The Cult Of Positive

Hello dear reader(s)!

I will get to part III of Awakening tomorrow.  But right now, I need to write about something that is on my mind.  It is the failure of people without mental illness to take mental illness seriously.

I understand it is with good intent, but too many times I have seen, and been subject to someone attempting to relate to something they simply have no clue about.  I’ll give you an example.

On Saturday, I decided to drive down to visit a family member in Portland.  We’ll call him Ned, to protect his identity since he has powerful enemies and I would rather not contribute to any harm coming to him and an international incident from my blog-type-thing.  I only feel comfortable giving the location because he will soon be deployed again anyway, and Portland is not his home.

Anyway, I kind of lost my phone, and then had a massive panic attack.  And I got all kinds of great, and supportive comments.  But I got a couple (that have since been deleted) that basically asked what the big deal was.  I found my phone, and that should be that.

And for a person without PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, that might be all there is to it.  But for me, my body actually physically makes me sick from the stress of it.  The adrenaline spike followed by the adrenaline crash affects everything.  It put me down the entire rest of the day, and the night.  I was able to make the trip on Sunday, but just barely.  And driving back on Monday, I pulled off the highway to get gas even though I calculated I did not need to just because the stress of traffic and the idiot drivers was getting to me and could make me a danger.  Most people do not have to do that.  They just drive through.

This isn’t about meditation (although I know that can help to manage it occasionally, for some people, in some cases), it isn’t about grounding (another great technique to help manage things, in some situations, if caught early enough), it isn’t about relaxation, or smiling, or seeing the bright side.  I have an illness, wherein my body (starting with my brain, which is part of the body, for your information) causes me to react to little stressors as if they were life and death issues.  Nine times out of ten, there is absolutely nothing I can do to hold that off, only to try to cut it short and deal with the results.  Unless you have felt that, you literally have no idea what it is like, and might want to keep your mouth shut when someone is telling you they are suffering through it, aside from telling that person that they are safe, and that they are not bad people for having that issue.

In fact, I am actually getting tired of the term mental illness.  The brain runs your body.  Without it, you die. Between chemicals that act on the brain and just the rewiring of pathways, everything about “mental” illness is physical.  Just because you can’t understand what it is like because you have been able to cheer yourself up out of being sad or stressed, does not mean that it isn’t real.  My mental illnesses are just as real, and can occasionally be as debilitating as the cancer that brought them on.

I am not weak for being ill, just as I wasn’t for getting cancer.  In fact, it makes sense that my brain treats everything like a life of death struggle after it literally was life and death, daily, for years.  This isn’t weakness, it is an illness that may be able to be treated, and one day possibly could be cured once they learn more about it.  Right now, they really don’t know much at all, as evidenced by the conflicting studies and results of many psychiatric medications.  How the illness came to be, does not matter nearly as much that it is real, and can affect anyone.  If you think I am weak for this, I would invite you to get cancer that seemingly has no cause, fight it for years, almost die multiple times, and then watch your wife die just as you begin to recover.  Let me know how strong you are then.

Occasionally I will write posts with a positive message.  I will try to tell people to keep fighting.  That there is beauty in the darkness and can be found.  And I truly believe that.  But trust me, at no time am I under any illusion that someone can stop being depressed, or anxious, or dissociative, or just magically cure any other illness by simply being happy.  When I post postive, it is to attempt to encourage someone to keep trying, to keep hanging on, for the value they add to the lives of others.  Sometimes, it is merely things that occasionally help me when I am struggling, so that if it works for someone else, maybe it could make things less awful for them.  I understand that not everything that works for me, works for someone else.

No amount of motivational quotes, ideas, and kind words is going to cure someone’s illness.  You can offer your support to help the people you know who suffer, and try to remind them that all illnesses have ups and downs, good days and bad.  But once you start placing expectations on them as a result of your words, you’re doing it wrong.

Quoth the Gump, “And that’s all I have to say about that.”


Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

37 thoughts on “The Cult Of Positive”

      1. In all seriousness, you know that my wife has mental health issues and, while I consider myself educated about her condition, I am not arrogant enough to say I “know” what she is going through.

        Liked by 4 people

  1. I agree ever so muchly. CBT has taught me to reevaluate my perceptions and gratitude, silver linings, all that, VERY helpful moment to moment. I think of that as anxiety-repellent. Positivity has limits. I think it’s okay to panic and okay to have shitty days and okay to be angry etc etc, but what to do with it, well, that’s the trick.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is such an important post. I read before my Cancer treatment that being positive can actual improve your health by a high percentage. I am quite a positive person and genuinely believe it helped. The days I found so depressing almost suicidal were when it was assumed I was cured and couldn’t do the things normally expected of a person. I was accused of being lazy or plain stupid. People don’t know what is supposed to happen – even doctors. We have to tell them. For me my brain was like a town that had been bombed – I had to make detours and rebuild the damage – it takes time.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. YAS. This! Ugh… All mental illness is stigmatized to a certain degree, but I feel those of us with PTSD that didn’t result from military service have an extra difficult time with it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been accused of “faking” my disorder for “attention” even after having the diagnosis charted in my medical history!! Trauma is trauma no matter how it happens, and accusing people of making up a diagnosis for funsies just gets me going in all sorts of ways. It always leads to exactly what you wrote about: just be positive! Don’t think about it anymore! Don’t talk about it! It’s not a big deal! Um no. I get that you don’t believe my diagnosis and all, but minimizing the effects it has on me helps no one. Grrrrr… -_-

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, the whole “military can have it and no one else can” thing is ridiculous. But that whole, “Don’t think about it, be positive” thing is the middle of an episode is the worst! Thanks for your thoughts!


