I recently read an argument from someone who claimed that it was offensive to say “it gets better” to someone who has depression, because it displays an ignorance about the nature of depression and highlights that the person who said it has never had any real negative experiences in their life. While on the one hand, I don’t think that it’s a particularly comforting thing to say to someone (a bit generalist) and I’d never say it to someone who had expressed that it was something which made them frustrated, I don’t think that it is an inherently bad thing to say, nor do I think that it necessarily reflects a level of ignorance.
A few years ago, I was very, very deeply unhappy. I don’t want to go into too many depressing details, but I had no money at all and as I live in a fairly isolated town, this meant that I pretty much had no way of seeing my friends at all. There was essentially nothing to feel happy about. One day I even took off my smiley face badge and tried to give it to a friend, as I did not want to wear it anymore (they didn’t accept.)
Something that I did during that period, was an unpaid work placement at a nearby Job Centre. I hate the Job Centre (for good reason) and so every day I was in an environment which was very negative for me. I remember one morning, I got up into the cold post-sorting room and started going through their mail by myself (that was one of my responsibilities.)
I looked back at the past. Going to Nando’s, sleeping over with people, going out on night walks, going to Christmas markets and actually getting to see and spend time with my friends. I wondered how my life had gone from that, to never seeing anyone and not having anything to be happy about. I thought, sadly, that that was just what my life would be like from then on and I’d have to get used to it. If somebody had told me that “it gets better” I’d probably have wearily shaken my head and said that I thought they were being too optimistic. I allowed myself to feel unhappy, not just about my current circumstances, but at the thought that they’d last forever.
But what do you think I would tell myself, if I had the ability to communicate with the me of that time? I’d say “it gets better.” Once again, I have a nice, large circle of friends to spend time with, I have money because I have a job and I’m always going to places and having exciting new experiences. In fact, my life is better than it was before it’s temporary lull, because I’ve made new friends since then and the relationships with the friends I had before have only grown deeper.
I appreciate that I have been lucky and that things could have gone very differently, but things improved for me and they can improve for others. When people say “it gets better” they mean that you mustn’t fall into the trap of believing that things can’t get better (which is a symptom of depression.) I don’t mean to be an idealist, because some situations are so dire and they won’t get better, but for a lot of people, that won’t be the case and believing that it is, is not a healthy or productive mindset – I should know!
So if you are very unhappy, please don’t forget that things can get better and I hope very much that you’ll find yourself in a happier situation soon.
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