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  • Hello, I’m Jessica and I have a positivity problem.

  • I could blame it on having a bit of brain damage. I could blame it on taking medication

  • that’s effectively equivalent to six pints of beer a day. I could blame it on early internalisation

  • of inspirational narratives (I was little in the 90s)

  • But the thing is… I don’t see my unwavering zeal as something toblame’, I see it

  • as something to be thankful for.

  • - Because aren’t all hardships just chances for us to learn and grow...?

  • Ok, ok, I’m sorry! Don’t click off this video!

  • Look, just because I can see that every cloud has a silver lining and you have to look through

  • the rain to see the rainbow doesn’t mean I can’t also roll my eyes at the sickening

  • but entirely genuine positivity that my brain spews out.

  • Thank you to the members of the Kellgren-Fozard Club for helping me to choose this video topic.

  • If you would like to have a say in future videos, along with gaining access to a monthly

  • behind the scenes video, custom badges, emojis AND a members-only area of my Discord board

  • then click thejoinbutton below. It’s next to the subscribe button which I can see

  • from my analytics some of you are missing, even though youre watching a number of

  • my videos

  • I’m just saying.

  • [wink]

  • The other day I was part of a conversation in which Person A told Person B that they

  • were setting their goals too high and I had to bite my tongue because my brain said:

  • - “At least failing when you shoot for the moon means youll land among the stars

  • What? What?! What, Jessica?!

  • Where do these corny lines even come from?! How does my brain

  • do this?

  • I even saw the good in everything as a small child, to an apparently frustrating degree,

  • as my parents nicknamed me Pollyanna. Which, if you haven’t read it, is a wonderful book

  • about a little girl with a philosophy of life centred aroundThe Glad Game”, where

  • she looks for the good in absolutely everything, even terrible things. Optimism was really

  • important to me as an ill child who no one believed… I wanted to make my life great

  • and lovely so I focused on that, just like Pollyanna who, when put in a stuffy attic

  • room without pictures or carpet by her aunt, rejoices in the beautiful view from the window.

  • - A buoyant refusal to be downcast can be a useful weapon.

  • But if that nauseatingly sweet positivity isn’t natural, if it isn’t coming from

  • within you, if it’s being forced upon youthen it’s what we calltoxic positivity

  • and it’s a real problem.

  • And sometimes I’m part of that problem. I’m turning it on myself.

  • Toxic positivityrefers to the concept that staying positive- and ONLY being positive-

  • is the right way to live your life. It means purely focusing on positive things and refusing

  • to acknowledge any negative emotions or even things that it’s felt may trigger negative

  • emotions.

  • And when I learnt the phrasetoxic positivity’ I was like

  • - oh. That’s me.

  • So I’m calling myself out. Yes, I’m making an entire video to hold myself to account

  • for subjecting myself to my own toxic positivity.

  • Because positivity is all well and good when it’s just going on inside your own brain:

  • if you don’t want to deal with the one negative comment in a sea of positive comments about

  • your new haircut and youre able to just ignore it then more power to you, were

  • all very impressed.

  • BUT when extreme positivity is being pressed upon you from the outside (even when youre

  • doing it to yourself), that’s when it becomes damaging and it’s something that those of

  • us with disabilities or chronic illnesses have to deal with ALL THE DARN TIME.

  • Also, I know a lot of you send my videos to friends and family members to help them understand

  • when theyre not being helpful so there are probably some parents watching, in which

  • case

  • - hi. I’m assuming your child sent you this because you did one of the bad things I’m

  • about to tell you not to do. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to yell at you about

  • it or tell you off. Were just going to talk through it and why telling someone they

  • have to be unrelentingly positive is not as helpful as you might think. Thanks for clicking

  • on the video link though. It shows you care.

  • Positivity is incredibly powerful and it’s seen me through many a struggle, I’ll grant

  • you: holding onto threads of hope, knowing that there is a light at the end of the illness

  • tunnel, thatthis too shall passhas pulled me through life-threatening challenges.

  • Seeing the sky clear to once again reveal the sun reminds me that the world isn’t

  • really as catastrophic as it can sometimes feel BUT positivity can have a negative impact

  • too. It isn’t always the best way to help other people and can have a really damaging

  • effect on others if theyve come to you for support. It’s almost an unintentional

  • gaslighting which stops someone from expressing how they really feel.

  • Saying things likeitll get better”, “you just need to keep fightingandonce

  • youre well again…” may be meant as a kindness but it’s actually awful to hear

  • from the other side. Youre pushing for a future version of me but not accepting me

  • as I am right now. I need the space to be able to say “I wish I could do that but

  • I know I can’t and I’m learning to accept thatwithout havingWell maybe one day!”

  • pushed upon me.

  • Oddly, even though I’ve been unwell basically my entire life, when I think about my future

  • I picture my own body as being entirely capable. I’m not sure why that ismaybe I can

  • blame films and TV for it… a lack of disabled role models growing up or something. But when

  • I picture myself as a mum, I don’t have any physical limitations. Which is unhelpful.

