When you think of hope, what do you see?
Is it love…or compassion? Maybe it’s heartbreak, or adversity, or pain.
When I think of hope, I only see struggle. I think of all the times my back was up against the wall. The times when I clung to hope like a life raft.
You see, hope is a funny thing. When life is good, we hope for a better future. We hope for a better job, more money, happiness, and better relationships. But when things fall apart, we hope for things to go back to the way they were before. We hope for relief, and redemption.
The one thing I know for sure, is that it’s way too easy to lose hope when things get bad. And that’s a shame. Because even in your darkest moments, there is always hope. Sometimes it’s all you really have.
The Hope/Mindset Connection:
When I was first diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, each passing day got worse and worse. I couldn’t seem to catch a break. The challenges amassed like a snow ball rolling down a hill. The size and momentum alone threatened to destroy me.
I remember sitting in the waiting room at my first doctor’s appointment. I was exhausted but also desperately afraid. I had just suffered the worst vertigo attack I’d ever had and my mind kept replaying the tape. Nothing made any sense. But I still had hope. Whatever was wrong with me, I was taking care of it. The doctor would help me.
But the doctor didn’t help. He could have helped me, but he didn’t. Instead, he delivered my diagnosis like a robot: cold, emotionless and distant. For a moment I sat there in disbelief. But the moment passed as the denial switch clicked on in my brain.
I starting asking rapid fire questions, one after another. I just wanted to understand, but he didn’t care. He thought I was questioning his intelligence and berated me into silence. I drove home broken and afraid. It suddenly seemed that I wasn’t going to get better after all, quite the opposite. I was going to get a lot worse. I felt hope slipping away. The picture my doctor had painted was grim…he hadn’t left any room for hope.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
When I got home I started scouring the internet for more information. There had to be more to this. Maybe my doctor just didn’t know any better. But things seemed even worse on the web. The conflicting and confusing reports made my head spin, and all pointed to a hopeless future.
By the time I went to sleep that night, I was convinced that my life was essentially over. It felt like a death sentence. I wish I could reach back in time and tell my 24-year-old self that it was all going to be okay.
But at some point along the way, I realized the question isn’t ‘Is there hope?’ Like I said before, there is always hope. The real question is, ‘How do I find it?’ And the answer starts with mindset.
I eventually went and got a second opinion. My second doctor, in stark contrast to the first one, was kind, compassionate and patient. He answered every single one of my questions. He saw the broken young man in front of him, and tried to piece me back together.
He also painted a very different picture of my circumstances. He showed me a future full of possibility and hope. I suddenly felt lighter. The feeling of relief was substantial. I was still suffering, but I was hopeful. It may not sound like much of an improvement, but it changed everything. It makes all of the difference in the world.
Hope, Persistence, and How to Fail:
When you face a complex and life changing adversity like Meniere’s disease, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated. Meniere’s disease affects everyone differently, and what works for some people, may not work for others.
Finding your triggers is important, and so is lifestyle management, but it’s possible that your symptoms are triggered by variables outside of your control. Even if this is the case, it’s so important to never lose hope. No matter how bad things may seem, now or in the future, I want you to grasp one thing: there is always room to improve your circumstances.
The stoic philosopher Epictetus once said, “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.” You still have control over most other aspects of your life. It’s important to not lose sight of this. Focus on the things you can control.
From the beginning, allergies have been a big trigger for me. I take an over-the-counter antihistamine, but it’s not always enough. Some of my allergies, like milk, I can avoid. But others, like pollen, I can’t control. When the pollen counts are high, my symptoms are always worse.
But I’ve been able to increase my resilience by improving other aspects of my health. I make an effort to get plenty of high quality sleep, I eat a clean and healthy diet, and I exercise regularly. I’m still affected by my allergies, but to a much lesser degree.
“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Castenada
Persistence and hope tend to go hand in hand. It’s hard to have one without the other. But when your best efforts are constantly met with failure, you can quickly lose sight of hope, and stop trying to get better as a result.
Don’t give up though. Your persistence will eventually pay off, and failure is not defeat. In fact failure is often a necessary component of success. In the business world, companies that aren’t afraid to fail are the ones that typically succeed in the end. They experiment more, they take more risks, and they don’t give up.
“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.” – Thomas Edison
Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore every available option. If something doesn’t work, move on and try something else. Even when you fail, you will learn something valuable. And in a way, it’s not really a failure at all. It’s an opportunity for growth.
Over the years, I have faced countless failures and setbacks. I still do to this day. But I haven’t truly lost hope in years. My second doctor gave me that gift. He showed me a future where I might be okay, and as a result I eventually was.
My circumstances have changed, time and time again, but I always have hope. Because there always is hope. Meniere’s disease will never define you. It cannot and will not ever be bigger than your dreams.