When you are chronically ill or unwell for a protracted period of time, it’s incredibly difficult to maintain that infamous ‘positive attitude’ we are all led to believe in. That hallowed state of mind whereby, whatever life throws at us we can get through it with the aid of only a cheesy grin and a blind faith in our doctors, bodies and ourselves. I’ve personally never been one for the ‘It’ll all work out in the end!’ approach. I favour medication, and people with medical degrees over sticking on a CD of whale music and burning a few incense sticks.
I’m a big believer in trying to avoid negativity wherever possible; it’s something that can certainly compound the stress and upset of an already difficult situation. Hospitals are rife with bile, and not just of the physical kind; people who are desperate to remind you that they are worse off than you and that nothing is going to get better, like, EVER. They advise you on how terrible their condition is and frighten the life out of newly diagnosed patients with inaccurate horror stories on what’s ahead of them.
I have various friends with chronic illness, who, like me struggle with the idea of ‘positivity’. Not to make us sound like the aforementioned nightmare hospital roomies, but we try to be realistic about our situations. There isn’t anything wrong with this; yet we are often made to feel we are being negative purely because we don’t skip around with flowers in our hair as we haven’t vomited in 24hrs. Being realistic isn’t the same as being negative. Please do not assume because we are gritting our teeth behind our cheesy grin, we are purposely choosing to be difficult.
Sometimes ‘thinking positive’ isn’t always productive for us. Putting all your eggs in one blind faith-filled basket can often serve as a frightening reminder that we aren’t ever necessarily going to ‘get better’. Chronically ill patients often set themselves mental goals such as; “After this appointment I’ll be sorted...” or “Once I’ve had my operation I’ll feel better...” are often setting themselves up for a major positivity fall. When said ‘goal’ has come and gone and you still feel beyond awful, it can be so disheartening you feel utterly hopeless. When those around you keep encouraging you to think about the future it can be excruciating. Most people with chronic illness struggle to think about tomorrow let alone months and years down the line.
I’m absolutely not encouraging anyone not to think positively. If that’s what works for you then that’s honestly great! I just worry that pushing yourselves to create possibly un-achievable goals will do more harm than good. Focus on what’s within your control; be proactive on educating yourself and those around you on how to best treat your illness. Mentally and physically. Listen and learn from the experts and ensure you are doing all you can to feel as well as possible.
If all else fails, look at this picture of my cats giving each other a high five and watch your worries simply drift away. Now where did I put those incense sticks…?