Hope? What’s That?

A look at lack of hope and hopelessness in depression

Ashley Peterson
Jan 23 · 3 min read

I experience hope for other people, or in transient form like hope for better weather tomorrow, but when it comes to anything more substantial to do with myself, it’s been a long time.

This is a direct result of my mental illness (major depressive disorder) rather than a consistent way of looking at the world. Back in the day, I didn’t need an actual reason to feel hope — it was just there. The future looked like a very pleasant place. Now, spontaneous hope seems utterly foreign. Instead, I look for things that would provide some sort of basis for hope, and I just don’t see anything.

Hope is by its very nature future-oriented.

So why would I feel hope?

A paper in the journal Research on Social Work Practice says that mindfulness meditation can increase hope by decreasing stress.

That’s all well and good if stress is what’s standing in the way of hope, but otherwise I fail to see a connection between mindfulness and hope.

Mindfulness is about the present moment while hope is about the future, so I’m not sure why being present in the now is going to give me any confidence in positive outcomes in the future.

In my mind, there’s a difference between an absence of hope and the presence of hopelessness.

It’s like the opposite of hopefulness. Absence of hope is more passive; there’s just no apparent reason to feel any hope, and it plunks you down somewhere in the middle of hopefulness and hopelessness.

For me, the absence of hope is not connected with suicidal thinking, while hopeless despair can be. Absence of hope has become my baseline state, while active hopelessness only flairs up every so often. It’s been several years since my depressive illness became treatment-resistant and hope became a thing of the past, and it’s been long enough that it’s hard to recall what it felt like to have hope for my own future.

I’ve gotten used to a world without hope. It’s a darker world than the one I used to live in, but I’ve adapted.

Do you see a difference between hopelessness and an absence of hope?


Originally published at https://mentalhealthathome.org on January 23, 2020.


This story is published in a Few Words, Medium’s publication that only accepts stories under 500 words.

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Ashley Peterson

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Mental health blogger | MH Nurse | Living with depression | My new book Managing the Depression Puzzle is now available on Amazon | mentalhealthathome.org

a Few Words

A few words can change lives.

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