What I Hear When You Tell Me to 'Stop Being So Negative'

This is a common sentence many of us with mental illnesses get told.

“Just focus on something else.”

“There’s so much good in the world, stop focusing on the bad.”

You don’t think I have tried? For much of my life I have dealt with anxiety and depression. This means almost all the time I am either over-catastrophizing, staying on alert for the next bad thing that could happen, overanalyzing every mistake I’ve made, and after all that, getting stuck in a head space that constantly tells me I’m not good enough and never will be. This head space in the past has often led me to periods of self-harm and suicidal thoughts that never get acted upon but are always there in the back of my mind.

This never stops.

When a person tells me, “stop being so negative” it feels like a slap to the face. Basically you’re saying, “You can turn it off. You can choose to focus on something else.” While I may have times where I can put my focus into my friendships, my job, my school life and my hobbies, these things are also stressors and end up leading me back to depression and anxiety. Regardless how many good periods of time I have, depression and anxiety are always going to be there.

So next time you see a person or are talking with them and they are having a difficult time with their depression and anxiety and seem to be focused on the negative to you, don’t just say, “Stop focusing on the negative,” but instead, maybe ask what you can do to help. Ask what the negative emotions are focused on, suggest helpful distractions or ways of coping. Because “stop being so negative” just makes us feel bad for our depression and anxiety, and that’s honestly the last thing we need when diagnosed with these disorders.

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Thinkstock photo by OcusFocus

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