Oh mother

Today my mother told me that I’m way too focused on being sad all the time and if I put half as much effort into being happy, I would just be happy.

‘How do I do that?’ I asked her.

‘I don’t know. You just be happy. It’s easy.’ She said.

I try not to fault her too much because she really doesn’t understand mental health issues whatsoever. She’s never dealt with them so she doesn’t know that they’re very real and very difficult to overcome. And, if you’ve never dealt with them before, I can understand why it would be hard to grasp the complexities of it.

The thing is, though, it’s not as simple as she makes it out to be.

I can’t just think happy thoughts and become happy.

I can’t just be happy.

I’m not trying to be miserable. I’m not trying to be sad. I’m not trying to feel anxious. I’m not going out of my way to make any of this my reality. And I think when people stereotype it as a choice, that’s what makes it harder for people to talk about their mental health.

I want to laugh because something’s funny, not because I feel a social obligation too based on the people that I am around. I want to smile without having to think about it, without having to force it, because of the people that I am around. I want to just ‘be happy’ as she says.

But, if I don’t face these issues that I have, these internal struggles that plague my mind, I fear that they’ll plague me for the rest of my life. If I just grin and pretend they’re not there, they’re never going to go away. They’ll be there… probably forever.

Mental illness is a difficult subject for people to talk about. If someone breaks their leg, people can see it. They can see the physical injury and understand that person must be in pain because of said injury and they provide well wishes, support and hope to said person with broken leg that will invariably help them with their recovery. But, you can’t see an anxious mind. You can’t see a depressed soul. You can’t see a distraught heart. And if you’ve never felt something that you can’t see, this is, I think, where people struggle with helping those who suffer from mental illness.

You’d never tell someone to ‘just walk it off’ if they had a broken leg. So why are so many people so quick to say ‘Just be happy’ to someone who struggles with anxiety, or depression or bi-polar, or any of the other mental illnesses. Because they can’t see it, so they don’t understand it.

Talking helps. Sometimes it really can. If you feel safe and are able to open up to someone, sometimes talking can really benefit your situation. There are people who, though they’ve never been through it, do all that they can to try to understand.

But then there are people who won’t ever understand. Because this is the kind of thing that, unless you go through it yourself, is difficult to grasp.

To everyone in this world suffering in silence, I’m with you. I understand. To everyone being told to ‘just walk it off’ or ‘just be happy’, I know that life doesn’t work that way. Please, take the proper time and resources that you need to find yourself healing. Because, just like a broken leg, you need time to cope and to heal.

I’m wishing you peace, and for family/friends that understand. But, even if they don’t, I’m wishing you time to cope, to deal and to heal. Because everyone needs that – whether your hurt is physical (and visible) or not.

56 thoughts on “Oh mother

    1. I think that’s so hard. I have nothing against people who are always happy, but it’s just not so easy for everyone. I think people need to realize that just because it’s easy for them doesn’t mean that everybody is that way. So, yeah, I hear ya.

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    1. I’m not sure. I think it comes from lack of understanding of mental illness. I genuinely believe my parents thing I am choosing this for myself. And I think that’s something that a lot of people struggle with when it pertains to people in their lives. A lack of understanding leads a lot of people to believing that people choose this for themselves.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Your mother means well, and I see it as inspiration to better yourself. True, you can’t “choose” to be happy, as much as it is to “choose” to be employed/to fall in love/etc. Staying positive can be hard, but I’ve found that having hope gives a spark to keep you going. Keep on going!

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    1. While I would like to believe that she means well, I don’t think that she does. She doesn’t understand mental illness, and, in the past when I’ve tried to speak to her about it she’s said ‘You’re not anxious, you’re just lazy and trying to come up with an excuse to not have to do this’, or things of that nature.

      I do agree that hope is what keeps you going. And I do have hope. I just needed to vent today, I guess.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s okay, V. At TD they often have posters and such with a phrase that says, “Take that frown and turn it upside down!” 🙃 Sometimes, we just gotta go through the motions and hope sees through the facade. I had one instructor who could always tell if I was having a bad day. I think she was secretly psychic because I always did my best to fake being cheerful, and yet, she knew I was BS’ing it.

