Finding Hope When All Feels Lost
I’ve been feeling absolutely pants this week, worse than I have for a while, and it’s already been a crappy winter. Then out of the blue I got an email from my editor at The Mighty telling me another editor from Babble.com wanted to publish one of my articles.
Sometimes I think the universe is trying to make sure I don’t give up when it feels I’m close to quitting.
So today I am grateful for hope. I’m grateful someone, somewhere out there wants me to keep going and find the strength to keep fighting, when to be honest, I just want to quit and hide in my cave until further notice.
Hope is a powerful tool. Hope is basically positivity — thinking things can and will get better, even if they might not. It would be so easy to give into the bitterness I occasionally feel. How unfair it all seems that I got stuck in this body and have to live each day with pain that causes silent tears to spring from within, despite my best efforts to hide them.
I caught up with a really important old friend in the last few days, and he said to me, “I let go of the bitterness early on, nothing good can come from that.” We were talking about our failed marriages at the time, but it made me think actually he’s so right, not just about the hurt and pain you feel when a relationship ends or you lose a loved one, but also the bitterness that can eat you alive when you lose a job, a friend, a house — your health. Negative emotions can be so damaging if we let them set down roots deep inside us.
This week has been a time of mixed emotions. I have been battling with some of the highest pain levels I’ve experienced for a while, a real peak of unpleasantness that has wiped me out, and I’ll be honest, has made me want to quit. Like quit everything — not in the sense that I want to die but in the sense that I want someone else to swoop in and plonk me in a hospital or something where I no longer have to manage my meds, my home, my life. There, no one expects you to work, make the dinner, to write, to help with maths, to do laundry, do they? I just wanted to be left alone.
After nearly two years, this week my ex asked for his belongings. I should have thrown some of these things out awhile ago, but how could I throw a lifetime of memories in the skip? But after all this time, I felt lighter and tears flowed freely as I found I could finally move on, I could let some of the bitterness go. The rush of liberating endorphins combined with the rush of pain at lifting these endless boxes totally floored me, and I wondered if I would get up again.
Then I opened a bag shoved inside a box I was to return.
Out spilled a lifetime of memories. An entire life captured in still images flowed over my sore legs until I was surrounded by every person I’ve known in my life. Each friend I have laughed with. Each man I’ve loved. Each family member I grew alongside. Every place I’ve been. My grandparents, now gone from this life. My babies, oh my babies, so small, and me looking so ill and young and afraid. I selected a few hundred and began the process of digitalizing and uploading them — some of the best memories of my life — sharing them with friends I’ve long lost touch with and some I see regularly but often forget just how far we go back. What a privilege and pleasure it was to give some documented history to the people who have shared my life so far.
Among these pictures are some I will keep but never share. Because within them they hold so much pain. There’s one of me holding my 4-month-old son awkwardly, my arm in a cast and looking exhausted, older than I do now and just utterly broken and beaten down. In this picture, the woman, the mother, was holding so many secrets inside. She was dying a little every day. She was scared. She felt trapped. She was lost. She was alone. She had lied to every person who loved her and many who didn’t, to protect her baby.
She had lost all hope.
She was 21.
Me. That was me. I never ever in the moments that picture and others like it were taken, could have imagined I would be where I am now. I had lost my hope, my dignity, my pride, my whole self and lied about it at the time to the only people who could have saved me.
Now, 18 years later, yes, I have a failed marriage, four children by two fathers, no paid job and my health is worse, but I have hope. I have peace. I know who I am and what I cannot and will not tolerate anymore. I worked my butt off in those decades to qualify in two professions. I was successful in both until my health deteriorated. I gained a high level of education. I traveled a little. I learned new skills. I met new people. I read more books. I listened and learned from those I encountered in all the spaces and places I entered. I tried to help anyone I came across who needed a part of me, in case they also felt lost and alone. I think I’ve made a positive difference, even if it’s just a smile or an ear when there is no one else around. I am still fighting to give myself a new occupation and purpose. I forged a new life from the ashes of who I used to be.
I found hope.
I found peace.
I “let go of the bitterness because nothing good can ever come of that.”
So even when the darkness tries to take you, just hold on that little bit longer, as you never know when that email from an editor, that message from a friend or that photograph reminding you how far you’ve come, might fall into your lap.
There is always hope, even when all seems lost.
Hope is you.
It’s your mind. Your truth.
No one can ever take that away.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo by lolostock