Let me get on my soapbox and get this off my chest right now… I HATE toxic positivity culture. Now lets define what that is so you can put the pitchforks away.
Toxic positivity is defined on The Psychology Group “the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.” As you can see, I’m not talking about people who look for a silver-lining; I’m talking about people who tell you “Well, if you’re happy, that’ll fix everything.”
I struggle with chronic depression and PTSD. My childhood was rough and full of emotional and verbal abuse. Throw in a sprinkling of physical abuse in my childhood and sexual assault as an adult and it can be really hard for me at times. I currently go to therapy and take my meds, but that doesn’t stop the lows from happening.
I had a friend liken depression to cancer. You can go to therapy and take your meds and put it into remission, but it may come back. You may have to take more meds, new meds, and/or go back to therapy. It will come and it will go, that much is certain.
Knowing it will go away gives me some feeling of control.. but saying “just be happy because it will go eventually” ignores that right now, it is here and it is completely overwhelming me. Those toxic phrases make me feel like I cannot trust that person. I can’t trust them to understand how I’m feeling and I can’t trust them to help me with solutions. Basically, if they can’t handle the bad feelings, how can we work on overcoming them?
To be fair, a coping mechanism for pervasive negative thoughts may be combating them with positive truths. I hope people that use this mechanism still accept and handle their negative feelings in a healthy way. Ignoring your problems usually helps no one.
Here are some examples of comments that I would view as toxic:
These phrases led to a fear I had. My aesthetic is goth with a deep seated interest in the morbid and creepy. I was worried that I would lose those interests when starting therapy. My exposure to toxic positivity throughout my life had me believing that anything outside of the norm was bad and that the only way to be happy was to drop those things and to “let yourself happy” when doing them.
I realize now that trying to fit the mold and not accepting my negative thoughts was the bad thing! Being myself (Genderfucked, Poly, Bi, and doing all my weird hobbies) feels better than what I was trying to force, that includes negative thoughts and all. I hope you all can work towards expressing your true self. Whether your true self is traditional or alternative or anything in between, I support it! Just don’t tell me to be happy
Below is a helpful guide on what to say:
I love memes that talk about mental health and am a big fan of the Reddit and Facebook groups titled ‘Wow thanks, I’m cured.’ So feel free to check out those groups and tag me in mental health memes on Twitter.