the other day i was cleaning our bedroom and i found a zipped-shut bag in the corner. it has been there for a year, collecting dust and patiently waiting for me to open it. i pulled it out of the shadows – the bag i carried through both hospital stays and nearly five months in partial hospitalization.
i had the feeling i was about to open a time capsule.
i sat down on the floor, unzipped the bag and pulled out a big stack of folders and envelopes. i leafed through discharge papers, doctors orders and prescriptions. it was painful to look at a date – march 28, may 5, july 1 – and remember how badly i felt, how bleak and hopeless my world was, just over twelve months ago.
i came to a series of worksheets that i completed in the partial program – all about cognitive behavioral therapy and feelings and thoughts and actions. it struck me how much i have learned over the course of being so sick with depression and anxiety. when i was filling those sheets out i was just starting my recovery journey and i didn’t even know it. all i knew was a fear so big and a depression so deep i didn’t think i could ever break free. i didn’t have a vocabulary to describe my symptoms or a coping strategy that worked. all i felt was pain that i truly thought would never end.
as i read through all of those papers, reflecting on then and now, one really touched me. i completed it while in partial hospitalization in june 2014. it was called “envisioning positivity.” i had to choose one specific form of positivity and describe what it would be like to experience that feeling. i chose hope.
i wrote that hope is something i would experience by being “comfortable at home.” if i felt hope i would be able to do my everyday activities without fear. i would be able to help others and find meaningful work. my hope would be shared with my family, my friends, new people and the community. i would have the energy to try new things, read new books and listen to music i like. the last question asked what my “secret ingredient” for experiencing hope would be. i wrote, “belief in my future. belief that things will get better.”
as i read the hope worksheet, a cool autumn breeze blew in through my window. my dog was snoring, curled up on the rug in a patch of sunlight. the sweet, sharp aroma from a lavendar candle wafted through the air. a pile of neatly folded laundry sat on my bed, waiting to be put away. my husband was downstairs working, wrapping things up so that we could eat the dinner i had prepared earlier.
and i felt it in my bones. i was comfortable at home. i was doing everyday activities. i was spending time with my family. i was with energy. i was without fear.
things have gotten better.
and now i have found hope.