Hopes, Goals, Dreams, & Delusions: Navigating Life With Depression and Anxiety (Chapter 5)

Hopes and Dreams

As hope grows and develops it tends to feed the next phase of hope. It evolves into dreams. I’m not talking about the crazy movies your brain plays behind your closed eyes at night. I’m talking about ideas. Times when the imagination takes over and you daydream about the future. It might be something that you know logically is probably not going to happen, yet these type of dreams, simply imagining a bright future that is out there, might be enough to keep people forcing open their eyes every morning and at least making the attempt at facing the world outside their bedroom door. I know for myself I have explored all sorts of ideas of what I’d do if I had the money to launch a business or go to school to get training for anything I wanted (assuming I’d be able to handle exams far better now than I did in high school). I remember one where I thought I’d set up a small automotive shop to offer basic maintenance and some of the easier repairs to people only for the cost of parts (yes, that means free labour). It had a small coffee shop on the side (which is where I’d hang out)  and I’d hired someone to handle the automotive stuff. My role would be to  simply listen to people and try to connect. That was one of many different variations of just meeting people on a neutral ground. Somehow that environment was so safe and welcoming that people would just sit and visit with me as well as each other for no other reason than it was a safe and stable environment….(who knows, maybe something like that will happen someday!)

I can’t speak for others, but I know for myself, those crazy daydreams about the “what if” future helped get me through many a tough day. Partly because the time passed faster if I would daydream, but partly because those daydreams took the focus off the brutal hammering of depression and a failed relationship (among other things that were going on); even if it was only moments here and there. Did they in themselves actually solve anything? I can’t say they did, at least not in anything I could point to as hard evidence. But I do know that they allowed me to view life beyond the current (and overwhelming) circumstances I was facing in the real world. So as much as it was “escapism” it was also lightening those burdens and letting me experience something other than oppressive feelings, guilt, racing thoughts, and irrational fears. I won’t say it’s the healthiest coping mechanism, but there are others that are much more harmful.

As hope feeds into dreams, be they daydreams with little connection to reality, or actually imagining a future you want and making plans for it, life begins to develop a bit more momentum in the positive sense. If you’ve talked to me in person you know I often talk about how coping with depression and anxiety appears to be all about momentum. Very rarely is life neutral, and when adding mental illness to the mix, momentum becomes a much bigger factor. Believe me I’m not talking just forward (or positive) momentum, but also the opposite, where your mental illness is dragging you down and it feels like you’re trying to swim in a suit of chains and with shoes of steel. If you picture the traditional “bell curve”, imagine the peak as absolutely neutral, no forward momentum or positivity, and no falling backwards (negative energy) into the sticky pit of despair. From that neutral point (which never actually exists in anyone’s life) it’s not far into either “positive” (moving forward), or “negative” (falling back or succumbing to the negative aspects) of your mental illness for what feels like the millionth time. Imagine that bell curve again.  When you’re close to either the extreme positive or negative end you, can see how much effort it would take to bring you back to that neutral point. If depression (or whatever mental illness you’re facing) has dragged you that far down it’s going to take incredible dedication and effort to fight back up to that neutral point. At the same time if you’ve been doing really well, and have found several things that build more positive energy into your life, you can see how much negative pull it would take to bring you back to that neutral point.

Before I take this point any further, I realize that rarely is life as perfect as a bell curve. One person can have incredible positive momentum, have a great support network, and all kinds of good things going for them including good people pouring positive energy into their life. From appearances, they’re at the far end of the positive scale. All it takes is one event, one bad experience, one broken relationship, and almost instantly all that positive energy and drive is overridden and they’re suddenly on the opposite side of the curve and falling rapidly backward. I can look at where I was about two years ago  and see that  there’s no way other than a very gracious God being incredibly merciful and allowing me to come from the negative end of the bell curve, rapidly hit that neutral point and accelerate into positivity. There is no other explanation that 24 months ago almost all of my thoughts were about work, dying, or ) dying at work. Fast forward to present day where I’m blogging about mental illness. It’s healing and therapeutic for me, and because I hope that somewhere, somehow it will give someone the strength to keep fighting just a bit longer.

(to be continued…)

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