Monday, July 6, 2009

No Hope - Where Hope Truly Starts

"How hopeful are you?" I asked you - my readers - over the month of July. Of the 168 who responded, one in four of you (25%, 42) told me that you "see little or no hope in the way my life is going." By contrast, a mere one in ten (10%, 17) felt "very optimistic about my prospects."

Fortunately, another one in four of you (27%, 47) owned up to being "cautiously optimistic about my future." Still, that adds up to less than 4 in ten who are upbeat about the way your lives are going.

Over at the other end, more than one in ten of you (14%, 25) are fearful about tomorrow. Combine this with the "no hope" group, and we're pretty evenly balanced between the "upbeats" (37%) and the "downbeats" (39%).

Occupying the middle are one in five of you (22%, 25) who are "living day to day."

What are we to make of all this? Without hope, we can pretty well kiss recovery goodbye. But we also know that hope is a non-starter in the midst of a raging depression or similar mental illness state. Perhaps I simply caught some of you at a bad time.

But for many of you, the current state of your illness may have little or nothing to do with it. Your episode may have resolved, but the personal fall-out hasn't. Plugging your life back in is simply not going to happen with no job to go back to, no friends, no loving relationship, no money in the bank.

On top of everything, we are in the midst of the worst economic/financial crisis in memory.

Well meaning people, including therapists, are bound to point out the error in your thinking, but I would rather congratulate you for acknowledging the truth, for owning up to how you feel right now. Yes, we all want hope in our lives, but false hope is a mirage. Once we accept reality, we can work our way to understanding, and - eventually - true wellness. Hold that thought - this is where hope begins ...


Elizabeth said...

Usually I get what you're saying loud and clear, but not this time. Yes, eventually the damage done by the illness in terms of lost careers, lost relationships, and society's chilling indifference to our suffering becomes as threatening as the disease itself, and as I sit here in my disastrously unorganized house trying to think with an increasingly despairing and unorganized brain, I try to figure out how to ignore those pesky suicidal ideations, pick myself up and carry on. The meds don't work for me, and I wonder how truly effective they are for many of us--I've seen many friends succumb to suicide despite all those pills, and the people I meet in support groups don't seem to have been treated very successfully either. Meanwhile the psychiatric community assures the public that they've made great strides and Pharma swindles us with outrageously expensive meds of questionable efficacy that many of us can't afford to take anyway because, of course, nobody wants to insure a person with bipolar disorder, and the possibility of universal health insurance seems increasingly remote. I've tried everything from macrobiotics to yoga to homeopathy. My understanding is that there is no hope. So, exactly where does hope begin?

John McManamy said...

Hi, Elizabeth. I very much appreciate where you're coming from. You've done everything - nothing. No hope. I read you loud and clear. If I were to tell you to have hope, I would be lying to you. I would be urging you to live delusionally, where you would be setting yourself up for a very bad letdown.

Nothing's worked. You're miserable. You don't see a way out of it. So what is so good about the state of mind you are in? You have acknowledged reality. You've brutally analyzed your situation. You haven't flinched. So...

Give yourself credit. You have looked The Beast in the eye and you haven't backed down. Reality is where hope starts.

I know this may not make sense to you right now. This is not a time of hope for you. It is a time of despair. But - eventually - despair give rise to hope. Please feel free to keep the dialogue going ...

edward said...

Hope? Hope for me is hoping that my one foot in front of the other "coping" style (lifestyle) will continue to function. At the bottom of the last depression I was knee deep in cold cold mud. To pick up one foot was to sink the other one even deeper. The exhaustion was total. To stop moving was death itself. I had no hope of finding a way out, there was no way "home", the only hope was to somehow keep moving. My "joke" with my therapist was that the Lithium was SO HORRIBLE, I suffered from ALL the side effects, at the same time, it made the cold mud somehow at least a normal part of the world, I was just knee deep in a mud hole. I kept moving my feet, if just to keep myself from freezing to death. My suicide ideation was always to jump off a cliff, nice hard rock, free falling like a rush of fresh air, but always knew that I would have second thoughts at the last moment, so blessed oblivion was not to be had... Hope? I am still putting one foot in front of the other, just hope I can keep doing so. I've had enough bouts with depression to KNOW that NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING in the universe stays the same. The only constant in the entire universe is change... I just hope I can keep on keeping on, and that single spark continues to sustain me.