VITAL: How to Keep Hope When You Feel Hopeless
If you read my posts, you’ll find a common theme. In fact, you’ll probably realize that although I talk a lot about conquering depression and the feeling of being hopeless, I don’t have much variety in the things I have to say. That’s because with depression, the answer always comes down to one thing: you have to make the choice that your life is more important than how you feel.
If you’re feeling down, I know that’s hard to hear; it might even tick you off and cause you to write me off, but I can’t back down on it because it is the truth. Until you choose to accept that you are and always have been the one with power over this thing, you will continue to be overpowered by it. And some people say, “You don’t understand, I’ve dealt with this for 30 years!” No, I do understand, which is why I’m taking time to tell you, you don’t have to go for 31.
Where Power Comes From
You have power because you have choice. Depression has no choice, it must always seek to invade your mind, drain your energy, and tempt you to kill yourself so you don’t have to deal with the painful feelings it produces. That’s its nature, therefore its only option.
Do you see the importance in rejecting the idea that depression is part of who you are? Because if depression is your nature, you have no choice, therefore you have no power, and your destiny is sealed. You will live a life oppressed by sorrow, despair and random moodswings, wishing for a freedom you don’t believe you can ever attain. But when you see that depression is not who you are, therefore it is not your nature, therefore it is not your destiny to live there, therefore you have the option to live differently, then you will instinctively begin to make the moves to get free from the oppressor.
I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just telling you it’s an absolute possibility. It’s something you’ll have to fight for because it will fight to keep you where you are. But I promise you, it is severely outnumbered.
Where Powerlessness Comes From
Hopelessness is based on a feeling and it can’t exist otherwise. On the other hand, while hope can be complemented by feelings, feelings are irrelevant to the power and execution of hope because hope exists based on a choice to believe in a truth, not a feeling. It is the stubborn insistence that truth never changes, so when my feelings do, truth stays the same. In other words, truth is solid ground to stand on. Now I’m not hopeful just because I feel a certain temporary positive sentiment, but I am hopeful because I continuously choose to hope. The positive sentiments are merely a by-product of the choice, but whether or not they are present, the choice remains.
I can be hopeful even though I feel hopeless, but I can’t be hopeless as long continue to choose hope.
Make The Choice
The way out of hopelessness is to stubbornly, but calmly and continuously choose hope, regardless of what you feel. This will sound odd at first because it takes awhile to get over the instinct to judge truth and react to life by your feelings.
Some will immediately fire back at me, “I can’t just choose to hope!” Or they might begrudgingly say, “Fine. I choose hope,” but then they will immediately switch into waiting for a relative feeling to follow to show that ‘it worked.’ But it’s that dependency on feelings that is the exact obstacle standing in the way of actual hope. You are looking to a feeling to confirm truth instead of settling on truth and letting it confirm itself through the results it brings.
Feelings do not matter. I know there loud, and sometimes very heavy, but they can never overpower choice.
Right now, make the choice: “I don’t care if I feel this way for the rest of my life, I choose to live according to the hope that things can be different and I can be happy, and I won’t settle for anything less.”
“I did that but I still feel the same! How long until I feel better?”
Again, you’re missing the point. Get your focus away from the feelings, because it’s the feelings that empower the problem. As long as you’re seeking to feel better you’ll never be able to because your life is revolving around a dependency on a good feeling to confirm that you’re in good condition. You’re under the illusion that you can only act positively if you feel positive, meaning if you don’t have the feeling you’ll be unable to progress.
Depression fully relies on you to believe that you are what you feel. If you disempower the dependency on feelings then you disempower that devil that hides in depression because you cut its source of influence. Yes, it can still talk and mock and yell and put the pressure on you, but as long as you live independently from the feelings it produces you can remain unphased by all of it.*
Make The Choice… Again
This is a one-time choice that you will have to make over and over. If you stick to your guns in this area for long enough, pretty soon “feeling hopeless” won’t matter.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, hopelessness may still stand there in your bedroom’s doorway trying to intimidate and get you to believe that all you will ever have is the feeling it provides, but as long as you stick to the stubborn choice to remain hopeful, that thing can stand there as and talk as long as it wants, and it will have no power over your life because you realized it only gets that power through your choice. It’s when you say, “Yeah, you’re right,” that it says, “Yes I am!” and then it moves in closer and pushes harder. So what’s the response? “No. You’re wrong.” and it will say, “No, I’m not.” and it might bring up example after example from your past to say, “See! I even brought evidence!” And you can respond again, if you’d like. “Nope. You’re wrong.” But you don’t need to. You don’t win through argument, you win through execution.
