(November 29, 2017)
A guarantee: if the sentence starts with “you should just,” what comes after nothing you want to hear.
“Should” is on the evil side. “Just” implies an ease of execution that’s often disconnected from reality. When you put them together, they create a phrase guaranteed to generate misery.
It’s a safe bet that anyone struggling with mental illness has been presented with “should just” at some point on their journey. We hear that particular phrase from friends, colleagues, and strangers ad nauseum. The enthusiasm with which “should just” is wielded is generally in inverse proportion to the speaker’s expertise. When it comes to mental illness, everyone thinks they’re an expert.
Advice from the laundry list of “should just” includes:
- get more sleep
- get less sleep – too much sleep isn’t good for you
- get more exercise
- get less exercise
- perform a specific kind of exercise
- get outside
- visit the forest
- visit the seaside
- swim in the wild
- eat more red meat
- become a pescatarian
- become a vegetarian
- become a vegan
- follow a macrobiotic diet
- stop taking your medication – you’ve been tricked by big pharma
- try a different medication – there was a podcast
- take more b vitamins
- take more d vitamins
- get more sunshine
- give up dairy
- visit a counsellor
- visit a social worker
- visit a naturopath
- visit a homeopath
- start seeing a chiropractor
- get a massage
- get over yourself
The “should just” advice is also based on assumption. Very rarely do speakers ask us what we’ve tried. They simply assume our ignorance (or incompetence).
Sometimes people like to tell me my mental illnesses are “in my head”. I appreciate their thoughtfulness. After all, if they didn’t correct me as to the location of my mental illness, I might start thinking it was located behind my right knee.
It’s possible they were being insulting rather than trying to help me with my biology.
I don’t get angry at the unrelenting paternalism. I smile, and nod, and thank them for their unsolicited input instead. Their hearts are mostly in the right place. Besides, people get testy when you reject their advice. Especially if you didn’t ask for it.