What If I Never Recover from Mental Illness? I Feel Hopeless

July 21, 2020 Megan Griffith

Recovery from mental illness is a long, complicated path, and even though the whole point of recovery is to help us grow, it still comes with limitations, setbacks, and collateral damage. Sometimes, in the midst of all the negatives, I lose sight of the positives, lose sight of hope. And I can't help but wonder, what if I never recover from mental illness?

Hopelessness in Recovery from Mental Illness

There are three main reasons I tend to lose hope in the possibility of recovery from mental illness. First, sometimes I can't help but feel like I am simply too big of a problem to be fixed. When I'm in a healthy mindset, I know this doesn't make sense. I know that I am not the problem, my illnesses are, but when I'm in an unhealthy mindset, I stop seeing the distinction between me and my mental illness, and just see myself as one big problem that can't be solved.

The second reason I lose hope in my recovery from mental illness is closely related: I can't imagine being this way forever. I can't imagine being me forever. It sounds horrible, unbearable, and pointless. Again, I see myself as the problem, and instead of seeing the rest of my life as an opportunity to grow and get better; I see it as a cruel form of torture. I've lived with mental illness for almost a decade now, and there are days where I can't imagine living with it for another five or six decades more.

I also tend to feel hopeless about my recovery when I get caught in the Gordian knot of "why I'm like this." I am forever searching for the perfect mental health diagnosis, the perfect explanation of my symptoms, and the perfect trauma that will justify my psychological issues so that I have permission to stop hating myself for being so broken. On good days, I know that there is no way to pick apart this knot, and it's better to leave it alone and focus on finding self-worth regardless of "what's wrong with me," but on bad days, that is just too hard.

Finding Hope that Things Can Get Better in Mental Illness Recovery

All of my hopelessness stems from the core belief that something is wrong with who I am as a person. So the best way for me to find hope is by challenging this belief. This is obviously easier said than done, but here are 10 things I am doing to try and build up my own self-confidence and self-worth to find hope:

  1. Journaling -- I write for others all the time, but it's important that I take time to write things just for me.
  2. Going to therapy --There are weeks where I only make it through because I know I have a therapy appointment at the end where I can cry and vent as much as I need to.
  3. Drinking iced coffee -- Sometimes, the little rewards really can make all the difference. Right now, iced coffee is my favorite way to reward myself, sometimes for working hard and other times simply for staying alive.
  4. Using affirmations -- I am the expert on me. I am not hard to love. My life has value even if it doesn't look like other people's.
  5. Using distractions -- Sometimes when I can't cope with the hopelessness in this mental illness recovery process, I just take a moment to do something else, like play my ukulele or go for a walk, and that is enough to get me through the worst of it.
  6. Being honest -- I don't want to feel hopeless, but sometimes I do. Being honest about my feelings, both with myself and with loved ones I trust, often makes me feel a thousand times better.
  7. Taking naps -- Sometimes when things look like they are beyond hope, I just need to go to sleep, reset my brain, and get some rest. Sometimes things look just as hopeless when I wake up, but more often, things look a tiny bit better.
  8. Processing trauma -- It's hard, it sucks, and I hate it, but taking the time and energy to process some of my childhood trauma is actually one of the best ways to combat my negative core beliefs, which formed largely because of the trauma.
  9. Walking -- I'm not a big fan of exercise, but I do believe that simply moving my body has the power to make me feel much better.
  10. Crying -- Letting myself cry is a form of release that can help me accept my feelings and move past the limitations of hopelessness.

Do you struggle with hopelessness while in recovery from mental illness? How do you cope? Please, share your stories and advice with the community in the comments below.

APA Reference
Griffith, M. (2020, July 21). What If I Never Recover from Mental Illness? I Feel Hopeless, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Author: Megan Griffith

Find Megan on Facebook, Tumblr and her personal blog.

Amanda Kociban
July, 30 2021 at 7:03 pm

I love this. I'm struggling with bipolar depression. For years I was on the right track, stable and medications were doing the trick. But recently, I've been really having a hard time. I feel like I needed to see this article! Thank you!

August, 10 2020 at 1:20 pm

None of this helps.

Lizanne Corbit
July, 21 2020 at 6:27 pm

I love your list of ten! This is a practice that anyone can put into place from themselves and it is so powerful. Anything we can do to help shift ourselves away from thinking there is something "wrong" with us, every little bit that brings us closer to loving ourselves and saying, "it's okay, this is just me being human" has such a profound impact on us. The little stuff adds up to big change. Be gentle with yourself in all the moments. Remind yourself, you are human, and you are doing great.

July, 22 2020 at 3:07 pm

Thank you so much Lizanne, your comforting words mean a lot. I am doing my best, and hoping everyone reading is doing their best too.

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