Stop telling people “it won’t last forever”

When I started private counselling for my anxiety, I was in the midst of one of the worst periods my mental health has ever seen. I barely left the house. My thoughts were so irrational. The thought of going anywhere left me in a state of dread and that first therapy appointment? My gosh, I thought I was going to die. But starting private therapy was invaluable for me; my counsellor and I got along really well, I trusted her and felt I could fully open up to her. She really did help me in so many ways and I often wonder where I would be today had I not gone to see her in that time when I was so desperate for anything to help numb these unbearable feelings of constant dread, anxiety and fear over everything and nothing all at once. 

But there’s one thing that she said to me which has stayed with me massively. She said that despite all this work I was doing, I may always have to deal with having a level of anxiety for the rest of my life. And that’s true – I might. We’re under the impression that therapy or counselling or medication will magically cure us over the course of a few months then all of a sudden we will wake up and all our fears and anxieties will be gone. Like they were never here. Poof. Wrong. 

Since being on Twitter and talking about my mental health more, I’ve met an awful lot more people in this online mental health community that suffer from an array of different conditions. And whilst I absolutely adore this community and the people on Twitter can be so utterly supportive, there’s a phrase I see thrown about a lot.

“You won’t feel like this forever”

I’ve probably said it to people myself – I’m no saint – but I was thinking about that phrase the other day and wondering whether we should be saying something so concrete and certain to vulnerable people who are all battling mental health conditions and wishing, hoping and praying for them to go away. My counsellor told me I may have a level of anxiety forever. And she’s a licensed professional. 

So why are we telling people otherwise? 

Why are we, un-qualified strangers on the internet, telling people their conditions won’t last forever when there’s absolutely no way of knowing that. 

Why are we giving people false hope? 

And false hope is one of the most damaging thing for someone with a mental health condition. The hope that a certain medication will be the one that makes us “normal” again. The hope that starting counselling or therapy will be a huge help and make us feel 10 times better. The hope that one day, we won’t fell any type of depression or sadness or anxiety or panic or mania ever again. And that’s just not the case. 

It’s true, there are people – lucky people – who have been “cured” of their mental health condition and don’t experience any of the feelings they did before. But there’s an awful lot of other people who aren’t. There’s a lot of people who just have to “manage” their mental illness, find coping strategies and mechanisms and support networks. So why would we tell them “it won’t last forver” when that is in fact what it might do? 

I know the majority of people mean no harm or insult by telling someone that; we’re just trying to offer some sort of vague support to someone we kind-of know online who is going through a rough patch. But maybe we should think a bit more carefully about what we’re telling people with mental health conditions. Just be a bit more careful about any sort of false hope we’re giving them which could be even more damaging later on, should they cling to it. Maybe instead of, “it won’t last forever” we could say, “I’m here to support you if it happens again”.

Just some food for thought. I’d love to know your opinions on this. 

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84 thoughts on “Stop telling people “it won’t last forever”

  1. Some situations last a lifetime but you deal with it through various techniques and even medication to take the edge off. People should have freedom to adapt and to decide what they want to do in their own way.

  2. Hi Jenny I so agree with you. I have bipolar and anxiety and the anxiety very much affects my life. This post resonates as after 2 years waiting for NHS therapy and getting nowhere, I am starting yet another course of therapy. Ive had a lot of therapy over the years. Anxiety is my main issue and it flares up triggered by certain situations. I think that we all have to manage our mental health in different ways and everyones individual. Love this post.

    • For sure, certain therapy works for some people and for others it doesn’t too and that’s fine. Think with anxiety the key is to find the mechanisms to practice in all the situations that make you anxious but continuing to go to therapy (if you have the means to do so) can be SO beneficial.

  3. I love this post! I’ve been thinking about therapy for a long time now for my anxiety but my biggest worry is that it will do nothing, and I will just be told things I already know, do you think it’s worth giving a try?

  4. This is such a thought provoking post – personally I really don’t know enough about Mental health to ever justify saying anything about it, other than offer to be someone to speak to! Hopefully more people can realise something they say can have a huge impact even when they have no idea what they are talking about!

    Sarah | http://www.sazsinclair.com xx

  5. Hi Jenny,

    I like your honesty. It is hard to say anything, because I should be in your skin first, to make some conclusions . But I will tell you what I think.Definitely our head is really big mystery for all .I know that “mentally healthy people”, fight everyday to be healthy, to be positive. We all have our demons.And I am sure that fight will never stop !

