Hopelessness and Despair

Some days just feel too hard.

Those days feel like you just can’t make it through…

Those are the days when you wish you could curl up in a ball, and sleep or stare all day long…

Or hide away forever…

Ever had a day like that?

Ever felt like your problems were just toooooo big? Or tooooo never-ending?  Or tooooo all-encompassing?

Ever felt overwhelmed with hopelessness?

Or despair?

Or sadness?

When the pain is just too much, or the traps are too thick, or the future looks too bleak, or too many abusers snarl in your doorway…

What do you do then?

How do you not give yourself over to those deep dark days?

How do you hold onto hope when the fight seems to be bigger than you can fathom?

How do you find your strength when you feel exhausted to your very core?

Dissociative trauma survivors know these feelings all too well.  Year after year of enduring the pain of trauma and abuse has demanded more from the inner self than can be put into words.  DID survivors, overwhelmed by the attacks and betrayals by the people near them, create amnesiac walls and a wide variety of inside parts to get some relief from the overwhelming intensity of such painful experiences. These walls provide a much needed separation from the suffering, space from the heartbreak, a fresh start for a few simpler moments of time.

Separating into different people helps endure the abuse as it is happening.

Leaving the trauma by floating away or hiding within can allow for an escape for at least a few minutes.

The dissociative walls can ensure more separation from the details of what happened.

Box it up, contain it, push it away.  That should work, right?

Sometimes it does. In lots of ways it works, but not completely.

Even with layers of separation, it still hurts in there.

Sometimes, trauma survivors use drugs, alcohol, self-injury, shopping, running, or any other form of addiction to help create even more distance from that black hole of pain that just never seems to leave or dissipate.

How does one ever move past such deep emotional pain?  The body heals, bruises fade, the bleeding stops.  But the heartbreak and sadness and emotional pain remain so long that hopelessness and despair can find a comfortable lodging place right up front on the front row of life.

What do you do, when you feel like you can’t go on anymore?

What do you do when it just seems to be more than you can bear?

Give yourself the permission to feel what you feel.  It’s ok to acknowledge that pain, to feel that hopelessness, to sit in your despair. Stay there for awhile, if you need to.  These are real feelings, and it really does hurt.  You don’t have to pretend that it’s not there.  Your heart is heavy, and it feels like there may just be no way out….

But there is a way out.

It will mean doing some new things, but there is a way out of that place of hopeless and despair.

In acknowledging the pain, you might finally give yourself permission to cry.   Find a private, safe place, or sit with a trusted friend or therapist, just find a place far away from anyone that will hurt you because you have tears.  Find a place where tears are allowed…  and let the pain come out naturally…  Don’t hold it in.  Let your pain have an expression… Let your pain have its own voice.

Wrap yourself in things that are comforting.  That might mean surrounding yourself in music that touches your soul, or in warm tight blankets that soothe the skin, or with pets and stuffies that are kind to you.

Self-soothing is important.

And as you can, one by one, tackle those things that have been too huge to touch.  Look at the truth of what happened, find ways to separate yourself from those who have hurt you, let yourself have safety and distance from anyone that brings you harm, allow yourself to end the abuse.  Your healing will be compromised if you stay involved with people that hurt you.  You don’t need that anymore – enough hurt already!  Your life will feel much more hopeful when you are safely away from abusers.

So be brave. And be honest.  Look at the reality of who has hurt you in your life.  Don’t blame people that just happen to be in the way.   Look at the real source of your pain.  If you blame the wrong target, just because it’s easier, you will still be missing the boat.  And no matter how many false targets you take down, you will still hurt inside because you are still not being honest with yourself.

As you reconnect with the pain you once separated from, and as you allow yourself to find true safety and genuine comfort, your heartbreak will lessen.  This is not easy, and while there are all kinds of complicated twists and turns in this journey, it is the way out.  It’s hard to deal with it all, but little bit by little bit, you can move through it.

Look for something in the future that you might like.  What would you like to be able to do that you haven’t been able to do because of all the muddy muck that entangled you?  Maybe you’ll have to explore new things to know what else you could enjoy.  Maybe you’ll have to be courageous enough to try something completely new.  But you can.  Have the courage to go there, because if you don’t break out and away from where you’ve been, you’ll only have more of that old stuff.

You don’t have to have the talents of Carrie Underwood or the smarts of Albert Einstein to be successful in your own life. You will have your own abilities.  But be willing to try new things to get there.  Who knows what talents that you have!