  4. I can’t disagree with your message, if I’m understanding it correctly, that no amount of positivity can cure an illness. However, at least for myself, the positivity (which I’ve had to fake) has turned my life around. I used to be one of the most negative assholes I knew, and I hated myself and the way others perceived me. I know at least part of it was due to my (then) crippling social anxiety. The new adage of “fake it ’til you make it” helped me to become a more positive person, which has brightened my (admittedly, twisted) inner psyche and made me a more pleasant person to be around.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m all for being positive when possible. I even post about it. When people are just being negative because they hate everything, sometimes faking it till you make it helps. Like I said in the post, I also post about being positive. This was solely about those who think it can pull someone out of a depressive disorder, an anxiety attack, or other illness. So we basically agree.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been lucky not to have to deal with these issues in my own life, but having been close to some people who have, I am glad that you do write about them. Even if I don’t ‘get’ what you or others are going through, I appreciate the chance to learn and know what I can and can’t do to be helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, everyone is different. But for me, I guess the best thing people who are fortunate enough not to have these issues is to actually believe them (particularly is they have a legitimate diagnosis from someone other than a primary care doc looking to push antidepressants), and to not push when someone says they can’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree – more people need to see comics & posts like this. Living by the rule “If you wouldn’t say it to a physically ill person, don’t say it to someone who has emotional issues” is a good way to go through this crazy tilt-o-whirl we call life. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. “In fact, it makes sense that my brain treats everything like a life of death struggle after it literally was life and death, daily, for years. This isn’t weakness, it is an illness that may be able to be treated, and one day possibly could be cured once they learn more about it.” — Exactly!

    Everyone suffers from the stresses of life, no one is immune. How we deal with it is a matter of degree. The mind is very powerful, but it must also deal with the “fight/ flight response” which has direct influence on the body.
    This “mental” illness is nothing new, has been an issue with humanity since the beginning, and is totally relatable. In the east, masters have “cured” the illness of thinking by introducing techniques that may mitigate the effects of the mind. Meditation (n0-mind) is one path, but must be trained properly, mind is a muscle. We all have to deal with mental stress on a daily basis, having compassion for those who suffer is the least we can do. Great post Josh!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I taught high school psychology, among other things. I have come to believe that the concept of “mental illness” is a relatively useless one. Human beings have a very wide range of behaviors, body types, sizes, intellects, personalities, etc. As a species this diversity has served us well.
    Are there ranges of behaviors we should be concerned about? Certainly. People without a conscience, for example. Commonly labeled”sociopaths” or “psychopaths”. Other than that humans are on a very long range of acceptable behaviors. Not “ill”, just not in the mainstream. Just my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would disagree because I was not born with what afflicts me now. My PTSD is a disorder. My fight-or-flight mechanisms were much more stable and controllable prior to my trauma. I never reacted to tense situations as easily before that came on.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I know what you’re saying. I used to get panic attacks all the time (still do sometimes) brought about by different life stressors than yours but the end result is the same. I would have 3 or 4 a day and then a few in the middle of the night just to keep me on my toes, I felt weak, I could hardly function, it was terrible.

    I eventually stopped telling people about it because it became too much, they would either treat me with kid gloves (which made me feel even weaker) or give me the old “suck it up” talk. So I just stopped talking about them and tried my best to fake normalcy. It sucks and, except for those closest to me, people only made it suck more.

    Keep truckin man, thanks for posting this kind of stuff (it’s a topic I dance around on my own blog because of all the people I know in real life that read it and I dread the questions and the talks).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dude I feel like I could have written vast portions of this post myself. I suffer from paranoid schizophrenia and feel your stress regarding people forming judgements about a condition that people have absolutely no clue about. As you said, it is ’caused, formed’ in the brain- but is such a physical disease… and the ways it makes ME feel can be so flipping intense it literally feels as though something is battering me over the head with a metaphorical hammer. “I have an illness, wherein my body (starting with my brain, which is part of the body, for your information) causes me to react to little stressors as if they were life and death issues.” I have this so much, in fact I have just spent the last half an hour ranting about the fact that I freak out so badly about things which DON’T need to be freaked out about… is the most annoying thing EVER. Anyway, just wanted to acknowledge your stress, and say I get it. I spent a lot of time trying to be positive as well.. but sometimes you just can’t, sometimes you have to acknowledge the stress as well. I am also so sorry to hear about your other struggles, with cancer and more. I so hope you are generally doing better now. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha it REALLY did.. in fact I think I spent an hour ranting to my boyfriend about how much this illness sucks, then read your blog and was like “thank god I’m not the only one.” Being positive is so so important, but I strongly believe you need to acknowledge the negative as well.. People who don’t get it think it’s a result of you ‘not trying hard enough,’ or refusing to be upbeat.. it’s like NO- this is a DISEASE!!.. it’s not something I can 100% control.. drives me crazy the way people judge because it’s not something that can see… anyway, lol rant over. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, this was such a powerful post, I am glad I stopped here. I have been struggling with mental illness since I was a little girl, it made growing up anything but normal. Life has been pretty overwhelming and unusual, I am sure you understand. My blog (and other SM platforms) are dedicated to sharing my story and bringing awareness to the topics. I loved reading your thoughts, you have a strong voice! It was comfoting to hear a part of your jounrey.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’ve heard on many occasions that I’m just being negative…and if I think positive my life will magically get better.

    Fast forward to when one of those people tells me that they’ve hurt their back, or are suffering from a cold…and I bite my tongue instead of saying “You’re just being negative. You should try thinking positive and that will clear right up.”

    Liked by 2 people

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