my life. I have had two failed marriages. I have two degrees neither which I am using because I just cant muster the strength to move forward. I had meet a guy. I dated for a year and a half. I told him to move out because the stress of my second husband constantly pestering me about my new boyfriend. Even though he and I were divorced. He wanted to know my ever move. I have completely isolated myself from friends and family and its 2 days before Christmas and I feel so sad. I quit my job on Thurs but I have another one lined up next week. I just wanted to vent becuase I would like to have my boyfriend back but he doesn't trust him that I am telling the truth about everything.

  • Lord knows I've had my share of heartaches aND dissapointments,,but I'm gonna fight my way back ,no that's not true I'm not going to fight my way back, I'm fighting my way forward, I'm older and my back and legs hurt nonstop, but as long as I have breath in my body I'm going to try, I'm going to be someone I am proud of,because God made no mistakes, I made poor decisions ,but thank Jesus he died for our sins, and God is so loyal, so true. His word promised if we did our part,he would do his.I'm broke, and in debt and two weeks from homelessness ,but he blessed me with a job, not great money, but it's more then I would have without it, please don't ever give up, we have to keep our eyes on the big picture, all this is just temporary

  • I have been reading so much, I pray for everyone, going through the feelings of losing everything. I'm going through this now. God, is what is keeping me strong. I have wonderful friends, thank you Lord.
    I worked on Wall Street,12 years at one job, 17 years at another. When 2006 came in, layoff's came, and came and came. Taking 401K's to survive. Paying the IRS, taking Pensions, or else it will be welfare. Now, at 2018, I'm working part time at a retail store. I'm 61 years old. The standing is terrible. I still have my apartment and I have food stamps. I will never give up. Things will get better, through the grace of God. I pray and hope, everyone will come through their circumstances. God Bless You all!

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