“Trust even the bleak times. When you reach the end of the tunnel, then you will know why this all had to be.” – Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart
Lately, I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about hope; wondering what hope is, what it means to hope and how hope is different than expectation. I have had challenges trusting that being hopeful through the bleak times is really worth the effort. I have been trying to understand how one can be hopeful but yet not have expectations that things will turn out a certain way. Especially in the moments when I truly feel hopeless and those expectations feel like a life-vest, keeping me afloat.
To better understand this, I decided to started with the basics by looking up the definition of hope. What I found was that hope is defined as a feeling or expectation for a certain thing to happen and a want or desire for something specific to occur. So it’s both a feeling –Being Hopeful– and a desired outcome – Having Expectations.
For me personally, I find that at times feeling hopeful seems to bring about deep disappointment.
During the dark crisis days with my son’s illness, there were many times where I was unable to find hope anywhere. Not a glimmer, not even a glimpse. It felt really hopeless. Then each time he would end up in the hospital or a new facility, I would not only feel hope but also have grandiose expectations that it would be the place that would change the course of our situation. I expected that with the right combination of treatments and treatment teams my son would be redirected onto the path of recovery. Each time, the hope turned to doubt and then to hopeless in quick succession, as things didn’t play out the way that I had expected. On a few occasions, I truly had the rug pulled out from under me and spent days, if not weeks, trying to find my way back to trusting that things would eventually take a turn for the better. Each time wondering what the purpose of hope really was, while feeling disappointment in how things had turned out. Perhaps though, it wasn’t feeling hopeful that created this disappointment, but it was because of my misaligned expectations instead.
That’s when I realized that hope was not in and of itself flawed. Hope exists to keep us moving forward. Without it, few would have the strength to move through even the brightest days. What was askew on my part, during these times of disappointment, were my expectations. My expectation, in part because of my desire to stop my own pain; wanting for that day when I would wake up and the nightmare would be over.
Understanding that expectations are more about the specific details of what we desire to happen, I realize now that hope is really just about trusting that it will all turn out ok, leaving the specifics of “ok” to unfold as we move from day to day. In this trust is where the Art of Hope begins.
For those who are experiencing illness with a loved one, learning the art of hope is critical to thriving in the midst of the chaos a crisis can bring into our lives. While at times it may be difficult to find hope, as it was for me, having some tools available may help in the process.
The first thing I found to be really helpful was surrounding myself with people who could provide me with support. If you aren’t at a place where you are ready to share the mental illness news with those close to you, try to seek out those who you can talk with. You may find this in a church or temple, with a therapist, or perhaps even the barista at your local coffee shop. It is really important to find someone to lean on when you need that extra support (and you will need it). I found this support with friends, family, physical healers and my yoga community, to name a few.
Another thing that I found to bring me back to hopefulness was to read a good book that was hope-filled. I personally love Dr. Wayne Dyer. I can pick up one of his books at any point in time, open to a page, start reading and find hope in the pages. It may also be helpful to find a book that speaks to the diagnosis you are dealing with; ask for recommendations from treatment team staff if you aren’t sure where to begin the selection process. I found, in addition to Dr. Dyer’s books, books dealing with teenage brain development, BPD and depression helped me to better understand what my son was experiencing. Having a greater understanding helped to bolster hope in me.
As I said earlier, there were a number of times where I had expectations which truly were not in line with what was most likely the pace and progress of our situation. Even when my expectations are not that far out of line, I realize that having hope means to trust regardless of the outcome. When you find yourself disappointed with the outcome of a situation, see if you can determine whether or not it was due to having expectations that were not in alignment with the most likely outcome in that moment. You may be surprised to find that your disappointment isn’t because you were feeling hopeful, but because you had expectations for a specific outcome.
This is still a daily process for me, some days are very hopeful and hope-filled. No matter the situation, I do my best to keep hope front and center. This is what the Art of Hope means to me.
I would love to hear your book recommendations as well as other thoughts around finding support, allowing hope and hopefulness and keeping it front and center.
Thank you all for your support, your stories and your feedback! Please feel free to email me your thoughts and recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can always send me an email with any questions regarding this information or any other mental health system question/inquiry.
I’m also on Twitter @farfrmparadise