I have always been a billboard for positive thinking. But not anymore.
I know how I got here, how I became this positive-thinking evangelical. I got here by combating anxiety with positive affirmations, moving toward success through imagining it, beginning with the end in mind. I can concentrate my way from panic that our house is going to burn down because I left my curling iron on to accepting that I am smart and organized and would never have done that. I can ponder my way from being overwhelmed to feeling like I can benchpress an elephant while grading 100 composition papers. I have been cultivating positive thinking for years.
Jen Sincero talks positive thinking in her You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life: "... our words become our beliefs, our beliefs become our actions, our actions become our habits, and our habits become our realities." Sincero is saying that if we think and speak positively, we can improve our lives. Y'all. Have you read my blog? I preach this stuff.
But somehow, this positive thinking has turned into something not positive at all. For me, it has become false, dishonest, almost a lie.
A few weeks ago, my blood tests came back wonky. I'd been feeling like crap, but I just kept trucking through. I didn't take any time off work, and I kept hopping in the pool to swim. I made only a few concessions; I only ran 6 miles instead of a half marathon. Those blood tests weren't lying. I was.
My positive thoughts had become my narrative, not my reality. If our world/news/politics are post-truth, so was I.
And my therapist caught me. I kept saying, "But it's okay." And then turning the conversation back to something I could talk about without crying. For example, my composition class is studying happiness this term. That's what we're doing, reading about happiness. I'm helping them examine their lives so they can be happier. And he would say, "Good, but that's not what we're talking about. You don't have make me feel like everything is okay." And once he pointed it out, I caught myself supplementing any bad information with good, consoling everyone I talked to, making sure to be the positive person in the room. I was being dishonest in almost every interaction.
For example, when my aunt and I were catching up after her trip to France (jealous!), she asked about my RA. I told her the whole deal: methotrexate, sick once a week, etc. But I spent the rest of the time making her feel better about me feeling like crap--This is the gold standard treatment. I'm so thankful for my job. It's really not that bad. It's getting better every week.
Every time I tell someone about my RA I do this, and I'm trying to stop. I tried with my dad the other night. I said, “I don’t have any good news.” I didn’t try to make him feel better; I let him be there for me. And a round of tears later, it was nice to actually be consoled.