In all honesty, you’ll probably find that you have strengths, talents, and abilities that you never knew you had.  You’ll be able to develop interests and skills that you could only dream of before.  Your life can be filled with new activities, different priorities, and creative options that you never knew were possible.

You’ll be able to build relationships built on respect, caring, and warmth.  Being alone won’t be stifled in pain, but connecting with others won’t be paralyzed with fear.  Your insiders can be your very best friends in the world, and effective teamwork can replace isolation.  This doesn’t happen overnight, but you can get there.

As you experience true freedom and genuine safety from the chains of abuse, your life will be free to have hope, excitement, fun, and adventure. You can explore the beauty that life offers instead of being tied to the abuse and torment of perpetrators.

You won’t have to stay drowned in hopelessness and despair when you can see something creative and exciting and positive in your very own life that belongs to you.

When you like what is happening in your life, you can feel hope again.



Kathy Broady LCSW



34 comments on “Hopelessness and Despair

  1. I agree with nearly everything you wrote here. I have only one question. What do I do when after allowing myself to cry, that’s seems to be all I do? I don’t mean crying for hours, or days or even weeks. I mean how to stop the pain long enough to stop crying after 4 1/2 years?

  2. I’m having a couple of weeks like this…I have a feeling it might go on for another couple. Just this time of year is like this every year,and since 2008 especially when i lost my therapist.
    What do i do when i feel like this…nothing that’s good, thats for sure.
    But i don’t HAVE tears. Crying wouldn’t do any good. It doesn’t fix anything.
    And i don’t know how to talk about it.
    The problem isn’t what happened…the problem is ME. just ME.
    i used to be good at doing art to get things out, but the past 2 years or so i haven’t been able to. i want to though, i want to paint & create things again. i just haven’t been able to, i don’t know why.
    the best thing to do is make myself disappear. not eat and try to disappear, space out and try to become invisible so i don’t bother anyone.

  3. you relly do unerstand how we feel it hurts real real bad but body has problem with cry time we have to all work together for long time to cry then a few tears cry and no more cry december janurary both bad months but it be over soon our body person not want try anymore but she trust her frind so she keep try everyday cause he says we can get better and not be alone and sad and hurt anymore but it scary we have qwiet rooms inside with padded walls and thers no mor left caus so many people get scared and angry and other bad stuff. but janruary be over soon it be ok soon

    hugs for ms kathy

  4. Thank you, sallysmith, for your kind words, and I am sorry to hear that it is so very hard for you right now. Sometimes there is just so much hurt….

    Yes, learning to cry can be difficult, especially if you were taught in former years that crying was not allowed.
    Your friend is right – every day, little bit by little bit, you can get better. It often feels like it doesn’t happen fast enough, but sometimes, really big hurts take a long time to heal.

    Keep making more places inside that feel safe to you. It is your internal world, and you can expand it, or add to it, or change it as you need to, so … if you need more inside safe places to hide during January, you can make them.

    And yes, January will be over soon. You can do it… you’ve made it through every January so far, and you’ll be able to get through this one too. Stay as close as you can to the people that support you…

    I hope you feel better soon –



  5. Jo, making yourself disappear won’t make the pain you’re feeling disappear, even if it feels like it might…

    And yes, it can be hard to reach the tears, but some of reaching the tears is really really facing what the pain is about.
    Crying doesn’t “fix” things by itself – but it is an expression of the pain that is locked inside, and it allows for a healthy release of that pain. The ideas of expressing the pain, finding some comfort and healing, correcting some of the wrongs, finding acceptance within yourself and from some caring people are all important parts of the process of feeling better.

    Start where you can start – try more art, try more writing, try more collage work, try putting a few more words to what hurts. But most of all, be willing to look at where the pain is coming from. Unless you face it, you won’t be able to address it.

    Looking directly at the source of your pain takes a whole lot of courage – but it’s important for true healing….

