Cultivating Hope


By: Kiernan O'Dell

If you are in the process of recovering from an eating disorder, chances are you’ve had that moment of “I just cannot do this any more!” That moment where hope is gone, the process seems too hard or overwhelming and you want to give up-or give in-to the eating disorder.

Actually, if you’re anything like me, you have moments like that often, even daily. Moments when recovery seems so far over there, elusively somewhere out in the ether and the road ahead looks impassable.

While I cycle through feeling like this, I also know that those moments, those emotions, are not forever. I think it’s important to look at why you feel that way, but not live there with that voice that tells you that you cannot possibly recover.

hopeSo what saves me, in those times? Hope. Every single time, hope wins.  I can hear myself reading this and thinking perhaps what you may be thinking: “But how do you find hope when you feel utterly hopeless?”

Well guys, it takes effort and I don’t have all the answers. For me, the biggest source of hope comes from connection. Usually when I’m in a place where I want to give up, I am alone. Perhaps I am with people, but still feeling very isolated. When I am actually–connected to myself, to other people and to this world, I find hope or at least the energy behind hope that inspires me to continue.

Sometimes I have to act as if I feel hope. I have to take the right actions. I heard once that esteem-able acts build self-esteem. I think that hopeful acts build hope.

Perhaps that means eating to my meal plan even when food feels hard and scary. It may mean making that phone call you don’t want to make because connecting with another human being gets you out of your own head for a while and reminds you that a world exists outside of the abusive eating disorder.

Sometimes it means letting your team hold onto hope for you and listening to them when they tell you that.

Hope comes from talking to those in recovery or reading articles about their journey to a full recovery.

Hope isn’t always an emotion that I feel and, to be honest, its not always an emotion that I have the time to wait for. In this arduous process, sometimes I have to go out and hunt hope down.

Sometimes I have to take care of myself just to prove to myself that I can. Sometimes I have to call someone and see how they are. Sometimes I have to pretend my way into the feeling of hope.

These actions mean that I’m taking an active role in my own recovery and THAT gives me hope. If I sat around waiting to feel hopeful before I started acting as if there were hope, I may not be on the path of recovery any more.

Hope is out there and there is plenty of it for the getting, it just takes some work to get to. I have hope for recovery because I have solid proof that it is possible. I’ve seen it happen and although sometimes my eating disorder tells me so, I am not the only person who simply cannot recover.

So where do YOU find hope? What keeps you motivated on hard days? Id love to hear your ideas: We can always use a new path to hope. What gets you there?

image1About the Author: Kiernan O’Dell was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. After earning a BS in Psychology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, she attended Columbia University’s Psychological Counseling Program. O’Dell enjoys writing, and hopes to one day adopt it as a full-time job. According to O’Dell, the current road to recovery and sobriety enabled her to discover her purpose, which is to serve as a mentor for others using her firsthand experience.