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What I've learnt about hope

Our Activist Elia shares how their relationship with hope changes when depression hits, and four things they've learnt about hope as a result.

Throughout school, I was conditioned to only think of “hope” in the context of academic aspirations and career goals. It was always talked about in conjunction with that ominous thing: “the future”.

However, when depression hits, the future seems bleaker and more distant, and all those things I had thought I was hoping for fade until I’m left feeling hopeless. I know that when I start to feel hopeless, life can seem like it’s not worth living, but when I feel like life isn’t worth living, I feel more hopeless and it just becomes an awful cycle. That’s why I’ve been trying to change how I think about hope, so here are some of the things I’ve learnt.

When depression hits, the future seems bleaker and more distant, and all those things I had thought I was hoping for fade until I’m left feeling hopeless.
  1. Your hopes don’t have to be massive achievements or end goals. My hopes used to only consist of things like getting a degree and getting my dream job. However things like that are really easy to lose sight of and small setbacks can make you feel like they’re completely unachievable. The actual definition of “hope” is to want something to happen or be true and, using that definition, we can almost always find something to hope for, even if it seems really trivial. So now, even though I still do have hopes like the ones I mentioned before, I also hope that I’ll get sent a meme that makes me smile or that I’ll enjoy the new TV series I’ve started.
  2. You have to actually want your hopes. Whether or not you notice it, other people’s expectations of you can have a massive impact on what you do and what you think you want. More and more, I’d started to find that a lot of my hopes weren’t the things that I actually wanted. For example, throughout most of my time at school, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer or something else corporate. But now, when I actually think about it, I don’t think that’s what I would choose for myself. Now, I make sure that my hopes are mine, and I know they are if they fill me with happiness or curiosity about what’s to come.
  3. Don’t lose hope in getting better, even if your ideas about ‘recovery’ change with time. When I first became unwell, I hoped that I would quickly get over it and return to my old self. While that is a valid hope, it’s really important to recognise that everyone’s idea of recovery is different, it won’t be the same for anyone, and it might not work out in the way you thought it would. Looking back over the years, I am in a better place than I was, but based on my initial hopes, my current position would be a failure. I still have bad days and I definitely won’t be stopping my medications any time soon, but I am really proud of how far I’ve come.
  4. Last but not least, hope is really important. Personally, hope is one of the things that helps keep me going at my worst moments and I know how difficult living can feel when you lose hope. That’s why I think it’s so important to consider the points above because, the way I see it, hope doesn’t have to mean finding your life purpose, it can mean finding the thing that makes you want to see tomorrow.
Hope doesn’t have to mean finding your life purpose, it can mean finding the thing that makes you want to see tomorrow.

Author: Elia

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