What ‘I Can’t’ May (or May Not) Mean

‘I can’t’ doesn’t always mean ‘I don’t want to,’
And it doesn’t always mean ‘I just won’t do,’
And it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘I won’t try,’
Like it doesn’t mean, ‘I’m gonna sit and cry,’
No! Sometimes it just means I really cannot!
Sometimes it means ‘Sorry, I can’t be bought,’
Or sometimes it just means, ‘I won’t be caught,’
Other times it means ‘I don’t have the ability,’
But whatever, ‘I can’t’ may just be plain reality,
So stop habitually deriding folks who say this
After all it may be true ‘n you’re the one amiss!


Note: This poem is not meant to dispute the ‘can do’ attitude often encouraged as an healthy psychological motivation to do what one can do to the best of one’s ability. Rather, this poem is written from the perspective of someone diagnosed bipolar with major depressive and acute anxiety disorders as a way of simply saying, despite what you may ‘see’ on the outside, there really are some things beyond this person’s ability. Like physical disabilities limit certain individuals in what they are able to do, so do psychological ailments … they’re just not as easily seen. And besides this, there are, of course, certain things many individuals simply won’t do for moral/ethical reasons. So … the whole ‘you can do whatever you put your mind to’ mantra — along with ‘you can do anything if you just try hard enough’ — is not always helpful; in fact, sometimes very hurtful. Encouragement is great; we all need it … folks just need to be wisely circumspect in offering genuine encouragement.

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