Hopeless

A lot of people have reached out as a result of the Montreal Gazette article that ran yesterday (read it online here), and the last 24 hours have been really wonderful. There are emails and comments and messages and tweets that I’m going to respond to (I haven’t responded yet, but I promise I will!), but I thought I’d share one that has really stuck in my mind.

A new reader sent an email and shared with me her own struggles with weight. Because it was an email, and not a blog comment intended for public eyes, I’m not going to share any identifying details, but she ended her email with this sentence:

“Wish me luck because I feel so utterly hopeless right now.”

Hopeless. I read that word and immediately felt like someone had smacked the air out of me with a baseball bat. Hopelessness is a feeling unlike any other. It’s worse than depression or despair, because it carries with it the notion that things will never ever Ever EVER improve.

I know the misery and isolation that hopelessness brings, because I’ve been there. I’ve been crippled by it. I’ve felt it pressing down on my shoulders and clouding my vision, like a heavy fog. I’ve experienced how it dampens and obscures the positives in your life and affects every decision and choice you make throughout your day.

But I can also stand up tall and proud and say that I’ve won battles with hopelessness. I’ve kicked it to the curb. It’s not always easy (hopelessness often has a vice-like grip), and it requires a lot of work, reflection, and self-love, but it can be done.

It took me a long time to figure out how to deal with hopelessness. The first time it came a-knocking was when I was a teenager, and it stuck around and settled in for an extended visit. My feelings of hopelessness stemmed from low self-esteem and self-worth, both of which were tied to my weight, and as time marched on, those feelings of hopelessness tightened their hold on me.

Because I felt I had no place to turn, I ended up attempting to take my own life, on two occasions. (I’ve blogged about this extensively. You can click here to read about it, although be warned that it’s not an easy read.) Guess what, readers –That is not and never will be the solution. My second attempt led to a hospital stay, followed by a period in a psych ward, and through hours of therapy and classes and introspection, I began replacing, one by one, the cancerous thoughts with more healthy and truthful ones.

Truthful. That’s a word that I like focusing on when I’m feeling blue (or worse). Because more often than not, when I’m feeling depressed or hopeless, the first thing that gets warped is my perception of what’s true in my life. I know for a fact that I have family and friends that love me, but when I’m in a mood, I’ll start chipping away at that fact, and insist that I’m alone and unloved. I know for a fact that I’m smart, talented, funny, insightful, charming, and fun to be around, but I know how easy I can get to a place where I start ignoring all of those things, or deny them entirely. I know for a fact that I have a lot of love to share, and that I’m fully capable of sharing that love, and when I start thinking otherwise, I force myself to remember that I add so much value and light into the lives of others, and that’s really fucking special. I think about how the most important people in my life aren’t just here with me in Los Angeles, but spread out across the country and beyond (Michigan. Illinois. Colorado. New York. Washington. Sweden. Germany. On a ship somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.) and since I don’t let distance or time erode my love for them, why on Earth would I let some occasional feelings of despair do more damage?

While my teenage years were perhaps my most perilous, they weren’t the only time I’ve been plagued by hopelessness. There was a time in college that I felt overwhelmed, and occasionally in the years that followed, including the months leading up to my introduction to Richard Simmons and the beginning of my weight loss journey. But never again have I let myself get to a place where death was an option, and that’s because I remind myself, no matter how shitty I feel, of the good things in my life and the amazing people I share them with.

Most importantly, I remind myself, day in and day out, that I’m worth it. This is the biggest truth of all, although sometimes it’s the one that’s most difficult to recognize. But I don’t let that difficulty deter me, because I know, for a fact, that I’m worth the love that other people share with me, and the love that I share with others is invaluable. Most of all, I’m worth the love that I give myself.

So what can you do when you’re in a situation like my reader and feeling completely hopeless? My suggestion is that you remind yourself of the good things in your life. Make a list. Include the people that warm your heart and make you laugh. Include the places that fill your memories. Include your vision, your mind, your dreams, and all the other things that we all take for granted on a daily basis.

Then, reach out. What everyone forgets about hopelessness is that everyone has been there. You feel so terribly alone when you’re struggling with it, but everyone has struggled with it. Your family and friends have been there, and they want to help, and they want to listen. So talk. Sit down with a cup of tea and tell someone what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling.

Finally, make a change. If you’re like me, you’re not going to wake up one day and feel 100% better. It’s going to take effort, and that effort begins with one single step. Identify one thing you can do differently today. If you’re feeling hopeless about your weight, figure out a plan of action that involves eliminating one dessert or exercising, even if it’s only for 15 or 20 minutes. Make one choice that you can feel proud about, and start doing it every day. Once that becomes routine, add a second choice. Pay attention to the pride that you’re feel when you accomplish your healthy choices. Focus on it. Embrace it. Put it in your pocket and take it out a couple hours later when you’re feeling blue. Keep adding and building and finding new ways you can make healthy choices.

