The Case for Optimism

I think optimism gets a bad rap sometimes. Optimists are said to be blind, naive, pollyannas who don’t see things as they are.

For me, optimism is hope. The two are intertwined. I don’t engage in optimism all the time. Sometimes it feels naive. Sometimes it just feels like too much damn work. Really, there’s nothing easy about optimism. To be really optimistic, you have to accept that there are things going on that suck big, and still believe that everything will be okay. That takes a lot of guts. Sometimes it’s easier to wallow in your coffee.

(At least there’s coffee!)

My point is that if it’s a process, then after the wallowing, optimism can be a woolly blanket on a cold day. The wallowing, grieving, and general lousiness are necessary in order to work through the things that suck, take a stand, take action, take charge (take something!) and keep going. Even getting up and getting through the day is optimistic. It proves that somewhere inside, you feel that there’s a point.

I read an article yesterday about one author’s experience with depression while doing her Ph.D. She said that the more she tried to just get through and deal with it herself (by not dealing with it), the more she would beat herself up when she didn’t succeed in solving it. She finally realized that getting help was more efficient and made her feel better and she should have done it ages ago.

That was really powerful! Would you try to heal a cavity by powering through? Would you trade in your glasses for positive thinking?

No. You go to the dentist. You see the eye doctor.

My daughter has been “powering through,” for a long time. She’s very hard on herself and thinks she should be able to just deal. She doesn’t want help. Help is for “freaks” (her words). But it’s getting harder and harder, and she feels more and more chaotic when her efforts aren’t rewarding her with glowing mental health. She can’t make decisions, and beats herself up for any course of action because it’s not ideal. We’ve had the conversations where I’ve suggested, as I said, that counsellors help with brains the way that coaches help with sports, dentists help with teeth, etc. She’s resisted.

I don’t know what the switch was, but now she’s agreed to try again. She will see a counsellor.

This is huge!! This has me wanting to shout from the rooftops!

Of course, I’m filled with apprehension. What if it doesn’t help? What if it gets better and then comes back again? What if? What if she doesn’t click with the person we choose, and then refuses to go to anyone ever again?

On some level, she must feel some measure of optimism that she can feel better. I know I do.


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