Laying The Groundwork
When I began to contemplate this topic, the idea started as simply looking at the correlation between hope and coping with mental illness, specifically depression. As I began to contemplate it and think it through, I realized there was more to it – far more than I had imagined. There were several facets I hadn’t really considered at first. Before I jump in I will say my focus is primarily on depression and anxiety simply because those are the ones I live with and have talked about the most with other people. I have a better grasp on those two in specific, which is why I tend to talk and write about them most. I am not excluding other mental illnesses because they are less important – merely because I have less experience and don’t want to make assumptions or parallels when I simply do not know.
Initially, it seems rather obvious that there is a distinct correlation between how much “hope” you have in your life to how well you’re able to manage your depression. If you have more hope, a more positive attitude, that should correlate to having an easier time managing your mental illnesses. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Hope alone isn’t everything. People who have had plenty of hope have still struggled greatly with depression. Hope alone is often not enough to keep things stable.
I believe there has to be something external to focus on when your internal world (your emotional responses and thought patterns) is chaotic. That external thing doesn’t even have to be a physical object or reality (a job, for example), merely something that is somewhat concrete or “tangible” that has a connection or impact on your life. Something “real” and relatively stable to counter the shifting, deceptive, and unreliable inner monologue that depression tends to produce. It could be a community or club you’re part of. It could be a religion. Maybe it is your job. Really it could be anything other than the debilitating internal thoughts and patterns, and instead something outside or beyond that.
In my experience it appears that fame and fortune, or having friends and family who care deeply about you may have little influence on your level of hope. This year Chris Cornell (lead singer for the band Soundgarden) and Chester Bennington (Lead singer of Linkin Park) both completed suicide. Both men had very successful music careers, had close relationships with friends and family, and from a distant view, seemed to have impacted countless people through their music, Yet the illness they struggled with ended up killing them. More and more I don’t see this as ‘suicide’ – as in they willingly and knowingly chose to take their life. Instead, I’m beginning to shift my perspective to the disease itself taking their life, much like people die from cancer, or diabetes, or one of many illnesses that may prove fatal.