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The toxic power of positivity

If you were to view illness and injury solely through the lens of the media, you would see the sick and injured as ‘brave fighters’, ultimately inspirational through our stoical refusal to complain and make other people uncomfortable with the messy details of our treatment and recovery.

Whilst it may be a useful tool for charities to raise vital funds for cancer and other medical research, the refusal to acknowledge the breadth of individual experiences in this narrative can negatively impact on the emotional state of those living with serious illness or disability. 

If we are not successful in ‘battling’ cancer or ‘fighting’ through injury to run marathons, does that mean we just did not fight hard enough?

If the only acceptable face of recovery is dignified, heroic and uplifting, what are you supposed to do when you feel angry, bitter and defeated? How can you feel comfortable articulating the true answer to ‘How are you feeling?’, when the only answer anyone wants to hear is ‘Oh, you know, battling on’. All accompanied by a brave smile, naturally.

It is not just physically but mentally demanding to channel your energies into rehabilitation and recovery. There are some days when it is too much and the only thing you can do is keep your head down and hope for a better day tomorrow. If this is not the part of the story that anyone wants to hear, it can be incredibly isolating. 

If the only narratives that you hear are those of incredible success; the amputee who now climbs mountains or the cancer patient who runs marathons, how can you not feel the futility of your own journey and shame in acknowledging that you are not a paragon of virtuous achievement?

By not recognising the true emotional and physical costs to a person from serious and life changing illness or injury, adds insult to very real injury.

Originally published as This GIrl Can’t in 2018.