I was scrolling through twitter one evening and saw some tweets about a Blog Hop being set up by @ocyours. I was feeling nosy and decided to see what it was all about. The idea behind it is that every month that there’s a different theme and everyone writes their own post on that topic. The person hosting the hop that month then puts all the blogs on their blog. The thing that really caught my eye though was that this month is about Hope. Well this should be easy I smugly said to myself. My blog is all about hope, my twitter handle is @hopeforanxiety, I can easily write a post on that topic…and then came the reality. Hope is actually a really slippery topic which doesn’t seem to want to be pinned down and so my smugness has waned and I’m just going to write a personal account of hope and what it means to me.
Whilst I was at my lowest point last year I had a motto. I know some people find mottos a bit sappy, a bit annoyingly over-positive perhaps but for some reason this one worked for me. It was: “There is Hope and where there is Hope there is Strength”. Hope was something that played on my mind a lot in the early days – I even painted a plate with the word on one day (please see here) – possibly in a desperate bid to find “HOPE” that had gone missing somewhere between being unable to keep a meal down, being tormented by an onslaught of weird and wonderful worries and all the while still trying to hold down a 9-5 job. To be honest I really didn’t have much hope but I knew that I needed to find it. It can be easy to motivatingly say to others “keep the faith, there’s hope” but when someone is staring into a black abyss or bobbing on a dark ocean it can just feel like empty promises.
But do I think that hope can be cultivated? Absolutely. That’s not to say that if you’re having trouble finding it that you’re not trying hard enough, I don’t think it’s just about having a positive mindset but I think even in our darkest moments there will be the odd flicker flame of hope. It may die as quickly as it is lit but the flame can be fanned until it starts to grow. I started a challenge every day with my sisters to think about “Joys” for the day. It was hard to begin with – my battered soul was adamant that there was no joy, nothing to gain any pleasure from but I persevered. As I did, I started to notice that even when I thought my day had been the worst yet I could still find one small thing that had pleased me in some way. The rules are simple, the joy doesn’t have to be huge it can be as basic as your favourite TV programme being on, a nice sunset or a kind word, it just has to be something that you notice yourself feeling in that moment a little brighter about. Once I started doing it, I noticed hope tagging along behind. I started to hope that there was maybe more to come, that there may be more joys and that perhaps things could be better yet.
Hope is an incredible feeling because if you taste it and hang onto it, it somehow strengthens you to face the next day and the next. If there is no hope the voice of despair taunts you “well what’s the point of trying” but if there’s hope, then the voice within you whispers encouragingly “why don’t you try again tomorrow”.
Hope can arrive on the back of many different things. It can occur through having treatment and seeing positive changes, it can be reading other people’s recovery stories (I did it endlessly and it always strengthened my resolve and hope that I would get better) and it can be through the things you do for yourself. I have never written about this before (possibly through some mis-placed sense of embarrassment) but sometime last year when the going was tough I rang the Samaritans. I had arranged with my therapist that as a contingency plan if I was feeling overwhelmed during the week then one of the things I could do is ring a helpline to chat. The sneering voice in my head jeered of course and scoffed at what a loser I was for having to ring a stranger for help but I was frantic with the idea that I might be over-burdening my family (not true of course but anxiety has no patience for truths), I didn’t have supportive flatmates and my friends didn’t know the half of it. And you know what? It was one of the best things I did. Not specifically because the person on the end of the phone was uber helpful, in fact at points I thought it sounded suspiciously like she was reading a magazine (I’m sure she wasn’t it was probably just unfortunate rustling!) but in fact I didn’t care. I had made a choice to ring, share and off-load my fears and worries and because I had made a choice to do something to make me feel better and a choice to express just how awful I was feeling that gave me hope. It gave me hope that perhaps I know how to look after myself, that I have resources, that I could trust myself to look after me, hope that there are always other alternatives, Hope that there are people to help and people who are going through similar situations (after all the Samaritans doesn’t exist just for me, it exists for all the many people going through a difficult time) and most of all it gave me hope that there is hope.
So yes, hope is a slippery thing, sometimes its impossible to find and sometimes it feels hollow but there is hope and where there is hope there is strength.
Wishing and hoping that you are all finding your way on your recovery journey.
http://obsessivelycompulsivelyyours.wordpress.com/ This is @ocyours blog – She is the creator and host of the blog hop this month.
http://www.samaritans.org/ The Samaritans – If you are feeling overwhelmed or just like you would like to talk to someone who isn’t immediately involved in your situation then the Samaritans are great people to ring. They will listen to you for as long as you need and offer a supportive and judgement free listening ear.