Over the years, I have found that having hope is crucial in being able to live well. That is, believing that I have a future, and a purpose for my life has been the one key factor that has enabled me to regain my life back. But, to be honest, hopelessness far too often is lurking right behind me like a very dark shadow waiting to block out any ray of hope.
Hopelessness is an enemy that I must hold at bay, avoiding it at all costs. It comes about quickly if I fail to see a future and a plan for my life. Hopelessness quickly gives way to despair and then the despair gives way to depression. And suddenly I can find myself in a deep dark bit that overwhelms into emotional pain, isolation, and no will to get up and live.
Hopelessness is an enemy that I must hold at bay, avoiding it at all costs.
It is a “cancer” that damages my soul and can lead me into the darkest deepest despair possible. It would be all too easy to embrace this-this familiar enemy of hopelessness. So, every day I take great care to keep this “creeper” of hopelessness away. It takes daily focus for me to remain hope-filled; knowing that my life has meaning and purpose. I have a future and so do you. You have a future and a purpose! Even all of the pain that you and I have experienced due to having bipolar disorder has purpose.
For me, knowing what hopelessness that is caused by a depressive mood looks like for me has been crucial in learning to live well. What are the early signs? How quickly do I spiral down? So through the years I have developed a workable plan for me when even the slightest bit of hopelessness rears its ugly head.
So, these are the seven things that I pay attention to when I feel even the slightest bit of despair creep in (Please know, that these seven things may nearly impossible to do if hopelessness has had a grip on you for some time.).
At the early signs of hopelessness/depressive thinking or feeling:
- Let your doctor and therapist know at the first signs of it. Don’t wait!
- Let key family and or trusted friends know. Don’t wait.
- If you have a WRAP plan or another type of wellness plan, start to work it.
- Not talking about your feelings of hopelessness will cause you to bottle it up inside you and it will begin to have even more “power” over your thoughts and feelings. You need to talk about it. Get it out into the open. Talking will release some of the very real pain of hopelessness.
- Work hard at not isolating. Isolating empowers hopelessness. Continued isolation will affect your brain’s ability to problem-solve and thinking differently. (There’s actual research out there on this: isolation brings can cause an inflexibility to the brain to problem solve.) Call or text friends; don’t go to them, have them come to you. Send out an SOS to whomever even if that is all you can do.
- If you have a peer specialist that is working with you be sure to let him or her know. If you do not have one, find out where in your community you might receive the services of one. Having a peer support specialist is particularly important to do if you lack a support system through friends and family.
- Spend time reading Scripture or inspiring literature and listening to things that inspire you and fill you with hope.
If you’re not struggling with hopelessness currently, then I would strongly encourage you to develop either a WRAP plan or a wellness plan for living well. After all, you and I both know that having a mental health diagnosis, hopelessness (a depressive state) is too often lurking around like a sick predator of our living well in spite of having bipolar.
And yes, no matter how hard we might fight against hopelessness sometimes our brain chemistry fights against us. And that’s why medicine is imperative in our daily battle to live well in spite of a mental illness. If you have a mental illness, your brain like mine, malfunctions. So, I do everything within my power to keep my brain chemistry as “straight” as possible. Not only do I take my medicine, but I also choose to have hope, which helps my brain chemistry. I don’t dare allow my thinking to go “south” for even the least bit of time. So, I count on my medicine working, and I do my part regarding how I think.
How about you? What do you do to fight off hopelessness? If you’re feeling hopeless what are you doing about it? What keeps you going even when you feel like quitting? What preventative steps do you take to ward off depressive thinking?