Chronic Life: The Trouble with ‘Thinking Positive’

Living with debilitating daily pain is one of those things that’s difficult to fully grasp if you or a person you love hasn’t experienced it. That’s not to say that ‘no one understands’; I know people who are sufficiently empathetic that they’re able to put themselves in my position and gain some insight into what Chronic Daily Migraine & Fibromyalgia have done to my life. However, for me personally I have to draw the line at being told how I should feel about my current situation; I resent it, especially I must admit, when coming from people who have never experienced anything like what I’m going through.



Being told to ‘think positive’ is irritating for me; what does it even mean?? I have a genetic neurological disease that won’t go away just because I think happy thoughts. I appreciate that how we think about our world has a big impact on how we feel about it. But such phrases as ‘you need to think positive!’ or ‘don’t be so negative!’ are unhelpful and sometimes offensive. For one thing, unless you’re my husband, one of my parents or my best friend, you really don’t know the current version of me well enough to comment on my thought processes. Furthermore, the abovementioned phrases imply that I am somehow responsible for my disability and that I’ve brought the massive challenges and difficulties it involves upon myself by not being cheerful enough. That’s an irritation I could well do without. It also makes me wonder – if my disability were visible from the outside, would I still be on the receiving end of ‘think positive’ lectures? Perhaps I would. Aggravating banality and ill-thought-through words probably find their way to all chronically ill or disabled people at some point.

Both hope and gratitude are vital elements in my way of coping with the Chronic Life I’m forced to lead at the moment. I try each new treatment hoping that it will have an impact. I try to make sure that there are dates on the calendar for me to look forward to and hope that I get lucky and the date/event in question coincides with a few of my rare functional hours. I make a conscious effort to find the little moments of joy that make this life bearable. I remind myself to feel gratitude, despite the pain, for all the love and support around me. 

I’m also entitled to feel low, exhausted or hopeless sometimes. This is a reasonable response to debilitating pain, not me being ‘negative’. I could of course pretend to feel positive 24/7 and fall silent when I’m struggling emotionally but really, why should I? My silence spares other people the awkward experience of listening to me without really being able to help much, but does me no good at all. Saying something sucks when it does, does not a ‘negative person’ make!  I feel strongly that Spoonies should be able to discuss the realities of their lives without being labelled as negative. I don’t dump my emotional baggage onto anyone who’ll listen; I am considerate of other people’s needs and situations. I just wish that people IRL and especially on social media would show the same consideration and stop to think before hurling ‘be positive!’ at people who are doing the best they can with a really difficult situation.

Are you a Spoonie who has been told to ‘think positive’? How did you feel about it?

Wishing you good luck and happy days,

Kindra x

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10 thoughts on “Chronic Life: The Trouble with ‘Thinking Positive’”

  1. All the time. Or the comparative statement, “At least you don’t have X” or “But you look fine!” My cardiologist told me that when I was concerned about rather sudden weight gain. Except, I wasn’t asking if I looked okay, I was asking if it was normal to suddenly pack on 15 lbs of belly weight. But thanks, as long as I look good, I guess that’s all that matters!

    Thank you for describing the balancing act between being real and being needy or obsessive. I know many sick people I want nothing to do with because they have become so inwardly focused they can’t see anything except their issues. That’s not helpful either. I think it boils down to “acceptance’ rather than “positivity” and that is an ongoing process, and it involves having permission to be down, or frustrated, or angry without those things being character flaws.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, ongoing cycle of self-pity that blocks out the existence of others is so damaging for the individual and their relationships.
      The ‘at least you don’t have…’ comment always strike me as ludicrous. My debilitating condition isn’t made any easier by pointing out all the things I don’t have!
      Interesting that your cardiologist assumed your priority re. weight change was how it made you look…cos as long as you ‘look ok’ to outside world then it’s all good?? Sigh.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ugh I hate being told to think positive! I am well aware of the power of your mind and positive thinking helps you deal with negative emotions, but it does not lessen your pain. And most of the circumstance where people tell you to think positive are ones where it’s completely inappropriate!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Being told what to think, as though our conditions have been caused by not thinking happy thoughts = Spoonie rage! Have to admit it makes me especially irritated when the person speaking has never experienced anything close to the amount of pain I live with. They should go sit quietly in the corner & think about what they’ve done 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I wrote a post about similar stuff recently as well. Just goes to show that it’s a widespread issue! (if u want to read it its on my blog as 10 things spoonies want you to know). When will people learn?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ll check your post out 👍🏼
        I know it’s not always easy to find the right thing to say but if people could just try to grasp what these comments feel like from our point of view that would really help! Thanks for commenting 🙂


  3. I’ve got Fibro and ME and I have been told to think positive. It made me want to punch that person in the face, so I slowly (through clenched teeth) explained that thinking positive won’t change my symptoms. My symptoms will still be there and no amount of glitter fairy BS will wish it away. ‘I was only trying to help’ she said. Well, it doesn’t, hahaha. I don’t think she’ll say it again. 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed; just makes me want to positively throw something at them (one of these days it’s gonna happen & it won’t be pretty). People should really count to ten before they speak. I’m all for finding the moments of joy & being grateful for good stuff in my life but really, sometimes things are crap. We should be allowed to say so without being told off for it!
      Thanks for stopping by & commenting 🙂 xx


  4. Yeah those kinda comments really annoy the hell outta me.
    N job centre person herself in a motorised wheelchair.
    It’s fine N dandy when u know your condition and you could work.
    But when your condition is irratic and severe, or in my case undiagnosed for two yrs and irratic you would not pass health N safety.
    So can’t think myself positive to diagnose myself.

    Thanks for posting this as some people really need to understand how soul destroying things can be

    Liked by 1 person

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