What To Do When You Feel Like You’re Drowning

by | Dec 4, 2017

One reason I lacked “hope” for so many years (and found myself lost in a spiral of depression as a result), is that like we often do with love and faith, I couldn’t believe I had hope unless it was confirmed by a positive feeling.

If I felt positive, I could feel hopeful, but with the slightest breeze of bad news I was instantly sucked into a whirlwind of hopelessness. As soon as the “feeling” of hope was replaced by a feeling of being helpless, hopelessness barged in.

When I realized that hope is not a feeling, I realized that I could still have hope, even in moments when I’m completely overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness. In other words, I’m not at the mercy of those internal feelings, ever.

It’s like learning that you can breathe underwater. As soon as you do, the undertow doesn’t seem as scary and you learn to rest where you used to panic. Instead of scrambling to get to the surface, you learn to relax in the chaos of the current, trusting that your body is made to naturally make its way upward. From there it’s just a matter of practicing patience as you slowly drift in that direction. You can kick your feet to give yourself momentum, but it no longer comes from a place of panic and urgency to escape the situation. You know (i.e. hope) you’ll get to where you’re going, and you don’t feel like you’re racing a ticking clock.

Let me clear something up: hope is not a passive apathy. The attitude of hope that I used to have sounded like this:

“It would sure be nice if this good result happened to me, I sure HOPE it happens, so I’ll wait and see!”

Oftentimes that meant literally lying in bed, waiting for money to show up in my bank account because I “hoped” my bills would be taken care of. On the contrary, hope demands the physical substance of what is currently invisible, and it will settle for nothing less. As a result, there is a motivation to actively pursue that substance that overrides feelings. In other words, the feeling of hopelessness loses power to stop the pursuit of the results one hopes for. In fact, the feeling of hopelessness contributes to the momentum of hope.

The sentiments of hope that are popular on social media are cute and inspirational. There are plenty of nice words to make us feel better about our situations, but feeling better doesn’t always equate to getting better. I can say all the things that make people “oh!” and “ah!” at my way with words, but unless those words result in substance in the lives of the listeners, inspiring them, not just to click a virtual thumb, but to practice what they’re ‘liking’, then whose to say the words aren’t empty?

The reality of hope is more often than not laughable. It makes people think “you’re in denial,” “unrealistic,” “crazy,” “blind,” “a fraud,” and so on. Since you insist on the existence of something that isn’t currently seen, you must be delusional.

Active hope can kill your reputation and attract a mob of cynics right to your doorstep. However when the substance of your hope is inevitably made visible by your obnoxious demand and relentless pursuit, it can turn even the most stubborn cynic into the most devout believer.

So then, whether I feel hope or hopelessness, I continuously demand the substance of what I hope for. Unless I live at the mercy of my feelings, they have no power in my actions, therefore they have no power over my hope. So I patiently kick my feet towards the surface, trusting that it’s the natural direction I was made to move whenever I find myself swept under by the waves.

I don’t stop, I don’t argue, I don’t consider hope lost by the presence of the feeling of hopelessness, I consider hopelessness lost by its desperation to strip me of my hope. Then I become more stubborn in my demand for and pursuit of the substance.

“If you disempower the dependency on feelings then you disempower that devil that hides in depression.”

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