    It could be worse. My mom would tell me to change my personality. Personality. PERSONALITY. 🤦‍♀️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ohhh my mom always says ‘Turn that frown upside down!’ That’s like her tagline.
      I can’t believe your mom would say that to you. Seriously – your personality? Grandmama Hilz, that’s a little tone deaf…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The path through depression and anxiety are difficult. Sadly, many don’t understand and their words are intended to be kind but aren’t. There is a kernel of truth to faking it til you make it. You may not be able to change your thoughts/feelings as easily as thinking yourself happy or less anxious, but there are actions which go 100% against what you want to do which will aid in getting through the depression and anxiety. I fought many, if not most, for a really long time. Baby steps, being kind to yourself and doing the sucky stuff even when you don’t want to.

    I’m back on anxiety meds several times a day right now to get me through more of this house crap. Forcing myself to get up and do stuff I don’t want to because I know it actually helps. Forcing myself to let go of the ruminating thoughts which bring stress and more anxiety. It’s harder than Hell, but it can be done… and it works.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fake it till you make it should be my life’s motto.
      I’m sorry that you had to go back on meds, but I also think that’s probably a good thing to help you deal. I’ve read your posts and it just seems like a giant mess. Something to help you cope with that shit storm is a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My mother in law does the same thing to me. I love her in so many other ways but she just does not get depression or anxiety at all. I’ve tried to explain it a thousand different ways but she said she doesn’t get it. You should just “get up and keep going” and stop being “lazy.” I guess it’s true that unless you live it, you just can’t fully grasp it. Maybe we should make a clothing line that people can wear so they could “see” what mental illness is like. Can we maybe collaborate on that lol? Hugs V. I know it’s rough but you definitely have people here who love you and will support you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there is a clothing collection called ‘I Don’t Mind’. It’s repped by the CW stars of Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl, advocating for mental health and self care and to open dialogue, teach and not judge.

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  5. I heard that kind of shit from anyone, especially when you’re at places where you have to put on a smiling face, when deep down you wish you could be somewhere else, like anyplace where at least one person truly know the trials and tribulations of mental health.

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    1. See, and with what you’ve been through this year, if someone told you to just be happy, I’d probably punch them in the face. Everybody needs time to heal their wounds at their own pace… physical, mental or emotional.

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  6. Any time someone says something like this to me, I very seriously explain to them that asking a person with mental health issues to “just be happy/positive” is like asking a person with diabetes to “just make your pancreas work.”
    I think sometimes metaphors work best when trying to explain something to people who have never experienced mental health issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My coworkers and boss in the office often tell me to be happy and don’t be too serious. You know, I just want to scream in front of their faces “how can I be happy if you always ruin my work life balance?” My 24 hours life isn’t only for working. Yeah, I’m kinda afraid if it’ll drain my mind and emotions someday. But, they won’t understand because they don’t aware that mental health issue is real and exist around us.

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    1. Exactly. It’s hard for them to understand and they really don’t want to try. Just be you. Don’t worry about being too serious, don’t force yourself to be happy for them. Just be yourself ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This reminds me of those cheesy signs they sell at the hallmark store that say “happiness is a choice!” Or when a stranger says to me “smile! It can’t be that bad!” Who decided that everyone was obligated to be blissfully happy at all times? It’s extremely rude to tell someone who is suffering to just smile and look on the bright side. People are so fucking stupid it makes me sick!

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  9. Wise words as usual, V. I do think the situation has changed a bit in recent years, there is more openness and more discussion of mental health issues than ever before. When I was your age (a LONG time ago!) it would have been pretty much unthinkable that someone would be as open and honest about their situation as you are in your blog. As you and others like you speak out it will hopefully guide wider society in being more emotionally intelligent, understanding and supportive towards people facing mental health challenges. There’s a long way still to go, and in this matter – as in everything else – the world will never be perfect, but do take heart: as someone who’s been around a long time I honestly do believe some progress is being made on this very important issue.

