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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Slow Yearn

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 13, 2017

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Yearning is the bastard child of love and frustrated need; both emotions promise happiness if only you can spend more time with whomever or whatever it is you yearn for, but their emotional spawn is less a miracle than something that’s usually shameful, illegitimate, and not discussed in mixed company. That’s because most people you yearn for are out of reach for good reason; if a love is forbidden, then getting what you yearn for is rarely good for you, better than what you’ve got, or likely to make you a better person. So persistent yearning isn’t a sign of true love; it’s a sign that you’ve got the beginnings of an addiction and should use all your experience, wisdom, and proven techniques to evaluate whether it’s worth trying to satisfy or avoid in order to escape shame, social or otherwise.

-Dr. Lastname

I have a good life, especially from the outside. I have the most beautiful children and a husband, who, despite his incredibly high levels of anxiety and his sometimes ridiculous temper, loves me and cares for us. The problem is that after almost 20 years of marriage I met a man whom I fell into a meaningful relationship with (although nothing physical ever happened because I knew that was a slippery slope and I made sure not to go there). It’s now been a few years since I told this man that I wasn’t leaving my husband, and while we have occasional contact because of work requirements, we’ve remained professional. The issue is that I cannot truly get over it— I believe he is my soulmate and that this is all just a cruel joke that the world is playing on me. I was fine with never knowing what that kind of love felt like because it was better that way. My goal is to get over this man and to stop feeling sad and sorry for myself.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Ways To Tune Out The Chaos

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 15, 2017

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When it seems like the whole world is plunging into the abyss, it can be hard not to make like our reader from earlier this week and fear getting swept up in the chaos, giving in to despair, and letting your own little world/entire life get sucked into the black hole. Of course, no matter how hard it can get to find your way in a confusing world, all hope is not lost; if you take the five steps listed below, you can learn to tune out as much chaos as possible and keep your own life from together as the world falls apart.

1) Tune Out the Negative and Unnecessary
Constantly following the news, especially if it’s all scary and bad, may seem necessary in order to stay on top of important information. In reality, it’s more like keeping your tongue on top of a canker sore; a nasty compulsion that only makes you feel worse. That’s why, no matter how frightening and constant the bad news may be, it’s important to step away from TV, periodicals, and Facebook feed, change the subject when people start to go off about world events, and generally avoid the urge to fixate on all things horrible. Yes, you’re part of a greater community and you want to make it better when you have the chance, but when you’re sure that/scaring yourself because no such chance exists, you have to protect yourself from aggravation and fears that you can do nothing about with a bubble of blessed silence.

2) Make Time for (and Merriment With) Those You Care About
When you’re feeling scared and down, being social requires a lot of effort—even more effort than being political—but it also offers much deeper rewards. It’s easy to share intense political feelings and opinions with others who feel the same way, online or in person, but then you’re left with deeper discontents and shallower personal connections. So keep the focus on getting to know people beyond politics as well as doing enjoyable things with the people you already know well and love. Sharing individual concerns, involving yourself in day-to-day realities, and generally reminding yourself there are good, caring people in the world will give you small doses of much needed hope.

3) Don’t Take the Bait From People You Hate
When the world is driving you crazy, then it’s easy for the people around you to drive you crazy and natural to seek ways of expressing and relieving your irritation. Unfortunately, trying to release your rage through picking fights with those you disagree with online is almost guaranteed to backfire. As we always say, nobody has ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty have died (or at least gotten threated or doxed) from unbottling them. Not only do you do more damage to yourself by stirring up fights with people you think are deserving idiots, you don’t even do anything positive for them since verbally attacking someone, online or in-person, isn’t the best way to win others over. Instead of ruminating about your anger until you crave release, remind yourself of your most important priorities, like being a decent person and focusing on the people and things that matter to you, not the morons who ultimately don’t.

4) Mind Self-medication
Aside from seeking relief from anger by getting into fights, it’s also natural to do so by getting high or drunk while giving the finger to all those who claim to reward hard working people like you in what’s supposed to be a reasonable, fair world. Unfortunately, self-medication is also a form of self-destruction that will turn you into a selfish jerk and make you accomplice to what you most despise. So bear your pain without finding chemical shortcuts to alleviating it, continue to fight hard to stay good, and you’ll find yourself refocusing on what you value in life instead of seeking the relief that comes with losing focus altogether.