So take a deep breath and make this choice calmly. It’s not based on anger, or frustration or vindictiveness (though I have found vindictiveness to help strengthen my stubbornness). Whatever emotion you make a decision by is the emotion you will need to feel to stay committed to the decision. Therefore it is vital that you make decisions calmly so you can always respond to issues calmly when they show up.
One of the biggest sources of the depression cycle is that people wait until they are feeling depressed before they try to do something about it. But because they waited until they are overwhelmed by the feelings, they end up scrambling in a panic to fix the feelings, completely oblivious and helpless against the source of the problem. But if you resolve to be hopeful before you’re feeling hopeless, then when hopelessness creeps in it’s much easier to stand your ground because you’ve built your foundation and prepared for an attack like that in advance.
So we are learning to set things like faith, hope and love as core values, rather than surface feelings we need to have before we can believe we’ll be okay. I’ll be okay because I have hope, I don’t need the news to give me permission to have or keep that hope, and I don’t need feelings to confirm that I actually have hope. I choose to hope, therefore I choose to live, therefore I choose to act.
Do you see how I’m writing? That’s how I know I’ll be okay, because I know have value to offer that comes from the heart, which means I am valuable. And the more feelings of hopelessness try to trick me into thinking I have no value, the more I dig my feet in and the more stubbornly I insist, “I am valuable, and I have value to offer,” and then more determined I get to give that value away. Why? Not to prove anything to anyone. “I feel worthless, I better go do something that causes someone to see value in me so I can feel like I’m valuable!” I don’t want that. I don’t want my ability to see value in myself to depend on how much others see value in me. Then I’m at their mercy.
But in spite of that voice that tries to convince me that I have no value, I go out and bring value. And I get as ballsy with it as it tries to get with me.
“For even having the balls to try to drag me back into that prison of hopelessness, I am going to free 1000 more people from it. And every time you whisper your deceit into my ear, that’s 1000 more.”
So rather than curl into a ball, feelings of hopelessness strengthen my resolve and my determination to not only have hope, but to provide it for others. Now what? I’m not bothered by the feeling. It might be hard for you to imagine at this point, but I have fun with it now.
It says, “See, you’re not going to make it! You’d be better off killing yourself!”
I laugh and bite back, “That’s 1000 more people I’ll set free from that lie.”
But this devil, with its big mouth and even bigger ego, doesn’t know how to bite its tongue, so it keeps trying.
“See, they think you’re worthless! Maybe they’re right!”
“Just go hang yourself!”
You might not be able to imagine “having fun” with it right now, and I understand how I must sound to someone who is in the middle of this, because I remember how people sounded when I was. But once you get this momentum going, you’ll begin to find hope where there was once hopelessness, and joy where there was once sorrow. When the thing talks in your ear you won’t think, “Oh no. Here we go again! I thought I was over it…” You’ll light up and say, “Thank you! More ammunition to use against you and to help other people!”
Now the darkness is afraid of me. Now the weapon that came to kill is the weapon I use to bring life. Now the thing that came to sabotage my life with hopelessness is the thing that builds me up in a hope that overflows into the lives of others. Now the thing that came to cause me loss is the very fucking thing by which I win!
Now that thing will wish it would have left me alone, because the more it talked the more I discovered its secrets. The more it acted against me, the more I figured out how it works. And now I’m on the mission to blow the whole thing wide open and tell everyone how it works so they’ll know how to respond and get free from it, too.
If it comes to kill, then the greatest act of revenge and rebellion is to keep living.
*Don’t misunderstand this as saying feelings are bad and you should never enjoy them. We are made of pleasure sensors. We are made to enjoy feelings. But the key word there is enjoy. We’re neither made to depend on feelings to function, or live a life of feeling sabotaged by the overwhelming pressures of the internal and external world.
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Disclaimer: No advice on this site should ever be taken as official medical diagnosis or medical/legal advice. Sharing of this information should not be viewed as a claim to a "cure," a recommendation to stop medication, or anything other than what it is: a person on the internet sharing personal life experiences, circumstances, and knowledge that I hope will benefit others. To The Hopeless (Daniel R. Silva) claims no responsibility for any damage that might be caused by the misuse of the information provided on this website. If in doubt, consult a doctor, counselor, or other trained professional.