  6. Pingback: Stop telling people “it won’t last forever” | Campbells World

  7. Totally agree! I think your right, people say it to lend some sort of support, and this is what they say because they don’t know what to say. I’ve been dealing with my baggage long enough to know that it is going to be around forever. It’s not going anywhere. I just have to learn how to deal with it. That is why I go to therapy. Not to get fixed, but for help in coping. I try to be honest with every new person who comes into the community. It is going to be a long and bumpy ride. There is NO CURE, so get comfy.

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    • Absolutely! If you’re aware of your own condition and understand that it may last forever but needs to be managed then that’s great. It just doesn’t help when people pipe up with “don’t worry it’ll pass!” When you know it won’t.

  9. As much as I would love to believe that my mental health problems will just go away one day, I know that’s not true. I’ve been battling with depression/anxiety for almost 20 years now and an eating disorder for 15. When I first went to therapy, back in high school, I believed that I could get help and make it better and that the rest of my life would be easier. That I would be more “normal.” Obviously, I realized later on that this will never be the case for me. I’ve had relapses and periods where I’ve majorly struggled. It’s something that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. I have no choice. Even before my ED relapse this year, I’ve never said that I was “recovered” from an eating disorder, because I know that’t not true. It’s always there, that little negative voice in the back of my head telling me that I need to be perfect, that I need to eat less, that I’m worthless, etc. I will always be in a state of recovery because no medication will ever just make it all disappear.

  10. I guess the only time I would say ‘it won’t last forever’ to someone is if I thought they were about to end things and wanted me to give them a reason to go on. To tell them that that feeling might stop and they could just hold on a bit longer. But honestly I’ve never been in that position and without some sort of mental health first aid training in always wary of saying such concrete things. I think it’s probably better, most of the time, to listen and support, rather than to have an opinion and give advice. That’s why I like counselling so much as opposed to traditional therapy.

  11. It’s so true! Events in life make us who we are. It’s how we handle them that define what type of person we CHOOSE to be. I love to talk about how we really don’t control events or emotions but we do have the opportunity to choose how we handle it!

  12. I’m honestly surprised that anyone would tell someone it won’t last forever. How on earth can they know this? They can’t, of course. I get that they might not know what to say and want to try and offer some kind of support but this surely is not the way. You wouldn’t say that to another person with a serious physical health issue so why is it deemed ok to say it to a mental health sufferer? Great post, Jenny, hopefully it will open up more debate. X

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

  13. I definitely agree and think it’s difficult to know, and suggesting people can be totally okay one day may not to be the right thing to say as you just don’t know. This was a great post and a very interesting read xx

  14. Agree 100%. Once in a while, someone will say that or something similar and their heart is usually in the right place but they don’t understand that for some of us, we live with this every day and we don’t WANT to but we’re trying to find a way to control and navigate around the mire. I’ve come to accept that I will always struggle with my illness but as long as I’m doing the work then over time I can continue to learn how to manage it. I envoy those who can seem/be “fully cured” but, honestly, I’m skeptical of that being factual. I can only speak from my own experience, so I won’t judge but I do wonder.

  15. Oh Jenny my lovely. From someone that suffers with anxiety also.. it’s hell and when it’s bad it’s bad isn’t it. I too had counselling and it helped but it will never leave. It’s always here and you’ll always be aware of it. I totally understand why people say you won’t feel like this forever because that’s what we want to hear isn’t it. We know deep down it’s a life long battle unless something drastically can change it haha. I always like to say when someone is having a phase “your track record for getting through these times is 100%” it helps me anyway. Xxxxxxxxxxxx

  16. Hmmm this is a really interesting post, Jenny! What I really like about it is that you haven’t just told people what not to say, but at the end you’ve told people what they can say that will be of more help and comfort to those suffering with their mental health. It can be hard for those trying to support someone with a mental health condition to know what to say and what not to say, so it’s really valuable to have conversations like these to help sufferers and supporters alike!

    Abbey 🍂 http://www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

  17. I love how honest this post is! I’ve suffered with my mental health for a long time now, and I have always found it so frustrating when people say this to me! I know their intentions are to help, but I really doesn’t!

  18. This was a post which really got me thinking. Like you, it’s something I’ve probably said to someone in passing, but now you’ve mentioned it, there are definitely better things people can say. It’s kind of like the phrase “it gets better”; it’s so overused now it means nothing, and it’s probably not going to help when someone feels at their lowest point. I was recently told my mental health will never disappear completely, so being told “it won’t last forever” feels like a massive kick in the teeth, even though it comes from a great place. I love what you said about false hope, too–that can be SO dangerous to people with mental health problems. Great post!

