If you have depression, or any other mental illness (or honestly even suffer from the “human condition”), then you know what I mean when I say I’ve had a couple “bad days.” I don’t mean “bad days” as in I spilled my coffee each morning on my favorite white sweater. I mean “bad” as in I was in a black hole. That black hole where you’re claustrophobic, can’t catch your breath, can’t stop crying, everything around you in not only your own personal world, but the entire planet you live on, feels bleak, worthless, and hopeless, and the idea of a “future” in this world just scares you to your core. The kind of bad day in which you’re an absolute mess, terrified of living and dying and your own mortality, the fragility and unpredictability of your own life, and of life itself.
Those were the bad days I had recently. It was all-consuming, unbearable, and, as it is with black holes, I couldn’t see my way out.
However, today, I woke up and something had shifted. I was no longer in that black hole. Somehow, I made it out. And now, as I’m nearing my 30th birthday, I’ve finally understood what it is that has kept me here and what has brought me out of each black hole for nearly 30 years:
I’ve heard it in Florence and the Machine’s fourth album, entitled High as Hope, the album title taken after a line from front-woman Florence Welch’s own poem “New York poem (for Polly)” from her book of poetry and lyrics entitled Useless Magic, which includes the line, “Heady with pagan worship/of water towers/fire escapes, ever reaching/high as hope.” In interviews, Welch discusses her inspiration for this album and how she felt like, for the first time in her life, she was holding onto hope rather than despair. Like always, Welch has been an immensely relatable figure for me, now more than ever.
I’ve been through dark times in my life. The scariest thing about life can oftentimes be its unpredictability. I never could foresee what my life has so far turned out to be. Yet despite that, I realize now that it’s also the unpredictability that keeps me here. The hope that beauty will flourish, beauty I cannot predict now, keeps me here.
Death is something that makes you think about life a lot. What is its purpose? What is our purpose? Why are we here to begin with (besides the obvious and biological answers, of course)? And, going along with all this, what’s keeping us here? Why do we stay here?
For me, I’ve learned that hope is what’s keeping me here. While dark days are the days that make me question everything, days like today remind me that even though it’s horrifying that nothing lasts forever, it makes me hopeful that nothing lasts forever. The good days don’t last forever, but neither do the bad. Life is essentially a pendulum—you’ll experience nightmares and horrific pain and trauma you cannot even begin to imagine, but you will also experience the most glorious beauty that even Claude Monet could not replicate.
Today, nothing dramatic in my life has changed since the “bad days” I had. I’m still sitting outside with coffee and a computer, crafting words from my thoughts, enjoying the sunshine, just like I did on my “bad days.” But hope is here now and I can see it, when I couldn’t see it mere days ago. Today, I’m holding onto it.
Even on my “bad days,” even when I’m in a black hole, hope is still there, but it’s more difficult to grasp. In the darkness, it’s difficult to see it. But today, my world is brighter. I can see hope all around me and it’s as if my whole world is different, and as if I’m different. Maybe all of this is mental illness talking. Maybe it’s the grief talking. Who knows? But what I do know is that despite my worst days, and the even worse days to come, there is still hope. Even when I can’t see it, it stays with me. I’m grateful that I’m still capable of holding onto it, despite everything. Despite life, despite death, despite the universe. Hope is a constant, even though I never realized it until recently. How else have I made it this far if not for hope?