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 – that is, your emotional responses and thought patterns – is in chaos. 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.
Directions and Definitions
As I talked with people and gathered some input, it seemed most things could be boiled down to four basic categories: hopes, dreams, goals, and delusions. I’m going to attempt to delve into how they all inter-relate and how getting stuck or focused on one can unbalance your whole thought life, In my opinion there needs to be balance between these channels or areas in order to manage and overcome depression.
Call me crazy, but I have this nagging feeling deep inside that depression and it’s cousin anxiety can be overcome. I can’t explain it further than that, although I’m slowly working on a few theories. Mental illness may still exist in your life, but (hopefully) it becomes so well-managed and controlled that it’s like having a fly in a bottle. It is free to fly around within its confines, but it no longer has the power to escape beyond those barriers. Yes, keeping it that well controlled may include medication, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), meditation, and other treatments (exercise and vitamin supplements are often beneficial) but I can’t shake the feeling that it is possible. Besides, if you call me crazy, I’ll probably tell you I’m on medication for it. (Stick to writing Andrew. Your sense of humour is worse than your sense of style!)
So let’s look at some terminology. In typical male fashion, I like to know what I’m dealing with, so finding some definitions seems to be a logical place to start. I pulled these definitions from dictionary.com and then clarified how I’d be using the terms for this article in general.
Hope: The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. This can be specific or nonspecific. (My dad commented that the definition was about feeling which was interesting – I had made the same observation.)
Goal: The result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end. For this article, the word goals will generally be used as the natural progression of hope, as in moving from a generalised feeling that things can be improved to taking a course of action or steps toward a more focused end.
Dream: An aspiration; goal; aim. This is a slightly different branch of hope, and while it tends to be focused on a fairly specific event or end, it tends to be somewhat “lofty”, long-term, or somewhat out of reach. It does tend to be very positive and can be an anchor to “the real world” despite the fact that the dream itself may not be overly realistic.
Delusion: A false belief or opinion, or the act of deluding (that is, to mislead the mind or judgement of; to deceive). This is what the illnesses we call Depression and Anxiety do to the mind. Internal thought processes and reactions to external events can also contribute to this, as well as people’s specific intent to deceive us or give false information. In reality – the “filter” that most people have against most of this level of negativity is damaged (at best) or completely destroyed (at worst) in people who struggle with mental illnesses.
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, cognizant 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 absolutely 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 any discussion of that sort 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.
Keep Hope Alive
Hope is looking past the present with some level of belief that things can be better, either through sheer luck or some measure of effort. A more realistic outlook would be a combination of the two. Hope is looking beyond oneself and seeing the possibilities of the future in a positive light, even for a moment. It’s a glance upward and forward and seeing something glisten and shimmer among the dingy grey that seems to be on all sides. It requires courage to look for it instead of focusing on all the overwhelming negatives, and strength to keep looking for it when life seems overwhelming. No matter how difficult it may be I am convinced it is possible for everyone to achieve. It takes focus and practice but I believe it is possible. Sadly, so many people lose this hope, or even the desire to look for it.
When life is a bit more on the “normal” scale it becomes easier to balance hope against the delusions, using the hope to cancel out the negative thoughts. I tend to look at it like this. Hope (for me at least) tends to be based in reality. On facts. On truth. On the other hand, the delusions and lies that depression and anxiety tend to spread are usually overstated or exaggerated statements spun into a all-or-nothing falsehood. Examples that seem to be common are “I always ___________ (make that mistake, hurt people, screw up, etc)” or “I never _____________ (finish my work, pay my bills on time, am organised, etc)”. These statements, while black and white, are so focused on the negative that there’s little chance of seeing the fallacy of that pattern of thought. Chances are very high that someone does not always perform in that pattern and it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to uncover just how untrue those statements are. Lately I’ve been fairly stable, and while I’m learning to recognise this sort of thought pattern, it’s shocking how much it’s ingrained into my psyche. What’s even more shocking is how easy it is to allow those patterns to suck me down in a negative feedback loop. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of the absolutely worst kind! Negative thoughts breed negative thoughts, which lead to poor self-esteem or poor performance (at work, at home, at life skills in general). This only breeds more negative thoughts and even lower self esteem. This cycle very quickly becomes self-perpetuating. If it’s that easy to fall into that ‘negative feedback loop’ where things can so easily spiral out of control, what’s the point? My answer is hope.
