Can you really outsmart mental illness with positive thinking?
Reframing your inner monologue to lessen or even eradicate negative self-talk may help for a hot minute but it’s not magic.
Because positive thinking doesn’t impact your reality, only your perception of it.
Worse still, positive thinking can lock you into denial. Rather than accept reality and figure out ways to change it, you keep telling yourself and everybody else that all is well even when it’s not.
Sooner or later, the truth will hit home, knock you off your feet, and perhaps even upend your life.
“I’m fine,” is the stock answer of depressives trying to conceal their distress because they don’t want to be a bother or a burden to anyone.
Until illness, denial, and lies crush you and you either take stock or sink.
For chronic depressives, there’s no such thing as recovery.
Chronic means long-lasting and often permanent.
We will forever walk hand in hand with darkness because this is the way our brains are wired. Pretending otherwise is disingenuous and dangerous to those who, like me, live with a ticking time bomb in their head.
And yet, there’s no shortage of irresponsible copy that promises to cure a life-threatening condition in ten easy steps, or if you do just this one thing, whatever it might be.
No one needs a pep talk more than depressives and making people feel better is lucrative but it can also be deceitful and exploitative.
While the illness can be managed and tamed, it’s unlikely to go away no matter what we do (although the jury is out on the benefits of more extreme therapies like ketamine or burst suppression anesthesia , which are often out of reach for legal, financial, geographical, or medical reasons).
And depression is even wont to resurface during happy times because many of us process them as an anomaly, i.e. something that shouldn’t be happening.
When your default setting is distress, stability and balance look unattainable. The same often goes for any kind of relationship with peers that implies mutual appreciation.
When benevolent fellow humans appear, not pushing them away calls for a lot of soul-searching. Much as you might yearn for human warmth, you’re at a loss to understand why anyone would want anything to do with you.
In extreme cases, our proximity to death is constant, which is why depression leads many of us to cave in and to die by our own hand.
There’s no putting a positive spin on any of the above.
Exhortations to embrace positive thinking and get out of your own way are misleading.
Depression isn’t an attitude problem nor is it the chosen lifestyle of those who would prefer not to meet the demands of modern life.
It is an illness, a pathology, a medical condition and the sooner society accepts this reality, the better.
There can be no mental health advocacy without realism, honesty, and intellectual probity. When we write about it, we have a duty of care toward those looking for understanding, answers, and solace.
And we should never relinquish it to make a quick buck with clickbait, alleging recovery is possible when it’s not.
Basic decency precludes toying with human pain and despair. Lining one’s pockets by producing such work is not only unconscionable but it could also be fatal.
For every person who is able to speak up, there are many still stuck in the shadows who suffer in silence, without the privilege of self-expression. Implying there are solutions when none exist dooms those who follow questionable recovery tips to failure.
When you’re in a crisis situation, placing all your hopes into something that doesn’t work could be the last straw.
And in desperate times, people will try anything for relief, no matter how far-fetched or phony-sounding. Not only does depression mess with your sense of self but also with your judgment and your reasoning faculties.
When you’re depressed, even the shoddiest copy can look like a beacon of hope in the darkness.
Prying on others’ insecurities is a tried and tested business strategy that pays.
But what is the true human cost of adopting it?
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.