If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone tell me “just think positively,” I would be rich. It reminds me there is still a lack of education regarding mental illness.
Having anxiety and being positive are not necessarily related. I am an extremely positive, glass-half-full, full-of-zest-and-life kind of person who believes you can find a positive in many situations. So during my times of struggle, when my anxiety is high and depression sometimes sets in, hearing “just think positively” makes me want to scream.
Having anxiety or depression is a mental health issue. Although a positive frame of mind can contribute to how you view your illness, it certainly doesn’t mean you’re not “positive” just because you are struggling or dealing with a mental illness.
I have generalized anxiety, and for the most part, I love life. The fact that I’m writing this and have made it through some dark and scary days is a testament to the positivity I feel, in a general sense. I don’t give up. I keep trying. I try to inspire others. I hold onto hope. I keep looking for solutions and new ways of coping.
“Just think positively” isn’t going to help me get through an anxious moment when I’m already being positive and telling myself I’m going to be OK and I got this.
“Just think positively” only reminds me that some people really don’t understand mental illness, and I hope that changes one day.
What will help me during my anxious moments is non-judgmental, caring support and reassurance that I’m going to be OK. Sometimes that means just listening to me express my fears or what’s causing my anxiety without telling me to “think positively.” Sometimes that means not doing or saying anything at all, but just being present with me. Physically sitting with me can bring great comfort while I get through these moments.
Even if you don’t know what it’s like to have anxiety, you can offer compassion just by being there without offering an opinion or assumption.
I know these anxious moments pass. They don’t last forever. So while I’m already practicing positive things to get me through those anxious times, the one thing I need the most from others is their faith in me that I’m doing everything I can to help myself. I don’t need someone assuming otherwise.
I need people to know I’m a positive and strong person to live every day with anxiety, and that I’m still happy.
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