“Lemme tell you what you need.”
Wait wait wait. I gotta get ready. (Deep breath.) Alright, go ahead. Hit me with it. What you got?
“There’s a whole world out there! You can be or do anything you want! Everything serves a purpose! You just gotta cheer up! Take a vacation/smoke a joint/learn to see the bright side/lighten up/buy Amway!”
I suspect that last was a trick.
I dunno, maybe I’m alone in this, but–I HATE being told what to do, anyway. By ANYBODY. At ANY time. Or told HOW to do something, for that matter. Hate. Hatehatehatehatehate.
Even at work, where you kinda have to endure it. Grrrrrr. Some folks take getting bossed around a lot better than me. I do not understand these people.
Okay, fine, you’ve gotta take it from your bosses, because they’re the ones holding the money, but at the same time you can at least flip them off in your head.
But you feel like you shouldn’t have to take bossy advice from friends or family. Still, this is tricky–what they wanna tell you is probably crap, but you don’t want to be offensive toward them. Theoretically. So you gotta listen, at least at first.
But too often, the advice you’re getting comes rolled in additional shittiness–being both insulting and controlling. (Degree of difficulty–douchebag/Mean girl.)
Play along at home! Which bits of condescending helpfulness have you encountered?
On weight loss: Hey–it’s easy! Just move more, and eat less!
(Oh!! It must be super easy, because there are almost no fat people in the whole world!!!)
On alcoholism: Wanna solve this once and for all? Just don’t drink so much alcohol.
(You may want to write some of this down.)
You’re not getting enough sleep? Go to sleep sooner!
And my favorite: Suffering from anxiety? Don’t worry so much!
Now, these bits of advice, as useless as they are, have the virtue at least of being technically correct. If you could do these things, it would be better for you. Sure, they beg the question regarding the actual problem, but they’re focused like a laser on the proximate cause.
If you bend the universe to your will, you’ll get what you want!
Usually, it’s not even that close. (How, you ask? Read on, dear friend!)
Clearly, folks often just want to help. They want you to be happier. They mean well. So even though the advice is simplistic and condescending and has no chance of working, you try not to be a dick about it.
You listen, if you can bear it.
Here’s a sampling of helpful “don’t be depressed” advice for beginners that I have heard:
Idea #1: All you need is… music!
You see this one a lot. Apparently, music is magic.
I like music. I listen to music a lot. Many kinds. And of course it *helps*. Sure. Everybody feels better listening to music.
But if music is a ladder, depression is a g*dd*mn canyon. (<Redacted.)
No–that’s a bad example.
Better: music is a fly-swatter. And depression is one of these guys.
Idea #2: All you need is a good night out.
Now, here’s some real magical thinking. (This is actual advice from actual people, remember.)
You are in a bone-deep sadness; it feels like it will not end; the future is bleak; you are struggling moment to moment; how about happy hour?!
Dinner and drinks will fix everything.
File this idea under “I brainstormed for about 3 seconds, and this is what I got.”
Idea #3: Count your blessings!
Bite me. Seriously.
You think people are depressed because they haven’t taken inventory? They’re not noticing the positives?
I could go on a red-faced rant here, but you either already get it or you aren’t going to.
Idea #4: You just need a change of pace.
Why are you still talking to me?
(Okay, that was unkind. Those were supposed to just be inside words, and they got away from me.)
But when you’ve gotten all of this advice from well-meaning people, you start to realize that they aren’t really telling you how to feel better. They’re telling you that you don’t really feel that bad. They are saying that you are mistaken, that you are seeing things the wrong way, and you’re making a big deal out of nothing.
Sometimes that’s true. And sometimes people you know are not mistaken. It is a real thing, like a broken bone or ebola or a fricking gunshot. They are in reality painfully, deeply depressed. Whatever advice you’ve got will probably not be helpful.
Tell the guy with the bullet wound to count his blessings. Tell the guy with a fever of 105 that he should listen to music or go on a date.
Your support, however, is crucial. That’s a million times better than advice.
Snap out of it, people want to say. It’s all in your head, they’d like you to know.
That, at least, IS true.