So it’s the long-awaited promised post on ‘what gives hope’, as detailed in my previous post ‘the giving of hope‘.
‘What gives hope?’ is a question that everyone is likely to have slightly different opinions on – usually based on their own experiences.
So what I was thinking I could do for this blog post was to give my own thoughts on what has given me hope and to ask others to give their own thoughts on leaving a comment.
A very wise man recently said to me: ‘I find when writing about hope it sometimes helps to consider things people do or say to take hope away’. I gave this a lot of thought, and I do agree with it, but I thought ‘why not look at it from both sides?’ Look at both side:, what gives hope and then what takes it away.
So the next blog post will be on the subject of ‘what takes hope away’.
So what gave me hope? What did others do which give me hope and allowed me to improve? What did others which do gave me hope and allowed me not only to improve, but to thrive?
Seeing all that I am
I have been open about my mental health problems for a long time. Something that has been hugely helpful is that people have generally seen beyond those issues and seen all that I am. They have generally seen me not just as someone who is mentally unwell, but seen beyond the illness and seen everything else that I am too. A friend, a good laugh, good company (sometimes!), a caring person, a humourous person, a hard worker, someone who was just as able to do a good job as she always had been, etc. Many people around me continued to see all these things in me, and this in turn allowed me to see me for all that I am – not just someone who was mentally unwell.
Most of all it was about seeing me as Amanda the human, not Amanda the mental health patient.
People believing in me
When I became unwell, I probably stopped believing in myself. When I became long-term suicidal I did not believe that I would get through it. I constantly felt a devastating sense of despair that left me unable to have any belief in myself or my ability to survive it. But I could see that there were others around me who believed in me – and this eventually played a part in allowing me to find some belief in myself.
The reactions of others when I shared
Many people who have mental health problems are not open about them.
I wasn’t at first. I was ashamed. I worried about what people would think of me. It wasn’t just about worrying about what others would think of me, but more so about not wanting people to treat me different. I was also concerned about worrying others.
In the beginning apart from the professionals there were only about two or three people who knew that I was experiencing mental health difficulties.
With time, I began to share with others. The one most common reaction I got was that people empathised. In return people shared details of how they themselves were unwell, or had been unwell. Or stories of how family members or others closed to them had experienced difficulties. Some even disclosed that they themselves had been so unwell that they had been an in-patient in the local psychiatric ward.
These responses gave me a lot of hope. They showed me how commonly people experience mental health difficulties – that I was far from being the only one.
They reassured me that I wasn’t a freak, that I wasn’t a complete fuck-up, and that many around me were experiencing, or had experienced, similar issues. Maybe they hadn’t, or weren’t, experiencing them as badly as I was at that time, but to know that these issues were quite common, and were experienced by those all around me, gave me a lot of hope.
Others being patient with me
When I think particularly of those who were in a position of support, with the exception of one (and no doubt she will be mentioned in the next post about the taking away of hope), they were patient with me. They didn’t rush me. I felt like I was never going to get better. I felt like I would always be stuck in that hell.
But I don’t remember them rushing me, I don’t remember them indicating to me that I should have improved by now, or anything similar. That helped. It gave me hope that there were others around who were going to be there no matter how long it took. My recovery was a journey, a journey with no end point, and it wasn’t a race. Knowing that there were people supporting me, day by day, not rushing me, gave me hope that they would be there no matter how long it took me to get well.
The belief that I could make something good come out of my experiences
This one is more internal rather than related to anything anyone else did.
At some point I realised that I could make something good come out of my experiences. I didn’t know when or how. But deep down I knew I could. I didn’t know if it would be anything big, but I thought that if I was able to help even one person as a result of my experiences then that would be something good.
I clung on to that thought. It gave me a lot of hope.
With time it also took me out of my own situation, and allowed me to see the bigger picture, and that it is not all about me.
This thought that I could make something good come out of my own experiences allowed me to see my own self-determination, and my own self-determination gave me a lot of hope.
Allowing me to see that I am my own best mental health worker
One of the best things that one of my supports did for me was to allow me to see that I am my own best mental health worker. That idea was one of the things that gave me the most hope. There is not always someone else around to provide support, and I have less professional support now than I have had in three years. But this idea that I am the one who can best help myself gave me a lot of hope, and a lot of faith in my own abilities to get myself through and to keep doing so.
There are lots of other things which gave me hope. But they are the things that spring out most for me.
At this point, it is over to you.
If you are, of have been, mentally unwell, what has given you hope? In particular, what have other people
And if you haven’t been mentally unwell, I hope that this post and its related comments give you some insight, and some direction when helping others.
And remember, you don’t need to be a mental health worker, or indeed to work in any position of care, in order to help others – there are people all around you experiencing mental health problems; you interact with them every day.