Stop Telling Me Everything's Going To Be Fine
I'm a mostly positive person. Whilst I (like many others) have a capacity for self-deprecating pessimism, I try my best to, in the words of Monty Python, 'look on the bright side of life.'
But sometimes positivity and self-assurance aren't always possible, especially after a number of setbacks and an unpredictable mental health problem to compliment them. When life keeps offering you bitter and unusable lemons, it can be increasingly difficult to see the silver linings. So sometimes, and yes I emphasise the sometimes, I don't want to be told 'it's going to be okay.'
If you've sought advice from me recently, this may look like I don't practice what I preach, but bear with me. This may seem mildly hypocritical, but when going through a rough patch, the least helpful thing someone can say is 'you'll be okay/ things will turn out fine/ in the bigger scheme this isn't important.' That's not to suggest that I'm turning up my nose to the much-needed support of my friends and family, but offering the go-to 'everything will turn out okay eventually' narrative can be the opposite of helpful.
I cannot emphasise enough how grateful I am for the support of my friends and family, and when you constantly have someone with a viscous inclination for self-flagellation, it's hard to keep coming up with reassuring speeches, messages and pearls of wisdom. Believe me, no one gets that more than I do; I've heard them all before. The problem with the generic, 'you'll be okay' or similar narratives, is that they make the setbacks twice as hard, the fall twice as crushing.
Recently graduating from university, I've been delved headfirst without armbands into the soul-destroying job market. Like my peers, I've been exhaustively applying to jobs, only to be rejected or ghosted. Whilst I try to remain detached, seeing it rather as a reflection of my relative inexperience, it does become increasingly difficult not to take it personally.
You pour your heart and soul into an application only to be told, 'sorry, we went with another candidate', with no feedback as to where you went wrong. And whilst I appreciate my loved ones telling me 'it's okay, it's their loss', or 'you have so much to offer, you'll get something', or a personal favourite 'everything happens for a reason', it just leads me to pour my heart and soul into the next thing, which inevitably ends in failure, crushing me twice as hard as the previous rejection as I actually believed I 'had so much to offer.'
On top of the incessant rejection comes the mental health relapses: anxiety flare ups, bouts of depression and periods of complete loss of motivation. It's at this point the 'you'll be okay' narrative disintegrates into complete redundancy. I say this because when you're in a period of mental health self-destructiveness, being told you're going to be okay has the effect of reminding you how not okay you currently are. It also manages to make you feel even worse in the long run when in the future you don't in fact 'feel okay', driving home a panicked thought that you might never be okay again. 'Everything will be fine' not only trivialises the severity of your current state, but makes you look to the future; a future that in a spell of depression, seems impossible to picture.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't reassure your friends. But promising someone with a propensity for taking set backs twice as hard as the average person can have a genuinely adverse affect on mental health. Rather than falling back on the go-to 'everything's going to be okay', perhaps the better solution is recognising their feelings, and giving them manageable coping mechanisms for dealing with setbacks they're guaranteed to take twice as hard. Having these structures in place are so much more effective than telling someone who's forgotten the meaning of 'okay' that they're going to feel it again someday.