The Mighty Logo

The ‘Toxic Positivity Movement’ Won’t Help With My Depression

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I reached out to my social media family and asked for memes and animal pictures today. I explained that my depression has made me grumpy and I was looking for some distractions. I’m happy to report that my friends did not disappoint. I received all manner of gifs, pet pictures & videos, hilarious memes, and a cute video of a dear friends kiddos wishing me a happy day. I felt quite loved and subsequently my depression lifted a smidge.

I scrolled through my regular “feed” after that and happened upon a random meme that stated something about always finding the positive in every single thing, that we are absolute masters of our thoughts and that we must ALWAYS CHOOSE POSITIVITY! My whole body went rigid with anger, because here I’d been vulnerable with people in expressing my depression and I was being confronted with the toxic positivity movement that basically tells me that my depression is my fault. If only I’d just control my thoughts, if only I could just think my way free of years of torment. If only I could just look at the bright side of everything and then I’ll be fine.

The great irony in this is that my default is to tend towards hope, it is to tend towards trying to find a silver lining, or the good in things. However, when I can’t, I can’t and I have learned to reach out in those instances. And though I get a temporary reprieve when I do reach out, this notion that if I just think myself into a more positive place that somehow makes me better is unrealistic. My reality demands that I deal with what’s going on, which sometimes entails being distracted by animals and The Office gifs, other times it means I sit quietly and cry or stare at the wall until I can move again.

Depression doesn’t wait for you to decide to feel it. I think that’s what people don’t always understand about it. I could be going along doing okay for a few weeks or months even and then I will feel the familiar weight settle over me, a dark tinge to my every day routine, and then I’m in it. And once I’m in it, no amount of positive thinking is going to pull me out. Coming out of it requires time, patience, help, and being gentle with myself. I do understand that maybe for some they can keep a positive mindset at all times, but depression isn’t just a mindset. At least not for me. My depression is a whole body experience and requires a Herculean effort to just move from my bed to the couch on the really bad days.
I believe that if you’re suffering with depression and you’re able to have even a tiny moment of laughter or feeling something other than dread- that’s an absolute win. It’s not all always in our control and it’s okay to feel all the things we feel. Our darkness makes others uncomfortable sometimes, but that’s for them to work out, it’s not for them to use to shame us into thinking more positively. My depressed brain needs acceptance and support, and so do so many others. If you’re someone who wants us to feel better, don’t tell us to think better, sit with us in the dark and crack the door open so a sliver of light can find its way in.

Photo by Jorge Fernández on Unsplash

Originally published: December 1, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home