​Hope is Always Possible: How to Overcome Feelings of Hopelessness

Posted by Lauren Presutti in Life After Paralysis on February 10, 2023 # Mental Health

Don't Give Up SignMany people who have experienced spinal cord injuries report that they experienced some hopelessness at the onset of their injury. By definition, hopelessness is a feeling of despair or the absence of belief that life can improve. Feeling hopeless makes it easy to think about why nothing will ever improve. Your mind tricks you by convincing you that your situation will not change despite your efforts. It leads us to adopt a narrowed perspective on what is possible. Living without passion, or optimism toward the future can become very painful, especially because having a sense of hope is a critical part of our well-being.

As humans, we need hope because it increases our confidence in getting through difficult situations, especially situations that are out of our control. It’s important to learn how to foster hope after being diagnosed with paralysis because, for many people, hope is a coping mechanism that prevents us from mentally crumbling. Hope fuels resiliency, problem-solving, determination, confidence, and belief in a positive future. Although it can be difficult, one of the best ways to regain hope after being diagnosed with paralysis is to reframe your perspective. When you feel hopeless, you might be expecting a worst-case future. Although your painful feelings are real and valid, we must caution ourselves not to get stuck in the mindset of catastrophic-thinking to the point of hopelessness. The challenge is finding a balance between validating our painful experiences and recognizing that a positive future is possible and things can always get better.

Be careful not to minimize your pain. But at the same time, be careful not to lose hope in your future. For example, it is very important for someone who has been diagnosed with paralysis to grieve the losses associated with your “new normal” while at the same time remembering that you are still alive, you are still a worthy person who has a purpose in the world, and you will still be able to cultivate friendships and relationships, engage in activities you will enjoy, build a life of independence, and lead a fulfilling future.

It is also helpful to remember that your life is constantly evolving, and there is often no evidence to say that you will be permanently stuck in your painful feelings forever. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the belief that nothing will ever feel good again, but it is much healthier to recognize that our lives and emotions are constantly changing. Many people find new meaning in life and experience new joy again. Healing is always possible. Finding meaning in life is always possible. Anything can happen. Things will become better.

In addition, finding and focusing on the positives in life can be helpful once you are ready to begin healing. This does not mean you have to forget or invalidate the pain you have experienced. You deserve to give yourself permission to shift your attention to positive alternatives at some point when you’re ready. Please do not pressure yourself or rush this process. We all navigate through life at different paces, and you must find your way forward.

If you are experiencing hopelessness that persists longer than what feels normal or manageable to you, please reach a mental health professional. Experiencing hopelessness can be a sign of a serious mental health condition like depression. It is possible to overcome these feelings and start living a more fulfilling life with treatment. You deserve it!

To learn about River Oaks Psychology, visit www.riveroakspsychology.com and follow River Oaks Psychology on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.