Not too long ago, I was paying a doctor $190/hour of my parents’ hard-earned money for me to tell him how to treat my OCD and depression. After a few thousand dollars, my OCD was no better at all. BUT he did leave me with one beautiful thought: When I referenced the placebo effect, he off-handedly said it is “also known as hope.” He was right of course…that’s exactly what the placebo effect is, but the idea behind the choice of words is so much more powerful.
I’ve been reminded of what hope feels like over the past few days. I’m sad to say that I had quite literally forgotten. My wife and I were talking about how bad my depression has gotten lately, and I put it to her this way: “All the carrots that used to urge me onward are gone.” Lately I have felt like my mental health is ruining my best efforts at everything I care most about – my marriage, my kids, my friendships…I told my wife I literally could not keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Not surprisingly, this led to a lengthy and serious discussion.
After convincing her that I did not need to be driven to a hospital to be admitted for suicide prevention (just yet), we talked about how trapped I feel by my current work situation. We started to brainstorm about other options for our family than the current set-up, and gradually, slowly, the light at the end of the tunnel began to show up again (usually, I assume this light is an oncoming train, but this time it had the unmistakeable quality of actual daylight). It was like I was once again a young, single man again who dreamed he could do whatever he wanted to with the rest of his life, not a trapped, overwhelmed, depressed, mental case who was looking at 15 years before the kids are through high school when I can finally do something for myself again.
For the past 48 hours (the fact that I’m celebrating 48 hours of optimism shows you where my brain has been living lately) have been filled with that magic thing called hope. The depression has knocked at the door a few times, but it’s been kept outside for 2 WHOLE DAYS IN A ROW! Now I’m not naive enough to think that my problems are all solved because I have hope again, but I am reminded of how vital hope is to life. To be truly hopeless is to be suicidal. I’ve been there. A. LOT. But today, it feels nice to see 18-wheelers as something to be avoided rather than a possible way out!
What’s the takeaway here? After all, it’s not like you can just decide to be hopeful again, right?! For starters, keep taking your meds because no amount of hope will cure chemical depression. But beyond that, if you’re feeling hopeless, see if you can pinpoint the culprit of your existential (not chemical) hopelessness and ruthlessly, relentlessly pursue hope, no matter the cost. The other night, I had come to the place that the cost of proceeding as I have been may well have been my life. Obviously, no job or income or other barrier to making a change is worth my life (says the hopeful version of myself). So, no matter the cost, I am going to make a change in my career.
Stay tuned for how this all plays out.