The siren call of wanting to help others is very alluring, and I usually succumb to the temptation before I catch myself. I don't regret the desire to be helpful. Recognizing a need and wishing to alleviate it is fine, but best intentions are not always directed in the best way.
Having gotten lost in the wilderness of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I’m very fortunate to have found my way back to a healthy co-existence with my thoughts. There aren’t a whole lot of people who can say that. In my wanting-to-help fervour, I've occasionally said to someone, “If I did it, anyone with OCD can do it.” If you hear that coming out of my mouth, I hope you'll forgive my arrogance.
For one thing, there is no ‘it.’ We don't all have the same needs, and what for one person is a great solution won't satisfy someone else. As we live our lives, our own needs will evolve. It’s hard, but I think we have to let go of the idea that there is one solution for everyone.
Then there's the problem of the "You can do it!" philosophy, which is especially dubious if I think the methods that helped me will work for everyone. If I assume that I did something right, then others who are less fortunate must have done something wrong, and creeping into judgments like that does not support my intention to be helpful.
Maybe I'm being hard on myself; after all, I mean well. Still, I think the problem with the concept of sharing hope or inspiration is that it sounds as if these can be liberally bestowed on anybody, like confetti at a parade.
It’s not difficult nowadays to find first-person narratives of recovery from mental illness on the Internet, offered by authors wishing to create hope or inspiration or both. When I was suffering a great deal, I used to grit my teeth when writers stated they intended their stories to be hope offerings. Why should they presume that a happy ending for him or her could result in happy endings for everyone? Is hope so cheap, and easy?
Nevertheless, sometimes when I talk or write about my graphic memoir, Dinosaur, I catch myself peddling these same exhortations, because like others, I want to help. This realization makes me very uncomfortable.
Part of my story is that I got better in treatment even though I had no hope. I had washed my hands of life. To my surprise, I found I had other resources I hadn’t previously drawn on: curiosity about who I was, self-compassion, a desire to love and be loved, and most of all, a pissed-off determination to do my best, even if it wasn’t enough. It turned out that my success wasn't measured by my hope at all.
In my best-of-intentions way, let me say this. Make the most out of the hope that you have. Exploit the hell out of it, because it can make rough times much easier. If you have no hope, don't do as I first did and use this as a reason to cop out. I believe that if you strike out on the road, hope will catch up. It can't be found under a rock or sprinkled on you by well-wishers. Cherish hope, because it has to be earned, and that is why it is so very powerful.