I think I have been really fortunate during the Great Recession. At the beginning things were looking really grim. I had a job at a company that was doing awful. I was already underpaid and then they started cutting all of the benefits. I had limited savings because I wasn't making enough, I am a horrible saver and many of my family members needed financial help.
The worst part is when I took a disbursement of 30% of my IRA to help out. The perfect storm, since this was a huge chunk of untaxed income. I ended up with a tax bill of $4500 for that year (considering I usually only received refunds or paid small amounts, this was ridiculous and completey unexpected).
Luckily for me, things really turned around. By sheer luck and cluelessness, when I took the $ from my IRA i did not reinvest it, so it was collecting regular savings interest when the stock market tanked! I have managed to switch jobs 2X in the past 24 months or so and each new job has upped my salary by 25-30%. Happily, I am making ~50% more than I was when the recession started. I have been able to start actually saving, and I am beginning to catchup on my missing retirement saving. And since I have better cash flow, I actually it didn't kill me to pay my HUGE tax bill I had from when I took the disbursement. I also can afford to help my parents without going in the red.
Luckily I happened to fall into the right industry, at the right time and things are growing a lot. I know it will be much easier for me to make a successful career move if needed.