The real Hope from Arkansas, unexpectedly reignited

by Jeanene Harlick | July 29, 2016 7:04 pm

I haven’t put much put stock in “hope” lately. I’m 42, an unemployed, former journalist, poor, and I jumped off my apartment roof last fall, to what I thought would be my death.

I’ve long been considered “mentally ill,” I still want to die, and now also live with what may be some sort of PTSD associated with the suicide attempt. When people like Hillary Clinton talk about, or fight for, the rights of the disabled, that doesn’t generally include fighting for people like me – people with psychiatric disabilities.

Yet, for some reason – one I’m still trying to pin down – this week Hillary Rodham Clinton has reignited a bit of inner hope.

For the first time since I tried to kill myself, spent two months in the hospital undergoing agonizing surgeries, and have (rather poorly) grappled with the suicide attempt’s physical and psychiatric consequences, I’ve shed tears of joy instead of despair the past two evenings.

Chelsea and Hillary Clinton’s speeches Thursday night, in particular, made me think maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for both me and this country lurking out there yet.

I know it probably has something to do with Hillary being a woman, and the fact that at least one of my mental illnesses – “anorexia” (it’s so much more than that) – is linked, in misunderstood but complicated ways, to the completely absurd, contradictory and unachievable cultural standards females are expected to live up to in the United States today.

Hillary’s never cared about being “thin,” “in shape,” or proving her discipline through her body, as she’s simultaneously fought for the downtrodden all these years, I thought last night. Why haven’t I done the same? Or, why can’t I start?

But Hillary’s nomination, her life work, her daughter, and what she wants to and will do for this country mean much more than that, of course.

There’s the obvious historical nature of the moment. A woman very likely becoming president. With me at an age where I’ve been able to witness and appreciate such an astounding, decades-long arc. With me so very, very proud of what this means for my three nieces.

But you know what moved me the most – what caused me to think that maybe I can keep fighting, instead of walking the four short blocks to the nearest train tracks – as I’ve lately been considering – this week?

Two things.

First: Hillary’s resilience. Her courage. Her determination to keep getting back up when people have mocked her, attacked her, and dismissed her. She never – or at least not publicly – let herself fall into self-pity or stew in anger, as I always, inevitably, seem to.

No. Clinton just brushed off the dirt, healed the injuries, and looked for – and found – the alternate path to her goal. The road less travelled that was there all along.

Maybe I can do the same, I thought Thursday night. The odds are against me, I’m well aware. But anything is better than resigning myself to the life of obscurity, loneliness, joblessness and interior agony I have consigned myself to for the past eight months.

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