Mental Health Reviews

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. 

Jenny in Neverland

Twenty-something lifestyle blogger from Essex. Book lover, Slytherin, organisational wizard and enjoys Motorsport, Disney and Yoga.

87 Comments

  1. […] still have a long way to go but I’ve learnt to accept that this anxiety may always be a part of my life so I need to be constantly evolving in order to keep it at bay as much as physically possible. […]

  2. Your last sentence there is gold! Interestingly, I live with chronic pain in my legs and have been told the same thing – I have gotten it under control but it will likely always be waiting in the wings, waiting to flare up when I am tired or sick or overly stressed. But because it is physical pain, people are unlikely to tell me “It won’t last forever”! Just goes to show the disparity we have between how people respond to physical and mental health issues. Hope you are doing well 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment (: and you’re so right… people definitely need to start treating mental illness as an ACTUAL illness cos that’s you know… what it is haha xxx

  3. Thank you for sharing yourself and your perspective, and yes the positives are always there, though sometimes not noticed amid the noise. Take care…

  4. 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

    1. I’ve definitely been aware of people saying that without that intention xx

  5. 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

    1. For sure. Everyone’s different but the outsides who don’t differ should think about what they’re saying to people before they say it (:

  6. I guess people say it to make you feel better, but you’re right, it’s not helpful. I think even those considered “cured” might regress at some point, depends on what life throws at you!

    Hannah @ The Northern Writes | http://www.thenorthernwrites.co.uk

    1. Absolutely – I don’t believe anyone is ever really 100% cured. They just manage it – some better than others xx

  7. 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!

    1. It certainly is a poor attempt, I agree! I wish people would just not say anything and I’m sorry to hear that you have to hear that!

  8. I love how honest your posts are!! xx

    Jamie |www.jamies-corner.com

    1. Thank you x

  9. 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

    1. 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

  10. i loved this post i found it so interesting to read! i can totally see were your coming from because for some people it may feel like that forever 🙁

  11. Emma Langlands says:

    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

    1. 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 💚

  12. 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

  13. 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

    1. Thanks Kate. There definitely needs to be more talk about what to say to people which won’t harm them even more! It’s such a frustrating phrase isn’t it xxx

  14. 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. <3

    1. 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

  15. 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!

    1. That’s made me so angry! I can’t believe some people are so naive and uneducated

  16. 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.

    1. Yes exactly, you wouldn’t say that to someone because you just don’t know do you

  17. 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!

    1. Thank you! I totally know how you feel. I’m fine with knowing my anxiety will last forever because I know how far I’ve come with it so far and I know my own strength. But if someone says something along those lines to me, it’s just annoying more than anything!

      1. Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel!

  18. 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!

    1. Exactly it can make you feel worse sometimes

  19. this was a very insightful and honest post! I deffo believe we need to take more time to actually listen to peoples problems instead of brushing them off or tell them to ‘cheer up’, but I guess it’s one of those things some people will never understand xx

    G

    http://www.teawithgi.com

    1. Absolutely – it’s the most frustrating thing!

  20. abbeylouisarose says:

    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

    1. Oh absolutely! I know a lot of people just feel like they NEED to say something which sometimes (not always) doesn’t work out xxx

  21. 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

    1. I love that mindset! I often think things like “this too shall pass”, I know it sounds like something from Lord of the Rings hahaha but it’s true and it helps xxx

      1. I know what you mean. I say that to myself too xxxxxxxx

  22. Awesome entry Jenny… One on one therapy I found has helped me considerably. I am so much calmer than I used to be. Hell, the difference between three years to the present is like night & day.
    Keep it up!!!!

    1. Wow that sounds ridiculously similar to me as well. I wouldn’t recognise myself 3 years ago.

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