Recently a friend asked me how I am always so hopeful. She marveled at my experience of multiple mental illnesses and was impressed by my hope and determination.
I didn’t know how to answer her question. I am a hopeful person and have been so for a long time. Eventually, after further reflection, I thought of several reasons why I have hope, even within the struggle with my mental illnesses.
1. Nature. I view my life as having different seasons. Sometimes I get stuck in a harsh winter in my life, but eventually spring comes. When I feel discouraged, I spend time in nature. I sit on a park bench and notice everything about my surroundings. I pull out my camera and find the beauty around me. I write.
During the darkest times in my life I am drawn to nature. When my mental illness is taking me over, I remind myself, this is a difficult season in my life, but eventually it will pass.
I always believe things will get better, in the next season. Usually they do since I work hard to get better.
2. Faith. I am a strong person of faith and my faith gives me great hope and comfort. I believe in a God who is stronger than anything I might battle. I believe there is always hope since I trust Him. I find hope in Bible verses as well.
3. Looking at the Big Picture. This is a big one for me. I have some really bad days and get discouraged. Last weekend, my other personalities T and C were very strong, and I was completely miserable trying to deal with them. I felt so low and discouraged. I was barely functional.
But then I took a step back. It was only a year and a half ago that I discovered I have multiple personalities. It was only four months ago that I got back my memories and began to understand T and C for the first time. It was only a month ago that I met a new personality.
I am doing so much better overall than I was in the fall, or a year ago. If I look at the small picture it seems like things are awful. But when I look at the big picture I see that I keep growing in my recovery.
These days I am able to have stable relationships. I am able to cope with my mania and depression. I am self-aware and have a direction for my career. If I look at a day in my life, I might seem nonfunctional, but looking at the big picture I am making great progress in my recovery. I find great hope in this.
4. Poetry. I find hope in poetry. I read a poem and discover I’m not alone in some of my emotions. I read a poem that is hopeful and I feel that hope. I read poems that give me new perspectives. I pause to reflect and often see my situation in a new way.
I also write poems, and often I start a poem in a dark mood but end it in an empowered state of mind. In poems I discover symbols and metaphors that give me strength in dark times. When I am struggling, I hear lines of poems in my head. It brings me hope.
5. Words of Encouragement. I try to surround myself with people who are encouraging and uplifting. I’ve tried to distance myself from negative people, as much as I can. I know that my mood is affected greatly by the people I choose to associate with. The encouraging words of my friends and husband give me hope.
I also like reading inspirational articles. I love reading articles by people who understand what I am going through. Lastly, I write down affirming things people say to me. When I am feeling low, I read over the affirmations and feel hope in my worth and potential.
6. Writing Inspirational Articles. Exactly a year ago I started writing articles for websites about my experience of mental illness, to raise awareness, fight stigma and encourage people. I think I have 71 inspirational articles published online, just from within the past year.
I think writing these articles may have helped me more than my readers. When I write the article, I write from an empowered state of mind. I write in a spirit of hopefulness. Writing these articles has kept me hopeful and grounded during one of the most difficult years of my life.
7. Support groups. I started going to support groups a year and a half ago. They have really helped me. It is so encouraging to see how people are able to cope with their mental illnesses. I see people come to group who are just out of the hospital and profoundly struggling. I remember how that was me, 15 years ago.
I see the strength in people recovering from suicide attempts and finding meaning in their lives again. And I see the people who are doing well coping and just come to group to “check in” and not feel alone with their struggle. It gives me hope in the resilience of people and the potential of my own situation.
I’ve had a lot of difficult experiences in my life, but I hold on to hope.