When I'm Told Someone "Chooses Not to Be Negative"
Around the internet, when looking at various articles and memes about chronic illnesses like multiple sclerosis, you’ll often come across a number of items that, essentially, are lists of things not to say to people that suffer from these conditions. Increasingly, we’re starting to finally see some backlash towards what I consider “positivity trolls”. This is a topic that I feel gets discussed with some regularity around these parts. However, I do feel like there are few blatant attempts to curtail and discuss this behavior. This is a bit of a rant from me, but please hear me out, because I know there are many that feel just as I do.
I wasn’t even going to touch this topic again, at least not for a while, until I ran into some folks while moderating that have essentially forced me to bring it up. There are a lot of people out there who love to cruise websites like this, perhaps they even have the disease, and they love to express their thoughts on being positive. One of their favorite things to tell others that are struggling is that they “choose not to be negative” or various versions of that: they need to explain that they don’t have the same problems as you because they are positive and it’s their mind over the disease.
It's all about a "choice"
Their mindset has cured their disease! Even if it hasn’t cured it, it’s allowed them to have a much better life than you. If you were more like them, you’d feel SO much better. You can be like them, if only you’d “choose” to be. Clearly, your disease is in your head and you are too stupid to realize it. If only you were more positive, like them. People who say this are everywhere, and I bet if you come to this article and read the comments after it’s been out for a while, then you’ll see plenty of them.
What they don’t realize
Let’s be honest, these people claim to offer up all this wisdom to help others, but it’s really about them. They’re doing well and they need to tell you and everyone that comes across them that they’ve beaten their illness! Yep, they did it, by changing their attitude! It was all them! In fact, they feel even better because they’ve told you. It could never be, in their mind, that their course of this disease, that is wildly different from person to person, is simply not as severe as others.
Mind over matter?
Nah, it couldn’t be that, it has to be the power of their positive thinking. Your problem is that you think too negatively. Don’t you know that being negative will make your health worse? It’s not your immune system eating away at the myelin around your nerves, it’s your negativity! You and your doctors are wrong! You don’t need a disease-modifying medication, you just need to smile more!
I’m sure some of these positivity trolls will see this and point out that I’m just being negative. That’s fine, I know they are going to believe what they believe (things like science don’t often matter to them). Hey, I agree that trying to have a positive attitude can be nice, but trying to force it and ignore aspects of your life won’t be helpful in the long run. This disease can wreak havoc on people’s lives. They can be forced from their jobs, struggle with relationships, and experience tremendous pain.
Relying on attitude alone
I’ve encountered some of the most positive people I know who still succumb to those issues because of their disease. Their illness is not in their head. At the same time, the fact that you are healthier than they are has absolutely nothing to do with your attitude. Sorry, but that’s not how this illness works. Are there people who dwell on their problems too much? Of course, but by and large, that isn’t a problem in the MS community.
It takes courage to talk openly about the hardships
People have legitimate problems that they are courageous to discuss, if you are someone who likes to come along and feels compelled to tell them that you are in great shape because of your attitude, then you are a troll, plain and simple. I’d say you are also very much in denial about how this disease works. If you actually want to help someone, just listen to them, be there for them, encourage them without telling them what to do. This is an unpredictable disease and you may be in their shoes at some point.
Do you celebrate your MS Anniversary?