5) Concentrate on What You Control
It’s not easy to make a living and be a good guy in this world, particularly given all the bad guys out there who find real success and the distractions and disappointments that come from periods of political craziness so nutty that we worry about our ability to continue living, period. It’s not easy, but it’s your responsibility to put your foot down and put a big beautiful wall around your own mind, family, and life; all the other craziness is totally out of your control, but the craziness that can be affected by your own actions and relationships is what you can realistically have a positive impact on. The state of the world matters, but your own life matters more; stay on top of the things that are actually in your control, not on the bad news, so you can make your world, and a small part of the larger world, a better place.

Un-American Captivity

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 18, 2017

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It’s hard not to take it personally when your country’s leaders represent values that you despise, making you feel obliged to both renounce all they represent and responsible for making things better. After all, you are expected to make sacrifices for your country, but if you can’t make sacrifices for new national goals you don’t believe in, it’s hard to decide whether to give your all to getting your country back or getting out of Dodge and leaving the leadership to self-destruct. Whether you’re describing personal problems or national ones, however, it’s never fair to hold yourself responsible for righting wrongs that are beyond your control, especially when doing so distracts you from your actual responsibilities. It’s important then to remain in touch with the responsibilities you actually control so you can keep your head up and be proud of doing your best to be a good person, even if you feel your country is headed down the toilet.

-Dr. Lastname

A year ago I knew what I wanted to do for the next 30 years, but then, after a series of challenges, including a re-valuation of my nine-year romantic partnership and Donald Trump getting elected President of the United States, I don’t know what I want to do next. I want to get as far away from my current life as possible as it’s based heavily on the American Dream (TM)—I just bought a house and I own my own business with my spouse, and it’s a decent life, at least hypothetically, even with the financial stress of a large amount of debt. But after America made a really bad choice, I don’t want to have anything to do with the country, its ideals, or its empty commercialized promises. I don’t want the American Dream, or even to live here. I’ve never fit in well and now I realize just how mismatched my entire life philosophy is with American culture. Maybe this shouldn’t be a traumatizing experience, but I’m having serious trouble shaking this off— I am a planner without a plan, I don’t know my purpose, and I’m still trying to work through anger at the people who voted for the current President, many who are my friends and family. I want to move out of the country partly just to say “fuck you all, you voted for him and now you never get to see us because we live on the other side of the Earth.” Now, I think once I get out of this hole I will be better for it, with a more complete view of myself and my place in the world, but I’ve been struggling to get out of this hole for months now and not seeing any progress. I take meds for chronic depression but this is a serious dip even for me. My goal is to find a smart sensible plan, even though I’m depressed as fuck, everything feels meaningless, and all I really want to do is get away from my life and the American nightmare. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Reasons You THINK You Should Reach Out To Your Ex

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2017

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Sometimes our brains act like our parents, tricking us with white lies so we’ll do what’s best for us. Unfortunately, unlike our parents, our brains sometimes get the wrong idea about what the right is for us in the long run. Parents reason that it’s OK to bribe kids into eating broccoli or coax them out of inappropriate behavior with empty threats of brain damage or blindness (or both) if the benefit outweighs the crime, but brains often do the opposite, convincing us that we should do what feels best in the short term, consequences be damned. So, if like our reader from earlier this week, your heart is broken and your brain is giving you any of the following seemingly legitimate reasons to reach out the person who did the breaking (with the secret hope of putting everything back together again), push your brain to think twice.

1) “I’m genuinely concerned about her wellbeing.”

Unselfish love is a wonderful feeling and seems above approach reproach, but once you’ve learned that a specific love will likely lead to misery/not-wonderful feelings, you’re supposed to protect yourself and keep your own wellbeing in mind. You may genuinely believe that the act of checking in on your ex is truly altruistic and that no harm can come from wanting good things for another human being, but if that were true, then martyrs wouldn’t exist. Your job isn’t to sacrifice yourself to save your ex but to keep yourself out of troubled relationships, exhaustion, and pain. Your brain may tell you that you’re doing the right thing by making sure she’s OK, but experience tells you that the buzz you get from seeing and helping her is like that from any other heavy drug; short-lived with a nasty hangover and a high risk for longterm damage.

2) “I don’t want to get back together, I just want to get some closure.”

