I know, we harp on this smiley fake-it-til-you-make-it a lot around here.
It’s just that I BELIEVE IT SO MUCH that I need to keep talking about it. Something happened to me yesterday that reminded me to nag you about smiling:
I was talking to a patient who is discharging today after being in the hospital for about a month. He’s leaving our facility and going to ANOTHER facility for another 28 days because he thinks he needs more separation from his drug of choice. He’s frank, honest, and has a decent shot at staying sober after this next round of treatment. I work on different units each day, so I wasn’t his regular therapist, and was trying to catch up on his discharge work so that he’d be all set to go today.
At the end of our meeting, he said “listen, I know I’m old enough to be your dad, or maybe older, but I want you to know that your smile today is just the cutest, and the biggest smile I’ve seen around here in awhile.”
He wasn’t hitting on me, and I’m not bragging. After he said it I finished his paperwork but kept thinking about his comment – I didn’t think I was being more cheerful than usual, and I wasn’t having a particularly great day. I was just being me. Me right now, though, is a me that has practiced smiling a LOT even when everything BLOWS. And practicing finding joy even when no one else can. So now, the smiling is kind of a habit. Of course, it helps that I enjoy my job, but his point was less about me and more about the fact that in general he didn’t see a lot of smiling people in the last 28 days.
Now. Duh. It’s a psychiatric hospital. Patients that smile widely all day every day are generally psychotic in the most real sense of the word. BUT THE STAFF. They’re just…people. At their jobs. Sometimes grumpy, sometimes just there, sometimes happy. But with very few smiles, I’ve started to notice. Why is it a crime to be happy even when you’re just at work doing your stuff and waiting for the day to end? It’s like it’s only cool to be permanently disgruntled.
I talk a lot about control in my group therapy. We don’t have control over everything, but for FUCK’S sake we have control over our own facial muscles. You can choose to smile, and maybe make someone’s day a little nicer, or you can choose to keep your head down and risk being diagnosed with Permanent Resting Bitchface.
It’s a thing.