I responded to a woman I follow on Twitter after she posted a motivational quote. I probably shouldn’t have. I do not for one second believe that she ever thought the quote could be in any way offensive or upsetting, but it is to me every time I see it because it is so totally unrealistic and really has a victim-blaming tone about it.
The quote was about change your thoughts, change your situation. Something to that effect. I used to believe in that. I believed it every day and believed so hard and it did not work.
It did not help me view my living situation in any kind of positive light.
It did not help me manage my anxiety and OCD. Nothing but medication and therapy has ever helped with that.
It did not help me deal with the unkind people in my life because no matter what *I* did, they kept on doing things to hurt me. In fact, my attempts to be more understanding led to them taking even more advantage of me.
It did not help me deal with my physical health problems. It did not help me deal with anything, let alone give me the tools to change my situation.
And so I get so sick of seeing it repeated and earnestly passed around that I finally told this woman that I found the quote offensive and even harmful to people with OCD because we can’t change our thoughts without intensive medical intervention. Quotes and prayers are not going to help us. We pray for release from tormenting thoughts every day of our lives. At best, we turn to life examples of other people who have made it through horrific situations and try to look at them as role models and remind ourselves that that person got through X thing. I can get through this. And that doesn’t always work.
Distracting myself just leads to another intrusive thought. There is not one thing in my life I can think about that doesn’t come with some accompanying anxiety or bad memory. Just now I looked at one of my favorite dolls and immediately remembered this past February when a man and a woman cyberstalked me for weeks after I complained on Target’s Facebook page about poor service after I ordered a doll. Now I’m going to think about that all night and probably have a nightmare.
I got an early Christmas gift yesterday, a deck of oracle cards. I love it, but it’s always going to remind me of a friend who collects Tarot cards who told me that she wasn’t my therapist when I was having a very bad day and sent her a message about it.
When my 10-year-old cat gets in the bed with me at night, I start wondering how much longer he’ll live. He’s not even sick.
This is the life of someone with OCD and anxiety. Sleep is no respite because of the nightmares. Meditation is impossible for me. Reading helps a little. Gardening helps a little. Writing is another compulsion with its own humongous set of associated worries. Is this book really awful? I should rewrite this whole book. Oh dear God, did I save that paragraph I cut? I’ll never get a book deal so I’ll have to self-publish but I can’t afford a professional editor so I can’t self-publish because I’ll never catch all the mistakes. I’m doing all this work for nothing. I should give up. But if I give up, all the people who laughed at me and said I’d never be successful will win.
But that motivational quote being a huge trigger for me did not give me the right to jump down a stranger’s throat, and I’m lucky that she ignored me and didn’t tell me where to get off.
I just wish that everyone could understand that we can’t all be that person who lived through a nightmare and kept a positive attitude. It’s an impossible standard. I guess that quote helps some people. But I’ve been fighting to control my thoughts for thirty years and I know a lot of other people with OCD and other mental illnesses have too and some of us are so, so tired of the motivational quotes. The motivational quotes lead “normal” people to think that we’re just malingering, that we really can just “get over it,” “move on,” “stop dwelling on it.” We’re “drama queens.” The truth is that our illnesses are inconvenient for other people and they don’t want to be bothered by them, by us. They want us to shut up and act normal. They don’t care if we’re only acting. As long as we aren’t annoying them with our petty problems, that’s all that matters.
That early Christmas gift, that deck of oracle cards. It’s a stunning deck with 55 vintage images of women. A couple of the cards feature gorgeous vintage photos of Japanese women in kimonos. I cringed in my mind when I saw them because my ex-husband was obsessed with Japanese culture and the stereotype of submissive Asian women. I think that I’ll always associate such images with my ex-husband. How can you control a thought that stems from an abusive situation you were in for seven years? And then I feel guilty for having the thought because does it make me racist? No, it makes HIM racist for stereotyping Asian women and telling me over and over that he should have gotten a “mail-order bride” instead of marrying me, but I can’t suppress that thought.
So this, OCD, anxiety, PTSD after abusive relationships, this needs to be discussed. If someone with one or more of the disorders can talk about it, I think they should so that people will have to see us as actual sick people, not malingerers. But no one should feel pressured to talk about their illness. I talk about it. I get a lot of positive feedback from other people who suffer from the same illnesses.
It still doesn’t have anything to do with the woman who posted the motivational quote, so I apologized to her. I don’t expect to hear anything back from her. I wish I could tell her why the quote set me off. I guess that’s why I wrote this post. I hope it helps with the dialogue that’s so desperately needed between people with OCD and people who don’t understand it. I hope it makes someone think twice before telling someone with a mental illness that they can think their way to recovery. I hope it helps someone with a mental illness talk to someone who doesn’t get it.
I hope the woman who posted the quote forgives me even if she never speaks to me.