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      1. Coincidentally, on television later in the evening after I’d messaged you was a commercial for “Britain Get Talking”, ITV’s [Independent Television’s] Mental Wellness campaign targeting young people and their parents. For interest here’s a link to a web-page with a bit more information: https://youngminds.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/britain-get-talking/ The commercial is on YouTube. Assuming there are no rights issues you should be able to view it in Canada. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS7IVzmub90 To my knowledge it’s unprecedented in the UK for mental health issues to be addressed on mainstream prime-time television in this way. I don’t imagine for a moment it will “solve” the issues you raise in your post, but from my perspective it’s a positive start and suggests that “the establishment” is finally waking up to them and trying to take a lead. Sorry to ramble on, but I thought you and some of your followers outside the UK might find this development interesting. Best wishes.

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      2. That’s amazing! I watch a lot of John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ and he frequently talks about how British Folk just don’t talk about it. Like it’s taboo, like it’s something you store in the closet and don’t let out. To hear that it’s making it to television is really great news. This is a terrific step forward for all English folk!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Don’t BE happy, find the joy in all things, find the beauty or wonderment. Get out of your head and look around – how do they carve a statue from marble? Which exact colour is that flower? How nice is it to feel the sun on your face in winter …? forget about your feelings and appreciate life. I used to be suicidal but I’m still alive. Plenty of people wanted me to ‘be happy’ and now I really am. (Life still goes up and down) You have to choose, yes you do choose. Either you give thanks for the small things or you continue to spiral.

    Happy people are GRATEFUL people – you will get there 🧡

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    1. Yeah, I’ve found that a lot too. It’s just not something that a lot of the older generation are open to talking about. I find even my parents… they just bury it and aren’t willing to talk about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s bullshit when people tell you that! Argh I know how you feel. Just ignore her. I personally try to be honest and natural in my responses to the world. Some people are more subtle and not so OTT about the world in the way they express emotion. Part of being a bit of an introvert I guess. Sometimes mothers have absolutely no idea about anything – the opposite of mother’s know best, well that’s bullshit. If I followed my mum’s advice I would be in deep shit. i hope that helps

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    1. It’s funny you say this because I totally agree and I had to delete some really nasty comments left on this post telling me that I am lazy and choosing it. And it’s one thing to not understand because you haven’t been through it, it’s another thing leave ignorant and idiotic remarks to someone. Sounds like your mom’s advice is about as good as mine.

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  12. Its the shittiest feeling when people keep making you feel like you have a choice in choosing to be happy. Its not that fucking easy when you are plagued with that sticky demon that is depression and anxiety. I feel you V, and honestly it makes me give up on people like my mother who never tries to understand. Sighhh

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    1. I’m sorry about your mom. As much as it would be nice for everyone to be able to just… understand… the world doesn’t seem to work that way.

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  13. Such a good and important post. I heard a friend say to a friend about me that I don’t try hard enough to get a job. I suffer from anxiety. She said that for concerts, travels and nice things I’m okay and for things which take effort not. Well all the things I fear take all of my space because it’s super hard to go through when you feel you can’t breath, feel your hard beating fast and feel like you are going to die. They have no idea. I’m tired to explain myself. I can understand you so well. You deserve healing too. We all deserve that ❤️

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    1. I’m really sorry that you can understand it all too well ❤ It's never a fun place to be in and it sucks. I totally understand where you're coming from it sucks. People think you're lazy and they really don't know and shouldn't judge. They don't deserve to judge and they shouldn't get that right.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I completely understand. I grew up being told to smile, but I have anxiety and muscle weakness in my face, causing a slight lop-sided smile. So for me, being told to smile was not only incredibly frustrating, but in some ways embarrassing because I was aware of my condition. The worst for me was being told “don’t worry”. I have anxiety, worrying is 99% of what I do!

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  15. The interesting thing I find is that you are able to write about it. My eldest daughter suffers with anxiety, and even putting words out there – under a pseudonym – is almost impossible for her. You write about it all wonderfully, btw.

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    1. Awe. I wish I could chat with your daughter. It helps soo much to just be able to talk about it. I know firsthand and I wish everyone got the opportunity to know.

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