Call Me Mental’s 6th episode shows how hope is not a victory march.
Hope is not a victory march
Commentary from Dr. Carolyn Phelps, PhD
I don’t know, if while growing up, Elizabeth Bohlke’s mother ever said to her. “Use your words.” But she sure is doing that now. My path has just crossed her virtual path, and she doesn’t even know it. My own mind is racing about what I want to say. And I guess it boils done to this: Sometimes you run into someone who is able to speak so clearly, by showing simultaneously their vulnerability and strength; and in so doing, inspires hope. Not just for those with a mental illness but for all of us who struggle. Which, let’s face it, is all of us. So thank you Elizabeth.
I have been thinking a lot about hope and perseverance and the relation between the two, and so therefore, was struck by Elizabeth’s statement, “This is not a story of a girl who always had hope. This is a story of endurance.” We all, in our darkest hours, struggle with that thing call hope. For myself, I see hope as the feeling that lives in our heart, and I see endurance as the call to action that makes the heart’s dreams come true; that gives hope its life. Somebody should tell us that before we need that bit of information. But, I suppose, we wouldn’t get it until we really were there anyway. To paraphrase Leonard Cohen hope “is not a victory march. It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.” Elizabeth endured and continues to endure. We need active reminders that endurance is possible and worth it. And so for that I say, again, “Thank you Elizabeth.” Your confession that “I still need to push myself…” is a reminder to all of us, that our life is not a destination, but a series of journeys that require nudging along the way. And at some point we need to be willing to do some of our own nudging of ourselves. Of course, being open to the messages that come to us from the Universe doesn’t hurt either. Like a taxi cab driver, who, in his random act of kind nudging and encouragement offers a young woman some hope: “This place really changes peoples’ lives.” In whatever state Elizabeth was at the time she received this message, it is a message that she remembers to this day. I love how we never know about who among the people we meet will stay with us in our heart. Right? And that alone should give us reason to endure.
And if you need another, how about this: I think the reason to endure is to find our true self and our true purpose. Elizabeth’s statement “I don’t know if there’s any disease that wants so badly to be you,” is, I think, actually the story of all mental illness. Where the task is to rise out of the illness and claim yourself. To figure out who you are. To figure out that an illness is a thing I have; not a thing I become. But to do that, to figure that out requires endurance and nudging. Nudging that we allow from a taxi cab driver, nudging that we are willing to do ourselves. Search for what works. ECT and medication and hospitalization all have worked for some, and never will work for all. Even when they do work, they are the things that jump start recovery; but they are not the things that seal the deal on recovery. Sealing the deal, requires nudging. It is no mystery to me that Elizabeth found power in community, found power in a sense of belonging, and in doing so found her sense of purpose. At the end of the day, we all need a village, and we all need to be part of someone else’s village. We do not find our purpose, our true self, under the covers in a dark bedroom. But we might just get a glimpse of it in a taxi cab.
*Paraphrased from Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. If you are not familiar with this piece of music, download it and play it over and over. It will transform your soul.