Sick? Disabled? Just think happy thoughts and all will be well…

There is an infuriating tendency on Twitter for people to say things like “I have a life-changing, painful and disabling, potentially fatal, illness, but it’s not really me,” or “Hey, I’m totally happy that I’m so ill I’m confined to one room!” Or one that seriously pissed me off late last night, and I paraphrase because I can’t recall the exact words and, on Twitter, it’s impossible to look stuff up “ If your life is shit, it’s your own fault for doing it wrong,”

Such sentiments, in all their apparently infinite variations and expressed by people who are, apparently, sick and disabled, tell me one of two things – either the people involved are trying desperately hard to convince themselves that their lives haven’t fallen to pieces, or they are utterly self-deluded and believe what they say.

In either case, such opinions are best kept to themselves, as they upset and anger a hell of a lot of people who are only too aware of how much damage illness has done to their lives, as I know only too well, as my life has come down to one room (well, three if you count the kitchen and bathroom), and I’m fully aware of how dismally grim that is.

I don’t, though, get the urge to go on Twitter, single these people out, and say “Hey, you deluded numpty – your lives really are pathetically crappy – take a close look and get real, ffs!” Shattering their illusions – if, for one moment, they believed me – would  be too cruel, because many people have devised coping stratagems to enable them to deal with how intolerable their lives have become, and if that means they’ve convinced themselves that they’re happy, or less ill than they are, fine for them. Who am I to burst their bubble?

But aren’t they being equally cruel, telling people whose lives have been all but destroyed how happy they could be if only they changed the way they thought? In my view, yes, they are. If they went up to a disabled person in the street and said, “Hey, changing the way you think could make your life a whole lot better!” it would probably get them  beaten to the ground with a crutch. Which is probably why they do it on Twitter instead.

But late last night, finally provoked into responding, I posted a tweet saying:-

“@rantsfromron: I think I might very well shoot the next puerile twat who tweets to the effect that if your life is shit, it’s your own fault. Fuckwads!”

That got me a couple of favourable responses. I’d expected more, but it was late.

I know too many people whose lives have been wrecked by illness to swallow the happy-clappy, positive thinking bullshit for one moment, and some of those people live lives that are not just limited to one room, but to one bed. Telling such people that they could be happy if they only thought differently frankly beggars belief.

It’s as crackers as the idea that “god” doesn’t inflict on us anything we can’t cope with, or the equally lunatic concept of suffering being, in some undefined way, good for us – try telling that to someone who has to fight for every breath, and whose life is a constant battle against increasing, and terminal, disability and pain that is frequently so overwhelming that the idea of just pulling the plug has to be resisted every hour of every day.

If believing you’re not as ill as you actually are works for you, and enables you to get through the day, I’m very happy for you but, please, accept that telling the rest of us that we’re doing it wrong, and that the only way is your way, is a deeply flawed idea, and mind your own damned business.

None of us want to be chronically sick and disabled, and we really don’t want to hear that it’s our own fault our lives are so grim because we don’t “think right” – that really is an obscenity straight out of the diseased mind of Iain Duncan Smith – when in reality the crappiness of our lives is caused by conditions and events that are totally outside our control, and not helped by the fact that Iain Duncan Smith’s punitive, it’s-a-crime-to-be-disabled policies could reduce any of us to homeless penury at the drop of a hat.

That’s the reality.

A note for the hard of thinking:-

I am not for one moment saying that those of us in the chronically sick and disabled community spend our lives wallowing in misery (though, inevitably, a few do, human nature being what it is, and if that helps them cope, so be it). What I am saying is that most of us recognise and accept the severity of our many and various conditions, whether they be mental** or physical, and just get on with our lives the best way we can, rather than try to delude ourselves that they don’t impact upon us as much as they actually do.

**Mental illness can be every bit as disabling as physical illness. The fact that you can’t see it doesn’t change that.

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20 thoughts on “Sick? Disabled? Just think happy thoughts and all will be well…

  1. I know, all these ‘self-help’ books that offer facile solutions, ‘think positive’, ‘think yourself rich’, think yourself slim’, and so it…I haven’t noticed anything offering that the power of positive thinking can help people grow back an amputated limb……
    If what it said in the self-help books were true, we wouldn’t need self-help books!
    And it’s not just about illness – about poverty, injustice..is ‘positive thinking’ going to lift people out of the poverty trap?

