We tend to hit “Like” automatically without giving it much of a thought. Exactly how often do we share that meme without considering the potential harm we are helping to spread across the world in less than a second?
Whenever I had a meltdown – as a recalcitrant toddler, over-dramatic child, right up to hormonal teenager – my mother’s advice was always the same. ‘Wash your face,’ she would say. ‘And pull yourself together.’
Years later, via a sudden bereavement and possibly some dodgy marijuana, I ended up in a hospital (twice) with psychosis. I can remember believing, amongst other things, that I was being filmed for a reality TV show. Even once I was feeling better, Elizabeth Taylor’s advice: ‘pour yourself a drink, put some lipstick on, and pull yourself together,’ still wasn’t… well, resonating? Sorry, Liz. I need a new meme.
A quick web image search and voilà! A million other catchy phrases to live your life by. It is often layered onto a photograph of beautiful women, staring into the middle distance, across a cornfield.
As you do.
What about these, for starters? ‘It is what it is. Accept it and move on.’ ‘Care less, and you’ll stress less.’ Oh. Hang on a minute. Don’t both of those essentially mean (gasp!) pull yourself together?
Mental Health is becoming something we can talk about, and it’s just as well: 43% of adults in the UK reported experiencing a mental health problem in 2016 – it’s clear P.Y.T. isn’t cutting it anymore. For even the most held-together person, an explosion in your mental health can mean you’re left picking up the pieces for years.
In our house, if I’m having a bad day or my partner is, ‘pull yourself together’ is both a joke and a shorthand. A joke regarding the quality of its advice, and a shorthand for: ‘ I’m unsupportive. I’m so sorry.’ But whenever either of us finds a P.Y.T. meme on a friend’s wall, we call it. For us, it’s like the game of spotting a yellow car on the road. And before you ask, yeah, we don’t get out much.
I know it’s none of my business what other people choose to post, but I do wonder who is helped by ‘the less you care, the happier you’ll be,’ or ‘worrying won’t stop bad things from happening,’ teamed with a picture of an iStock sunset or Batman slapping Robin. Maybe the 57% of people who haven’t experienced mental health problems? Indeed not accredited snowflakes like me.
It feels harsh on people who can’t choose how much they care or worry, any more than they can decide whether or not to catch a cold — my brain hates me. I can worry about anything: make myself ill with it.
The idea that I can just ‘decide’ to stop overanalyzing is as wonderful (and unattainable) as getting to grow the extra arm women should all have by now. I’m still waiting for evolution to catch up!
My friends will tell you – give them wine – that it is difficult being friends with an ‘Eeyore,’ and perhaps this type of share can feel like great advice for that overthinker you know. But would it be kinder to message her instead, suggest something to help with her self-care? Can you babysit her kids so she can rest, or go out with her partner? Or maybe you’ve been worried about your pal for a while. Should you gently ask her whether she feels a doctor appointment might help?
If you are thinking of sending them a meme (still? really?) please, just have a quick check. There are some great ones out there, surely. But, at root, is that grumpy cat saying ‘pull yourself together’? Is it a meme of mass destruction?