Closure, like true love or perfect New York apartments, is another of those good feelings we see Nora Ephron movies for (RIP) because real life seldom provides it. As long as you’re honest and fearless in sharing your true feelings, TV and movies generally tell you that you can end a relationship with both parties (or more) accepting that it’s over and that, regardless of sadness and loss, with no resentment, unfinished business or unanswered questions, or self-doubt. Unfortunately, experience and Woody Allen movies (his career and integrity, RIP) tell you otherwise. Yes, you should try to be honest and accepting, but when closure doesn’t happen, remind yourself that the irreparable conflict is why the relationship didn’t work in the first place; if you were able to feel closure, you probably wouldn’t have broken up. In real life, closure isn’t a possibility, just an excuse to see your ex for a momentary respite from the pain of being closed out of his life.

3) “We were friends before we dated so we should be able to be friends now.”

Most people weren’t really friends before dating, just friendly; most people go through a platonic, getting-to-know-you period before dating begins in earnest (unless they’re in an arranged marriage or lost a bet in Las Vegas).
As such, they don’t actually have a pre-existing relationship to fall back on if romance fails, because real friendship requires a kind of comfort and trust that no one controls or manufactures at will, even with the best of intentions. That’s why even good people can’t necessarily be friends with the people they used to date or even love, even if they wish them well and have the strength to apologize, forgive, and get over past grievances. So, if your feelings and chemistry permitit, friendship is great, but if it’s not working, don’t try to pretend the uncomfortable or negative feelings aren’t there or you’ll make them worse. Being friendly non-friends is better than trying to force a friendship you just can’t have, especially since you’ll probably ruin any possible friendship in the process.

4) “I just want to let her know I forgive her.”

We may watch Nora Ephron movies to experience things that rarely happen in real life, but we watch Larry David to see someone suffer the same humiliations that we do, mostly from trying to do the right thing, at a safe distance. Trying to offer forgiveness is one of those good deeds that usually backfires and makes for good comedy on TV but tragedy in real life. After all, if your ex did something wrong but doesn’t see things that way, then forgiveness feels like condescension or re-accusation and will just stir up her old resentments. If she acknowledges responsibility, then forgiveness may be acceptable but won’t change the fact that most kinds of bad behavior happen again unless someone really, really wants to change, and even then they can’t always do it. In other words, you’re forgiving something your ex may not be able to prevent herself from doing again. No matter how strong the urge to give your ex the gift of forgiveness, do the more difficult work of finding acceptance instead, both of her unfixable flaws and your own covert desire to reconnect. Then decide whether further contact will give you the protection you need from whatever you’re forgiving her for.

5) “I just want to tell him this story I know he’d find really funny—it’s not like I want to get back together again or anything.”

Next to the aforementioned “I just want to ask him for my favorite T-shirt/mug/broken umbrella” excuse, “I just want to tell him (X unimportant fun thing)” is one of the flimsiest pretenses there is. As innocuous as it may seem to share stories that you used to enjoy together, it’s risky to share anything together until the not-enjoyable negative feelings left over from most normal breakups have truly cooled. Yes, you might like to see him again and remember the good times (and to possibly remind him or you of your friendship—see #3), but doing so won’t really help you and your ex move on to the next stage of life. Again, most of the painful feelings caused by breakups can’t be smoothed away by good talks, conjoint crying, or wacky anecdotes. It’s best not to reach out to your ex until you can be sure you’re truly over each other, but paradoxically, being over it means that you can hear a funny story (or do almost anything) without thinking of your ex or wanting to reach out to him at all.

Words with Amends

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 20, 2017

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If someone breaks up with you for what you perceive to be unfair or unfounded reasons, one of the ironic effects of of the unjust uncoupling is that you can become so filled with confusion, pain and resentment that you can become the very kind of negative person your ex accused you of being in the first place. While there’s no reason to like the negative person you’ve become, there’s every reason to fear the results of sharing your feelings with your ex, even if you’re desperate to share something with her to win her back. Finding something sweet, giving and positive to think about and say may then seem like a good, positive solution that could restore your self-esteem and do some good. If being with her makes you become such a bad version of yourself, however, there are reasons to think twice about offering to help your ex feel better and instead use a different approach that will make you the better person you used to be.

