It doesn’t get better

Anyone who tries to tell you that it gets better is either full of shit or is trying to sell you something. Or, both.

It doesn't get better

People all around me in my personal life are going through very difficult times emotionally (and some physically) right now, and I don’t know what to tell them. I’d love to tell them, with sincerity and compassion, that things will get better. But, I can’t. I know it would be nothing but a lie.

When a loved one dies, or life just seems so out of control that you want to ragequit, or bad shit just keeps happening over and over … does it ever really get better? You might get used to it. You might even learn to care less. You might just grow numb and cold to it. But, shit, what’s happened has happened. Nothing is going to magically reverse it. There’s no “undo” to life. It isn’t going to get better, ever. That “it gets better” rhetoric is just bullshit.

I don’t know what to say to all these people who are hurting. I know enough about myself to know that anything I say is just going to make things worse, so I try really hard to not say anything at all. But, I don’t want my silence to be construed as apathy, either.

I wish I could cheer you up. I wish I could ease your suffering. I wish I could end your pain. I wish I knew how to say the right thing at the right time to you. I wish things would actually get better.


  1. You’re right. Telling them it will get better sounds patronizing. Just tell them you are there to listen, and that time will ease the pain. It may take a lot of time, but the pain will heal.

    And that goes for me to you, if you’re also going through a craptastic time right now.

  2. Dan Reisman says

    You know, I have to disagree with you here Ed. It does get better if only because with time comes understanding and context. Maybe right now things seem in surmountable and painful, but there could be a tar pit full of pain right around the corner which makes today look like a lemon-juice dipped papercut. I get your “life is pain” reference, but quite frankly life is hope as well. Once you’ve gotten through something, you know definitively that you can deal with it and its ilk.

    As for the “it gets better” meme in regard to homosexuality, it does get better. Nearly all high school kids are insecure douchebags venting their frustrations on their peers, while far less adults are douchebags of the same caliber. Perhaps “adults are less douchy” is a better slogan, but I’m pretty sure you’d get played off the Golden Globes for that speech.

    And on behalf of everyone you went to high school with, I apologize for calling you a troll simply because you chose to wear an oversize faux gemstone in your navel.

    • Some of life’s happenings defy understanding. Some things happen with no real explanation, no meaningful context, just craziness.

      I’m not going to go into detail here out of respect for people’s privacy, but sometimes, life just throws you a big ol’ WTF. Sure, you can “survive” it, and certainly time may fade some memories, but it has forever changed your life.

  3. Love and hugs, Ed. Love and hugs.

  4. It is what it is.

  5. Yes, things do happen, and you can’t undo them.

    A lot of times, I’m sure, things don’t get better. We adapt, as humans are so good at doing.

    Other times, things do get better, though. Things just work out. The reason, I think, that that seems so unbelievable is because the negative things that don’t get better weigh heavier on our minds than do the positive things that do get better. I feel it’s human nature to focus on the negative, and when those negative things persist, the positive things are virtually invisible. And so the “it doesn’t get better” rhetoric is born to contrast the “it gets better” rhetoric, leaving us with two opposing ideas that never realize that life is a combination of both.

    Thank you for this post. It’s an important one!

    • Thanks for commenting, Connor. Even if one doesn’t focus on the negative, those emotional traumas poison your entire future. They change the way we make decisions in the future, how we approach situations, what we avoid, etc. Even if things “get better” and the traumas stop occurring, the damage is already done.

      As Robin Williams said, as Batty in Ferngully … “It’s not that animals don’t feel pain, they just get used to it.”

  6. Sounds like some bad shit going down, Dossy – sorry to hear it.

    The it gets better meme is fundamentally about throwing a rope to people who think that their situation is absolutely unbearable so that they don’t check out. It’s being a voice from their future selves to say “I remember that awful, dark place, and because I chose to survive, I got through the tunnel to the lighter space on the other side”.

    But that’s the meme. It’s valid and true in the case of teenagers grappling with identity and bullying, because literally millions of us have been there and survived, so we can say that most likely, life gets easier when you’re older, have independent legal status as an adult, etc etc.

    But some life experiences are different. Bad things happen to good people every minute of every day, with no explanation and no recourse. And they leave scars, scars that sometimes never really heal.

    For some of us, the sooner we come to terms with this truth, the sooner we can choose to take responsibility for making our own experience as good as possible. We change what we can, and accept what we can’t change so that it bothers us less. We own our scars and try to recognize the lessons that the experience offered, whatever those may be.

    In my opinion, it still ‘gets better’ eventually. Not in a ‘magic and light’, external hand-of-god fixing it sort of way, but in a way that feels like “when you’re out of the middle of this trauma, you will realize that the experience does not have to define you; it is something that’s happening to you, but it is not the entirety of who you are. You *can* have good experiences in the future. The sun *can* come out again and the pain of this moment will stop being the overwhelming, everymoment that it is right now”. If you’re not dead, then you have choices, including choosing how to handle the worst that the universe throws at you (sometimes the best choice is to get 5 years of professional counseling…)

    As far as what to say – I hate platitudes. They make me want to punch people. But I love when people say things like “if you ever need someone to talk to, let me know”.

  7. “It gets better.” I usually respond with, “Okay, when?” and it makes them shut the fuck up, realising the absurdity of the baseless claim. I really wish people would stop spewing this nonsense.

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