  2. Well, I have spent a few hours telling myself that hey get a positive attitude, and, think of how you no longer have to go to work, now you are medically retired and the, oh I envy you being at home all day and doing what you want to … Nope, not working, it still hurts, it is still a struggle to get off the toilet and still totally embarrassing when my bladder empties without warning. But hey, think of the benefits … hmmm, nope cannot think of one, other than Thank God I am not as ill as I could be.
    The not being able to work thing is such a patronising thing, of course I want to be home, not working living on crappy money despite shoveling loads in when working and I just love being made to feel it is a privilege. meeting the ALTOS people has totally enriched my life experience, NOT. Don’t get me off on how those ‘brave’ people who were in the paralympics have managed to conquer their disability, I am Chronically Sick, huge difference.
    Thing is, no one ever really gets it until they have got it and if I am told to attend just one more positive thinking course I shall implode. In short, couldn’t agree with you more.

  3. Probably the same people who put ‘inspirational’ bullshit all over facebook…..makes me want to scream **** off m8 i inspire (meaning force) myself out of bed every damn day for better reasons than your dumb photos of rainbows!!! …….i like actual photos my fellow spoonies take but not the ‘into every life a little rain must fall” crap…..i”m sitting under a deluge here!!

    • And I’m seriously minded to block anyone on Twitter guilty of terminal stupidity. It’d damage my numbers but ease the strain on my blood pressure!

  4. I am very unhappy – and it’s started a mental illness as well as a physical one – and both are disabling and yes, I hate my life most of the time! I miss the little things, like being independent (apparently some of my “friends” think that having to rely on someone for most of your needs is not so bad!) – get fooking real – it’s hell on earth!
    If I hear one more person tell me that I should look at the wonders the people in the paralympics perfomed and get inspiration from them I will commit murder! I am 54 years old, I have to get my leg amputated because a fooking surgeon fooked up!!!! I have been disabled for a number of years but this has completely wrecked my life! I admire every one of those disabled people who entered the paralympics, but I would think that 70% of them were born disabled, and out of the other 30% – a great number of them would have lost a limb at an earlier age than 54. I don’t want to run and jump about, I just want my life back to how it was earlier this year. Yes, I was disabled, but I had adapted in my own way and never forced any “positive thinking” on anyone else. Positive thinking doesn’t exist when you are not only fighting disabilities but are also terrified of losing your home and are continually worrying about your benefits being taken off you! Keep your “positive thinking” to yourself – it’s total crap!
    I was wondering about joining twitter, but I think I’ll keep away!

    • Lots of very good people on Twitter. Idiots and psychos too – just like the real world, in fact, except that you can edit out anyone you don’t like.

      Well worth giving it a try, but it can take weeks – months even – to get established and start to build up followers. Essentially, you get out of Twitter as much as you put into it.

  5. I also find myself getting very worked up with those who keep saying. im shining, im happy, do this do that do tother. itll all help. meditate,as you have all said.the think positive brigade want a bit of what most of us are putting up with. living alone. numerous ailments stopping us doing anything and everything. very little help as your kids have their own lives. only mine too have conditions which arent going to go away.so not a lot of help there now. cant easily get to a bus stop ..get a taxi…only now i have to take one trip less per month cos fares have gone up twice in the last 6 months.means im sat indoors doing nothing very much on my pc day in day out as i only afforded one trip per week visiting and one shopping..trips my nephew used to take me on. finished. finances being the biggest reason again.so basically apart from shopping in next town once every 3 weeks and occasional trip to Drs ,3 monthly ones to chiropodist and the odd clinic appointment or two im seeing nothing outside my immediate vicinity of a council house estate and built up town. which i hate,being a country lass at heart,. my daughter comes once a week from about 4pm to 6pm. my sister,who was coming once or twice a week in summer now comes once every 3-4 weeks and only stays around 90 mins as opposed to the 4-6 hours in the summer..my son rarely comes at all as hes in a first floor flat and cant always get down the steps let alone get up again.
    so yes. theres not a lot that i can do to make my lot better or my kids. and i doubt very much that thinking positive thoughts is gonna get any of these things cured.

      • NO. ITS LIKE A RELIGEUSE TELLING A VERY LONELY PERSON WHO LIVES ALONE AND NO MORE CHANCE OF EVER BEING HELD AND LOVED, THAT JESUS LOVES YOU AND WILL PUT HIS ARMS AROUND YOU……………BUT YOU CANT FEEL ANY OF THAT. ITS HUMAN LOVE AND COMPANY THE PERSON WANTS. I DO BELIEVE BUT WE ALL NEED THE LOVE OF A HUMAN BEING. JUST LIKE WE NEED TO THROW OFF OUR AILMENTS.AND KNOWING SOMEONES WORSE THAN THEM CAN ACTUALLY HAVE A WORSE EFFECT ON A PERSON.IF THEY THINK.THAT COULD BE THEM IN A FEW YEARS TIME ETC.
        AND ON THAT THOUGHT, AT NEARLT 10 TO 2 IN THE MORNING IM OFF TO BED.
        NIGHT NIGHT.

