Hope seems like such a positive emotion. Something anyone would want to have and strive for. Something we’d all hope to have and to offer to others.
Fear on the other hand – who would want to live with fear, anxiety and the heavy burden it drapes around your neck.
There a times though, when hope feels fearful. To be hopeful is to be vulnerable. Opening up to the possibility of a different future where wishes can come true. Where little distant dreams you dared to dream, might turn into reality. Where all the blows you’ve come to expect, can’t come. Where you can trust in the trilogy of faith, hope and love, and believe the hope won’t burn to ashes and rain down around your feet.
Part of the recovery process is relapse, and it shames me to say I’ve been down the rabbit hole again. I would have stayed down there with the bunnies, all soft and familiar and comfortable, but my nearest and dearest wouldn’t have a bar of it and dragged me out again. The shorter the relapse, the quicker the recovery and I’m standing back on wobbly feet now.
But hope? Without hope the recovery path is dotted with too many rabbit holes and navigating the holey path problematic.
Depression and anxiety are sometimes simplified as living in the past and the future, without ever living in the present. But it’s not entirely true. While depression tends to look back, it’s a focus on all that’s gone wrong, all the dreams that passed by, all the grief, mistakes, loss and fear. But the past also holds lessons, love, joy and ecstasy. Moments of great happiness and contentment. Memories of success and the dreams that did come true. They mustn’t be forgotten – no matter how scarce they were.
The future is filled with fear and anxiety, but that isn’t all it holds – it’s also the place where dreams, and wishes, hope and clever ideas all live. The future is what gives purpose to now.
When hopes and dreams become something to fear, the future holds little appeal. When past experience says being vulnerable leads to shame and humiliation, being hopeful holds little appeal. When hope withers and dies, purpose shrivels up as well, leaving little opportunity for peace.
Life is full of choice however. I can be bound by the past and constricted by the future, or I can choose to submit once again to vulnerability. To put trust in faith, hope and love. To remember that every time I fall, a steady network of hands holds me up until I can stand alone.
My recent relapse is a desperate desire to return to a perception of control. To stay with the familiar no matter how miserable it is. Because the alternative is far more scary.
My identities are all long gone, and I’m building new ways of seeing myself. I don’t know what they are yet – and that’s unsettling. Familiar habits of disordered eating and self-harm are easy, safe ways to manage out of control emotions, depression and anxiety – even when I know full well those very same habits keep me anchored in diseased thinking. Letting go is not easy. Submitting to the unknown is not easy. Being vulnerable is not easy.
But life was never meant to be easy.
I’ve left the rabbits behind again, but I’m dancing close to the rabbit holes because it feels safe. My next step in the recovery road is to fill my head with positives. Let go and let God. When lost in the past, remembering the amazing experiences I’ve been blessed with. When disappearing into the future, allowing myself to dream of a better place without fear of the consequences. If our thoughts become our reality, then it’s time I changed the thoughts. It’s time I choose to move towards recovery not just when it’s easy, but more importantly, when it’s really hard. When I don’t want to.
Have I let the past go yet? I think so. I’ve found a fairly healthy acceptance of what’s been and no longer feel any sense of blame. Regret – absolutely. But no blame
Can I picture the future yet? Not really. But I’m working on it.