A Story of a Hopeful Heart

If comparisons are the thief of joy, I wonder if depression is the thief of hope.  Hope.  Such a tiny a little word, yet in its absence it leaves such large gaping holes.  Sometimes we search for hope, and despite our most valiant efforts, it’s nowhere to be found.  And then, almost as mysteriously as when it left, it returns, filling in the gaps as though it had never left. 

My arms are weighted down as I sit with my clients.  You see, often, when entrusted with the role of helping someone with an eating disorder recover, you hold their hope for them.   A professional holder of hope.  That’s my job.  

Week after week, they return to my office.  Sometimes they don’t even notice hope, all swaddled in a white blanket softly sleeping in my arms.  And that’s ok because they will.  I hold securely the hope that they will.  And often, they do. 

The first time I really thought about hope was in my first graduate school class; which happened to be positive psychology.  I walked into that class without much hope that I would ever get a master’s degree.  I just never really believed I was smart enough (but then again, I didn't think I would get into graduate school in the first place).  But I went anyway, because at some point I realized during my eating disorder recovery, that the only way for me to fully hold my hope, was to start holding yours.   Sometimes it’s still hard for me to describe how getting clear on my purpose (to become a therapist), allowed room for me to get out of my own way, and made space for me to heal.  

In that class with the giant red book, I looked across the small table at my professor, who happened to be the world’s foremost leading expert on hope.  {Cool title, huh}.   He shared from his research that hope was the secret ingredient in the transformation of lives, and that it was not only an emotion, but an essential life tool.  Hope is the most important indicator of success in all realms.  HOPE!  Not IQ or financial status.  He taught us that hope is a choice.  The man that sat across from me with his warm brown eyes, quick smile and wit had held hope for me several years prior.  

Many years before graduate school, I had the first of many false starts with recovery.   In one of my first therapy sessions, I met with this man, whom I will refer to as Dr. Hope.  He exuded warmth, kindness, and compassion.  But after about three sessions, I decided that life was better with an eating disorder.   My eating disorder was threatened by his therapeutic suggestions, but more importantly, by his hope for me.  I could tell I was nowhere near ready to sit with my ‘stuff,’ so I canceled all future sessions.  

Fast forward several years and there he was, a professor in the master’s program I had entered.  Seeing him again reignited memories of the hopelessness I had at that time in my life.  I assumed he thought I didn't belong in the program.  Although I was in active recovery by that time, I was by no means recovered.  We never spoke of our prior relationship.

Midway through my master's degree, I sat in his office and listened to his suggestion that I consider the process of transitioning from the master’s program to the Ph.D. program.  I was taken aback by the mere mention of this idea; again, I held tightly to the belief that I'm not smart enough for a master’s degree, let alone a Ph.D.  But what shocked me the most, was that he was still there, holding hope for me, just like he did for everyone. 

I walked away from that meeting with total clarity.  I recognized that what I already held was a Ph.D. in underestimating myself and that my life had proven to produce successes far greater than each of my limiting beliefs.  Now it's almost an exciting game to see these limiting beliefs dismantled. 

What I learned from Dr. Hope, was that hope is a choice.  We can cultivate it.  Stir it into being.  Even embody it.  What I also learned from him is that this is an active process; we don’t wait for hope, we create it.  And maybe, most importantly, that hope is contagious and that by starting little ripples of hope we can change lives.

So, much like Dr. Hope did for me, I carry hope for you.  My hope for you today is that you find a calling that breaks your heart so wide open that you can’t ignore it.   Even if you believe it could never truly be yours, or that your voice isn’t loud enough to make an impact, or that you aren’t smart enough, and all the other reasons you can come up with for staying in the way of your future self.  I'm asking you to surprise yourself.  Prove those beliefs wrong!  Everything that has ever meant the most to me were always things I felt I didn't deserve, wasn’t good enough to have, or were reserved for other people.  I’m so glad I was wrong.  

Love + Light,


"It always seems impossible until it's done."  Nelson Mandela