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Bumper Stickering by Tamra Wade

Bumper Stickering
By Tamra Wade

Don’t worry, be happy. Choose to be happy. Mind over matter. You can do it. Love yourself. Don’t give up. Tomorrow is another day. It can only get better from here. At least it’s not that bad. It will all work out in the end. It’s for the best. We’ve all been through it.

All of these mottos and bumper sticker sayings are meant to inspire and empower you. They seem harmless. I see that they help some sometimes and in some situation. I am not trying to trash them. They have their place in our arsenal of tools. Maybe they offer a needed lift on a singular bad day or minor infractions.

What if you are living with a bout of chronic depression? What if you deal with daily anxiety? What if you are actively in a grief or shame storm?

There is a less talked about dark side to these little sayings and beliefs. They also can imply that it’s your fault if you aren’t happy, motivated and confident. They are designed to make you think that you can will your sadness, anxiety, or other darker emotions away.

Anyone who suffers from clinical depression, anxiety, or grief knows that these sayings are not helpful and in many cases they are dangerous. I might be speaking for myself here,  I don’t think anyone wants to hear these things when they are in a dark place. Some things cannot be bumper stickered away. Some things will hurt for a lifetime. Something need to actually be sorted out and not willed away.

I have stopped saying these things to myself and to people who are actively suffering.

Have you ever witnessed someone offer one of these sayings to a person actively grieving or suffering? Recently, I witnessed someone say to a grieving person that his loved one was called home by God, that her death was meant to be and that it must have been her time.

Are you kidding me?

Please stop saying these things to people who are in pain.

If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Sit quietly. Keep your beliefs and sayings to yourself. This is not a time to make it easier for yourself by regurgitating these things. Even if you have experienced something similar, you can’t fully grasp what the other person is going through in that moment.

I suffer with chronic depression. I take medication. I seek therapy with my therapist once a month or every other week during flare ups. Early in my recovery, I had bought where I disappeared from friends, isolated from loved ones and thought I might be fired from my job due to being so disconnected. I felt hopelessness and despair. 

Can you imagine? If you have never had this experience, it would be very hard to imagine. Most who have not lived with chronic depression, anxiety or grief try to push it away from their loved ones. They try to quick fix it. I get it. It’s a different type of suffering to witness helplessly as someone you love suffers. It, in itself, is suffering. I have been on this side of the scenario too. It’s painful to witness someone you love suffering feeling like you are powerless. The reality is you are not powerless.

It’s important to remember that we can’t push our loved ones pain away. We especially can’t do this so that we don’t suffer. Relieving suffering doesn’t work that way.

We have to show up for our friends and loved ones. I mean really show up. We have to show up and get messy with them. We have to hunker down and take the ride with them. Brene Brown calls this leaning in to the discomfort. We have to lean in and allow ourselves to be awkward, bumbling and vulnerable.

Something to consider seriously. If you are showing up and sharing suffering with a loved one, consider talking with a licensed therapist to help you navigate your feelings. Find a match that can help you unpack the way you are feeling as you aid your loved one recover and become stronger. It helps to have an outsider party help you evaluate your feelings.

I have witnessed my loved ones try to assist me and miss. I have tried to assist others and I too have missed, stumbled and fell short. I have also seen that sticking to it and showing up anyway does helps. The goal is not to repair. The goal is to provide a safe space for loved ones to feel received and heard.

Offer your feelings by saying something like, “You are important to me. I don’t know how you are feeling, but I am not going to let you go through this alone.”

Show up anyway. Lean in to the discomfort of not knowing what to say. Stop using bumper sticker sayings.

Just keep showing up.

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