Hope and Optimism

Hope is a central aspect of personal recovery and some would say that recovery is impossible without hope. It is central to sustaining motivation and supporting expectations of an individually fulfilling life. Why have hope? Because recovery is not only possible, it is almost inevitable. Many studies show that most people who experience mental health issues get better, and many recover completely. With support, between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have a significant reduction of symptoms, an improved quality of life, and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence. These are facts, and there is no reason for medical professionals or individuals experiencing distress to believe that mental health issues will prevent anyone from leading a satisfying and meaningful life.

Recovery College students have described hope as:

“Looking ahead to the future”

“Believing that things will get better”

“Knowing from experience that ‘this too will pass’ and things will improve with time”

“Being positive and not giving up”

“Feeling that whatever I’m going through, however hard it is, I can and will get through it”

Barriers to hope and what can help to overcome them…

Issues such as chronic physical illness, negative attitudes of others or unfortunate life events can act as a barrier to hope. It is important to foster hope and there are several things that can facilitate this. Getting appropriate advice and support from health professionals to manage physical pain and other health issues can increase quality of life and help to regain a sense of hope. If the language, labels and opinions imposed by others are reducing hope, it is vital to focus on the positive connections and influences in your life. Learning more about mental health and different ways to encourage wellbeing can be useful to promote a more hopeful outlook.

What gives us hope? Recovery College student contributions:

“Knowing you have some control/choice”

“Having a positive role and purpose”

“Meeting people who have been there and got through it”

“Family and friends believing in my recovery”

“Being listened to and respected as an individual”

“Doing enjoyable, fun activities, having a laugh”

“Recognising our achievements and good qualities”

Real life experience

Never under estimate the power of hope. While you have hope, you have a chance.  Hope gives you the drive to carry on but with mental illness, hope can be something that is hard to hold on to.

In the depths of my depression, hope is something that I lost. As I became depressed I found every day more and more difficult, but I would say that I still hoped that I would get better.  I couldn’t see how that could happen at the time, but I still wanted to get better and so I had hope.

There was a time though when I fell into my deepest depression that I genuinely felt that all hope had gone and I questioned whether I even wanted to recover. It was at this time that I needed to rely so much on others to give me back that little bit of hope that I needed.  My best friend was the best at doing this, with no pressure or judgement, she would remind me of what could be, of obstacles that I had overcome and of the tiniest of achievements that I had made that day.  She had hope for me, she didn’t give up, and eventually that hope spread back into me and it grew.  Slowly, but it did grow, until eventually the depression started to lift.

Hope is not just needed to lift a depression though. Hope for a personal and/or clinical recovery is also vital.  I remember coming out of a manic phase and realising I was an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital.  The very worst had happened, I had been sectioned, I’d never be ‘normal’ again – I needed the hope that this wasn’t the end of my life as I knew it before my admission.  This time it was given to me by a psychiatric nurse on my ward.  He gave me hope by treating me like a normal person.  He spoke to me as a person, not a patient, and reassured me that if I worked at looking after myself my diagnosis was not the end.  I confessed that I needed to go back to work, that I didn’t want to become a permanently sick person but felt like that was an impossible goal given recent events.  He confided that he too shared my diagnosis, took daily medications to manage his condition and was holding down a job.  He explained that it would not be easy, but he showed me that it was possible and he gave me hope.  It was this hope which I attribute to my successes in returning to full time work today.

The best kind of hope comes from within you as a person. Sometimes when that light goes out, we have to rely on other people to ignite that little bit of hope inside us again, but once you have it, run with it, because having hope makes the impossible, possible.