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I Am An Advocate For Hope

I bring hope into the conversation. It’s what I do.

When you talk to someone who’s struggled with addiction or suicidal ideation you need to have all of your attention focused on giving them a glimmer of hope. That’s all it takes.

Depression the Killer of Hope

When I would fall into a massive depressive episode, it was usually precipitated by a terrible event of some kind. (Divorce, job loss, death of a parent or sibling) I’ve been through all of them. My brain when in the throws of a black period will begin painting catastrophic scenes of my future. My demise. The wreckage of everything I hold dear.

The biggest crack in my hopefulness occurred when my wife asked for a divorce. Sure, she was mad. But, we were in couples therapy. I was going above and beyond all reasonable expectations of what a good husband should do. I was involved. Sober. Loving. Connected. Somehow, she just wanted out. I was about to learn that when one partner exits the relationship there is little hope of return.

I lost my hope when I lost 70% of my kids’ time. No more nightly routine. No more morning wake-up rituals with French Toast and energetic rock music to get everyone to the bus, or to school on time. Nope. It was all going away. I was going to have to find another place to live. I lost all of my neighborhood connections and my two tennis leagues at the CC at the bottom of the hill. I crashed into a dark hopelessness. The stories I told myself were frightening. So, I got quiet and didn’t talk much. I didn’t want to accidentally let out the demons that were warping my thoughts.

How To Regain Hope

It’s not easy to find hope in the middle of the haystack of death and destruction. Most of the time, you don’t feel like fighting for it. That’s the part of depression that is so dangerous. You want to give up. You want to stay in bed, heck, maybe not wake up. STOP.

A friend once told me, “You either make it, or you die.” She was referring to running up the hill ahead of us. In this context, it is important to remember this phrase. You will make it. You will not die. It will hurt. It will take struggle and tenacity. But you will not die. [If you ever make *any* plans toward harming yourself, please reach out to your care team or call 911. We need you on the planet. Your loved ones need you.]

In recovery, we talk about taking massive action. The small motions you’ve made in the past to recorrect your life are no longer working. Your emergence requires a BIG motion. For me, in the pits of despair and living in my sister’s basement, I took two big actions:

  1. I joined a divorce recovery therapy group
  2. I started training in Aikido

These two intentional motions helped pull me up and out. Within a few months, I was job-seeking again. And by the time I got the new job, I was ready to stand on my own again. I purchased a house and made a bedroom where my kids could be with Dad.

Everything you do from the dark place should be aimed at joy, hope, exercise, prayer, affirmations, eating well, sleeping well, and staying sober. Those are the trigger points. When you begin to turn your life back toward hopefulness the depressive behavior is easier to leave behind. Just start with something simple. For me, it was walking a few miles every single day. No matter how I felt, I would get up, put on my shoes and step out the door. I complained. I moaned. And I did it anyway.

Finding the Hope For Others

I am a harbinger of hope. I offer free coaching sessions and 90% of the people who call are in crisis. That’s why they call. “Maybe someone can give me a sense of hope or direction toward hope.”

I am that phone call. I can give you my journey through divorce/depression and my eventual recovery. I can talk you through recovery from alcohol, drugs, and other forms of self-abuse. I can give you ideas and motivations for releasing your depression and focusing on your recovery. Your health is the number one concern in your life. If you die your kids have nobody. We must remain strong, positive, and hopeful.

A hopeful parent is a better parent. A hopeful household gives rise to hopeful kids. Hope is the energy that gets us out of bed in the morning to get to work. Regardless of how you feel, you’ve got to do what needs to be done. Work. Sleep. Exercise. Eating well. Staying connected to your care team.

We cannot beat depression alone.

We think we can. We imagine that curling up in our bed for a weekend will make us feel better. It does the opposite. What we need to remember is isolation and self-pity are the real killers. When you join a program of recovery the first and most important support factor is the meetings. You will be in contact with people who are also struggling to be the best person they can be. In AA many of your fellow travellers are struggling to stay alive. At the end, you’ll be part of a group prayer. The serenity prayer, that guides me every day of my life.

God, grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Most things are not in my control. The actions of others. The state of the economy or job market. But, the things that are in my control and what I can focus on. Myself. My health. And ultimately, the love of my kids and family.

Staying Alive

Longevity is the best medicine for depression and recovery. The longer I am clear from my depression, the more hopeful I become that I can manage my next dip without a large amount of drama or hand-wringing. I will have down periods again. I will suffer setbacks. I always have a meeting nearby, and in most cities, several a day, if I need them.

In the meetings, you will find hope. Hopeful people focused on their own actions. Gathering together in the hope of doing better on ourselves, is a program I can get behind. Find your tribe. Identify you care team. Begin building hope within yourself and watch it radiate out to those around you. Darkness attracts darkness. Light and hope attract the positive in your life.

My first book on depression and my own recovery story is now available through Amazon. Here Comes the Darkness: Surviving and Thriving After a Diagnosis of Mental Illness.


Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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Further Reading 

Depression Resources

Depression Books by Others

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