For this month’s post I wanted to discuss something that I almost never do with anyone: Hope. This is a heavy word for me. To me “hope” is an obligation, something that everyone is expected to carry in their back pocket and take out to show the world, saying “Look, I’ve got some hope. I’m fine. Everything’s normal here.”
Those who know me know that I have depression. Those very close to me have seen the depression. And those I love and trust most need to wear weighted boots and a space helmet to survive the suction of the black hole that is my true, unaltered state of mind. Some would call me a cynic. Which honestly might be a little generous. I like to call myself a realist. I see things the way that they are, not through rose colored lenses. And honestly, while I’m at it, most of the world is a pit of garbage, full to the brim with hatred, violence, and sorrow. I simultaneously commend and have some distaste for those who can look at the world and see it as something beautiful and meaningful. Part of me wants to be them and another smaller part of me wants to roll my eyes so far back in my head that they never return past my frontal lobe again.
Though it may sound counterintuitive, I’m also the type of person who sees what could be. This is a dangerous state of mind. When you see a world in ruins but also see what it could be, it’s easy to dissociate yourself from reality. It gets a little too easy to think “Well, none of that is what it’s supposed to be, what it could be. What if it never gets better? What’s the point?” And so on and so on until you dig yourself a nice little earthy hole and never want to come out.
What I’m trying to say really is that hope is not often part of my spiritual vocabulary. I have put a lot of hope into a lot of people and a lot of situations in my life, and never once has it paid off. It’s like loaning out soul energy to the universe and getting conned every time. After a while hope starts to make you feel a little… stupid. So after a while not giving in to hope becomes a survival mechanism, or a form of self care. You wouldn’t go around giving all your time and energy to people who always stand you up and don’t return your affection, would you? And I know a lot of people are probably reading this and thinking that I’m looking at this all from the wrong perspective. And maybe they’re right. But I’ve already admitted to being a cynical realist, so it’s not like I didn’t warn you.
Our experiences and our personalities help shape our world view, and I believe that our world view shapes our life. Which is why I’ve given hope another chance. To put this statement into perspective, about a year to a year and a half ago I was at my lowest. For over six months I was unemployed. My home and almost all of my belongings had been packed away without my consent in a sketchy situation that gives me anxiety to even think about, and I was given no help by the authorities— though they did make a point to ticket me over one hundred dollars for a dim light (which I was too poor from unemployment to get fixed). During this time I was living on my family’s couch (picture a severely depressed introvert in a house where there are always lights on, always a TV playing, and someone is yelling at someone else at least 95% of every single day). I was suffering from all sorts of physical pains that no doctor could explain and I literally thought I was going to die. Around this time I finally started a job where it quickly became clear that I was not equal or as respected as my coworkers, to the point where I finally had to quit. This was all compounded by someone very dear to me deciding to exit my life.
It just seemed like one terrible situation after another. Things got to a point where I could almost physically feel myself caving in, like that fragile but always present web of soul matter had been removed from my body and the skin and muscles and bones were not enough to keep me whole. I started to research least painful ways to kill myself daily (there are full websites dedicated to these things). I was trying to formulate a plan and a timeline, in an attempt to leave as little mess and suffering behind me as possible. There was only one thing that really threw a wrench into my plans— and that was the inescapable fact that no matter how much I felt like the world didn’t care about me, there were people who did. I tried to rationalize a way around this and though I like to think that I have a pretty solid imagination, I couldn’t quite put the pieces together.
Though this was a difficult time to say the least, it did make me realize what having no hope at all really felt like. There was a physical emptiness in me that I could feel. I could feel the hopelessness in my chest and in the pit of my stomach when I breathed and when I ate. I thought that I had been truly devoid of hope before, but I had been wrong. And while there had been times that I had almost been proud to state that I wasn’t burdened with the expectation of hope, feeling its actual absence was something else entirely.
During this time I also started looking back at pictures of myself during the only period of happiness in my entire life— while I was overseas— and I could see that the woman in the photos and who I now saw in the mirror were fundamentally different people. The greasy hair, the acne, and the weight gain were all things that everyone could see, but there were also the things that I knew no one else could comprehend. The buoyancy of hope, the warmth of pride, the elation of finding yourself thousands of miles from home— these were things that the woman in the pictures had that I did not.
I envied that woman very much, almost to the point of hatred, and also, loss. I see myself now and I am more like an animal in pain than a human being. I am paranoid, and anxious, and ready to bite. I am not thinking of the future, I am thinking of the pain and the cage. I asked myself why. Why am I living this life? And why couldn’t I be that woman again? What would it actually take for me to replace that missing piece that I had traded for a boarding pass back home over two years ago? And the answer came to me so simply— buy a ticket. That was the moment that I knew hope had returned to me.
There are so many decisions that we must make in life that will take us in one direction or another. At this point in my life, I have a healthy relationship, a job that I adore, and a family whom I love. There is a part of me that says that this is enough. But there is another wiser part of me that recognizes that hollow feeling in the base of my gut and the cause of the sorrow that comes to me night and day. Part of me is scared that I am making a terrible mistake, and that the sorrow and suffering are just… me. I acknowledge this fear, that no matter where I go they will follow, and no experience or grand adventure can begin to fill that void. But I finally figure that I owe it to myself to try to prove that fear wrong.
I wanted to talk about hope because by the time anyone is reading this, I will have boarded a plane. I don’t know exactly when I will be writing here again. I am not abandoning this blog. I will only have more things to share from here on out, but there will be a while in which I’m just going to spend time with myself, the woman I used to be, and hope.