Feeling Hopeless

Photo credit: Chris Grover

It’s been nearly five years since I stopped taking anti-depressants after being on them for twenty-six years. I still have times when I feel depressed and hopeless but luckily those times are much less frequent and pass more quickly. There are rare instances when I feel hopeless to the point of suicidal. Thankfully these only happen very occasionally, and they pass very quickly.

When I say suicidal, I do not really want to die, even though in the distant past I have made some half-hearted suicide attempts. I just want the pain to stop. When I feel like that, I feel utterly wretched. The emotional pain is so bad it physically hurts. Often there’s no rhyme or reason to it. As Stephen Fry says, ‘Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.’ – Goodreads.

Last week was the first time I have felt like this for a while, and I want to share how I felt, in the hope that you might benefit from my experience.

I was watching TV with my partner, Andy, aka Mr Sexy Pants (MSP). I suddenly felt a cold feeling of dread creeping over my body, like one of the dementors from Harry Potter. Before I knew it, I was sobbing and had tears pouring down my face. We were watching Happy Valley, which, as you will know if you’ve watched it, is anything but happy, so that probably didn’t help.

I felt I didn’t have anyone to turn to. MSP asked me what was wrong, but I couldn’t explain. Later, as I lay in bed sobbing, he helpfully, or not helpfully as the case maybe, suggested that I needed to think positively. I refrained from knocking him out, although the thought did cross my mind.

Although I have various Happiness techniques to deal with a low mood, when I’m that far gone the only option is to surrender to feeling hopeless and to allow myself to feel the pain. The other thing I always do when I feel like this is to pray, and often that prayer is simply “help me”. I also find it can be helpful to repeat “I surrender, I surrender” in my head.

I prayed for help to sleep, took some rescue remedy and added some lavender oil to my pillow. Luckily, and maybe surprisingly, I slept really well. I allowed myself to have a lie in and although I woke up still feeling raw, I felt that something had shifted.

In the morning, I realised that of course I have people I can turn to. I have a number of dear girlfriends who I know will always be there for me. One of my dear friends shared that she had been feeling the same and she was trying to fully feel the feelings instead of self-soothing. I had already been planning a binge eating session, but her words struck a chord and I knew the only way to heal those feelings was to fully feel them.

I had also been planning to spend the day job hunting, working on a freelance project and working on Happiness Club. My emotional breakdown had left me feeling exhausted however, so I decided to have a day of self-care instead. I went for a lovely walk and then pottered around the house doing small jobs that I’d been meaning to catch up on for a while. MSP and I had a takeaway in the evening, choosing healthy options, and had a night in front of the TV. It was Happy Valley again, which might not have been the best option, but what can I say, I’m addicted!

What to do when you feel hopeless

  •  Surrender to the feeling

Sometimes Happiness techniques don’t work, or rather I don’t have the capacity to even think about them, let alone implement them. All I can do is surrender to the misery and know that it will pass. I find that surrendering to the feeling, rather than fighting can feel like a huge relief.

In her video, “What to do if you feel Hopeless?” Teal Swan, says “whatever you do, don’t try to think positive thoughts. Don’t write a single affirmation. Anything you try hard to do to get out of the feeling of hopelessness will ensnare you deeper”.

  • Feel the pain

Although it’s hard, if you fully feel the pain, instead of self-soothing, it will release quicker. I realised I had fallen into my old pattern of comfort eating. I reminded myself of what I learnt when I did Gabby Bernstein’s course on food addiction, Finally Full. Gabby suggests fully feeling the feelings for 90 seconds before eating something. Once you’ve done that you can then eat something if you still want to. I resolved to do that. I also resolved that if I did eat something, I would eat something healthy AND delicious.

  • Distract yourself

Having said all that about feeling the pain, sometimes it is just too hard. When that happens, I think it’s okay to distract yourself. Try and find something healthy to distract yourself with. Go for a walk, cuddle your pets or watch something funny on TV or YouTube.

  • Use Happiness practices

Once you are starting to feel better, then it’s time to start using Happiness practices such as gratitude, mindfulness or affirmations. Going forward, using Happiness practices on a regular basis will help you to prevent feeling hopeless in the future, although in my experience, there are still times when I feel hopeless but it’s only occasionally these days.

  • What have you got to look forward to?

Teal Swan goes on to recommend writing a list of everything you’ve got to look forward to. If you haven’t got anything to look forward to, what can you plan?

  • Ask for help

Reach out to family and friends who will be there for you. I find that it’s important to reach out to people who will have compassion without judgement and who will not start offering advice or try to fix the situation.

  • It’s good to cry

I find crying very cathartic. It helps me release whatever I’m feeling. Salt water is known for it’s healing qualities and I believe that’s why our tears have salt in them.

  • When you feel hopeless, be gentle with yourself

Have an easy day of self-care. Take the day off work if you can.

  • Change poison into medicine

Ask how can I turn this into a positive? For me, once I have processed the feelings, I usually write a blog post about my problems in the hope that my experience will help others. In the Buddhism I practice, we call this ‘changing poison into medicine’. – Soka Gakkai Nicherin Buddhism Library

I hope you found my experience of feeling hopeless helpful. What is your experience of feeling hopeless? Let me know in the comments or in the Happiness Club Facebook group.

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