When a ‘positive attitude’ just isn’t enough

There is a lot to be said for thinking positively. No, genuinely, I believe there is. It won’t fix a situation, but if you can think and look at a set of crappy circumstance and say “well, this sucks. However….”, then life in general will be a bit less bumpy. And as a rule I do my best to have a positive attitude.

There are several “buts” in relation to this though. Here are just some of them.

  • I do not have to be smiley and happy because I am in a wheelchair. There is this bizarre assumption that everyone in a wheelchair is nice and happy and smiley. People look shocked when I run them over if they push in front of me. Or tell them they’re rude when using that good old Wheelchair Voice, which all wheelchair users will know. It’s that tone of voice similar to the one your granddad uses when on holiday in a different country. You know the one; slightly too loud, noticeably slower, normally including hand gestures and a big smile. Yep, I have no tolerance for the Wheelchair Voice. I have called people out on it, much to their frustration, because they seem to genuinely think it’s okay. I do not owe you a smile because I’m disabled. 
  • Sometimes there isn’t a silver lining. It’s all well and good having a theory of thinking positively, but sometimes it really is just as shit as it gets. There isn’t a ‘however’, there isn’t a ‘oh well’, there isn’t a ‘well at least’. Sometimes it is just shit. And that’s okay! It’s normal and shit and normal. And thinking positively just doesn’t cut it sometimes. Roll with it.
  • With chronic illness often comes depression. This is proven scientifically, but frankly is just logical. If your life is altered forever, unchangeable, to whatever degree, it’s rubbish, and you’re allowed to have times where it makes you feel blue. Depression itself is crippling  and I’ll post about that another time. Being depressed about your circumstances is okay. 
  • When you break it down, a positive attitude doesn’t actually fix anything. I do often feel that being positive about things, when forced, is more about making other people feel comfortable than about something actually helping. And as stated above, healthy or not, you do not owe anyone your smile. Smile for yourself when you want it. 

I’m sure those points seem like I’m contradicting what I said about believing in a positive attitude. But what I’m trying to get at is that it needs to come from you, and be for you, not for other people or to satisfy a stereotype, whether that is because you are a woman (“C’mon lovie, give us a smile!” is also lively to receive my lack of bullshit treatment) or disabled or just a human being. There is an attitude in our society that being positive is the only way to be, and you know what, that’s just so far from true that I can’t actually put into words how much you do not have to be okay all of the time.

A positive attitude isn’t going to make my pain go away, it’s not going to stop my joints dislocating or my ligaments being too stretchy, it’s not going to cure my visual impairment, it’s not going to make me suddenly be able to run.

I’m a friendly person, I just want you all to know, if you’ve ever forced a smile on your face because you feel you owe it to everyone else when you’re in agony, it’s okay not to.

As a side note, there is not enough caffeine or craft to get me through smiling today. So maybe that’s where this post comes from. Send coffee and yarn.


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