Mental Health, Art and Cooking (MHAC) Talk #2:
The Problem With Hopelessness
____________________by Heidi D. Hansen, M.A.
This is in reply to a reader’s comment, “Sometimes I feel hopeless.”
The problem with hopelessness is that it cuts off its own solution, like a virus that attacks the immune system. We get hopeless about being hopeless, just like we get depressed over being depressed, and anxious about being anxious.
Here’s some helps:
1. Tether yourself to the land of the living, to the world, to the day, to others.
2. Motion. Any motion.
3. Argue with your hopelessness. Is everything hopeless? Perhaps some things are. But not all. Argue the point that this one thing — whatever tiny pocket thing is going alright — is not hopeless. Advocate to give this one thing more advertising time, more ‘face time,’ more attention.
4. But, perhaps some things are hopeless. Accept that for what it is, just as it is and let it lie here and silently slink off into the night. If you are hopeless and that is an accurate appraisal, respect it. Then find it’s pain, find it’s loss, it’s grieving, it’s fear that things will never be better or ever be the same. It may be a matter of fact that some things will not be the same or get better. Accept it and rock and roll with it but don’t let it get the better of you. It’s a dance. The art of this dance is to stay in the lead. By your steps and footwork, your hopelessness has no choice but to change it’s pattern. Or, retire itself and find a new partner.
5. Accept that things may never be the same. Like infidelity in a marriage, you will lose one marriage and end up marrying again — perhaps even with your original partner. A new and different relationship. Let that be. Hopelessness means something wants to change. Find the change point and let it continue its natural transition, with you finding the bigger meaning in it all and thus becoming a bigger person.
6. Commit yourself to the day — do small, simple but tangible things that are creative and different. A new food preparation, a kind deed for someone else, a kind of artsy thing (no need to be an artist to make ordinary things fun and funky), a new grooming or fashion statement, doing the opposite of what others expect, etc. The basic point is to make your day your own and put some investment in it. Something you can look at and say, “See? I was here today.”
Learn something new. Write something. You can get through anything if you can tell a good story about it. And no matter what, we can always learn something new. And that learning commits you to the day.
7. Finish the sentence “I can’t do anything about my hopelessness because__________________________” Target the part that you fill in. Don’t try to fix your hopelessness directly — it’s a gamey thing and doesn’t play fair. Target the reason why you can’t do anything about it. Start writing with that.
8. Make hopelessness your teacher. Ask it, “What do you have to teach me? To tell me? What are you pointing me toward?”
9. It’s a trickster, so don’t be fooled or suckered in by hopelessness wanting you to act on it with destructive behavior. Destructive impulses are the “All hands on deck!” red whirring signal light that you must find someone to talk to, to be with, to be around. Do that first.
10. Learn to wait. All things change, that is the way of it. That works in our favor here. If you can’t control the hopelessness at all, if its just too big and overpowering, just wait. And wait and wait for some shift. Some movement, some idea, some impulse towards an opening.
If this is all too much to remember, just remember two things when you are in a bout of hopelessness: Tether yourself to the day, and, motion.
______________Heidi D. Hansen, M.A. is a Mental Health Advocate with 20 years of experience and works in private practice on a sliding fee scale. (360) 842 -3479. email email@example.com. Writing and art copyrighted to Heidi, needs permission to use.