I noticed that today’s word prompt is Criticise which is a term I know well. To criticise someone is to indicate fault or express judgement. Mental illness unfortunately invites criticism more than most. Nobody likes to be criticised but when it happens in relation to something you can’t change then it’s even harder to deal with.
“Why can’t you just be happy?”, “Can’t you just snap out of it?”, “You should try thinking of good things instead of bad things”, “Just don’t let it beat you”, “Can’t you see what a good life you have?”, “Take up a new hobby, you’re just bored”, “You’re not ill, you’re just tired”, “Don’t be anxious, there is nothing to worry about”, “You can’t let your problems stop you doing things”.
It’s all words I’ve heard since being diagnosed with depression. As if it isn’t hard enough fighting your brain constantly to carry on, people think that making criticism or judgement will help. There is offering advice and support and there is criticising someone for the way the live with illness. I hate being told to just smile and get through it, to snap out of depression and stop letting it effect me so much. I don’t have a say in how my depression affects me, I can’t just wake up one day and say “Today I’m going to be happy and depression is in the past” and that’s what makes an invisible illness harder, having people criticise and judge you because physically you appear healthy.
Even worse is the people that criticise when they have no experience in the matter, people who have never been affected by depression will criticise the way I handle it, they will tell me I’m dealing with it in the wrong way, that I’m not trying to recover properly. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t think CBT worked for me, I went through three separate courses of the therapy and it was degrading being told I wasn’t putting enough effort into getting better, that I wasn’t trying to change my life when every day it was a struggle to get up and carry on living.
I spend most of my time at home, my anxiety limits my activities a lot. It makes me feel isolated and weird because I don’t react the same way as others to situations. I can’t just get up and go out shopping, I can’t go to concerts or to a place with groups of people. Then people come along and say “But what are you worried about? nothing bad is going to happen” and expect it to fix everything, they expect that if they tell me not to worry then all of a sudden my anxiety is going to just turn itself off. When it continues they get angry and frustrated at me because what they’ve said has had no effect and they criticise me for not trying.
CFS means my body is aching and sore all of the time, I am in a constant state of exhaustion and need roughly 14 hours of sleep to function for just three hours, then I need to sleep again. Yet sleep doesn’t refresh me, it doesn’t make me feel better, it just charges my body enough to do the bare minimum and some days I can’t even do that. “You’re just lazy” ,”You just need to sleep better”, “Go to bed earlier”, “Do more work and then you’ll wake up eventually”, “You’re only tired because you’re not doing anything or going out”. It’s amazing that, for a condition with very little research or treatment, that some people think themselves experts and think they are in a position to criticise.
Criticism can be a good thing if it’s constructive, if it’s advice or a suggestion to help. Criticism that just aims to judge and point out failure is not helpful, it’s harmful. I have to listen to it everyday in some form, sometimes from people who love me and don’t realise what they are saying is hurtful. People with a chronic illness have to deal with enough, without people adding judgement and criticism to make them feel even worse. Everyone you meet may be struggling with something and unless you know their situation and how they feel inside then you have no right to judge. It’s hard enough fighting something that I can’t see, I don’t need to be criticised and judged for the way I fight it.