Hopes, Goals, Dreams, & Delusions: Navigating Life With Depression and Anxiety (Chapter 3)

Hope in the Darkness

I am frequently surprised (although I suppose I shouldn’t be) at the duality in individuals who struggle with depression., Even in the darkest and most difficult times, there is very often hope. It may be the weakest glimmer that there’s hope for something better – in other words, nothing concrete to hope for, other than the hope that there might be hope for something beyond the current situation. Hoping for hope isn’t much at all – but it is something, and as small as it is, it’s better than absolutely no hope whatsoever. This hope may not even be a constant thing, as it may come and go, but often it can be overlooked because other aspects of the illness are so overwhelming. On the other end of the spectrum  is this horrible delusion, the very antithesis of hope. Not despair, although that can be, and often is, present. No, I’m talking about the lies, the deceptions, and  the crushing falsehoods that this sickness injects into our thoughts. Thoughts such as  “I can’t __________”, or “I’m not ___________ enough”, or “I’m too _________”, and so forth. The feeling that whatever “it” is, I don’t have it, or enough of it. I never will, and even if I did, I wouldn’t be worthy of “it” anyway. It’s an almost-constant bombardment of this sort. It may be conscious, cognisant thoughts that push to the forefront, it may be a subtle, twisted narrative, or a generalised subconscious negativity. Some of it may have the slightest kernel of truth that’s been twisted and manipulated and framed in such a way as to be brutally and crushingly negative. Most of it is completely untrue, a complete fabrication due to how this illness affects our thought patterns.

An example from my own life looks like this. At my workplace I know for a fact that any discussions about employee discipline, conduct, or anything of that nature is discussed behind closed doors away from the public areas of the store. Yet in times of depression or high-anxiety days, if I saw 2 supervisors or upper management having a conversation of any kind, whether it was a standing ‘quick chat’, or a longer seated meeting in our deli, I was convinced they were discussing my termination and doing so within my eyesight for maximum impact. That deception, that paranoia, would instantly lodge itself in my thoughts every single time and honestly, sometimes it still does (although I’ve gotten much better at catching this particular thought pattern). This would happen despite the following facts: 1) As a supervisor, I know that if there were any discussion about me in regards to disciplinary action, suspension, or termination, or so forth, it would not be handled anywhere in the public areas of the building. In fact it would likely happen either on one of my days off, or after I’d left the store for the day. 2) the other supervisors and management have repeatedly commented about how much I’m appreciated and valued, and 3) I would have to do something rather drastic (at this stage anyway) for my position within the store to be at risk (I am basing that on the previous point, in addition to many of our regular customers comments about how much they appreciate my attitude and work ethic. I’m not trying to sound cocky or arrogant but trying to state the situation objectively). Despite knowing these 3 points as irrefutable truth, the delusion was (and sometimes still is) that they were “out to get me” and were merely discussing how to do so in front of me in order to have maximum impact to my psyche.

Unfortunately for many people, these sort of thoughts and delusions are so overwhelming they snuff out any real hope and crush it to the merest flicker of hoping for hope, then wait for that figment of hope to die a slow agonising death. Yet it is that glimmer of hope is what needs to be fed, no matter how small, or shared with someone else if you have none of your own. I’m reminded of a poem that comes to mind on occasion:

Lend Me Your Hope
Lend me your hope for a while,
I seem to have mislaid mine.
Lost and hopeless feelings accompany me daily,
pain and confusion are my companions.
I know not where to turn.
Looking ahead to future time does not bring forth

Images of renewed hope.
I see troubled times, pain-filled days, and more tragedy.
Lend me your hope for a while,

I seem to have mislaid mine.
Hold my hand and hug me;

Listen to all my ramblings, recovery seems so far distant.
The road to healing seems like a long and lonely one.
Lend me your hope for a while,
I seem to have mislaid mine.
Stand by me, offer me your presence, your heart and your love.
Acknowledge my pain, it is so real and ever present.
I am overwhelmed with sad and conflicting thoughts.
Lend me your hope for a while.
A time will come when I will heal,
And I will share my renewal,
Hope and love with others.
— Author Unknown

I don’t know how to say it other than this: short of oxygen, water, and food, I would say hope is almost critical for us to survive. You can last 6 minutes at most without oxygen. You can last about 3 days without water. You might possibly survive 3 weeks without food. Lack of hope might not be as fatal as it would be with the essentials listed above, but I would hardly call life without hope any sort of life at all. I would call it an existence at best. I don’t think many would argue that a life without hope isn’t the kind of life anyone would want to think about, imagine, or even wish upon their worst enemy.

(to be continued…)

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