Mental Illness: Put on a Happy Face
Monday, February 28 2011 Natasha Tracy
I’m not known for my cheery everything’s-going-to-be-OK-puppies-rainbows-lollipops perspective. In fact, I’m against such perspectives. I find them disingenuous, phony, or seriously ill-informed. Save the rose-colored glasses for Sir Elton John, thank-you.
I find smiling, being positive and telling people how great everything is to be just another chore on my list of things to do today when I’m already busy just trying to keep breathing and possibly pay rent.
Positivity and Mental Illness
OK, some people really like the sunshiny-rainbow thing. I get it. It’s a preference. There are lots of people who agree and will provide such a perspective and if it helps then I say, enjoy.
Smiling and Mental Illness
And yes, someone out there is going to remind me that one of things they teach you in CBT is to smile, even if you don’t feel like it. There is neurological evidence to suggest that by doing this the brain is “tricked” into believing you’re really happy. (You’re essentially trying to remap your brain. It’s complicated.)
Well, I won’t disagree with the CBT folks, but I will say that most of us are so fake-smiley already it makes my face ache.
Hope and Mental Illness
Much as I don’t like rainbow positivity, the same goes for hope. Seriously, don’t bother me with the “buck up partner” and “this will be the time it works” and “it won’t happen if you don’t believe.” I am not bucking, time will be what it is, and my belief has very little to do with medication success. (There is always the placebo effect to argue, but somehow I don’t think faking hope makes that any more likely.)
Realism and Mental Illness
What I try to be is realistic. And real mental illness chatter isn't really that uplifting. My personal, realistic, clinical outcome is dark and spiky. That’s not me talking; that’s the numbers. (OK, relative “spikiness” is hard to measure. They’re working on it.)
That being said, I do try to offer other people hope. Realistic hope; not fluffy-bunny hope. When someone comments here about being hopeless and there being nothing left for them to try, that is pretty much universally false. That's the crazy talking. Believe me. They’ve got stuff. And more stuff. And stuff after that. You’ll almost never run out of stuff. That’s true. That’s real.
And the disease is cyclical. That’s true too.
So as a rule, I’m not terribly positive. But I do try and be realistic. And that’s quite enough of a daily feat for me.