Earlier I had mentioned how hope can often be an anchor when things get hard. I had asked the following question on Twitter: Coping with mental illness has a lot to do with hope or lack of it. Agree/disagree? The responses are what cracked this thing wide open. I was expecting a few responses; what I wasn’t expecting was the depth and honesty people responded with. It got me thinking that there is way more than just hope. I’ve included what I found were the most interesting or the most eye-opening responses:
“Hope can be such a powerful thing when we have it, and debilitating when we don’t”
“When little to no hope is present, symptoms seriously worsen. Hope brings encouragement to keep going”
“I think hope coupled with realism perhaps, if we prepare I always like to think we can head it off and not be so winded by it”
“I think positivity helps but can also sometimes be a hindrance, because it makes depressed people feel more helpless when they fail. So hope or positivity is good, but you mustn’t expect depression not to recur or become disillusioned when things do not work out. At the same time, it is hard to be prepared for it when we are succeeding because it takes so much eradication of negative thinking”
“I’d caveat that a lack of hope isn’t a weakness reflective of the person, rather, it’s a reflection of the mental health condition’s cruel impact”
“For me it is the lack of hope, the lack of dreams, & seemingly days upon days of looking at a boring future. Losing a piece of my soul everyday”
“Goals give you a reason to step forward. Hope keeps you from stopping”
“Sometimes when you’re in a very dark place in your life all you have is hope”
“Everyone’s different. Some are completely void of hope, can’t get out of bed. Others hang onto a shred of hope on better days”
“In my darkest days, I kind of had hope about having hope”
Stop for a few moments and contemplate that last response. If you’ve struggled with deep depression or if you’ve battled suicidal thoughts you understand that line with absolute clarity. If you haven’t been there and are just trying to understand those of us who face mental illness, read it again. Imagine a life that you feel is so meaningless that you don’t even have hope left. You’re left with a cheap, vague imitation of hope; you cling to that, praying (literally or figuratively) that you’ll eventually stumble across real hope again.
The thing I’m learning about hope is it needs to be fed. It needs something for it to grow. It doesn’t just suddenly spring into your life with candles and fireworks and confetti. It takes people who care about you to speak positive truth into your life. It takes people who genuinely care about you to willingly wade into the mud and darkness, to walk alongside you. It takes a focused effort to see the positivity for yourself and to feed it, and allow it to feed into you. It takes cutting out all sorts of negativity. It takes effort and energy to develop it; energy that when you’re struggling with any one of the many mental illnesses is in critically low supply.
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 (at the time of writing this) 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.
Delusions and Disappointments
There is a risk and a danger to this forward momentum. And that is the risk of disappointment. The risk of setback. The risk of life just happening, because life can throw anyone an unexpected curveball. For the average person, forward momentum feels good but there’s a realization that life ebbs and flows. Good and bad times begin and end, like the darkness of midnight fading into the full sun at high noon and back again. For those of us with mental illness, a slight setback can feel like being at center field at a football stadium at midnight with every single light turned on. Its bright… and suddenly the entire city goes dark. It can be that much of a dramatic difference, and unfortunately it may happen that fast too. It’s bewildering to say the least, and to say it’s unsettling is an understatement. It can be crippling, something that an average person will hardly be bothered by can be enough to trigger a major depressive episode for those of us who struggle with mental illness.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream. I’m not saying stop giving people hope. That’s not it at all, in fact keep doing so! The reality is that we who struggle with mental health issues need to be aware that the positive momentum can and likely will end at some point, whether it happens quickly or slowly. Otherwise any setbacks become doubly powerful: the setback itself, and then the psychological impact of being blindsided by it while they were focused on building into that positive energy and momentum.
This is one area where delusion can be so dangerous. The individual has built up positive habits, has found the right medications to keep things stable, and has incorporated healthy lifestyle choices. There are positive people encouraging them, there’s a stable job and/or relationship that adds some meaning to this person’s existence. Life is looking really good! Job performance is improving while relationships feel less forced and more natural. There’s a genuine lightness in their spirit. They begin to believe that they’ve got this thing handled. Maybe they decide to go off their meds (after all if things are going this well, why should they stay on them?). Maybe there’s an unexpected change at work, or an expense that came out of the blue. Suddenly this individual who had all this positivity and forward momentum is sliding rapidly down the slippery slope into hopelessness. What happened? How did life unravel so fast?
Chances are good that the situation is not as bad as it appears from their perspective on the inside looking out. That being said, it can feel incredibly overwhelming because there is a dramatic disparity between feeling in control, the feeling that life is finally starting to work like it’s supposed to without so much effort contrasts greatly with the feeling that all that hard work was an absolute waste. A complete squander of time and effort. That they didn’t deserve success. This setback just proves how much they really are a bad person or a fraud; this is somehow retribution for something they’d done. How could they be so foolish as to think it was actually going to last?
