I Don’t Want Your Self-Help Hacks
People with mental illness can’t will their way back to happiness
Their profile photos are gleaming. They’re on an island, or sprawled on a fast car, or clutching a piece of fruit. Every day, their articles crop up on my feed, each one promising betterment. With their clickbait titles and words that barely nick the surface, they want me to believe that they can make me happier, smarter, cuter, thinner, lovable, productive, and possibly a millionaire.
All I need to do is sign up for their newsletter, download their $29.99 eBook, and take their $499 online course.
All I need to do is believe… and click to buy.
They’ll start their pitch with a personal anecdote that makes readers believe they’re “just like us” — or at least they were until they tried whatever it is they’re now peddling. The relatability is merely a vehicle for the sale. They’ll then introduce the challenge or tension, deliver their proposed action, and boom! Welcome to the resolution. All lessons have been learned.
Promise peddlers survive the apocalypse by teaching us how to survive the apocalypse, but what are their credentials beyond the 100 million views they’ve garnered on articles that guarantee The Promised Land? Are they researchers, psychologists, sociologists, or doctors? How can they deliver solutions to all of our problems when their sample size is one? How can I buy what someone is selling when they’ve only repackaged what has been sold a hundred times before? How do I even relate to someone whose advice stems from a limited, privileged point of view?
They preach mental strength without understanding that people who have mental illness can’t will their way back to happiness. When I was ordering razor blades off Amazon four years ago, I wasn’t reading articles about “how to wake up at 4 a.m.” because I was already awake at 4 a.m., thinking this whole life thing was a scam, a cruel joke, an exercise in futility. And wouldn’t it be lovely to fall into a permanent sleep?
Does your newsletter overcome that?
Let me be honest. Most days, I feel numb. There exists no anxiety, fear, or sadness, only a blankness, which is more terrifying because I’d rather feel something than experience an absence of feeling. I’ve turned down projects — work I know I can do in my sleep — because the idea of doing said work feels insurmountable. But I have to keep working. I’m not rich, I’ve no family, and I have monthly bills to pay.
Do you have a hack for that?
I worry that our country will devolve into an episode of The Walking Dead, Handmaid’s Tale, a Cormac McCarthy novel, or possibly all of the above. I wonder when people will just wear a fucking mask like the rest of the free world. I haven’t touched anyone in months.
Do you have an eBook for that?
Instead of teaching me a lesson or cranking out an algorithm-approved listicle, tell me a real story. I don’t need people to stand above me and anoint me with their self-help oil. I want them flawed, human, and not having all the answers, but asking all the questions. Because how can you possibly have it all figured out when none of us have it figured it out?
I don’t want the salesman swagger or the heavy pitch. I need you standing beside me, wandering through the not-quite dark, sharing your stories as we all try to make our way out.