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What Helped Me Reclaim My Hope for the Future

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Someone recently told me, “You deserve to have an extraordinary life if you want one.” Five years ago I would have replied, “Of course, I want one, who wouldn’t?”

I’m a romantic, a dreamer. I always have been. While going through the motions of my unremarkable childhood, I always had an inkling that I would end up on a path leading me to my exceptional destiny. I have always had a sense that I was meant for something greater than who I am.

I have also struggled with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. A constant fear of the unknown, combined with an ever-growing sense of anguish, does not mesh well with the musings of a would-be optimist. For those of us living with anxiety and depression, hope is only hope for a moment until it becomes fear. Joy is only joy for a moment until it becomes dread.

So when someone offers me the life I always imagined I was meant for and all I have to do is want it, well, that’s precisely the problem. Anxiety is a voice in my head telling me not to want it, but to fear it. Anxiety is an emergency alarm gone haywire, telling me something truly horrible will happen if I decide to live my life to the fullest. Anxiety causes me to question every single decision I have made and will ever try to make because something must go wrong.

Depression is a different, but no less potent, voice in my head telling me not to want an extraordinary future because I don’t deserve itfear. How can I pursue a life that is unique and purposeful if I am convinced I do not deserve one? Depression sucks every ounce of hope out of my body and suffocates me until all that’s left is an overwhelming nothing. Depression is feeling everything and nothing fully, all at the same time.

So here I am, listening to someone tell me I deserve a life that exceeds my wildest expectations, and I find myself disagreeing purely on instinct. Somewhere between believing I was destined for greatness and actually bringing my goals to fruition, I stopped believing the future I had always envisioned myself living was possible. Somewhere along the way, I decided I didn’t deserve any kind of meaningful life, because I feared it.

I used to believe I was destined for a life full of joy. Yes, there would be hard times, but I always believed they would be worth it when I was finally where I was supposed to be. I used to believe I was capable of anything and everything. I used to hope fearlessly and live freely. I never realized how detrimental losing those beliefs was until I heard that one simple sentence. I deserve to have an extraordinary life, if I want one.

Hearing those words allowed me to see just how much anxiety and depression have taken from me. Of course I recognized their effect on my life day-to-day, but I never realized how lasting their impact was on my entire worldview. They had not only stolen my contentment with everyday life, but they had also stolen my hope for any kind of future other than struggle. When given the possibility of the life I used to crave, I immediately rejected it because I had absolutely no hope for what was to come. Anxiety and depression combined to create the simplest yet most devastating result of all: hopelessness.

I am by no means an inspirational figure in the world of mental illness. I have struggled for years and continue to struggle every day. But I want to say this to those who believe just as I did that they do not deserve an extraordinary life: you do. Even if you can’t find the will or the hope right now to want it, you will. Even when you’re sitting on your bathroom floor, wondering how you’ll get out of bed tomorrow morning, you deserve it. Even when you’re at your lowest low and think there’s no possible way you’ll make it out alive, you will.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been there, and I still go there sometimes. Because you are you, and you are deserving of every beauty and passion and joy this life has to offer. You can hope fearlessly and live freely. And you deserve to live an extraordinary life, if you want one.

Image via Fran @francistogram on Unsplash

Originally published: May 23, 2022
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