Holding on to Hope
Updated: Feb 14, 2020
I remember distinctly the day I sat in my therapist's office feeling lost, alone, and utterly hopeless. I had been in treatment for over a year, and my weight had long ago reached a point that pleased my treatment team, though I was anything but pleased. I had yet to grasp the coping skills that were supposed to take the place of my eating disorder and allow me to navigate a world that felt unsafe. I felt raw, and I saw absolutely no way out of this misery as appointment after appointment, we dug deeper into the issues that had fueled this monster inside of me. The urges were still there, day after day, meal after meal, from the time I opened my eyes until I fell into a fitful sleep in the wee hours of the morning. Even then, the eating disorder gave me no peace as it invaded my dreams until I would give up and crawl out of bed, still exhausted.
Through tears, I was telling my therapist of the despair I felt. I used to joke when told to look for the light at the end of the tunnel that I was sure it was a train barreling toward me, but now I couldn't even see the train, only darkness. Day after day, I drove myself the hour to treatment where I participated in groups, therapy, meals, weigh-ins, often five or six hours a day, four days a week, and here I sat, curled up in a ball on my therapist's couch wondering why I had started this journey. It seemed I had just traded the physical pain of my eating disorder for this overwhelming emotional pain that felt neverending. At that moment, my therapist leaned toward me and said, "Let me hold the hope for you until you can find it again."
I had never considered the possibility that someone could hold on to hope for me. It was comforting to think that I could hand it over for safekeeping, that precious thing that kept me pushing forward in recovery even when everything in me told me to stop. As impossible as it felt, I did find hope again and, eventually, recovery. It wasn't easy, and there was a lot of pain and sadness on the path to recovery, but those words, that gesture gave me the strength to hold on a little bit longer.
Hope can be a tenuous thing when struggling with overwhelming emotions. One does not have to have a mental illness to have a moment in life where they feel such despair that they can no longer find hope. It is at that moment that it is imperative to reach out, tell someone, even if it is a stranger on the other end of a hotline. Allow that person to hold the hope until you find it again. It is equally important that if you know someone who is struggling that you reach out, let them know you are there and perhaps offer to hold hope for them until they can once again find it for themselves.
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