Monday, July 18, 2005

Reply - reflections on hope

This post is a reply to comments left in "Trial By Terror". For context you should read that first. I wrote a little too much for a comment so I put it here.

It is true (and not crass) that having a child puts a higher cost on abandoning hope as well as giving hope itself a greater value (perhaps through it having a physical object to identify with). My daughter (and wife) through whatever means definitely take me to a place where I virtually 'have to hope'. While I am fighting with all my strength to hold on to my life and on to my hope, and doing quite well most of the time with it - even though my health has been quite appalling lately - I don't think I am beyond the capacity of losing hope just because I have a child, or a wife, or any other object or means of supporting that hope. Unfortunately there are common enough examples of persons with children and loved ones who abandon hope and succumb to the darkest fantasies of despair and I don't think that I am intrinsically more capable of holding on to hope than these.

I have actually thought quite a lot about hope since being depressed, and again more recently after reading trial by terror, and I do think hope is something that can be built, nurtured, and maintained. Whatever the 'process of hope' it is definitely not the path of least resistance so is, by default, at times inconvenient and at others damn near impossible!

For me there are three powerful foundations in my life that sustains and maintains my ability to hope.

My family (wife and child) - they are an unfailing inspiration to my determination to get better and be as well as possible in the midst of my depression (ironically they also cause me the greatest grief, especially at those times when my depression is the worst, because I know that my illness traumatises them and places a burden on their lives that noone should have to carry and that I can't bare to see them carry). They actually have to do nothing to underpin my hope. The fact that they tolerate me and even give me a kind word or look when I am at my worst is amazing beyond understanding. When occasionally (and this is rarely) I receive a cruel word or glance from them how can I hold it against them as they naturally get frustrated (or confused in my daughters case) and are burdened with something they are not compelled to endure. Ties like this certainly give me something to live for both in way of inspiration to me and also with a desire to repay the faith and love that they have extended to me.

My friends/supporters - I have a few of these that support me at all times but especially when I am at my most vulnerable, as I am coming out of a deep dark place. In the depths of depression I find I get frustrated, angry, agitated, numb, feelingless, my mind doesn't work, I can't concentrate, I barely eat or sleep (or over eat and sleep often), have dark thoughts, barely move 20m in a day (a couple of toilet stops and the occasional fridge stop) etc. A place where I am too far caught up in the illness and can exist only in the immediacy of my depression's depths. As I come out of the worst of this my mind begins to straighten out and my activity begins to increase slowly. I soon get enough breathing space from the illness and am able to reflect on my depression and the impact it has on my life and my loved ones. I do this though with a weakened mind that easily gets drawn into speculation about ultimate recovery, or about feeling cheated by another episode of depression, or with certitude about my lack of worth, or get hooked about some crazy scheme to restore some of the things I have lost in my life due to illness - money, usefulness, routine, normality, or just a little further on I become lucid enough to hate myself for what I am as measured by my symptoms (a do nothing slob that can't think or eat or shower or add value to another's life - especially to those who endure his frightful presence in these times). It is at this point that my friends are like gold. I have simply made an agreement with myself (with the support of a few close friends/supporters) that no matter what I am going through as soon as I am well enough to be at this point I will call them and let them know. They reassure me, deconstruct the false conclusions about my worth or about my burdens that only my distorted mind is capable of drawing. They reaffirm my value to themselves as friends and speak on behalf of my family. They reconstruct hope in my thinking where the disease of depression had previously wrought havoc. The fact they do this spares my wife from being faced with the pressures of my darkest mind when it requires energy and strength to fight against it on my behalf - this too makes me want to live for my friends. If my friends think it's worth fighting for my life and my family then I can certainly use their judgement. It gives me hope that people are willing to spend time and energy on me - even when I am at my worst - there has to be a message of hope in that. But it doesn't end their with my friends. They also tolerate my need to be 'normal' and do what they can to do 'normal' things with me when I improve a little more. It doesn't matter if I am not well enough to engage the rest of the world they will meet me for coffee, watch a dvd with me, talk about sport or politics or religion or any interest or just sit silently with my, virtually any place any time just to give me an experience of normality when ordinarily I am not well enough to be normal. To glimpse that light at the end of the tunnel brings hope.

Faith/God - This is a worldview/ideological advantage as well as a practical one. From the beginning my faith tells me that I am not a biological or cosmological accident but a being with value, meaning, and purpose - immediately this is a reason to hope and live regardless of my circumstances. It provides me with comfort through prayer (although unanswered prayers become a challenge from time to time), through reading of texts that relate to my situation with a message of hope, and through the tool of faith itself that provides an avenue to hope when rationality can't (basically a belief in the unseen even in the midst of doubt).

I hadn't intended to write this much in reply (I often won't reply to posts - not because I don't essentially want to but because I don't want correspondence to be a burden that turns me away from logging on to my site and reading it if I need to or feeling obliged to reply before I write a post I think it's important for me to write). But I had been thinking about hope and I had intended to jot a couple of additional things to my last comments. I have forgotten a little of what I was going to say (as my mind is getting a little tired after writing the above) but it was along the lines of the disaster it would be to have hope become an anathema by virtue of embracing it as something that keeps one going just sufficiently to suffer more in the future. It's enough that hope is shattered by setbacks in health without it becoming something to fear and despise of itself.


Blogger broke said...

Thank you for this post and for this amazing insight into your life - it speaks to me and I have learnt things through reading it. Your illness must be horrible, and I really wish you well. That you value your family and friends so highly says a lot about you and them.
Take care,

6:13 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I am not certain how I got here, it may have been through brokes blog and in reality I guess it does not make a difference. Your writing is incredible and your description of deppression is better than anything that I could begin to express. But I can only tell you that I identify with that which you speak. Though I have been diagnosed at bipolar, the majority of my time is spent in the darkness of that cave. But over time my disease has also changed and morphed. I will not go into detail here. But I am most curious when you come out of your darkness what those times are like and how you view your reality. Perhaps you have already written about it and I need to go back which I will do. Mostly I just wanted to say thanks for writing and sharing your perspective. Please do not stop.

5:30 PM  

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