Most of us probably have a few of them in our lives — the people that want to be supportive about our mental illness, but they’re just way off the mark. Here are a few off-the-mark classics.
This is the person who wants to figure out how to solve your problems because then you’ll no longer have anything to be mentally ill about, right? Advice from someone who doesn’t have knowledge through lived experience or being a mental health professional is probably useless, and is most likely to only make you feel worse.
“Have you tried… ?”
My aunt’s neighbour’s dog’s best friend said that going out for a walk every day made them feel much better. You should try it! Or perhaps it’s getting a massage with Dead Sea mud or shoving jade eggs in your bodily orifices. It seems like there’s always some stupid thing that people feel the need to shove in your face.
“Other people are worse off”
This is the “children are starving in Africa” argument. As if by reminding you how bad some people have it, they’ll magically convince you that you’re not actually mentally ill after all. It’s not a competition for worst possible situation in the world. Other people having it worse doesn’t somehow mean that you’re a glitter-farting unicorn.
“It’s not so bad…”
Oh, you’ve been bullied, that’s really sad, but look on the bright side, you didn’t get physically assaulted. Cheer up!
“It’s normal to feel that way—everyone does sometimes“
Anyone would feel badly if they had to deal with [shitty situation x], it’s normal! No need to worry about it! While the intent may be to say that it’s okay to not be okay, it’s like telling someone with pneumonia that you know how they feel because you get colds too, just like everyone else.
“Are you taking your medication?”
I get this a lot from my family; they don’t seem to understand that I can be unwell or even just having a bad day and still be taking my meds as prescribed.
“You look really good!”
This is the good old assumption that if you look good, then you can’t be sick. Maybe if you’re reminded of this often enough, you’ll realize that you were just confused and you must not be sick after all. The brain is on the inside, not the outside.
“Try to focus more on the positive”
Thank you. Perhaps I’ll need to remove my pink unicorn horn from where it’s shoved up my ass and use it to stab you in the eye. Now that would be positive! Toxic positivity is not helpful. Even if you feel grateful for the positives that you have, that doesn’t stop mental illness from kicking your ass.
In many ways, it’s easier to ignore the people who say stupid things out of stigma. I can just write them off as dumb-asses and move on. I’m less sure how to handle the well-intentioned but clueless people. It’s not exactly polite to ask people who hit them with a stupid stick. Sometimes it’s easiest to let the verbal crap slide and try to focus on the good intentions.
What are some of the well-meaning but ignorant comments you’ve heard?