But therein lies yet another delusion. It’s merely the polar opposite, the mirror image of the delusion when things are going well. When you’re flying high after crawling out of depression’s pit, it’s hard to entertain the thought of it coming to an end because you’ve worked so hard to get things together. So you blindly hope this is finally it, that you’ve found the right recipe, the right weapon, the right formula to finally beat this thing into submission and put it on a short leash. When you’re at the bottom, it’s just the mirror image. You can’t believe you’ll ever get out of the pit. You hardly have the strength to breathe, nevermind summoning the courage to start the battle to crawl of the pit yet again. You lose any hope that you’ll ever be at the top again and feel like your mental illness has you on a short leash, one that it uses to beat you with on occasion.
As an aside: I hold no illusion that I’m “healed” or “cured”. Maybe I am. Maybe not. I simply do not know. That being said, chances are good I’m not. I’m merely at a stage where I have it “managed” for now. What I do know is that as long as I’ve got the ideas, the focus, and the energy, I’m going to do what I can when I can to spill a bit of positivity into people when I can. A smile, a genuine compliment, helping someone (even as simple as opening a door for someone who’s got both hands full) is all it takes. It seems the simplest gestures can have incredible impact on others. I fear the day that the darkness comes back; I’m under no illusion that it’s gone forever. But that’s why I do this. I can be a light and a voice and a source of strength while I’ve got the ability. I have to trust that if, or more likely when, my own darkness returns there’s going to be a hand or a light for me to reach out to and hold until I’ve got the strength to fight on my own two feet again.
So Now What?
As with everything else in life, balance and moderation seem to be the ticket. It’s becoming comfortable with the fact that sooner or later life is going to throw you a curveball or two.. Not because you are more prone to them than anyone else. Not because you’ve earned them more than anyone else. Absolutely and in no way because you deserve them more than anyone else. But because life is hard. It can be and is beautiful. It can be (and often is) filled with the mundane. But the trap of this all-or-nothing delusion (at either end of the “momentum” bell curve) is what’s going to cause the most hardship.
It’s about finding people who are going to speak truth into your life, to gently encourage you when things aren’t going so well (and to gently correct the negative delusion), and to temper the delusion that you’ve got this monster licked, beaten down, and controlled – because let’s face it, mental illnesses are complex enough that even the professionals don’t always treat the same diagnosis with an identical treatment. These illnesses have far too many variables, symptoms and treatment strategies to have that unflinching certainty that this thing is not and no longer will be a part of your life.
It’s about fighting daily for the life you want – and celebrating the victories, no matter how small or silly they’d seem to the average person – yes, that means celebrating the shower you just took, because you managed to do it, even if that’s all you managed for the day. It’s embracing the ride, knowing that when the good times come, to enjoy them and savor them, because they’re not going to last forever – no matter how much you want them to. It’s about gritting your teeth through the bad times, hanging on because you’ve fought through this crap before and survived – and, as hard as it is, you can do it again. To quote an article that I love:
You are not a monster. You are a valuable, unique, wonderful human being who deserves everything grand that this life has to offer. Come out of the shadows and stand proud. The world needs you and your story. You have been to hell and back and you are here to say, “It gets better.” When a person is struggling, many people look away. They change the subject or suddenly need a drink refill. You reach your hand out into the darkness to find theirs. You share your lantern. You’re not afraid of darkness, because you know it… You had coffee with darkness yesterday. He brought donuts. He doesn’t scare you like before. You know how to work with him.
It’s about perspective – and if your own is starting to feel very skewed (or maybe even before you recognize that it is) you need people who care about you to speak some objective truth into your life. Sometimes it’s hard to hear – when you’re at the bottom, the crazy dichotomy is you’re craving hope and yet push it away at the same time. When you’ve managed to string together several “good days” (however that looks for you) in a row, you need people who care about you to keep your reality in check – not to crash your party and be a downer, but to speak that hard truth that it’s not going to last, you need to be prepared when the tide comes back. Yet it’s at that point that you’re sucking up all the positivity you can and have rightfully cut as much negativity from your life as possible – it’s a risk these friends should take because they care about you so much they don’t want to see you crash like last time. And the time before that. And the time before that…
A great example from my personal life would be my good friend “L”. I won’t state his name here although if you know me in real life, you probably have a good idea who he is. He’s been a very loyal friend and stuck by my side through some very trying times to put it very mildly. He’s stated his opinion when asked, he’s often given solid advice and then bravely, quietly and calmly picked up the pieces when I did what I thought was best (and it didn’t exactly go according to my plans…) I won’t say he has physically saved my life – you know, saved me from drowning, or performed CPR, that sort of thing – but time and time again he’s proven by words and actions what true friendship is all about. I am extremely lucky to have him in my life – and I’m saddened that there are far too many people who don’t have a close friend like that in their life.
