Anon

As a female I was told to “seek help” for “mental health issues” from “professionals”. So, as a result I was told a lot of platitudes by other women. One such unhelpful platitude was “Be strong” (told to me by a woman doctor who had qualified a medical school no less). When I asked her how exactly I should “be strong” she got annoyed and irritated with me, which was bizarre because as a woman I should be able to ask a female doctor questions about my own treatment.

One large female therapist told me to “be strong” then she told me to “get fit and watch what you eat”. Ten minutes later she offered me buttered crumpets, cakes and sweeties. The whole charade confused me no end because she claimed that eating sugary and fatty treats would be good for my “self esteem”. She said that I should feel good in my body just because I was a unique person. She was into the whole “body positivity” thing. I politely declined the crumpets and the cakes, but she still kept trying to shove them in my face. I noticed that she ate many cakes and treats herself. I didn’t comment on this at the time because it would have been rude and my head was still spinning from the whole “be strong (cry into a tissue), eat healthy, have a buttered crumpet” cognitive dissonance that was swirling uncontrollably in my mind. So awkward on so many levels.

There is a very sexist pattern that I have noticed in all of this supposedly “helpful” advice.

Women and girls are told to “be strong” and are told to be strong emotionally. On the other had, men and boys are taught to be practically and physically strong.

So in other words, women are told by society that to “be strong” is to sob uncontrollably into a box of tissues while men are told that “being strong” entails the discipline of “stop whining, man up and go to the gym”.

On all honesty, as a woman, I have achieved very little by sobbing into a box of tissues and talking to older female therapists who admit that they don’t know how to send emails. No, talking about problems does not help, it makes them worse. Sometimes, forgetting and moving on and realising that life is a pain in the backside for many people, not just you is the best thing that one can do.

What is making me physically strong right now is using resistance bands training and lifting small weights. Such strength training exercises are making me physically stronger, with a more upright posture and less out of breath when I do physical work. I don’t need to “talk about issues” or sob into a box of tissues now because I am too busy trying to tone my muscles with resistance bands and weights. Physically strength training exercises makes the body and mind feel better and even start to look better over time.

I feel very angry about the amount of hours I wasted at therapy sessions crying and whining to female therapists/doctors who prescribed me brain damaging drugs, when I could have been improving my physical fitness and strength.

The phrase “be strong” should really mean what it literally says on the tin “do physical strength training”. As someone who has studied primate footage on citizen science camera traps, I realise that humans are primates also. I see monkeys and apes playing in the trees and lifting rocks, then I realise what sadly physically inactive and navel gazing lives us humans lead. Female humans especially are encouraged by society not to be fit and strong, but instead write little “be strong” platitudes in curly writing on social networking sites. Remember, chimps don’t need to pop pills to be happy. They don’t need sappy “be strong” motivational posters. They just find the nearest low hanging branch and have a good old swing!

It is sad indeed for females in our messed up society. I think that girls and women would be much better served in the long run by being educated on how to do strength training exercises safely, instead of sitting sedentary discussing “issues” in PSHE circle time or therapy. Exercises in proprioception and coordination such as devil sticks could also be used instead of PSHE. It is really hard to dwell on the rotten past, while you are trying to contact juggle. One cannot concentrate on juggling (not dropping the sticks, scarves or balls) and ruminate at the same time. It’s impossible, try it!

This doesn’t of course stop doctors from getting teenage girls to pop happy pills when they are sad or send them to counselling. Send ’em to an outdoor gym or circus school I say!

Again I am not a medical expert. I am not pretending to be. All that I know is that I felt a jolly sight better juggling or strength training than I ever did popping anti depressant pills or needlessly waffling on about my personal life. If I ever say this, I get censored by therapists and doctors because they think that I am lying, but I am not.

Funny how I learned about juggling and basic physical strength training mainly from blokes on the Internet. Sadly very few women compared to men juggle or do strength training. Women are expected to be weak, faint if something is slightly heavy and cry…

Are we still living in the Victorian Era or what?! I mean seriously, come on, why aren’t women girls told that they can be physically strong if they work hard enough?

Sorry, but the whole “women should be crybabies so they can be strong” thing is really starting to tick me off as a woman. It is sad how many years I wasted following useless “professional” advice when I could have just juggled or improved my physical strength. Sometimes when things are really rough, sometimes it’s just best to forget and get a hobby!