  • Because as I grow (hopefully) closer and closer to that point I have to come to terms with

  • oh, right. I’m not changing. Huh.”

  • Acceptance is important. I can hope for improvements in treatment, but I can’t really hope for

  • being magically better because that hope itself is a damaging thing. Eventually time runs

  • out and you hit that milestone without being fully better.

  • Telling someone who can’t get better that they just need tobelievein order to

  • make it happen puts the onus of blame onto them. Youre saying that the only reason

  • theyre still ill is because they don’t ‘believethey can get better, or- much

  • worse- that youre accusing them ofwantingto be ill. By only choosing to acknowledge

  • or laud their happy feelings but not their bad ones, theyll be left questioning whether

  • they have a right to those negative feelings at all.

  • - Spoiler: You cannot cure someone with relentless positivity, you can only make them feel bad.

  • In my opinion, were so used to seeing disabled or unwell people as inspirational characters

  • in media that when were anything other than unnaturally upbeat it seems like were

  • playing the victim when really were just having a little moan as anyone else would.

  • Is just that ourlittle moansjust seem likebig problemscompared to your flat

  • tire but we don’t necessarily see them that way, it’s just an issue of perception.

  • Toxic positivity has a negative impact on those withotheredbodies because it’s

  • suggesting that acceptance of being in a place society judges to benot good enough

  • is worse than making myself ill in the off chance that I mayimprove’. Knowing that

  • your body will not becomethe normisn’t pessimism, it’s just reality and that can

  • be even more powerful than blind positivity.

  • Taking disability or ill health out of the equation for the minute: The funny thing about

  • unrelenting positivity is that when you deny or avoid unpleasant emotions, you make them

  • bigger. Because you avoid the negative feeling and don’t pay attention to it, it sits in

  • the back of your mind getting bigger and more significant because it’s unprocessed.

  • It is completely healthy to sometimes feel worried or traumatised or sad when youre

  • dealing with a difficulty with your body. You don’t have to be inspirational 24/7

  • because the only person you need to inspire is yourself. In fact, research shows that

  • accepting, not rejecting, negative emotions helps diffuse them and over time leads to

  • better psychological health. The study, published in the journalEmotion’, found that focussing

  • too intently on happiness can cause us to actually obsess over any not-happy feelings,

  • leading to greater unhappiness overall. This is because the negative emotions are experienced

  • as signs of failure rather than just being what they are:

  • normal.

  • Having said that, if your negative feelings are overwhelming and affecting your everyday

  • life, please do seek help for them.

  • And since were talking about mental health: sufferers of severe depression do not need

  • to be toldit gets betterandtry to be positivebecause, come on, think

  • it through, is that actually helpful or is that just berating them? Yep, youre correct:

  • it’s unhelpful.

  • It’s something I’m trying to unlearn myself because it’s really, really not sustainable!

  • By avoiding difficult emotions youre actually losing valuable information and learning experiences

  • that could help you in the long run, even if that’s just appropriately identifying

  • a fear and… I’m just realising I turned dealing with negative emotions into a positive.

  • - I’m still learning!

  • So how do we avoidtoxicpositivity whilst still being generally pleasant people?

  • - unless you only find happiness in being a Disney villain. In which case: you do you,

  • you do fabulous you.

  • Well, firstly, sayingget well soonis all well and good but doesn’t work for

  • those with a chronic illness: theyre not going toget better’, it’s an identity,

  • not a state of being and accepting that doesn’t mean theyregiving in’, just that

  • theyre appreciating themselves for who they are. Of course you can sayget well

  • soonto your mum if she has a cold. But to your friend who is NEVER going toget

  • wellanyway try something like ‘I hope you have a better day tomorroworhope

  • you have lots of spoons later’.

  • Secondly, avoid platitudes likeit will get betterorit could be worseand

  • instead just listen to the person. Ask them how theyre really feeling and what they

  • want to talk about. When they tell you that theyre sad, sympathise with compassion

  • but neutrally.

  • And lastly, let the person know that you love and support them as they are right now, negative

  • feelings and all. This applies to more than just mental health concerns: whether it’s a break

  • up or a job loss, let the person know that they don’t need to show their happy, positive

  • face in order to receive your acceptance.

  • Of course, I don’t want to take away from the fact we all have very different brains

  • and that, for some of us, a diet of pure positivity is the best way forwards and there is absolutely

  • no reason to feel guilty if you don’t want to deal with your own negative feelings but

  • instead prefer to live a life full of only #motivational instagram posts.

  • For me personally, I don’t find the idea of fighting against my illness to be helpful-

  • even if it’s framed in a really positive light. I work daily to maintain the health

  • I do have and to manage my conditions. Mainly that’s through very boring things like checking

  • the list of ingredients carefully or making sure I have enough pills in case a zombie

  • apocalypse happens.

  • You know, normal stuff(!)

  • But I’m also going to, for my own mental health, start actively imagining my future

  • with me as an ill person

  • - I have a very overactive imagination. You name a potential scenario I might be in 10

  • years from now and I can bet you I’ve already imagined it.