    I hope you feel better soon –

  6. Hi Ivory,
    Yes, the pain goes very deep…. It is good that you have gotten safe enough to reach a place where you are allowed to cry…. One of the most important ways of over-coming self-injury issues is learning how to sit with and express deep feelings, so… while it may not feel like it, you really can be doing some important healing work…

    Have you put the pieces together to know what that very deep pain is about? If you are feeling the pain, but still blocking out the “why” you are hurting so much, then you might be caught in a place where your pain can’t resolve. It takes a lot of courage to really look at the full picture of the abuse you went thru’, and to let your insiders tell the stories of their life experiences, but it is part of the healing…

    I’d have to understand a whole lot more about your specific life situation to answer your question more directly… In a general sense, I have found that when dissociative survivors let all their insiders tell their stories (taking turns, of course), and when the internal system stops fighting each other and becomes supportive partners, and when expression of thoughts-feelings-emotions is allowed, and when the internal parts get to be their real selves instead of who they were forced to be by their abusers, and when the DID system is safe in their outside life, and when the DID system has some supportive kind caring people in their outside life… the combination of all that can allow for deep healing of the hurts. It’s not fast, but then again, your abuse probably lasted over years of time. But this healing process works…

    You may really need to have years of time to cry and to address your healing too… because your pain really goes deep. There’s been so much hurt for you… your abusers did a lot to you… it’s just not ok that they did that.

    I’m sorry it hurts so much…
    Please keep working on it… it will get better…

  7. yes its a hard time of year.

    I feel the gap between me and the rest of the rest of humanity is getting wider and wider.

    I don’t cry but I can hear crying on the inside sometimes and sometimes screaming. My hopelessness seems to be around not knowing whats going on for me and whether theres anyone or anything that can help. Not knowing how long I have to keep trying to keep it together for. I have been especially lost lately cause of holidays i think. I feel i could slip away altogether. I have been finding myself in doing different things in different places again and I find it hard to keep up with everyting thats happening.

  8. i want to believe you Kathy, i really do. i mean, i’m sure you’re telling the truth, i don’t think you would lie.And i also know that i’m not worth the trouble or the time and i don’t feel safe anywhere that i could just let myself cry and besides…i just want it all to go away. i’m not very brave.

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  10. I hate this time of year. It feels like once the last 2 weeks in October show up I’m slowly going into this tunnel and there’s this fog that gets thicker and thicker and by the time December 1 hits I feel completely lost – cut off from everyone. Like nobody can reach me – hear me – see me… and even when the ones I’m the closest to still can hear me.. no matter what I say or how I say it I feel like there’s this filter changing around everything I say so that I’m never understood. And when that happens I feel like – what’s the point? … why am I trying so hard? — cause I feel invisible. I know I’m not – but I feel that way. And I get so angry because words are never sufficient enough to come close to the hurt and fear and isolation. – Then half the time insiders take my thoughts away … when I need them the most… when I have a friend available to talk to and they can listen.. my insiders take all my words and thoughts away so I get frustrated. and when the people I can talk to aren’t availeble I want to call them and cry but I know I won’t be able to and I know once I call them my thoughts and words will go away again… and I will be left on the phone in silence hurting even more making the aloneness get bigger and bigger. I don’t like this time of year. lol everything gets hazy and confusing and painful. But I am learning to deal with the sense of impending doom that used to always get me hospitalized this time of year. that’s really good🙂 lol Just don’t like being alone and trapped inside. nothing ever comes out right and when it comes out wrong each time it makes me more and more upset and frustrated and the hurt and fear get bigger and bigger so I just stay quiet and smile and laugh at everything and try to talk to friends about funny stuff so I can ‘fake it till I make it’
    Sorry to ramble.

  11. Sally, that’s how i feel too.
    Thats good that you’re learning to deal with those feelings though.

    Sometimes i feel like no one can help. If my therapist, who i loved, gave up on me and didn’t care anymore, who am i say any different?
    I don’t know, i just feel lost… especially right now.
    Maybe in a few days this feeling will go away.

  12. jo,
    I hate that ‘no one can help’ feeling… even with my 3 trusted friends… I’m still not always sure if getting better is possible… I always feel… and especially big time this time of year.. like no one can help me because I can’t get untrapped enough to know what kind of help I need/want. – So then if I can’t figure it out to ask for it… how and why do I expect them to help… I hate that feeling😦 Cause is no one can help.. and I can’t help myself… then how do I get better…? lol – That’s why I do what I learned when I was young “Fake it till ya make it” lol
    Really do hate this time of year.

