you should just

november 29, 2017

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you should just –

i firmly believe that “should” is evil. “just” is an expectation that implies that the solutions are easy. put them together and you create a phrase i hate to hear and see.

it’s a reasonable bet that anyone suffering from mental illness has heard that sentence opening at some point during their struggles. we hear it from friends, from colleagues, and from strangers. we read it on social media. it seems that everyone, bar us and our doctors, are experts on how to fix what’s wrong.

advice from the laundry list of “you should just” suggestions includes:

  • get more sleep
  • sleep less – too much sleep isn’t good for you
  • get more exercise
  • get a specific kind of exercise
  • get outside
  • visit a forest
  • visit a seashore
  • eat more red meat
  • become a vegetarian
  • become a vegan
  • follow a macrobiotic diet
  • stop taking your medication – it’s all a scam by big pharmacy
  • take more b vitamins
  • take more d vitamins
  • visit a counsellor
  • visit a social worker
  • visit a naturopath
  • visit a homeopath
  • start seeing a chiropractor
  • get a massage
  • get over yourself

these talking points assume that we haven’t heard any of this advice; that we haven’t tried any or all of the above; that mental illnesses aren’t that bad; and that we could be doing better if we really wanted to.

underlying the advice is the attitude that we are making too much of our problems – how hard could they be, really; it’s not like you have cancer; people are dying in the developing world; and who do you think you are?

i especially enjoy hearing people tell me that “it’s all in your head”. thank you for that. i was, of course, operating on the assumption that my mental illness was located behind my right knee. i enjoy being set straight by people who have no experience with or in-depth knowledge of the issues at hand.

still, i smile and nod, and thank them for their advice. it wouldn’t do for me to stand up for myself in the face of their efforts. such ingratitude. besides, there’s a part of me that wonders if i am making too much of a fuss. there’s a part of me that wonders if maybe i did something to deserve this, and therefore should offer up no complaints. i’m working on that bit of shame, and on the low-level anger that these comments engender.

once that’s done, for my next trick, i will perform cardio-vascular surgery with tools i made from balsa wood. after all, my poli-sci degree makes me eminently qualified to be a surgeon.

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