  6. Pingback: Sick? Disabled? Just think happy thoughts and all will be well… | Mental Health, Politics and LGBT issues | Scoop.it

  7. I for one am in absolute agreement With you Ron; the thinking that yo can ‘think yourself well’ is in my opinion total crap.

    As a time served Community worker & a counsellor, I acknowledge ‘positive thinking, like talking therapies can have an effect on certain things; BUT, I am convinced whenever there is a real problem causing, or at least impacting on someone’s mental health, it has very limited benefits.

    This notion of happy thoughts = happy well people is too closely linked to the medical model of disability where we, the sufferers are the problem, and, being a cynic (or paranoid depending on your view) I can’t help but wonder if those on twitter and facebook that purport this garbage, aren’t no more then trolls!

    Keep Ranting Ron xx

    • Hi Jayne , last year i became very down, my doc said i was depressed as i ticked all the boxes and tried putting me on yet more tablets ..you guessed it, antidepressants. i refused and told him i would rather have CBT …or counseling …NOT psychotherapy ..another of his suggestions..as it would apparently be then up to the psychiatrist whether i was put on anti depressants or not. i would have no say in it..or so he said.
      my problem was that although i had spondylosis & asthma(at that time for 16 yrs), under-active thyroid (25 yrs) and 5 years previously been told i had mild COPD, i had coped very well with them all and they didnt interfere too much with my life at that time. then 5 years ago i was rushed into hosp with suspected heart attack. turned out was a warning. no scarring on heart or anything.. but since then due to the tabs they insisted i stayed on etc. plus age i expect, its been one condition after another. so last year it got to me so much i went under..or almost. CBT did help. i had already,just before the course ,written down all my ailments/conditions etc.mild to serious. and realised that with 25 different conditions, they had overwhelmed me. writing them down had helped and i thought no wonder. how CBT helped i have no idea., there was no other blinding flash or anything. but i have felt much more positive since. and coping better. tho if i mention the slightest ache or pain to my daughter, she will say im not coping.nor ever have. but i feel i am.so yes it does have its part to play in ACCEPTING whats happening to you. but doesnt make it any better.you still have to cope with everyday living. if your body wont do something it wont.

  8. I had noticed the participants in the Paralympics being held up as shining examples, also people criticising ‘benefit scroungers’ for not making a similar effort…..what people don’t seem to realise is that people were COMPETING IN THE PARALYMPICS, they weren’t DOING JOBS ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS!! They haven’t ‘conquered their disabilities’, the disabilities still exist….

  9. People fail to draw the distinction between acceptance and happiness, I think. I accept my disability/chronic illness because I have no choice. I am not happy about it. I would be a strange sort of masochist if that were the case.

    I have heard the ‘god never gives you more than you can handle’ line, which to me means absolutely nothing. I do not believe being sick makes me more qualified to whoosh through the pearly gates with a polite nod to St Peter. I am not Klara from ‘Heidi’.

    Yes, determination will help you as much as your body will allow. If I am *determined* to walk up that hill, I have more chance of doing so than someone equally ill but who is too sad to try. But my body will only do what it is capable of. And I am not going to push myself to maximum and see my body get sicker, or have no ‘spoons’ (energy) for the next day.

    I am sick and this fact sometimes makes me sad. Sometimes I am happy. I have tried to be very ‘positive’ and really push myself physically, like my version of a Paralympian. And guess what? I still got sick. Acceptance, communication, ability to enjoy the moment, and an understand of oneself is what’s needed in order to survive chronic illness. Not delusion. I want to be calm, accepting and realistic; I do NOT want to feel the bitterness of disappointment after new symptoms come along & kill my positive thinking buzz.

    Here is an excellent journal article about the social constructs of illness (with particular reference to AIDS). I recommend it to anyone with a chronic illness: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070775/

    • Be careful what you say about walking up hills – especially if claiming DLA.

      I’m not overly convinced that determination counts for a great deal. This morning I was determined to make a beef stew this afternoon – it’s just not going to happen though. All my available spoons have gone into the 2,000-odd words of a blog post.

      If it doesn’t happen tomorrow – or possibly later today – the meat goes in the bin. Something that happens more than it should. Being unable to cook food we’ve bought is a drain on the finances of many spoonies.

      • Oh well, it happened – stew’s on. Only because once I stood up I avoided sitting down again til I’d finished. Had I done so, it would have been over.

      • ” If it doesn’t happen tomorrow – or possibly later today – the meat goes in the bin. Something that happens more than it should. ”

        apart from not being able to stand long enough to prepare and cook a meal, the above is one of the main reasons i buy frozen dinners. i hate waste.and i cant afford to throw meat out.its far too expensive.

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