-Dr. Lastname

I have an ex-girlfriend that suffers from depression and also has Aspergers. When she broke up with me, she accused me of being a liar and becoming a different, uncaring person over the course of the relationship. I don’t think any of those accusations are true, or that she even believes them, and I haven’t been able to get over her. Even though she said harsh words to me, I do not think she meant them and it was just the depression and Aspergers talking, especially since she told me she’s been depressed her entire life. I know that this might sound selfish and dumb, but I want to write something that could express that to her and maybe help her in the future. I will admit that I still like her and that’s why I’m writing, but I also really want her to be happier overall. My goal is to be able to get her out of her misery and be able to have a better life. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Red Flags of A Bad Friendship

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 20, 2017

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It’s easy to tell that someone’s a bad friend when, as with our reader from earlier this week, they make you feel lonely and bad about yourself. If you’re ever unsure about whether a friend is worth keeping or is actually a friend to begin with, here are five red flags of bad friendship to look for.

1) They Only Call In Case Of Personal Calamity

Unless your friend is in crisis and needs to talk, it’s up to you to reach out to them to try to make plans, often in vain. They do you the favor of giving you their best, cheeriest small talk as a prelude to their anguished confidences and wonder what else you could possibly want. If you’re friends with someone who thinks the conversation’s over when they’ve finished talking, then your friendship should probably be over as well.

2) They Share Feelings And Not Much Else

Between the two of you, you wind up doing more than your share of cooking, listening, and paying in the friendship. That may make you feel like a good, giving person almost all the time, but there’s a fine line between being a saint and a martyr, and either way, you don’t need a flock, you need a friend who will give as much to you as you give to them. Because if you need something for yourself from this person, you’ll just find yourself angry, not just at them but at yourself for feeling needy, frustrated, and more human than holy.

3) Your Pain Is Not Their Problem

If you’re low, unhappy and irritable, they don’t want to know, because, while their pain is a big problem, yours is merely an unwelcome distraction. If you assert your right to be heard, they wonder why you’re childish and ungrateful for the attention they’ve been giving you and the time you’ve spent together (even though you spent most of that time doing their bidding). If you can give this friend your time but not a piece of your mind, you’re getting screwed.

4) Your Complaints are Your Problem

As we’ve often said, love only means never having to say you’re sorry when one party dies of cancer before they get the chance. Bad friends, however, often operate under that assumption despite not having a fatal disease. So, while you believe in giving serious attention to a friend’s criticism and apologizing if you’ve caused pain, these guys have the confidence to know that they couldn’t possibly deserve your criticism and they’re helping you by letting you know that, if you have a complaint, you’re just humiliating yourself. Friendship, like love, means always being willing to say you’re sorry, and if they can’t offer that, you should be willing to walk away.

5) They Get Close As Quickly As They Move On

Lots of bad friendships get off the fast start; their openness is so appealing and flattering, and their problems so interesting, that it’s easy to get sucked in before you even have a chance to see this person isn’t so much a potential friend as a potential headache. So you didn’t notice that they don’t have old friends, just current play-buddies and people they once knew and were disappointed by. Unfortunately for them, once you can finally recognize that they’re not worthy of your friendship, you’ll soon be one of them.

Makeshift Friendship

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 6, 2017

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It’s hard to knock the idea that being helpful to your friends is good for everyone, but when you’re always there to help and they only come to you in a crisis, that’s a good recipe for being used and becoming resentful. Even if being helpful will make you feel good about yourself in the short run and win you gratitude, it’s only worth it if you’re also mindful of your own needs and the character of the so-called friend requiring your assistance. Otherwise, your giving instincts can expose you to harm, exhaustion, and a whole bunch of other not-good stuff.

-Dr. Lastname

I’m a women in my 20s with a good tech job, but I feel like I’m always ignored by everybody, almost like I don’t exist. I do have many friends, but even they aren’t real with me— I feel that they don’t really care about me and are only good to me when they need something or need a shoulder to cry on. Then, when they feel better or have happy news to share, they find someone else to take it to, which doesn’t make any sense to me. I feel like everybody throws their problems onto me so they can go off and be happy, but I’m left here all alone to deal with the sadness on my own. My goal is to feel acknowledged and loved, not ignored and used. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Biggest Lies About Insomnia

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 24, 2017

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Many of us, not just our reader from earlier this week, struggle with insomnia. Of course, said struggle doesn’t just mean dealing with sleeplessness but with the false and terrifying myths about the many ways insomnia can ruin your life. If you can’t sleep and can’t stop being freaked out by the potential effects it’s having on you, please do yourself a favor and read these five biggest lies about insomnia and the sad/sleepy truths you should believe instead.

