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The Problem of Positivity

How many times has someone told you to "stay positive"?  As if your illness could be cured if you simply refuse to acknowledge how rotten it is to hurt 24/7 and have friends, family, and strangers crap all over you.  Thanks for the invaluable advice.  I was once told by a friend, after pouring my heart out to her for hours about my life and my symptoms, "you just need to change your attitude."  But, she had no idea what kind of attitude I had because she was not part of my life or my health journey.  That is my huge issue with this emphasis on positivity.  

It's just another way to shut us up

When someone is done hearing about our chronic illness woes, they tell us to "be positive."  What they really mean is stop telling me about all the things in your life that make me sad or upset.  When people ask me what has been going on in my life I have a few options.  I can be honest and tell them that I have been sick and am mostly depending on a wheelchair.  I can say I am 26 and more dependent upon my parents than ever before in my life and that scares the hell out of me. I can say I'm starting a blog and applying for disability, or that I'm seeing new doctors and never giving up as long as I breathe.  Or, I can tell them what I usually say, "not much, I'm doing pretty well."  If you say nothing and smile people like you a whole lot better than if you tell them an unpleasant truth.  The concept of positivity centers more around this norm than around any concern for anyone's health or well being.  People don't tell me to be positive because they think it will help me heal.

It simplifies our emotions

Life is complex and so is chronic illness.  Some times I find myself feeling deeply hopeless for my future and overcome with feelings of grief and anger over what this illness has taken and will take from me.  That is okay.  Feeling those things is okay.  It is natural, and as long as I don't stay in those feelings forever, it's good for me to allow myself to feel them.  The pressure from society and the people around us can sometimes make it feel like any negative emotion is completely taboo.  I hate that.  I have experienced a depth and range of emotion on my health journey and none of it has changed the optimistic person I am.  I am allowed to be upset or to feel a negative emotion and still be a person with an overall positive outlook on life.  Life is a rainbow, so don't paint us all a positivity pink.  It's really not my color.

People with chronic illness already live positivity

Most of the people that I have met or spoken to that have chronic illnesses are incredibly badass and inspiring and people treat them like dog poo.  They fight hard and never stop fighting through procedures, pain, financial strain, emotions, constant criticism, social isolation, and so much more just to work, play, do chores, and contribute like everyone else.  I think that getting up everyday when you already know what challenges you are going to face takes a hell of a lot of positivity.  To keep going to doctors appointments after you have been turned away and ridiculed by so many doctors before, takes positivity.  To keep trying to get back to walking, or working, or school, or cleaning the dishes again takes insane positivity, especially when you know that you'll lose the ability to do it again the next time you get sick, and have to start all over.  My every day runs on positivity, so I take it very personally when someone tells me that the key to my cure lies in positivity.  I already know what role positivity plays in my life because I live it everyday.

It's minimizing

One is usually told to "be positive" after trying to relate to someone else some kind of issue.  This instructive phrase minimizes the individual's pain and concerns.  It also gives the impression of not having listened to what was related.  Has anyone ever said to you, "I just want you to listen, I don't want your advice?"  I understand that sometimes people are just trying to help or to think of something to say, but it is infinitely better to just really listen and not try to solve any problems.  Even if you say that you don't know what to say that is better than saying the wrong, potentially hurtful thing.  Try to listen to your friend or family member with a chronic illness.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Think about how you would feel in their situation before you say anything, and shy away from giving advice of any kind unless they specifically ask for it.  I'm willing to bet they go through a lot that they don't tell you or anyone, because no one wants to know what our lives are really like.  It's depressing and no one cares.  We are too sad to talk about in this culture of positivity.

Wishing you Healing Hugs and Hope

Comments

  1. Such a great message and so beautifully written! We often don't realize the negative effects of positivity being forced on us, or how often it actually happens. Thanks for sharing and wishing you the very best!

    Andrea
    Somewhere Soulful | www.somewheresoulful.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! wishing you all the best too, and then some.

      Delete

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