Erasing “toxic positivity”

“Be confused, it’s where you begin to learn to new things. Be broken, it’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s where you start to make authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough, we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it. Be whatever you are right now. No more hiding. You are worthy, always”.

S.C. Lourie

It’s been exactly five months since I’ve last published a blog post, which is pretty unbelievable to me! Not only have I failed to keep to my manifesto of coming up with new content every calendar month, but this realisation that five whole months have passed by is something kind of surreal altogether. Alongside the dreadful pressure of maintaining an online presence despite having no cool social life to flex, I’m also having to continuously convince you (my very limited audience) and myself that I’m vaguely fun, creative and relatable to read about. However, these feelings of doubt and inadequacy don’t need to be acknowledged or explained, only lived. So anyway, I’ve recently noticed a growing trend of people becoming overly positive. Though there is nothing wrong with seeing the glass as always half full, it can be ultimately damaging to entirely dismiss any natural emotions of anger, sadness or any feeling that isn’t completely positive. I understand the need to surround yourself with “positive vibes” which is mostly good, the majority of the time it can just come across as disingenuous and forced. So without further ado, here is an update on why I personally believe that we shouldn’t focus too much on what the chemicals in our brains are weighing and my newfound mentality of not caring. Not to seem generally insensitive towards people with genuine mental health issues of course, I couldn’t recommend therapy enough. However, this is just a personal mantra that keeps me afloat.

Okay, so I’m currently living in a house with three other girls, and in typical student-house fashion we have seen the worst and the best of each other. Emotional breakdowns over deadlines and assignments, momentary, short-lived ‘heartbreak’ over guys that won’t text us back anymore, financial restraints further exacerbated via fast fashion, year-long next day delivery and Klarna (you know, that whole ‘buy now, pay later’ deal that’s going on?) ASOS, Pretty Little Thing, Nasty Gal, Missguided- I’m looking at you, please let me live my life.

But once I came to discover that 2/3 of my housemates were on antidepressants and anxiety tablets, whilst regularly making appointments with therapists, the realisation forced me to have a serious think about my generation and our newfound outlook on mental health. Despite stigma decreasing by over 6% within the past decade, the overall outlook hasn’t REALLY changed all that much, I recall one of my housemates telling me “I just got tired of not feeling normal, I felt so embarrassed about crying all the time!”- which is of course, a very much valid emotion. But, I have to meet it with some critique.

Why has it become an embarrassment to say how we feel and why must wesolveor fix” these emotions? Throughout my time in higher education, whether that be in secondary school or university, the main lesson that I have learnt is to just tell people how you feel. The collapse of a lot of my friendships penned from being dishonest, antisocial and just an overall lack of real communication on how I feel. I’m still working on it, actually.

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary,” observed Cecil Beaton, who was born in 1904.

For so long, I thought that the past 2-3 years had been dedicated to recovering. I fully committed myself to feeling better about things. I wanted to recover from the trauma that secondary school brought me, my home life, and other disappointments. Then I learnt that there’s absolutely no avoiding it. You can go your whole life insisting that it only gets better from here onwards, but you’ll always be faced with something new that will kick and punch you. And you’re not wrong for feeling bad about these things.

For example, when I was seventeen I went through my first brutal heartbreak. It’s never been easy for me to talk about, even today. Without going into too much detail, he was a drug addict with eyes for someone else and I was a lovesick teen with no sense of self-worth, we were only 16-17 but it had a profound experience on me as a teenager. It may not have been real for him but it certainly was for me, and it was one of the worst emotional experiences that a 17-year-old could go through. So after that, I recall thinking “Okay, I’ve experienced this thing and now it’s over” but then once I turned 18, it happened again, but with a slightly different narrative. Cheating boyfriend, not a drug addict but instead emotionally abusive; and on top of that he quickly began to hook up with my friend who I thought would never do that sort of thing, and nobody seemed to mind, either. Nobody checked in to see how I was doing. As if this was just “normal”.

Then throughout the years as I became older, things took another bad turn. I was having very bad family problems, I lost jobs, I lost friends that I thought would stick around forever, I hated my university and began doubting my place on this earth (I’m going somewhere with this, don’t worry) I knew that I wanted to be a journalist but I began to hate my course and the people in it, so I didn’t see the point anymore. I had completely lost all motivation. And I felt bad about it.

People will always tell you that you serve no purpose being sad, that it’s a major sign of weakness and that someone out there is always going through something worse- which is indeed true but that in no way should invalidate whatever it is that you’re feeling. There we are again, feelings. I used to hang on to that word by a thread, like I said earlier, there was always this belief that you would experience something tremendously bad but it was okay because it will eventually stop. One day you’ll wake up and everything will calm down a bit and be…better. Which is to some extent true, but let’s not dismiss the fact that this is real life. Bad things happen all the time, but so do the good.

I read a quote on Man Repeller once which said You’ve been around long enough to know that dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels“. And that’s it, bad emotions aren’t exactly bad overall, we often treat our uncomfortable feelings and emotions as if they had no real right to exist, inconveniences to be anesthetized or bludgeoned into extinction. But emotions aren’t really the enemy. They are feedback sent from within, messages sent from our deeper self that tell us how we are doing. As such, there really are no bad feelings — only comfortable or uncomfortable ones.

I know that there is this ongoing pressure to always seem busy, I get questioned all the time on what it is I do all day. I also know that there is this urgency to escape the hardship through grit and sweat, that any form of negative emotion has to be immediately wiped or otherwise you’re a depressed failure. Like say, if you submit one exam or essay that didn’t get the best grade, then you felt like you weren’t made for academia and that you should give up wanting a degree. But that’s not the case, it took a very long time for me not to treat these emotions as a blanket diagnosis but rather a stepping stone to something else. And I like to think that being able to bare this in mind keeps me up a level. You’re not doing it wrong, sadness and frustration aren’t just the shitty parts to make the good parts feel better, but just parts — the logical means through which get through to the next one.

Maybe I’m not the best person to take emotional advice from, and within the many times in life that I’ve been wrong and have poorly misjudged a situation, I can guarantee that I’m kind of right about this one thing. Without sounding corny or tedious, you can’t appreciate a good meal without having starved (not literally, I mean don’t deliberately go hungry) and you don’t appreciate a hot shower unless you’ve been out all day and you don’t appreciate the summer without going through the miserable months of January, February and March first. There’s something amazing in just riding it out and going through it. It’s not always good, but it makes a hell of a story to tell afterwards. Life is a far more interesting that way, like literally every movie that you will ever watch will have a point where something supposedly sad happens halfway through- both the cheesy and the epic ones. So don’t feel weird for having negative emotions, do not apologise for the inconvenience and then try to immediately jump to fix them. They always say it’s better to have felt something rather than nothing at all, it gives everything substance and meaning, and isn’t that what they’re meant for anyway?

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