In the depths of an awful depression, I got an attempted pep talk that went something like this, "You've got so much to be grateful for! A wonderful boyfriend, the best furkids, great friends, you’re great with art, blah, blah, blah". While this was all true, it only made me feel more guilty and shameful for not appearing thankful for these things in life. It doesn't seem like a likely pair BUT depression does not equal ungratefulness! Presenting as sunshine, rainbows, and glitter when things are not going well with one’s mental health can be a total soul-crusher and it is extra exhausting on top of the burnout that comes with depression. By compressing "negative” expressions and attempting to pretend that things are fine by wearing a poker face only propels a person’s internal conflict of knowing that these thoughts are “bad”, “wrong”, “anti-positive”, and overall unwelcomed by others.
Toxic positivity is: The excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy and optimistic state in any situation—in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of genuine human emotional experience. When a person exhibits toxic positivity, they deny any and all negative experiences that make us human and lives their life this way [Tanglaw Mental Health]. Statements of toxic positivity include: "It's not so bad" "You'll get over it" "Don't worry about it" "Look on the bright side" "You're always so negative!" "Things could always be worse!" "Only positive vibes are welcomed here!" "Here's something positive to think about…" Although not intended, these things scream— “I’m uncomfortable and this is awkward!” “I don’t really want to hear more of your situation!” “Another subject makes me feel more warm and fluffy.” “I don’t want to get stuck in a conversation that is going to take significant time and effort.” Using toxic positivity is never intended to be harmful. It may be an attempt to make someone feel better, to deflect uncomfortable conversations, or it can be a polite segue into other topics. However, it tends to make someone feel even more guilty about being in a funk or depression, which is so not fair! The constant bombardment of an expectation to be exceptionally positive all the damn time isn't real life! Some feelings and emotions are raw, ugly, and rancid. Sometimes sh!t is sh!t and trying to glorify the dung doesn't make it smell like roses or make it shine like an opal. The opposite of toxic positivity is to be empathetic, present, and to acknowledge the uncomfortable parts of life. No one likes being uncomfortable for long periods of time, so here are some ideas to work through it together: 1. Rather than presenting a broad and all-encompassing statement of, "let me know if there’s anything I can do to help," be super specific and intentional with offers. Ask if something like bringing food would be welcomed. Offer to drive a friend to the store or to an appointment they’ve been putting off. Broad ideas can be overwhelming for someone that is depressed or anxious. Additionally, having courage to ask for help is such a struggle; there’s also a chance that you may not actually mean that you’d do ANYthing. 2. Ask engaging and open-ended questions in how to help. Asking things like what has made the depression better in the past or if doing certain things have helped before. On the flip side, acknowledging what hasn’t worked and things that need to be avoided. Having a visual list can be helpful to have the person reference later. 3. Sit with the discomfort and ask about it. So often, mental health is such a taboo topic that so simply offering a welcoming and inviting space to talk about the gritty parts of life can do wonders! 4. Learn to work through emotions with loved ones in whatever way is best for them. Whatever worked for you may not work for them and that’s a-okay! Be creative and offer up ideas…a simple Google search for things such as coping skills can help if you have a mental block. Don’t take it personal if the ideas don’t work, move along and see what works best recognizing that often times it is trial and error. 5. For the love of God(s) try not to dismiss what a person is sharing by focusing on positives to someone going through a tough time! If struggling for conversations, some ideas are: · “Are you seeking suggestions/advice or do you just need to vent?” – often we feel the need to fix/solve everything and often a person oh so simply needs to vent without a solution! · Offer support—“You’ve been through some difficult things in the past and I believe in you to get through this.” · Acknowledge them—“You’re allowed to feel anger, sadness, depression, etcetera. Feeling emotions are okay and part of being human!” · Be constructive in helping to think about other topics since negativity can be such a trap! “Instead of thinking of everything that can go wrong, let’s consider what can go right.” or “Do you want to make a list of things that you’re grateful for to have as a reminder for later?” It takes all emotions, not just glorified ones to get through life. While I don’t want to promote spreading negative thoughts like a dump truck and burying others all the time, attempt to be mindful of your words that may invalidate another person’s experience and emotions. Please know that shaming any emotion can be harmful and should be avoided at all costs. Side note: I can’t work past my hatred, loathing, pure despise, and dread of glitter when it is loose and not contained…it's such a disgusting and awful nuisance, ugg! I avoid all of the glitter all of the time and no one should ever expect me to have glitter with my persona, however I do accept moderate sunshine, all colorfulness/rainbows, and shiny things non-glitter related ;-) Disclaimer: The views and opinions presented in this blog belong to the specific blogger and do not represent the views and opinions of Peerstar, LLC.