Well this may seem an odd question, the internet is awash with inspirational quotes. We are being told by inspirational speakers that we should surround ourselves with inspirational quotes. Preferably theirs I suspect. I know several people who stick inspirational quotes all over their house, so they can be constantly reminded of what they should be doing.
Ah…now there is the issue that I have.
This word ‘should’ is a dangerous word. Because if you aren’t doing what you ‘should’, you can start to feel that you are a failure. You start to look at these amazing quotes that are looking up at the stars of success as just reminders of what you haven’t done, what you have failed to achieve, and just how imperfect you are.
Also, we can start to see them as if they are Critical Parents. It’s a bit like we are being told how we should be and are being criticised for not achieving that. And if you talk to someone like a critical parent, you get the Rebellious Child. They make it all sound ridiculously easy. And for people suffering with mental health conditions it clearly isn’t.
Even the helpful ones aren’t helpful. Quotes like ‘The best medicine is walking, meditation, friends, family, a good diet etc..’ are not always helpful, because for some, the best medicine is to go to your GP, get some medication and support, take the pills, use the support, stabilise and THEN you can do all the nice stuff, because it will work. When you are lying on the floor in crisis, being told to go for a walk or have a cup of tea is bloody useless.
There are loads of inspirational quotes that I find questionable. Quite a few say things like ‘You become what you think, so be careful what you think about.’ For those people with severe depression or severe anxiety, trying to sit down and think about just happy thoughts is damn well impossible. It’s the same as saying ‘Cheer up.’ When someone who is suffering reads stuff like that they panic even more, they feel even more worthless and an even bigger failure. Suppose all you can think about is death, suicide, self harm- how would a quote like that make you feel?
And not only that, the quote makes it sound as if it is your fault that you are mentally ill because you can’t think about the ‘right’ things.
I sometimes think that inspirational quotes tell us to look at the stars and dream wild dreams of unicorns and fairy dust. Well, as we stare desperately at the stars, we aren’t looking at where we are going and we trip and fall.
I believe that solid, practical, caring and compassionate support has to be the starting point. By all means look at the stars when you can, but your feet have to be firmly on the ground first.