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Why This Phrase Is Harmful to Those in Mental Health Recovery

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Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

“I’m not willing to put in more effort than you are.”

I hear this all the time, both working in the mental health field and as a consumer of mental health services.

First and foremost, put in the damned effort!

We’re not trying to be difficult. Or turn your hair grey. Or make you work extra hard. Mental illness often makes it hard to hear anything other than the negative. It can convince you that you have no intrinsic value. That you are not important or aren’t worth even your own effort. Someone who keeps fighting for you, even when they can’t see the effort, breeds the want and desire to do, and be, better.

Depression is a liar. It steals your ability to see your own value and worth, so seeing it in someone else’s actions is sometimes enough to kickstart hopeful thinking. Especially when the effort has to be repeated time and time again. Especially when the other person persists well beyond the defenses of shame and self-loathing. And especially when I don’t think it exists.

But, make sure what you think the value the other person should have, is actually what they want. Make certain your goals align. A classic example is addiction. You may want the other person to stop some addictive behavior, but does that person want to quit? Maybe that isn’t a value they hold yet.

Your pushing and pushing and trying and trying to get someone to quit something they are not done doing could be why you are putting in so much effort with no perceived thanks or change.

Anyone who has tried to quit smoking cigarettes for anyone but themselves — because they want to quit — will likely tell you it didn’t work. If you aren’t done doing the addictive behavior, at some point the likelihood of you picking back up the habit is incredibly high.

But, if the values do align, hold onto that hope the other person hasn’t been able to grasp just yet. It’s slippery and may take many, many tries — do it anyway. It’s worth the effort to see the “aha” moment it all clicks. The moment recovery begins.

So, please…

Hold onto hope for me, until I can hold onto it for myself.

Original photo by author

Originally published: May 14, 2021
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