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It’s okay to be tired.

It’s okay to be anxious.

It’s even okay to be depressed.

I know, I know. That’s not what our culture tells us. We’re not supposed to feel negative things— or if we do feel them, we’re definitely not supposed to express them, right?

After all, people who express experiencing negative things MUST be looking for attention.

They MUST be looking for charity.

They MUST be trying to make excuses for not trying hard enough.

It’s really extraordinary, how much our culture tries to shame us for feeling certain things. It frequently gets to a point where we end up choosing to not express ourselves authentically, ever, because we don’t want to end up being judged by our Facebook friends as being too whiny.

What the hell is that about, anyway?

Spoiler alert: people who express feeling tired, anxious, or depressed usually aren’t looking for attention. In fact, attention is frequently the very last thing they want. It’s the comparatively rare individual who wants their psychological pain to be a topic of conversation among their friends and acquaintances.

Most people, in fact, who are tired, anxious, and depressed go to great lengths to hide what they’re going through from just about everyone. Most people will never know how much energy a sad person invests in hiding from the world.

The thing is, we’re all born with an urge to connect, to share our authentic selves with other people. People who are tired, anxious, and depressed often feel this need even more acutely than most, precisely because their conditions have caused them to isolate.

Which is what makes it so heartbreaking when they are then judged for what they’re experiencing. As if they somehow invited fatigue, anxiety, and depression in to ruin their lives.

It seems I very often read that we live in a culture of entitlement. That we feel it’s our birthright to be somehow free of pain or inconvenience, and that we get whiny when confronted with negative feelings or experiences. That social media has become a platform for people to complain about their issues, without making any real attempt to work on them.

People who think this aren’t in my line of work.

If they were, they’d know what I know: that, contrary to popular belief, people who are in psychological pain often believe they are less worthy, not more, of compassion, expression, and relief.

Don’t get me wrong: I do think social media creates some unique opportunities for people to avoid and amplify their problems instead of solving them. There is definitely a subset of social media posts I see and fervently wish the poster would take their struggles to a therapist, rather than to their Facebook audience.

However, it is overwhelmingly untrue that most people who are struggling express their pain in order to gain attention or sympathy. In fact, I rather consider it a breakthrough when many patients get to the point of actually believing they are worthy of attention or sympathy.

It’s hard enough to be in emotional pain without the added pain of the judgment of other people.

If you feel you’re being judged for your pain, I’m not in a position to say that you’re not. It very well may be the case that you are. People in general don’t respond well to expressions of negativity. It stirs up their own issues around vulnerability and feeling helpless.

(As it turns out, people don’t enjoy those issues getting stirred up.)

But know this, without a doubt: you are not a lesser person for what you’re feeling or going through.

You didn’t ask for this.

You didn’t expect this.

You’re just trying to make it through this.

I hear you.

 

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4 thoughts on “Attention seeking? Yeah. Right.

  1. Thank you for the validation. I did not ask to have my life turned upside down. All I will say is chronic pain sucks.

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  2. Thank you I’m recovering from a car wreck n you’re so right I didn’t ask for this !! But I’m trying daily to the best of my ability your kind and understanding words and insights really do help !! You are appreciated! !

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  3. I do think that some people fall into the trap of posting their problems for attention too though, they never seem to want to actually try any of the suggestions that might make then feel better, and they always have an excuse why it wouldn’t work in THEIR particular case, I mean, the advice you give on specific problems is fantastic, but it involves some effort on the part of the person with the problem too, they have to be willing to actually follow the advice instead of eternally wallowing in self pity on fb. Your advice helps many people, including me, to make problems seen much more manageable but there ARE those who expect a magic wand to be waved to fix everything without lifting a finger to help themselves, and failing that they will eternally moan about how unfair life is to them, that in itself is depressing.

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