  13. can cry for lots of things. just not myself. i don’t understand how. i don’t think i understand what i’d be crying for. i guess that’s the point… that deeper understanding, it’s just so hard to reach. for good reason. and i suppose it happens when you’re ready, right?

    but even if i reached those feelings i’m still not sure i’d cry. it’s also a control thing… and i guess so many other things to do that crying seems like a waste of time. i’ve cried a little before, over some of the past. a small segment. but it didn’t seem to solve the grief. i mean afterwards, you’ve still got what you had before, don’t you? it’s just it’s wetter now. Lol

    hmmm. this is a tricky one. but maybe i’m not even getting what you mean. maybe it’s one of those things you have to experience to really understand why it’s important? then again, everybody’s needs are different, hey.

  14. We really related to this post. We had a good chance to feel out what we would do in times of total despair over the holidays. The flood of memories that came from Thanksgiving to Christmas made us feel so overwhelmed and tired and hopeless. There was a gradual peak toward crisis right before Christmas. Many thoughts of SI and suicidal thoughts as well (but no intention to carry it through). We took some drastic measures and actually removed ourselves from our environment for 24 hours in order to think and gain some perspective and avoid SI/SU. It was very helpful. The crisis culminated in the host completely shutting everyone inside out. This created some pretty big panic, but we were able to get back on track with the help of our wonderful T. We are gradually getting better at sitting with difficult feelings. We used to be afraid to cry, but now we are able to cry and able to sit with those feelings without panic (most of the time). It is immensely difficult at times, but we can see how we are making progress and that helps a lot. It won’t always be this hard, but it isn’t going to be easy getting there either. In times that we are feeling well, we try to make lists of things that bring us joy. Lists of coping strategies etc. That way these things are already there when times are hard.

  15. I’m always late answering a post and I wish I got here at the right time while it was fresh.

    This is a huge issue for me. I had extremely rigid programming where feelings are concerned. Sometimes they would “work” on me and not stop hurting me until I could go through the “exercises” without crying or showing any emotions or distress. I have never been able to break that programming. I am very frustrated as I and my others are being held back from some much needed help in dealing with the emotions of many children inside. We usually only cry on “triggers”. Sometimes I watch sad things on the tv just to provoke my own tears and I can get very upset about pretend characters on Gray’s Anatomy – and this ticks me off SO SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!! Why can’t I cry for my own selves. We were tortured in so many ways and by so many perps and we still get hurt living with a spouse who denies dissociation exists.

    I am writing from my place as the host – though co-consciousness is increasing – and I am becoming so very angry that I can’t /we can’t have our feelings and OUR LIVES back. It’s so unfair and the incredible tension placed on us by the effort to hold back our tears and screams and rage feels like it is slowly killing our body.

    They “taught” me to believe I would die in slow, agonizing horror if I ever let slip ANYTHING they did to me and even though I know objectively that they are all dead or gone far away, I still feel bound by the training they beat into me and burned into my mind.

    I don’t know when or even how, but I will get my life back for all of us. I am just so impatient as these years have gone by and I can’t take my full place in the life of my bio family. They have been robbed of some of what I should have been to them and for them. I hate it for us all – inside leslie and outside with her relatives.

    Thank you for the topics you bring up Kathy and all you do for those of us struggling with our lives

  16. Hi multipixie,

    It sounds like you have had an unbelievably horrible time.
    I dont know how to cry either or get mad. Its great to hear that your co- consciousness is increasing. I hear your determination to get your life back – its inspiring. Thankyou for posting. and good luck

  17. -I’m- not able to cry for myself… or movies… even when other scary stuff happens I have to let someone inside do something that makes them cry so we can all try to feel -some- release. …. But something I noticed lately… there;s a few people in my life I -can- cry for. And now I can’t –stop– crying for them😦
    Does this make me wierd?

  18. Vickilost, thanks for your kind words. i know we all hurt so terribly and my pain is not worse than anyone elses because we can not feel what other people feel – even empathy is a frail tool.

    things have been so difficult lately and i am so desperate to get somehow liveable in our head. i can’t find the words vivid enough, violent enough, heart-wrenching enough to ever write how horrible it is to live in my skin. i abused my meds the last two days cos i got too distressed over stupid, effing valentine’s day. love and intimacy are as pleasant for me as being immersed into a tank full of scorpions, adders and tarantulas.

    excuse me for being kinda gross tonight. i am so hideously frustrated that i can’t see inside my systems and do the work of helaing. it is too hard lately to “sit with the difficult memories and feelings”. i am very bad about using food-sugar, reading, tv, medicines to mood alter. i am getting to a scary place again where the demonic voices keep pushing us to si/su. i have isolated myself too much for too long and i am getting scared and freaked out. i can’t seem to find the faith relationship with God that has been so essential to my survival.

