The power of hope when faced with pain and adversity
Hope is a simple word that can mean so much to anyone going through a difficult time. It can mean the difference between giving up and hanging on. It can mean a tiny smile in the face of a devastating diagnosis. It is a word with no true definition — hope can mean anything you want.
I know this first hand, having lived with chronic pain from a neurological movement disorder called dystonia for almost 20 years. At its most severe (click here to see photos), I didn’t feel like I had any hope at all. I wanted to give up, but something kept me going… it was hope! Hope that I would eventually find something to change my life around from the 180 turn it took where I lost the physical ability to do almost everything. Hope that there was something to relieve my pain; something to relieve my depression; something to comfort my sorrow. Every day I wanted to end it, but every day I knew there was more out there for me to do with my life, which made me hang on.
I realize now, almost 20 years later, that the something I was looking for was hope, and I had it the entire time. I just never felt it moving through me until around year 5 of my diagnosis when I decided to learn with all my strength how to gain greater control of my symptoms and overall health, and dedicate my entire life to it. Not just to help myself, but others as well if possible. I also lost 150 pounds I gained from a life filled with chronic pain where I was completely sedentary and had an awful diet. I never would have been able to turn this around without hope and belief in myself.
My mission in life soon became helping others who were suffering to let them know that you are not alone and that despite your darkness, there is light to be found. What can help us remain hopeful and optimistic is to know that everything in life will not go as planned and that this is okay (please click here to read my article, Being okay with what we view as not okay.). Sometimes not getting what we want or think we need is often a good thing, since there’s often something greater on the horizon to fill its place.
We must accept that life has obstacles, road blocks, negative emotions, and circumstances that will derail our plans. Knowing this can help remove burden and worry, helping us better flow through life rather than resist it. We must realize that life is not pure sailing, but an adventure full of valleys and victories.
If you think about it, most of us already have hope. Even the most pessimistic person has a glimmer of hope or they wouldn’t keep going on. Sometimes we are afraid to believe things can improve because it seems easier to doubt when pummelled with problems. This was how it was for me in my darkest days.
When your life is over, would you rather have spent your time believing you had some control over the state ofyour existence, or would you rather have spent that time wondering or living in regret? It is not the amount of time we have in life, but how we spend that time. Eventually our days will come to an end, so use every penny from your quality of life savings account so you can experience the greatest amount of joy as possible.
After writing this, I realized that much of it was in line with the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism. Stoicism sets out to remind us how unpredictable the world can be and how brief our moment of life is. It teaches us how to be steadfast and strong, and in control of our emotions. Stoicism teaches us to treat each and every moment, no matter how challenging, as something to be embraced, not avoided. To not only be okay with it, but love it and be better for it. Just like a fire needs oxygen to burn, obstacles and adversity can become fuel for our potential, if we choose to view it this way.
To end this article, I want to quote Marion Zimmer Bradley from her book, The Fall of Atlantis:
The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair,
even though they both lead to the same destination.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.