From Despair to Hope
I grew up on a farm. When I was 15 we moved from rolling brown hills to green irrigated plains by a river. Many years later when recalling the move my father described 30 years of farming in a drought prone area as having been ‘very hard’. He wasn’t a man to use emotive language, but I imagine what he experienced at times with the long droughts may have been despair. Environmental catastrophes and changes are an increasing source of despair, particularly for rural people.
Despair can be described as a deep sense of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness, and negativity about the future and life. It can take you right down the rabbit hole into a very dark place, especially if it goes on and on. Anxiety and anguish usually accompany despair. When all sense of hope seems lost and despair becomes chronic there can be a danger of suicidal thoughts and actions. Insomnia, isolating, over or under eating, crying easily, getting cranky and lacking motivation are just a few of the impacts of despair. For rural people the sense of isolation accompanying despair can be particularly acute.
So when despair comes to visit, how can we deal with it?
It can be hard to reach out for help when in the grip of despair as often there is a lot of self-criticism, blame and shame. The critic voice in our heads can go on relentlessly about how we have failed in some way, even if that is not true. Having the courage to reach out can bring relief, even if no solution can be found to the situation. Talking to others and sharing your feelings is essential. It makes you feel connected. It breaks the isolation. Sometimes it is easier to reach out for a professional help. Simply feeling listened to and talking about the situation with someone who isn’t directly involved can lighten the burden and the intensity of despair. With the option of online counselling the support via video counselling is incredibly accessible.
Finding solace in nature can also be helpful. We cannot underestimate the power of nature to heal and soothe the mind and soul, even when it may be events of nature that have led us to experience a state of despair. Simple things such as pausing and appreciating nature can be very helpful. For example, stopping to observe the colours of sunset as the sun goes down. Walking in nature or sitting in a quiet place can bring a sense of peace and clarity. Stroking and being with animals can also be comforting when all seems lost.
If you are feeling despair, remember the things that help you shift you into a better state of mind where you can feel calmer and clearer. And if nothing works, reach out for help and meet one of us on your screen. Meeting a psychologist online is private, it is affordable and it is the wise thing to do.
Poem - 'The Peace of Wild Things'
by Wendell Berry, American farmer and poet.
When despair for the world grows in me.
and I wake in the night at the least sound.
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.