Quick Thought #19 – Loneliness and Toxic Positivity

Quick Thought #19 – Loneliness and Toxic Positivity

I don’t think that’s it. Not completely anyway. I think the real damage social media has done is to make toxic positivity popular. For every person celebrating their “good vibes only” lifestyle, there are at least 2-3 people who have lost a friend because they’ve been cut out by someone unwilling to be with them in their pain.

After all, if the goal is to eliminate all the negative people in your life, where do people go when they are in pain, grieving, or simply need support?

Nothing makes you lonelier than having no one to turn to during those times, and, increasingly, the message we are getting is to aspire to be that uncaring towards people in need.

It’s OK to Just Enjoy Something For Yourself

It’s OK to Just Enjoy Something For Yourself

I came upon this idea later in life than some of you may have. Thanks to an abusive childhood and a fairly demanding church involvement in my teens and twenties, I was about 30 when I finally gave myself the freedom to take on a hobby just because I enjoyed it.

For me, I grew up never feeling good enough or worthy. I needed someone else to tell me it was OK for me to do something, or heaven forbid to spend money on something just because I liked it.

Grief is Hard, and Long
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Grief is Hard, and Long

Something else interests me about grief though and that is the grief that child abuse survivors have because it’s complicated. We aren’t grieving a person we’ve lost, we’re grieving something we never had. A safe, happy childhood or a loving parental relationship that didn’t exist. The lack of any kind of family bonds as an adult, or the inability to trust anyone. Those are things we can, and should, grieve. Often we aren’t given the chance to do that. Other people expect us to “put it behind us” because it was a long time ago. We may even convince ourselves that the best option is to suck it up and forget it, no reason to think about any of that. But, I think there’s a reason to grieve the things we didn’t have as children. They are very real losses. They have very real impacts on our brains and our emotional well-being. We can’t change it now, but we can allow ourselves the freedom to feel grief over it. It’s part of the process. 

Concentric Circles of Trauma

Concentric Circles of Trauma

No, the easiest way to break up those circles, as any kid who threw rocks into the water can tell you, is to throw another rock and create new concentric circles starting from a different location.

Gee, in my metaphor about the trauma I wonder what those other rocks could be? Mental health treatment? Care and support from family and friends? The elimination of stigma attached to trauma?

How about instead of ignoring the circles we started throwing some more useful rocks and disrupting the cycles of trauma that we see repeated over and over again in those circles?

World Suicide Prevention Day 2021

World Suicide Prevention Day 2021

So, the thing I want us to talk about this year is not just encouragement to call a hotline or to reach out to a friend for help, or even to tell our stories and erase the stigma around mental health issues. I want us to consider doing more than that. I want us, as a society, to figure out how to provide hope. As much value as there is in all of those other things if I can’t provide some hope that things will get better, that we are working and advocating for things to get better across all areas of our culture, then I can’t honestly say that there is a reason for someone to hope, and at the end of the day, the thing that truly prevented me from taking my own life when I was at my worst, was the hope that life wouldn’t always be that painful.

As it turned out, my life wasn’t always that painful, and even in times of pain, I can look back and remember that.

How do we provide that hope for others who have been beaten down and worn out with life right now? Where does their hope come from?

It’s All So Toxic

It’s All So Toxic

Of course, one of the tell-tale signs of depression, and unhealthy responses to trauma, like abuse, is overly black and white thinking. Going to extremes, if you will. So, it’s easy for many of us to fall into these toxic traps. It’s easy to think that we should feel shame about what happened to us, or that we can somehow rid ourselves of that shame, and anger, by simply refusing to do anything but be positive. But neither one of these is real healing. Real healing, like real emotions, and real people, are messier than that.

It’s still worth it though, as are a lot of those messy emotions and people too. If you let yourself get out of the black and white thinking, you just might see that too.