Toxic positivity can do one
TW - Suicidal ideation
I know it’s well-meaning but if your response to a sick person talking about their life is to tell them to “be positive” then, respectfully, please get in the bin.
If me talking about life with a chronic illness sounds like I’m being a big old Neggy Nelly, maybe it’s because being sick and in pain every day is not, in fact, a barrel of laughs. That doesn’t make me an inherently ‘negative’ person, I’m just telling the truth; being sick is crap.
I think, generally speaking, that people are uneasy around chronic illness. It forces people to face up to the fact that good health isn’t guaranteed, and that it doesn’t matter how many green smoothies you drink or how much yoga you do; you might still one day get sick and never recover. It’s an uncomfortable truth and that’s why it’s easier to either blame us or to simply look the other way.
So, when someone’s response to you talking about your illness is to tell you to “think positively”, I don’t actually think it’s about trying to comfort or encourage you. I think it’s more about easing their own discomfort. When someone says that to me, what I hear is that my reality bums them out a bit and they’d prefer to just gloss over it with empty platitudes.
The thing that really gets under my skin though is that glibly telling me to “think positively” undermines the effort I put into doing just that. I work so hard to find the good in my life every day, to seek out joy in the little things and to allow this to sustain me.
I’m in debilitating pain every day. I live with a ridiculous smorgasbord of symptoms that have derailed my life in almost every way imaginable. I have, on more than one occasion, thought about ending my life because it is just too hard and too exhausting to be this sick and to have no hope of relief.
I’m working so hard to build the best life I can in spite of all of this. I seek out the good and hold on to it for dear life. What is this, if not “being positive”? It probably doesn’t look how you’d expect it to but it’s keeping me alive, which I think is a pretty positive thing.
So forgive me for being negative, but you can shove your dismissive platitudes up your hole.