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Positive Thinking: Can It Cure Your Illness?

Written By: Katy Parker

Published By: RallyUp Mental Health Magazine

I recently received a recommendation for a book on how the power inside us can heal any disease. It went on to explain how our positive thinking could affect the outcome of any illness we may be suffering from. And that's when I started to wonder. I'm a positive person, however, the words on the cover of the book made me wonder if the long-term pain I have been experiencing means I have not been sufficiently positive in my thinking.

Over a year ago, I had a terrible accident when a van hit me as I was crossing a road and I ended up in hospital with three fractured vertebrae. A setback in my recovery ten months after the initial accident resulted in me having to spend another night in the hospital and I am now awaiting another MRI scan on my back that hopefully will bring more clarity on what is causing my ongoing pain.

I have always been quite a positive person, hence my nickname ‘Smiley’. However, not even my smile could protect me from some of the trauma I have been through during my life. Neither did my positive thinking, despite my attempts to always look on life positively.

After my accident, I tried not to pity myself but decided to try and make the most of my life as it was. I admit the journey wasn't easy. However, my positivity and faith have helped me to get through it and they not only survived but have actually grown.

However, despite this, my positive thinking hasn't cured my illness. I believe that if it could then I would be running a marathon now whereas I'm still in recovery. Whilst positive thinking didn't cure my pain it has helped me overcome some of my difficulties. It has helped me find hope and focus on the things that I am capable of rather than focusing on the struggles and obstacles on my journey.

Despite seeing positivity as crucial to my healing, I am not a big fan of the phrase 'stay positive'. Having been diagnosed with PTSD after my accident, I often asked myself what does this actually mean? Do people really think that I am not trying to remain positive? Do they think that I would choose negativity over positivity? As I mentioned, my nickname is 'Smiley'. And I believe I'm not the only one looking for sunshine when all that they can see are clouds; many people with mental or chronic illnesses are trying hard to do likewise. So, when I have days where it feels like what I'm going through is too much, when I grieve for my past life, I often blame myself for perhaps not being positive enough, not loving myself enough. Because if I did, I wouldn't have the pain. After all, that's what the book said.

Or has positivity culture got it wrong? Whilst it is supposed to be encouraging and uplifting, a positive culture isn't always helpful for those who live with their illness. Those who despite their pain, sorrow and trials, still show up. Those who despite it all, didn't give up. Those who you may think are weak because they didn't manage to hold back their tears today because it was all just too much. Perhaps for them it isn't only about positivity.

Positivity culture makes our society think that we are weak when we show frustration, grief or doubt. And so, we learn to hide our real feelings, to wear a smile like a mask. And this surely cannot be healthy. It cannot cure our illnesses. It only adds to the blame, shame and stigma we experience. So, what could actually help us to become healthier and stronger? Could the understanding of others help? Could it be having others around us who won't judge us when we open up about our feelings? People who won't tell us to 'stay positive' when all we need is honesty between ourselves and them? A world that would appreciate honesty rather than a society that tries to restrict feelings to what is deemed to be acceptable?

Now, don't take me wrong, I am not defending negativity. Being 'Smiley' it is almost expected from me, that I will show my smiley face even when life gets tough. But whilst I'm an advocate of positivity, I'm also learning to be honest with myself. I'm learning that it's ok to not to be ok. That I don't need to pretend to be strong when I'm tired. That expressing a wide range of feelings won't make me a negative person or a burden. It makes me human, a strong person who is not afraid to be herself and one who craves to be healthy again.

Katy Parker is a wellbeing writer, blogger and mental health advocate who lives in England (UK). She has worked hard to overcome her trauma, and she writes about her experiences to help others in similar situations. She is the founder of the PTSD: My Story Project, a safe place for trauma survivors to share their stories in order to raise awareness of PTSD and inspire others. She continues to share her journey on her Journeyofsmiley Blog.


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