Why is it that when people hear about troubles others are having they’re determined to make it worse? Okay, okay, maybe they don’t actually do it on purpose but surely anyone with a modicum of common sense wouldn’t do what the majority of people do. Am I losing you here? Let me explain.
Okay, a while ago I was visiting someone who’d just been in hospital. She’s an elderly woman and had been in to get a pacemaker. As she’d come close to dying and been rushed into hospital she had developed some minor problems – having small panic attacks and the like. Now while we were visiting some other people came over with some flowers to cheer her up. When the woman mentioned the panic attacks she’d been having, these people started talking about heart attacks and brain tumors they’d heard of with similar symptoms, terrifying her. They didn’t even think about what they were saying and just kept flapping their lips and scaring this poor woman. Have you ever heard of anything so inconsiderate?
It happens all over the world as well, in almost any situation. You book a flight and people start telling you about plane crashes, change medication and people start listing harmful side effects they’ve experienced or heard of or seen in a movie, eat a hot dog and someone is bound to list the things on the factory floor (insects, human faecal matter, the cast of Neighbours) that every worker is obviously instructed to pick up and put into the mix. Why? What is the point? Are these people so eager to make a contribution to a conversation that they’re willing to destroy someone’s sense of well being in order to do it? Are they so stupid that they actually think horror stories are the thing to tell someone who’s already worried about something?
So is there a point to all this? Yeah, I like to think there’s a point.
As many of you know I’ve had quite a bit of psychiatric training and have been exposed to people with various mental health problems and personality disorders for a lot of my life. The thing that really gets to me about this subject is how these people would react if they were confronted with such horror stories. When a person has these sort of problems they go on medication in order to help them deal with their problems and lead a normal life. Sometimes it can take years to find the correct combination of medications and doses in order to help the individual involved. In most cases it’s best if someone the person trusts knows the possible side effects and monitors the person themselves without them knowing any of them. It lets the patient get a feel for the new medication without their mind being given a list of the side effects to physically manifest on the body. As many forms of mental illness or personality disorder will do just that if given a list of side effects I find it to be the safer route to follow until the person is used to the new medication.
Now if each time they change their medication some idiot decides to give them a horror story about worst case scenarios that can possibly happen to them, that ruins that and just gives the mind more ammunition to use against the person. Side effects that may not even be caused by that medication may manifest physically simply because the person is fearful enough of them.
Think about how you feel when you’re afraid of something. Do you want someone telling you how much worse it could get? Does it matter that it’s a million to one shot that it could get that bad when you’re too scared to figure out those odds?
We already live in a society of fear. If you listen to the news you’d think you can’t get out your front door without being attacked by a gang of heroin addicted, AIDS infected rottweilers who’ll video your suffering and put it on Youtube. So you don’t leave the house. But you can’t eat while indoors because everything in the world causes Cancer or heart disease or is fatal in some other way. Oh, but don’t worry about any of this fearmongering that is forced in our faces twenty-four hours a day, every day of our lives, because worrying is bad for you. Do you really want to contribute to the fear?
This is my suggestion to the entire world – Think before you speak. Simple isn’t it? If you think about the story you’re about to tell and you realise that it may scare people unnecessarily, then just don’t tell it. There’s no reason to, and many reasons not to. If someone you know is fearful of something and you actually care about them then try setting their mind at ease. Now I’m not talking about going all Disney, and talking to them like they’re kids, but there is a happy medium. Let them know that you believe they’ve got nothing to be afraid of. Let them know it’s perfectly natural to feel that way and you’ll support them through it and be there when they’re over it. But, for the sake of the person you’re talking to, don’t try to make them more afraid and remember to think before you say anything that may make them that way. After all, you wouldn’t like it if it happened to you.