Two and a half years ago, I felt certain that I would never be able to lose weight. I didn’t have any hope, whatsoever. But I did exactly what I outlined above, and now I’m down 164 pounds, and I’ve kept it off for a year.

You, too, are capable of monumental, life-altering changes.

And you know what? You’re worth it.

Keep it up, David.

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12 Responses to Hopeless

  1. Leslie says:

    Excellent post David. Truly transparent like all of your entries. I sure pray that your email friend takes your advice to heart. There IS hope! 🙂 Keep it up David!

  2. Laura says:

    Great genuine and inspiring post David! Made me cry. Lots of love from Illinois 🙂 xoxo

  3. Karen says:

    Great post, as always. You have a such a great (rare) ability to write out your feelings in a way that really gets them across and connects with “us”. Like everyone else, I’ve felt hopeless at times. About weight and other issues. Today, this post really got me out of a funk about a non-weight-related issue, and I feel ready to tackle my current focus. Thank you! Keep it up!

  4. jocelyn says:

    great post! xoxo.

  5. Wow. Have I ever felt exactly as you and your email friend describe? Absolutely… and I’ve done it for 57 years, off and on. I’m 58 now, so… why haven’t I felt hopeless for the last year? Because there is, actually, hope. It came from finding you, David, and from finding everydayhealth.com, and from having that little conversation with myself that said, ‘Now. Now is the time. Now is MY time.’. There is hope.

    Here’s a message for your ‘hopeless’ friend… grab hold of David’s blog and read, read, read. It’s full of hope and support and love and life. Visit everydayhealth.com, or Spark People, or any of a dozen really good online sources for help. You can do this. It’s not hopeless. It’s not easy, either… but you’re worth it. I’ve lost 96 pounds now… I promise: if I can, you can. Find David’s blog post about walking into the fire and come walk with us. And don’t be afraid of the person you are about to become.

  6. Joanne Greene says:

    Well said, David. Thank you for leading the way.
    And I agree with Jennifer Dahl’s comment:
    “…having that little conversation with myself that said, ‘Now. Now is the time. Now is MY time.’. There is hope.”

  7. Adam says:

    Great post, David

  8. Lucinda Kubitz says:

    Dear Hopeless
    A year ago I was taking a week off. Just at home–feeling like you, hopeless, stuck, weighing 339 pounds, I caught David on the Ellen show & felt hope for the first time in a long time. I think it was the combo of David & Richard Simmons, who’d always been my hero. It’s been a year of baby step, my motto of getting healthy has been “slow & steady wins the race” from the Aesop’s fable. It’s now more than a year later & I weight 277 pounds, Yes, I’m still overweight but I’m getting there. I started small healthy changes, keeping a food journal, & not beating myself up for gaining all the weight. I now just getting to the point where I’m going to start exercizing. It will be a slow start, just walking for now, but plan to feel good enough by Fall to joing the small gym in down so to have some place to exercize during the Michigan winters. Creating and achieving mini-goals–that gives me a feeling of accomplishment. They may be small goals but they add up over time. I’ve been lucky that I’ve made a friend at work who’s also struggling with loosing weight so we share helpful tips & cheer each other on. I’m going to attend a meeting next week at a free community support group for people who want to lose weight started by a gentleman in my area who’s lost 200 pounds. I’ve learned it’s important to look for help whether it’s reading David’s blog, Richard Simmon’s website & books, my friend’s advice & support. It can be as little as getting up this morning & getting to the farmer’s market for fresh aspargus, cucumbers, & strawberries. Planning meals that are healthy but that include foods that I love & look forward to. Give yourself little rewards on your journey for your goals–whether it’s Tupperware container’s to hold your fresh fruit in the fridge, a movie, a pretty journal for your food journal, a strawberry scented shower gel, something nice to carry your lunch to work in. I sometimes feel like I’m back in Kindergarten getting a gold star for doing my homework right. But these little presents keep my spirits up & are inexpensive & so rewarding, Treat yourself as you would a friend–we’re always nicer to our friends that we our to ourselves. The hardest thing to do on this journey to get healthier was to treat myself better along the way. And now that you’re being sent good wishes from Michigan for journey of getting healthier.
    Lucie

    • David says:

      What a great collection of ideas and suggestions, Lucie – thank you so much for sharing, and for your long-time support. Much appreciated!

  9. Debbie Vance says:

    David, I am Joanne Greenes friend whom you met at Slimmons a few weeks back. She sent me a link to the article and I have shared it with my group of friends at church. I came home with Richards DVD’s and we are meeting once a week to workout. I know your story will be an inspiration to them as it is to me and many more! Wish us luck as we start on this journey.

    • David says:

      Hi Debbie! Great to hear from you, and thank you so much for the kind words and for sharing my post with your friends! Best of luck with your own efforts… KEEP IT UP!

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