Nils Jorgensen / REX / Shutterstock / Rex USA 1 / 5
Nils Jorgensen / REX / Shutterstock / Rex USA 1 / 5

Ellen DeGeneres is basically a national treasure at this point in her career, but it wasn't always that way. In fact, she said she hit "rock bottom" in 1998 and wasn't sure if she was ever going to have a career.

In speaking to Out Magazine for their annual 100 issue, the "Ellen" host recalled coming out as a lesbian in 1997 on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and in Time magazine, saying it took a toll on her both personally and professionally.

"I was the punch line of lots of jokes. I laughed at some, but I realized there's somebody on the other side of them. It's cruel," she said. "I've never liked mean comedy, but that became even more important to me after I was the brunt of it."

At the time, she was the star of her own sitcom called "Ellen." On the show, which ran from 1994 to 1998, her character came out, as well. However, after the network pulled the plug on the show, she feared that her career was over.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to work again, and although I was out, I was still trying to alter myself -- not dressing the way I wanted to dress or wearing my hair the way I wanted to," she said. "I slowly gained the confidence to be authentic, and what I've learned about other people is that they strive to be authentic, too. So whether they fully support me, love my lifestyle, or love that I'm married to a woman."

Things really couldn't be better for Ellen now. She's happily married to Portia de Rossi, whom she wed in 2008. And, her daytime TV show has taken home a slew of awards. She's also the voice of Dory in Disney's juggernaut "Finding Dory."

"If this isn't an example of 'it gets better,' I don't know what is," says Ellen. "Time is a strange thing. I was at rock bottom and out of money, with no work in sight, but one step at a time, it gets better. It gets much better than better."