Hope. It’s something that is an integral part of mental health and wellbeing. We know it’s important, and we hear the word used frequently. But what, exactly, is hope?
Part of knowing what hope is involves knowing what it is not. Hope isn’t fluff. It’s not empty. Hope isn’t false or shallow or misguided, and it’s not a desperate, last-ditch effort to hold on to what is escaping us.
More than a mere belief, hope is a conviction. It’s the knowledge that we can and will overcome challenges, heal, and thrive. Hope is that, and it’s so much more.
- realistic optimism
- living with challenges and obstacles and illness and taking action anyway
- doing something you enjoy because somewhere deep inside you know you deserve it
- feeling fear and working to overcome it
- being unable to leave the house but still making plans for the future
- reaching out for help
- finding one way to be okay when you have 20 reasons why you’re not
- taking medication and/or going to therapy because you’re determined to thrive
Twenty-Four Shadows of Hope
In Twenty-Four Shadows, a novel about a man living with dissociative identity disorder, Isaac Bittman’s world is falling apart. He is overwhelmed and often doesn’t even know if he can, or should, keep going. But he loves his wife, and he loves his son. Even though he doesn’t know if he can move forward, he knows that he wants to; therefore, he gets treatment and help. That is hope. Hope is doing something despite uncertainty of the outcome.
The following glimpse into the story shows a despairing Isaac who, after a switch to an alternate identity and back, is terrified that he’s unworthy of his family’s love and support.
Reese steered Isaac to their bathroom, the place where the two of them had doctored Dominic’s boo-boos the day after his birthday party. Now, as lovingly as she had tended to Dominic, Reese helped Isaac. She helped him remove his sweat-soaked clothes and the wet dressings that wound around parts of his body and made him look half mummified. She opened the bag given to him when he left the hospital and extracted what she needed to re-dress all of his cuts and gashes. Isaac watched her intently. If she would have made eye contact with him, he would have looked away in shame. Because she looked only at what she was doing, he was able to watch her. He was grateful that she didn’t look at him, but he was also crushed to pieces by the thought that she probably could no longer stand to look at his face.
When she finished, she took his hand in hers and led him into their bedroom to help him into dry clothes. Throughout the process, neither spoke, and by the time he was dressed in fresh sweats and t-shirt, he was so worried that she hated him that he came dangerously close to throwing up all over his clean clothes. He started to slump out of the room, but she stepped in front of him, blocking his path. Because he still couldn’t bear to look her in the eye, he turned his head to look at the artwork on the wall. It was a modern print made up of concentric circles that Dominic thought looked like a target. It still had little marks on it from a few months ago when Dominic had decided to use it as an actual target for these sticky wall-walker gummy things he bought with his tickets at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Reese put her hand under his chin and turned his head away from the artwork so that now he was looking at something far more beautiful than any piece of art. She transcended art; he was lower than garbage. He was so sure that she found him hateful and disgusting that he was thoroughly surprised when she kissed him in a way that told him in no uncertain terms that she did not, in fact, plan to throw him away. He wondered, briefly, if together they could be trash art. He sure as hell hoped so.
Hope is feeling scared and unworthy but, when someone kisses you, you kiss them back anyway. Hope is feeling like trash but wanting to create trash art.
Hope is you, your hopes and dreams, and everything you do “anyway.”
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