    i want to scream, break things and say horrible ugly vicious words and at the same time i want to hide under the covers with my favorite stuffie and whimper and suck my fingers. i am 56 freakin years old and i feel no hope of finding a real life beyond the past.

    at times i was very enamoured of my dx’s because i thought that finally i had some explanation of what was wrong in me. 15 years later i am thoroughly pissed off with my life and how little i have done with it. i am so enormously ANGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    tonight there is no hope, just disembodied voices and feelings mingling in the dark and no one is safe and no one has anything to offer. only God restrains me tonight and only God can it is soooo bad. i just wish there was an honorable way to choose to die. selfishness supreme. if i survive i hope something good can come from my life, my kids are grown and the nest is empty and i feel to fragile/unstable to volunteer.

    pixies lost in a black hole

  19. multipixie9,

    Letting you know that I read your post and understanding that things are really hard at the moment. You express yourself so well and I appreciate your posts.

    I have the urge to SI too but dont understand where its coming from. I have began to share some things for the first time in therapy and cant seem to keep up with myself. I cant keep up with my sessions and whats been going on I like ot be in control. I feel like I am sharing my ’empty time’ with my therapist and I just worry about this. Sometimes i’m on the floor or I have brought in secret drawings . I feel like I havent had a chance to check in with my therapist for weeks, and I need to because I feel so out of control and my head is doing me in. I wish I had more of a grasp on whats going on.

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  21. hey serial insomniac –
    THANK YOU for giving this article Honorable Mention in your Article of the Week list!
    I appreciate that, and I hope the article is helpful to you and a lot of others.
    Best wishes to you on your healing journey –

  22. Thanks for this. That these dark days come despite the efforts to keep them away – the therapy, the medication, the healthy diet and regular exercise, journaling, relaxing music – is so frustrating, makes it seem worse somehow.

    February was a very tough month.

    Next time I will try to think of a time/point in the near future that I want to get to, focus on looking forward a bit.

  23. Comfort

    If I could only feel peace,
    To not be scared of touch,
    If the startle would only cease,
    And I did not hate it so much,
    If my soul did not repel,
    And predator men could not tell,
    And if I could bare to stare,
    At things I swear aren’t there, 
    And the dark was not stronger than the light,
    If I had more strength to fight,
    If the little smiles I see were enough,
    And my insides were soft and not rough,
    If a hug could reach into my soul,
    And it could fill up every hole,
    If tears were really truly enough,
    To pour out pain and deadly stuff,
    If I could get rid of pain, sadness, and, despair,
    And put happiness and security in place of it there,
    Then comfort wouldn’t be so hard to feel, 
    And maybe I could finally heal.


  24. this did be lots to read but i read it all.
    i dont no how to make caroline n jodie stop feling this way😦
    it scare me when they be so bad for sutch a long time
    it scare me wehn they fel hopless and dispar and we dont no how to help them cos they the grone ups and they stop doing evrething and we have to take care of arselfs for a long time
    it be good cos we can lern to do new things
    but it be scary cos they do bad things and it be scary in side and they dont lisin or mabey they dont evn here us
    it scare me that carolins hart hert so bad that her want to die
    it scare me that the hole world seem so big and bad i dont no what gona help her i dont no what do gona help her be better

  25. There dont be ane hop ane mor
    Becus efrebudy giv up
    Becus to mutch bad hapin
    Nuthing good gona hapin agn
    Things keep geting werse
    Tere dont be anebidy who can help
    Evre day get werser all us want to give up
    Nowon care aneway so it be ok
    Nowon gona notis we be gon
    Nuthing matr
    Stuped tuck who dont relly be a gozilla boy

  26. I used to know how to fix things. I dont know anymore.
    Maybe when I used to think there was hope, i was just fooling myself. I’m so alone.

  27. Do you have any suggestions for overcoming suicidal ideations? I mean immediate “first aid” when on the brink. I really don’t want to do it, but feel it is inevitable.

  28. You deserve a lot of love for writing this. Altough my abuse is deep and long past I have never dealed with it and it’s still there.
    This article made me see light at the end of my path again. If only a glimmer.
    Sometimes a few gentle nudges is all it takes to dry the tears and smile.🙂

  29. Hi Tarik,
    Thank you for your very kind comment, and welcome to Discussing Dissociation. There is hope… *** passes you a tissue ****. I wish you the best on your healing journey.

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