How keeping HOPE kept me alive
I can’t say there is one intervention in particular that helped me get well, that stopped me having panic attack, suicidal thoughts and lifted my depression. I think it has been a mixture of counselling, therapies, reading and learning more about my thoughts and feelings.
In 2003 when both my parents died, I reached the lowest point in my life. I was thinking of ways not to be alive. I was in the military at the time and knew that I just couldn’t pack my bags and run away, which was how I felt. I had visions of the Military Police in a helicopter searching for me and “wanted” posters around my RAF base. In the military off course you can’t just up and leave, if you do then you are classed as AWOL ‘Absent Without Leave’ which has serious consequences’.
What kept me living was HOPE. It is that one word that means ‘change can happen’. I started to see a counsellor and after much crying, feeling angry and feeling dissociated from myself, I started to believe that I could find myself again.
Hope was that flicker of light in my darkest hour, it was that wind of change on the most miserable nights and it was my saviour in my hour of need. When we have hope we open ourselves up for new ideas and ways that may help. It could be that someone tells you about their journey and you can relate to it. Or that someone is kind to you and makes you feel cared for. There are many ways that you can find hope.
This is what I have learnt about HOPE and the acronym I would like to share from what I have learnt in 16 years.
H = Help
There was a time I definitely felt that no-one could help me. That no-one knew what I was going through. Getting help is the first step to making change. We are not superhuman we can’t know everything and there are people around that can help. Sometimes this can be friends, family, work colleagues and other times it can be professional help. 16 year ago when I was mentally ill there weren’t many places about to get the help I needed. Now you only have to search on ‘Google’ and there will be advice about where to get help in your area. Talking is one of the most important ways to get out what is going on in our minds. Please don’t sit in silence feeling alone, talk to someone.
O = Observe
Observe you thoughts and feelings. We all know that thoughts create feelings, right! So if we become more aware of our thoughts we can strengthen our ways of dealing with them. I used to just accept my thoughts, like I was on autopilot, now I am much more aware of what I am thinking and what negative critical self-talk I am saying to myself. I question my thoughts e.g. is this thought a fact or just an opinion? I used to think I would ‘never’ get better, now I would change that thought to how can I get better? This isn’t about controlling your thoughts by the way, because I’m sure that takes years and year of practise. This is about becoming aware of your thoughts and finding ways to change them. This is the most powerful change when you learn how to do this. We teach a course at Creative Living Centre called ‘Think Better, Feel Better’ which teaches you some techniques for this.
P – Persistence
There were times when what I was learning didn’t work or my mood was low and I didn’t want to carry on with a particular course/therapy/book. You have to be persistent when wanting to make change. It is about reminding yourself why you are doing what you are doing. What are you hoping to get from making that change? What skills are you wanting to learn and how can that help you manage your mental well-being better?
You also have to be persistent in getting the help you need. I feel blessed when I reflect back that I got counselling within 2 weeks of asking for help in the military. NHS waiting lists can be long but please be persistent in telling people that you need their help.
There is a great quote by Henry Ford ‘If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got’.
E = Empower
What a great word ‘Empower’ making you stronger and confident in controlling your life. By learning more about me, my values and beliefs, by finding new ways to help myself, I felt empowered and gained back control of my life. I started to make decisions that were right for me, I started to look towards the future on what I wanted to do with my life. You can too.
I am a unique individual on my journey in life, this acronym has been what has helped me. You are on your own journey, of course we can learn from each other, it is up to you to find what works for you as an individual.
All I can say is to keep HOPE alive, allow that seed to flourish and you never know where it may lead.