There are people in your life who only like you when you are shiny and happy.
They’re there to celebrate your triumphs. They love it when you’re grateful and full of joy. They want to be around you and your positive energy, and yes, even your willingness (like you have a choice) to bear adversity. How brave you are! So inspiring. You GOT this. You are a badass. A warrior.
When you’re not so shiny and not that happy – in fact, maybe you’re actively unhappy, they want to cram you back into your happy-suit. It’s like they can’t help themselves.
In my experience, they come in five well-meaning flavors:
1. First are the Suggesters.
Your pain is painful for them, probably. Or it triggers something yucky in them that they don’t want to confront. They want it to go away. They have a bucketful of suggestions that you may not have thought of. Have you tried changing your diet? Ingesting turmeric? Herbal tea? Green smoothies? Meditation? This new Rachel Hollis book, “Girl, Wash Your Trauma?” How about this other medication? Going off of the medication you’re taking? Exercise? Affirmations? A Himalayan salt lamp? Vitamin supplements? Essential oils? Therapy? Prayer? Enemas?
It’s not that these suggestions aren’t helpful, or at the very least relatively harmless. Maybe you’ve tried them. (Though for glob sakes, do NOT go off or start new meds without talking to a doctor. Or supplements, which aren’t regulated by the FDA, may contain ingredients you don’t know about, and could interact with your medicines.) The problem is the implied idea that a “fix” exists, and you just haven’t found it, yet. You aren’t looking hard enough.
2. Next are the Cheerleaders.
They just KNOW that you can do it! All you have to do is think positive. Believe in yourself! Reject defeat! Don’t dwell on your pain – that’s self-indulgent. It’s all about willpower. Have faith! It’s going to be all right. You see it, you like it, you want it, you got it. Wait, sorry, that’s Ariana Grande.
Often, Cheerleaders are speaking from a place of physical or mental health privilege. Not always, but lots of times. They are totally sincere in their conviction that you can will yourself better. You just need to be willing to put in the effort. The implication is, you could do it if really wanted to.
3. And then there are the Projectors.
They know exactly what you’re feeling because they’ve been there, or so they think. They know you because they ARE you. And if they did it, you can do it. Did they ever tell you about the time they went through ____ and overcame it by ____? You should do that. They can totally relate, and they’ll prove it by recounting their own experiences ad nauseam while you wonder what in the heck this has to do with you.
Projectors see the world through the lens of their own experiences and can only express sympathy by connecting it back to themselves. They don’t usually realize that what they’re actually doing is called erasure. At some point, your pain moves to the back row while their story (it’s a good one, listen to this) takes center stage. There’s a lesson in there for you, if you just pay attention.
4. Next up, the Cajolers.
They just want to make you happy. “Make” being the operative word. Don’t you know all the things you have to be happy about? Here’s a list. You are so #blessed. There’s no reason for you to be sad or tired or frustrated when so much goodness exists. Still not working? They’ll try to make you laugh, because if you do, that means you’re better.
Cajolers think they are comforting you. They may have kind hearts. They truly believe happiness is a choice, and they want to help you make it. If they remind you enough, eventually you’ll realize it. Be thankful. Gratitude heals. Or do you just like being unhappy?
5. Lastly, there are the What-Abouters.
Listen, Negative Nelly, it could be worse. The What-Abouters are so woke that they know what you should really care about. Certainly not something as petty as your own personal struggle. Stop complaining. Have you not heard about this tragedy? Or that one? Now that’s real misery. You’d realize that if you weren’t so caught up in your melodrama, which honestly, isn’t even that bad.
What-Abouters have no patience for your mundane crap. Get the fuck over it, already. There are more important things to focus on. Why can you not see that? Obviously, people are not capable of caring about more than one thing at a time. You can’t acknowledge your own pain AND be aware of the larger community and its issues. You just roll around crying about yourself, don’t you, selfish? Grow up, why don’t you.
I’ve observed that if you don’t respond to their efforts, these folks engage in subconscious manipulation. I say subconscious because I don’t think most of them know they’re doing it. It’s similar to the way some parents encourage toddlers to behave. Lavish them with attention and compliments when they do what you want; ignore them when their behavior is less than desirable. People, especially those who are hurting, want and need connection. So, maybe they twist themselves up into pleasing caricatures in order to win approval. Maybe they deny their unseemly anguish.
I’m here to tell you: these so-called helpers are trying to silence you, whether they realize it or not. They cannot bear to witness you. They’d prefer not to have to think about this. To them, your suffering is a passing thought, easily dealt with. They haven’t considered that it’s real for you, every second of every day and night. That you are doing all the things to try to save yourself. Of course, you are. That you are more invested in your wellness than they could ever be. That sometimes there are no easy solutions, or perhaps even any hard ones.
And that maybe the best thing they can do is sit there with you, like a lump of solidarity, mouth shut, ears and heart open, while you acknowledge your reality and speak the truth of it.