  19. You have no idea how long I could go on about mental health. I struggle with depression from time to time and some social anxiety. I’ve been in therapy and it’s helped a lot. I’m lucky to have coping strategies and a good support system. Lots of people don’t. You’re right to ask whether this is a valid question. It’s totally innocent on the surface but it could be potentially damaging. It would be like saying to me, Hey you’ll never be sad about anything again, or this is temporary. That may be true, but it’s not what I want or need to hear in the moment. Ok so I’m rambling again, good post, hope it generates a lot of discussion.

  20. Can you believe that when I opened up about my anxiety at work a women turned around and said TO ME anxiety is not real! And that it is an excuse! Well that’s the last time I’m talking about it to anyone like that. God hope her children never suffer with anxiety, they’d get no support!

  21. Ooh, interesting! See, it did get better for me. Not fixed, but better, because I learnt coping strategies in therapy. I wouldn’t just say it off-handed though, I’d make sure the person I was talking to was comfortable and could listen to the reasoning behind it getting better for me. It took hard work!
    Imogen’s Typewriter. ❤

    • Yes it’s got better for me too but I know I’m not “cured”. I never will be. So I don’t like it when people give me the false hope and the half arsed “oh it won’t last forever”. Because it’s insensitive xx

  22. Oh god, I HATE the ‘you won’t feel like this forever’, I know it’s ‘negative’ but when people say that to me about my mental health, all I think is, ‘no I won’t, but I know that it’s never going to go away forever’. I’m proud of you for making it to therapy, and for talking about your experiences.

    I hope that as talk of Mental Health becomes less and less stigmatised, and more blogs etc crop up about what to say, I’d hope that people become a bit more sensitive.

    Keep going with your battle, I believe in you!

    Kate x
    http://www.findingkate.co

  23. My therapist said the same thing to me, but what I loved was that he said “you’ll probably have anxiety forever, but now you have the tools to know how to handle it”. And so no, the feelings won’t necessarily go away, but I am at least equipped to deal with them. And that’s really powerful. But when it comes to talking to people online, when you don’t really know their situations, I think the best thing you can do is listen, be supportive but not give advice that should be given by a medical professional. Everyone’s battle is different, but I’m so happy that we are all at least talking about those individual battles far more openly than we used to.
    Anna xx
    http://www.glass-shoes.com

  24. This is the most real thing I have read about anxiety, everything is so true. You’re right, saying it won’t last forever is just annoying. Noone knows the future and like you said it builds false hope. I have recently overcome so many hurdles, and a lot of people say you’re cured but like I don’t think the thought will really go away.
    But I believe that you can do it, just keep going! xox

    • It’s nobody else’s place to say you’re cured or how your illness affects you. Only you and your GP / qualified therapist can know that. But above all, you know yourself better than anyone 💚

  25. This is something that personally really infuriates me. I know that they probably mean that my emotions do tend to go through highs and lows and that I will come through a low, but the insinuation that ‘one day it will be cured’ really bothers me. I’m also sick of being treated as something that needs to be fixed. I have illnesses, yes, but I am not broken. I’m rambling a bit but I totally agree with you on this!
    Beth x Adventure & Anxiety

    • Exactly! I totally agree. I feel the same. Like my anxiety severely affects me sometimes and areas of my life but I don’t need to be cured because I know I never will be. This is me, take it or leave it xxx

  26. I’m glad you said this! I have one friend who ALWAYS says to me “it won’t last forever” whenever I have a breakdown/rant/whatever. And you know what, it infuriates me. Because a) the fact that it’s lasted TEN YEARS is freaking bad enough. The fact that it’s happening now, even, is bad enough. And the truth of the matter is, I know I will probably always struggle with mental illness. So I just feel like saying “it won’t last forever” is a misguided, poor attempt to make me feel better which never, ever does. I try not to say anything to anyone who says this to me as I do know that they mean well. I just think they could do with saying something a little more truthful, a little less false hopey!

  27. I 100% agree with this. Sure some people may recover entirely and never deal with any aspect of their mental illness again, but the majority of people will simply learn to cope with it which is still a huge improvement and something to look forward to

  28. I think when people say “it wont last forever” they are referring to that particular bought and when someone is in a really frustrating/ devastating period it is good to remind someone that it will improve/ there is an alternative future for them out there?

    I’m not sure about the idea of being ‘cured’ though, I don’t think anyone will go on to live their entire lives without encountering some form of their mental illness again and you are right, this isn’t made clear for some reason. Maybe we should talk more about the positive sides/ healthy levels of ‘negative’ emotions more, for instance without anxiety we would just be walking into traffic willy nilly and without depression we would fail to create identity/ deal with loss.

    Goo food for thought.

    Jen xx

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