July 13, 2014

Hope isn't dangerous; it's all some have

I sat down just now to bang out a blog on fear. I planned to trot out quotes from FDR, the 23rd Psalm and my own harrowing experiences in dark places with no way to get out.

Then I decided to write about hope. Fear and hope may be the two ends of the mental health spectrum that best describe how I feel at any time. Not my physical feeling. Not my mental state. The state of my soul.

Hope is the most powerful thing in the world, not a dangerous thing as “Red” suggests in The Shawshank Redemption. It has been the difference between giving up and pressing on for me, probably even life and death.

My hope comes from my faith. It is also comes from something God put in my chest when I was born. The only reason I’ve kept fighting when I’ve wanted to give up so many times is that, no matter how bad or pessimistic or miserable I felt, there was always some small glimmer of hope deep in my soul telling me not to give up.

I can’t write this blog without acknowledging that I did give up, overwhelmed by pain and confusion and disillusionment. I guess you could say I lost hope that day. I’ll write more on that later. If all this seems a little contradictory or dualistic, well it is. So is life with Bipolar Disorder.

I don’t know what else to credit for my improvement other than faith and hope. God had another plan for my life. A second act. It includes some suffering too, but all for a greater good.

Ever since I left for The Menninger Clinic last September, my faith has been a lighthouse in the foggy distance. There have been moments of misery, times of deep despair that challenged my faith and tried to break me. But they didn’t.

In 10 months since the worst day of my life, I’ve rediscovered my family, made a professional change that has so far worked out swimmingly, gotten in better shape, lost 30 pounds and learned to trust God more fully. I would call that a pretty good comeback.

I hesitated to share all this because I’m a bit superstitious when it comes to my mental health. I know a spectacular crash can happen at any time for any reason. That’s just how it is, and that’s why fear lurks somewhere in the dark corner of our souls even on the good days.

I share it because I’ve talked to too many people suffering from mental illness. They need more than a good therapist. They need more than the best drugs. They need a little hope.

Red is right. Hope can feel like a dangerous thing, and I suppose sometimes it is. But if we can’t hope for better days, for a better life, what do we have to live for? That would be the most dangerous thing of all.