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Holding Onto Hope on My Mental Health Journey

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There are times I think I know what I’m doing in life. I feel confident. On top of things. “I’ve got this,” I say to myself.

This is the Naome most people see. I take chances. Go outside my comfort zone. Mistakes don’t bother me. After falling down, I get back up and laugh as I keep going. I go to yoga regularly. Eat salad. Remember to bathe. Keep dental appointments. My productivity soars. I can see a path. I’m taking steps towards healing. I might even help someone else. An outline of the new me begins to form, just waiting to be colored in. Life is good. Then something happens. A life change. Family conflict. I’m spun off balance. I fall off the path, lose my way. I forget to eat. Some days I eat cake for breakfast. Eventually, ice cream for lunch with the cat seems normal.

On my darkest days, it’s hard to move. My body aches. My stomach burns. I can’t think straight. A part of me is incensed by this pathetic display of weakness.

“Psychosomatic horseshit! Take some ibuprofen and suck it up buttercup!” I think to myself. I limp into the kitchen, searching for the pain reliever, even though I know it will upset my already burning stomach. It’s been doing that a lot lately. I have yoga scheduled, but the deep throbbing pain in my hip and the fact that one leg seems longer than the other tells me I should skip it. After a hot shower and attempting to stretch, I reluctantly cancel. I really should stay home to work on my blog anyway. It’s been over a month and I haven’t published a thing.

“God, you’re such a loser,” says a voice in my head. Intellectually, I know I shouldn’t talk that way to myself. It’s not that I’m slacking. I have been writing every day. After I read it, I delete it. Nothing seems good enough. Especially me. I feel so scattered. Without a job to go to, each day seems to blend into the next. The world is upside down. I feel like a failure. As a wife, a mother and most certainly, as a writer. “You are not a REAL writer anyway, Naome! Readers?! Ha! What readers?! Give it up already, nobody cares!” The more time goes by, the louder the voice becomes. Meanwhile, deep inside me, a whisper grows, patiently waiting to be heard. I call that voice, hope.

“Hope is a waking dream.”
– Aristotle

When I was a little girl, I wished upon a star and really believed my dreams would come true. Somewhere along the way I lost that. I stopped dreaming.

I saw a hummingbird today. It was drinking nectar from flowers I planted in my backyard a few years ago. It was a dream come true. Three years ago I returned from my annual trip to Jamaica and was dismayed by the lack of birds in my garden. I decided something had to be done about that! My dream was to recreate a little piece of Jamaica in my backyard. That meant attracting hummingbirds! After determining that lions ear and firecracker would do the trick, I sought out and planted the three feet high, not yet flowering bushes. For a few weeks I dutifully watered the plants and waited for my winged friends to arrive. I remember sitting in the backyard drinking wine, frustrated, irritated. I wanted quick results. After losing interest, I forgot all about the idea. Moving on on to other things, like sobriety.

The garden did what a garden does. It grew. So did I. Perhaps, we were waiting for each other.

Today, my lions ear bush stands seven feet tall. It is bursting with orange flowers. I noticed it through the kitchen window the other day, for the first time in a long time. Why hadn’t I noticed that before? I thought to myself, “I should go outside just before dusk. Maybe I will see a hummingbird.” Around 5 pm, I positioned my chair,  facing the colorful flower buffet. A voice inside my head said, “Don’t be ridiculous, what makes you think it will happen today?”

I wasn’t paying that voice any mind. I was giddy with anticipation! As if on cue, a buzzing sound came from behind my left ear. My eyes caught something whiz by me.
It took a moment to focus on the tiny, colorful body darting amongst the flowers. My heart filled with joy as I quickly recorded the moment. After showing the video to my husband, he said, smiling. “That was your dream wasn’t it?”

“What?” I said quizzically. “Dream?” The word bounced around my head.

“Years ago, “ he continued. “You planted those bushes with the dream of inviting hummingbirds into the yard, right?” Yes. I guess I did do that. But, how Acknowledging my heart’s desire, I made a declaration and took action. I had to rely on faith. Develop patience. Let things grow. When the time was right, I trusted my instincts and opened my eyes. That’s when I saw my dream come true.

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumblebee, the small child and the smiling faces. Smell the rain and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”
– Ashley Smith

Once again it’s that time of year where we think about what we’re thankful for. There was a lot to be grateful for, even in 2020. The pause that COVID-19 forced upon us serves as an opportunity to fully re-examine life. To get down to the heart of the matter. What is really important will continue on into 2021. Love, Faith, Hope and Dreams. The rest will fall away. The past is gone. Over and done. I survived. It made me who I am today. A strong, capable, compassionate woman. Now that I’ve faced the darkness, it’s time to turn to the light. If I spend too much time looking back, I might miss the miracle of life happening right before my eyes.

Today, I get to choose where I focus my attention.

I choose joy.

“When you change the way you see the world, the world you see will change.”
– Wookiefoot, Don Quixote

Image via contributor

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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