The Double-Edged Sword of Toxic Positivity: My Battle with Chronic Illness

Photographer: Tyler Connolly @tcdigital_IG

Navigating the treacherous terrain of chronic illness is a daunting task, filled with an overwhelming array of emotions. But amidst the looming fear of another impending brain surgery, I found myself thrust into an unexpected battle with toxic positivity. The Double-Edged sword of toxic positivity while battling chronic illness is something that I’ve been battling for awhile. I felt pressured to be positive regardless of my circumstances.

Toxic positivity, a term that’s been gaining traction, is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. It suggests that regardless of life’s turmoil, one should maintain a positive mindset. While positivity is a vital tool for coping with adversity, there’s a dangerous tipping point when it becomes harmful rather than helpful. In my case, it became more harmful than good because I found myself not acknowledging my emotions. I was neglecting myself with my continuous brave face rather than accepting I was scared.

In my experience, toxic positivity acted as an emotional straightjacket, silencing my pain. It encouraged me to dismiss my real, palpable fears about my health condition and the upcoming surgery. “You’ll be fine!” “Stay positive!” – these phrases created an environment where my legitimate fears were seen as a departure from the desired state of constant positivity.

This excessive positivity nudged me towards denial, leading me astray from the path of acceptance and resilience. I was entangled in a counterproductive cycle of trying to maintain a cheerful facade, while the reality of my health situation progressively got worse. Below are the steps I took to break free from my battle with toxic positivity.

Steps to accepting the battle with the double-edged sword of toxic positivity

The first step towards breaking free from this toxic positivity trap was acknowledging the reality of my situation. Instead of masking my fear and anxiety with unwavering optimism, I understood the importance of experiencing my feelings in their full capacity. I needed to mourn my former state of health, confront my fears about the surgery, and accept my life was irrevocably changing. 

The second step of breaking from toxic positivity was to embrace this wide spectrum of emotions. Embracing them didn’t make me negative or pessimistic. It made me human. I realized it’s okay not to be okay sometimes. This realization became my stepping stone towards building resilience and strength to face my chronic illness and impending surgery.

The third step of breaking from toxic positivity was to ask for help. Rather it was during moments of vulnerability with my husband or therapist, I needed to seek help. I reached out to my closest friends for support and started opening up to my community of #batteredhearts. It is incredibly important to have a supportive community of people around you during these incredibly difficult times.

The final step is to remember that positivity isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to life’s challenges. A nuanced approach to emotional wellbeing, which includes space for fear, sadness, and anxiety, is equally essential. We need to normalize these feelings rather than sweep them under the carpet of toxic positivity. Only then can we truly accept and navigate the complex journey that comes with chronic illness and major medical procedures. 

Additional resources from htlabw:

Chronic Illness Baddie The Workbook:

HTLABW The Shop:

Leave a Reply