Dealing With Well-Meaning Friends Pt I

I’m giving a disclaimer up front – I have no idea where this is going. I had something else planned for the week and then a theme developed this morning that spoke to me, so this is what I’m going with. The final motivator for this theme came from watching a show on Netflix while I exercised this morning (I need to be distracted from the fact I am exercising or I can’t do it), and a wife told her husband “You need to stop living in the past. You need to live in the present.”
“That’s helpful,” I thought. I bet he hadn’t thought about how much happier he would be if he could just forget about the traumatic event that occurred. It seemed to me that it was about as useful as telling someone with depression to “be happy”, or in the words of a popular YouTube personality (whose name I have already forgotten), “Tell Depression to jog on.” What’s that, you have anxiety? Simple, just don’t worry about stuff…
It’s not a new problem, the cartoon is Lucy from Peanuts in her debut as a psychiatrist, doing her best to help the ever-suffering Charlie Brown. The cartoon is from March 1959 but could so easily be a response to a social media post from this morning. For all the advancements, added names for disorders to diagnose, self-help manuals, DSM editions, training, degrees, research etc, we all have well-meaning friends (WMFs) with the same mindset as a 7-year old cartoon character from the 1950s. Shocking. But true. So what do you do? You know they are right. If you didn’t worry, you wouldn’t be anxious. If we get over depression we can be happier. If we can forget the past (and it’s always the bad things, never the good things that hold onto our souls), then we can live in the present.
But somehow the advice from your WMF leaves you feeling more broken, alone and weird. The idea that everyone else is able to do these things, and we’re the only ones who can’t is able to take hold. Then it is the feeling of being alone. The thought that no one can understand this because I’m the only one who has ever felt this. Everyone else can “be happy” or “stop worrying”, why can’t I? The answer is simple – Everyone else can’t.
Here are the three takeaways for today:
1 – Whatever you are struggling with, you are not alone. We’re all dealing with something and anyone who claims otherwise is either lacking in self-awareness or lying.
2 – Remember that your WMF is exactly that, well-meaning. They are truly trying to help.
3 – If you are a WMF, you cannot fix people. You can support them, be there for them, and be their friend.
In the next article we will talk to the WMF and give some ideas on how they can truly help.
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