Another example is the wonderful people at SickNotWeak, which for me has been an amazingly supportive group of people around the planet. While it seems the most interaction between community members happens on Twitter, the website has blog posts written by members of the community and daily video posts by Michael Landsberg. Yes that Michael Landsberg. I’ve joined and left several online communities for various reasons – but SickNotWeak was one I came across fairly early in my search for an online community, and it’s the one that I’ve always felt the most at home in. People there are very genuine in their struggles but also in their compassion. I often say that I’ve never seen such strength from people who admit they’re very weak and struggling daily. I find it’s that united ‘weakness’ and transparency that gives SickNotWeak it’s vibrancy, unity and strength – that and there’s very little drama that unfortunately seems common in many online communities, especially ones that focus on mental illnesses.
I’d also be very remiss not to mention my incredible family – they may not always understand, and I know it can be hard unless you’ve been there but damn they sure try! I’m also extremely lucky to have a supportive workplace – from employees to fellow team leaders, up to the GM and the business owner as well. All of them have been amazingly good to me – and again, I am incredibly blessed to have that in my life. Unfortunately acceptance of mental illness in the workplace has a very long way to go for most people.
Bringing It All Together
So – you’ve been my audience for several thousand words spread across 8 posts. (If you’re still with me, I’m very appreciative and thankful…and a little surprised). I’ve rambled. I’ve thought. I’ve tried to process through this and explain my thoughts as I go. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did! So in a nutshell what’s the take-away here?
First of all (and probably the most important) is hope. Hope is almost like money; very rarely will you find a human who is completely satisfied with the amount they have, and have zero desire to get more. When you’ve got very little or none to speak of (money or hope) somehow getting some, even a little bit, seems overwhelming. When you get a little bit, you want more. I’m not going to go all Biblical and start down the “Love of money is the root of all evil” even though it’s often misquoted. Maybe I’ll dig into that one down the road at some point. But getting more hope is no easy task when everything in your life seems to soak it up and absorb it like parched soil getting a few drops of rain. Taking that analogy even further, too much all at once and the soul and the soil get overwhelmed and it all just overflows without soaking in where it can really do some good (amusing side-thought – here I am talking about how too much hope can be a bad thing which sounds…hopeless.Not my intent, believe me. However the dichotomy does appeal to my ironic sense of humor)
So with a baseline level of hope, you can feed into it and grow it – out of the hope can come goals (specific things to attain) and dreams (less focused but more open and light-hearted thoughts of the future). The risk of leaning too hard on the goals and dreams is in becoming blind to the hard realities of life, especially when dealing with a mental illness where the slightest upset or difficulty could very quickly unravel all the momentum and send the individual back down into the dark pit they just fought their way out of.
That also doesn’t speak of the delusions of the dark pit – where you can’t seem to escape the overwhelming negativity, and although you crave hope and comfort, you push it away because as scary and overwhelming as the darkness is, you feel safe within it because you know it so well. Hope, sadly, seems scary because it is so preposterous, so vastly different from what you’re used to, and you don’t feel worthy of it. At all.
Hopes, Goals, Dreams, and Delusions. At first glance you may not see how they all tie together, but I hope by this point you see that they are very closely linked indeed.
P.S. When the next wave of twilight comes creeping in, and you know you’re in for another season of gloom, remember to grab a coffee for Darkness. Black, with 2 sugar.
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I could not have pulled this off without the help of several people. First and foremost to my family who have been incredibly supportive for years, no matter what. I’d also like to thank the many people who I’ve gotten to know via Twitter. I will also give special mention to the entire community at https://www.sicknotweak.com/. Last, because people tend to remember the last name or 2 on a list: An EXTRA HUGE THANKS to Meg and Kath – These 2 ladies went over this entire article with a fine tooth comb several times over and corrected an embarassing number of gramatical errors and incomplete thoughts. I don’t know if a THANK YOU is enough – but it’s all I have for now. IF you’re in town, coffee is definitely on me!