There are two phrases that I cannot STAND in pop-psychology and motivational publishing:
“Just start doing it,” and
“You’re still so young, you have your whole life ahead of you.”
I don’t know about you, but with my depression those sentences are the two least motivating sets of words in existence.
I have a grandma who is really into positive manifestation to the point where she is kind of a bully about this. Positive manifestation, believing and visualizing things you want will come to you, works only when you are already motivated to have that outcome. You’ll often see many millennial bashers use this kind of phrasing- like that other “Motivation is Garbage” video that was going around a few months ago.
This isn’t helpful to us with depression, and it isn’t designed for us either. What it is, is a smug self pat of the back for already doing the work that you don’t really want to because it will get you closer to your desired end-point.
When it is not situational, when your depression is a chemical imbalance and about the larger perceived state of the world, these phrases feel like the worst sort of platitude. Try to explain this, however, and everything out of your mouth is an excuse or worth the risk.
When you have almost ended your life because you are pretty sure nothing will get better, telling that person that the risk is worth the reward feels like a cruel joke. It feels like another opportunity to raise my expectations too high and to feel personally attacked when expectations fail.
Many of the people I talk to with depression focus really deeply on the meaning of things, why things exist as they do. For me, I see all the interconnected whys and hows and my motivation is dashed because of my insignificance in the global picture. There are too many problems that can’t be solved and even more beauty that is neither culturally valued or able to be personally obtained.
What does help me is knowing that I matter. That I made a positive difference in someone’s life today, even if that one life was my own. I see the laughter and smiles I can put on my family’s face and know they value me- even just for a second. I know that maybe someone out there can relate to the words I put on paper and feel less alone. I have experienced life as fully as I can aside from hitchhiking and jumping out of planes.
That doesn’t mean I trust that what I want to do is right for me. That doesn’t mean when I set a goal I know the exact steps to take. Sometimes it doesn’t even mean that I get out of bed. A life without value and meaning and safety is too easy to see in others. Some might see me, writing away while still in my pjs at 3pm and think I am wasting my life. But I’m not, I am finally practicing and expressing myself and putting in place the aspects of the world that I want to live and be a part of.
I may not yet be 30, but I still have valid work experience, a degree, international friends with their experiences and we deserve better. I still can work hard, but as of last November I decided it wasn’t worth exhausting myself for a paycheck. It isn’t worth exhausting myself at work so I can be too tired to do anything fun or experiential. Working hard should mean that you are getting equal value out of the work.
Yes, I realize my entitlement with that phrase. I notice it so much, in fact, that it does more harm than good. How dare I feel sad about the world when others have it so much worse? How dare I say I deserve respect and comfort because I have ideas while people toil for days working in fields and factories? And the honest answer is this- they do deserve more, and better. I think that the lowest paying jobs are often the most difficult, and it makes no sense for those people not to be valued.
So am I refusing to play along with the system like a spoiled child whose favorite game didn’t get picked? Or do I try to compromise myself and my values to fit into what is needed and wanted and without doubt burn out again? “Just do it” implies too much energy and drive that is just not available to me. I can guilt myself into action, but there still will never be pride or satisfaction in completion that way.
My point comes down to this: I get it. I understand perfectly how and why the system works (and doesn’t ) the way it does. I have watched the motivational videos and filled out more worksheets about self-reliance than any one person should. But it still doesn’t motivate me to submit job applications or empty the dishwasher.