Elissa Stewart has struggled with depression for many years; however, her experiences have taught her so much about the beautiful Christlike attribute of hope.
For more than 13 years, I sailed the lonely ocean of depression, searching for happiness and peace. Most days, I was fighting to keep my boat from being dashed to pieces by the storms of life. It was exhausting to keep afloat and left me with little energy to seek out that fabled place of joy.
Despite feeling isolated, I was a worthy, active member who read my scriptures, attended church, prayed, and went to the temple. I was living the “good news” of the gospel, yet the good for me seemed to be few and far between. It seemed the only constant companions I had on my voyage were sorrow, pain, grief, shame, and unnecessary guilt.
Occasionally, bottles would drift by me, containing messages like “Everything will work out,” “God keeps His promises,” or “Hold on to hope.” I would weep in despair, roll my eyes with cynicism, or toss them angrily back into the water. But with each message read, there was a longing in the depths of my soul that wanted them to be true. I would briefly entertain the thought that a miracle could happen in my life, that I would find what I so desperately wanted. It was the faint flicker of hope.
But then a storm would break above me, and the tumultuous waves would flood my boat with thoughts of suicide. It was all I could do to not give in to the murky waters. As I cried for help, images of those who loved me would come to my mind. My friends, family, parents, and especially the Savior encouraged me to keep fighting.
“Hope is the anchor of our souls,” President James E. Faust said. “Hope is trust in God’s promises, faith that if we act now, the desired blessings will be fulfilled in the future.” Hidden below the waterline, where I couldn’t see it on a daily basis, was my anchor of hope. It grounded me as the storms threatened to move me away from my end goal—to live with God again.
I had hope each time I got out of bed. I had hope when I laughed with a friend. I had hope when I made a grocery list. I had hope when I went to church, even when all I wanted to do was cry during each meeting, because it meant I believed a better future was possible. I still don’t understand exactly what hope is. But I know I have it, and so do you. You have more than you realize.
With hope as my anchor, I have been able to find a great deal of peace. I don’t want to say I’ve been cured of depression, but I have been led to a haven where the storms are mild. Sailing is now enjoyable, and I have energy to seek out the best life has to offer.
I’ve put this message into a bottle and am sending it your way. One day, the clouds will break and the sun will shine. Until then, I leave you with this: everything will work out, God keeps His promises, and hold on to hope.