A Letter to Hope in the New Year
A letter to hope might be the hardest letter to write. Hope has been evasive.
As someone who has survived and lived with childhood medical neglect,
C-PTSD, chronic pain and depression, and anxiety — hope is something that faded away and isn’t allowed anymore.
My stress about writing about hope comes through in how hard I’ve been pressing into my paper. Tears well up in my eyes when I even dare to hope. I don’t give myself permission to hope anymore because if I experience one more disappointment my heart just might break into a million pieces and fall into the soles of my feet.
I feel like hope is a good that I don't have and can’t afford. When in job interviews, they ask where I’ll be seeing myself in 5 years, I think that is a luxury I can’t experience. As someone living with a few chronic health problems, I am trying to see myself through next week or next month or through next year if I’m feeling optimistic. My ability to hope to see into the next 5 years is too unreliable.
Banking on hope alone won’t fix me.
Why am I even writing about hope? It is the end of the year and I did genuinely want to reflect on the past twelve months. Earlier in December was the death anniversary of a parent, in February it will be a year since the passing of a grandparent, and in September 2020 I lost a dear friend from complications due to Covid. The past two years have robbed me of a lot.
I have had a hard time mourning them. I have times I set aside to feel my feelings, like listening to music that reminds me of them or cooking their favorite meal for dinner. I carve out time where it’s my ‘safe time’ to cry. It’s actually been refreshing since I no longer burst into tears randomly in public or in meetings.
Yet, hope has brought me suffering and longing. Hope has brought me a desire that is never met.
Neil Gaiman wrote, “What power does Hell have if those here would not be able to dream of Heaven?” If dreams are hope visualized, I haven’t dreamed in years. My dreams are what I call ‘anxiety-mares’ since they are not quite nightmares but they can turn into nightmares. They are filled with customer service flashbacks, parents arguing with me, and just uncomfortable situations. Even in dreams, I can’t escape the anxiety that kills my drive to hope.
Is there hope in wanting to hope? I participate in ASCA, an organization for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, and I am usually mulling over Step 14, “I am able to grieve my childhood and mourn the loss of those who failed me”. I am not only constantly processing the loss of those who failed me but carrying the grief over losing my love for myself and humanity. At times it seems like a wonderful idea to never see another human again. Yet I do aspire to hope for hope. Usually, I guard my heart by keeping expectations so low that there is little opportunity to be disappointed. I save myself the aching pain that lost hope can bring. In a way, letting hope die has allowed me to grieve the contact of the people in my early life who were supposed to be my protectors.
Hope is too stressful to hold. Hope is fragile, and I am clumsy. Hope is too hard to keep alive. Maybe Hope could find me in the new year. I can allow myself to be hopeful for that much.