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When I'm Suspended Between Hope and Hopelessness in Life With Chronic Illness

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Hope. Sometimes it is the only thing that makes life and the situations we find ourselves in even bearable. Hope is something we all look for, something we all need, and something that is sometimes the most elusive and difficult thing to find. It is the one feeling that many times makes the difference in the pain we are facing, determining how and if we will walk the path laid before us.

Let’s be honest, life is hard, and at times, it really sucks. There are days that the pain, loss, and struggle seem never-ending. You find yourself in a dark pit with no way out. You see only sorrow in your future, and you feel there is no way forward that is not hard and painful, and the end you see does not look pretty. On these days your hope seems lost.

Let’s be honest, life is good, and at times, it really is amazing. There are days that in spite of the pain, you see your blessings, you see promises of something good, and even though you are in a pit right now, you see bright possibilities of the future. You see a path forward, painful though it may be, that is full of possibilities, and on these days, your heart is full of hope.

In life, we have often heard that there are two groups of people out there: those who see hope and those who do not. You know, the glass half full and half empty groups, sometimes referred to as the Optimists and Pessimists. Do you see yourself in one of these groups? Do you see yourself in either?

Believe it or not, I am not speaking about two different people, but of the same person – me. There are days that I live in one place or another, and days in which I float between both of these worlds, feeling each deeply. Sometimes, I find myself in both of these worlds simultaneously as my mind is in one and my heart is in the other.

Have you ever found yourself in such a place – suspended somewhere between hope and hopelessness – feeling and knowing both in the same breath? There are days I feel of two minds and two hearts, holding to hope, yet feeling hopeless. To many, this might sound odd. How can you feel and be in both places at the same time?

To be honest, I am not sure how, and until I experienced this, I would not have believed it, yet many days in my battle with chronic illness (for me it is rheumatoid arthritis and young-onset Parkinson’s disease), this is exactly where I find myself. My heart and mind seem to be at war, as I feel and cling to hope, yet feel the doubt, uncertainty, and despair of hopelessness.

It seems to be a constant war in me as I and my family walk a very challenging and unique path. These opposite and conflicting emotions, when occurring simultaneously, can be very frustrating, and feel very unsettling. As I am suspended between the two, floating from one emotion to the next, sometimes within seconds and minutes of one another, it is sometimes hard to process, accept, and even figure out how to move forward.

Sometimes, I even beat myself up for feeling hopeless when I am so blessed. Sometimes, I beat myself up for being overly positive when walking a hard path. In the process of these conflicting thoughts, I only make myself feel worse and make my struggle that much more difficult. If you haven’t realized by now, the mental and emotional battles of chronic illness or loss are sometimes the hardest fought battles of all, for it is these battles that I fight within myself and against myself. They are often the fights that I do not let anyone else see. They are the secret battles that can take a greater toll on me and my health than the physical ones.

It has taken me over 30 years of chronic illness to admit this battle, not just to others, but to myself, and it has taken me just as long to feel OK, and to give myself the grace to feel hopeful, hopeless, and both together. I am learning that both emotions and both places are OK, and in some ways needed for this journey I am on.

The times of hopelessness remind me of how hard and challenging these conditions can be for a young man and family. The times of hope remind me of all I have to be thankful for, and that no matter what I think, my future is not written yet. The times when I feel both remind me more than any other that no matter what I feel, I choose how I will move forward.

Today is one of those days when I am living suspended between hope and hopelessness, and that is OK. For the path I walk is very hard and painful today, yet I have many blessings, and I know not what tomorrow holds. While I live in the pain and despair of how I feel today, I also live in the blessings I have, and the hope for tomorrow.

If like me, today you are living in both of these places, give yourself the grace and acceptance you need. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way. This path we find ourselves on is challenging and unlike any other challenge faced by another. Each day, we just must walk forward the best way we can, accept it, and find peace for where we are, because sometimes in our loss and pain, we all live suspended between hope and hopelessness.

Getty image by Wakila.

Originally published: January 19, 2022
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