Being a bit of a thickie, it took me a long time to understand what certain celebrities were banging on about, when they constantly put "#PMA" at the end of tweets. I searched my brain for some album or TV show that fitted the initials, but nothing sprung to mind. Eventually, the riddle was solved, when someone was good enough to literally spell it out: "Positive Mental Attitude."
Now, I'm all for positivity. I see my metaphorical glass as being half-full, rather than half-empty and whenever things get me down, I try to remind myself of all the many things I have to be grateful for in life (relatively good health, a loving family and the general existence of Phil Lester, for example). So, in theory, I have nothing against anyone who endorses positive thinking.
What an enormous 'but' I have...
There is a problem, however, when people who preach "PMA" seem to lose touch with reality.
There's a massive difference between: "If you think positively and channel that positive energy into every move you make, you CAN pass your driving test!" And: "If you had more of a positive attitude to life, you wouldn't be suffering with cancer."
The second sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Nobody would suggest that a perceived negative attitude could cause a potentially fatal tumour, would they? Except... Well, that's exactly what TV presenter Noel Edmonds suggested to a cancer patient.
Here's the thing: I lost both my grandmothers to cancer. One was only 59 years old. They were both incredibly strong women. Fiercely loyal to their families, generous to those they loved and, yes, positive in nature (on the whole, anyway; show me someone who is constantly going around, grinning like a loon and telling everyone that life is WONDERFUL 24/7 and I will show you someone who is either lying or intoxicated). Am I supposed to believe that they weren't positive enough? That the tumours that killed them arose out of their own negative attitudes?! Because screw that.
The irony is that simply by writing this, I'm probably exuding negativity into the cosmos and therefore I'm inviting a swarm of bees into my face, or something. At least, I suspect that's the kind of thing I'd be told by Noel Edmonds and other obsessive PMA types.
Look, I said I'm a pretty positive person and I meant it. Have I suffered from depression? Yes. I've had days so black that I spent hours bumping into things because I couldn't see in front of my nose. Metaphorically, anyway. But I believe in myself. I believe in my ability to recover from the down days. I believe that I can succeed at the things I want in life, if I try hard enough. Arguably, my mental attitude is, on the whole, much more positive than it is negative.
But I'm not a robot. I have days when I experience any number of negative emotions, from sadness to jealousy, anger to hopelessness. Do I focus on the good, in order to bring myself out of the bad? Of course I do. Again, you could argue that in doing so, I'm PMA in action.
See, such positivity.
Believing that you can achieve the things you want out of life is a great thing. Encouraging others to do the same is also brilliant (unless you're telling someone: "of course you can build a palace out of the teeth of famous dead celebrities - it won't be weird at all and you should FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS"). There is nothing wrong with trying to remain optimistic in life and going out there, all guns blazing, ready to take on the world and win. But there is a huge amount wrong with reaching a point where your belief in the power of that positive mental attitude starts to affect others. The day you tell a cancer patient that perhaps their negative attitude is responsible for their illness, you've gone way, way too far. The moment you fail to understand why someone with clinical depression can't just "snap out of it" and "look on the bright side," you've gone way, way too far. If you find yourself losing your sense of empathy, because you can no longer understand why someone isn't just focusing on the positive at all times, you've gone way, way... Okay, you see where I'm going with this?!
There are many things in this life that a positive mental attitude can genuinely help you with. Passing a test, winning at sport, trying new things... Having that "glass-full" outlook can be great. But your glass should never be so full that you can't see through it, to the people who perhaps can't find a bright side to look on.
There are things in life that you can face with a positive mental attitude. Cancer is one of those things. But to suggest that cancer is caused by a person's negativity is offensive and utterly stupid. Cancer doesn't sit in the shadows, waiting for you to have a bad day. It's indiscriminate. That's why it's so bloody cruel. Equally, certain forms of depression are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain - it's not just a case of telling someone suffering with mental illness: "hey, worse things happen at sea, mate! PMA!"
Life, as I've learnt from experience, is short. Nobody wants to spend their years on this planet, wallowing in misery and shutting out all positivity from their existence. But one of the beautiful things about life is that we experience such a huge array of thoughts and feelings. We should embrace those feelings - every single one of them - because that is how you know you're alive. When you cry, because you're hurt - physically or emotionally - all you're doing is responding to that pain. When you get angry and you feel that rush of adrenalin and the vein in your head starts to pulsate, it's just a natural reaction to whatever has annoyed you in the first place. Life isn't about shutting out the negative feelings completely. It's about learning how to deal with them in the right way for you.
So don't spend your time on Earth being a prat.
If we could all recognise that some people need a little more support and that some people are in situations that their attitude had nothing to do with, the world would be a much more positive place.