1) “Insomnia is preventable and treatable with good sleep habits.”
No illness is ever guaranteed to be preventable and treatable, especially those that are more behavioral than physical, and statements like these aren’t just false but damaging as they often create unreasonable expectations for control. Yes, good sleep habits will push you in the right direction, but life will sometimes disrupt your sleep habits in ways you can’t avoid and even the best of habits can’t always control the neurological demon inside your brain that decides it wants to play and read and have great ideas just as your body wants to collapse. So yes, always be open to treatment, but don’t despair or blame yourself when they aren’t as effective as you’d like.

2) “Insomnia is always a sign that you’ve got bigger issues that require treatment.”
Insomnia may sometimes reflect your worries or neuroses, but that doesn’t mean that logging several hours on a therapist’s couch to work out those issues is guaranteed to unclog your non-existent sleep valve and make rest possible again. If you do find yourself being kept up with anxious thoughts, then do what you can to put your worries into perspective while also accepting your insomnia as just another part of your current bad luck so it doesn’t become yet another thing to get worried about.

3) “Sleeping pills are bad for you.”
All pills are potentially both good and bad for you, from Advil to vitamins, and focusing on the bad part is a good way to let fear demoralize and immobilize you into avoiding potential treatment altogether. Instead of spooking yourself away from medication, educate yourself as to the particular risks of each type of sleeping pill, both in terms of trying it once and, if it’s helpful, taking it more often. Then weigh those risks against its benefits. Of course, always use non-medical methods first, but when insomnia doesn’t respond to non-medical methods, you have a right to research and consider plan B.

4) “If left untreated, insomnia will permanently damage your health.”
Living damages your health, period, but insomnia’s potential impact on your wellbeing is a lot less clear. It does good when it puts you on alert for danger and trouble, as when you need to stay up to watch over a sick child or are required to stay on call for important news. On the other hand, it can also weaken you, at least temporarily, when you’re so tired that it’s harder for your body to fight off an infection. Either way, if you let a fear of insomnia exaggerate its dangers then that fear will cause you far more harm than insomnia ever could.

5) “Insomnia won’t just damage your health, but your ability to do anything from your job to parenting to operating heavy machinery.”
You may not be able to perform at your highest level when you’re tired, but ask any parent what they’re able to do when they haven’t slept well and they’ll tell you that they seem able to do everything well enough since they haven’t gotten fired or wrecked their car despite not having a decent night’s sleep since having kids. Instead of letting insomnia terrify and paralyze you, use that fear to become a knowledgeable and confident manager of insomnia. Once you learn the facts about how insomnia affects you and how you can deal with it, you won’t have to let scary myths keep you up at night.

Sleepless in A Battle

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 6, 2017

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Good sleep, along with YouTube videos of porcupines eating and fresh mozzarella cheese, is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Unlike those other things, however, it’s not just a joy but also something of a necessity. A life without hungry porcupines or good cheese of any kind of unfortunate, but one without sleep can feel excruciating, so it’s not surprising that those who just can’t shut themselves down at a reasonable hour are so eager to figure out what’s wrong with them and so quick to blame themselves for their sleeplessness. While we now have clinical sleep specialists and a bunch of helpful theories, suggestions, and treatments, we don’t, of course, have any solid answers or cures. The answer then isn’t seeking complete control over your insomnia, but learning to manage it and find pleasure in life despite it.
-Dr. Lastname

In short, I cannot sleep. I mean, theoretically I can (because, well, biology), but practically I can’t, and I know it’s all in my head— the fact that I feel that “I have insomnia” makes it so much harder, because, obviously I don’t have any clinical disease that it’s a symptom of, just some mental block that makes sleep impossible. I really, really want to sleep and get back control over this one thing without depending on anything (drugs, diets, etc.) or anyone to fix the problem for me. My goal is to get to the bottom of whatever’s causing this insomnia and get rid of it.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Things To Consider Before Changing Career Tracks

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 13, 2016

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“Work,” like “nazi,” or “feces,” is one of those words that has an inherently negative connotation (except for a very select group of Germans). That’s why, if you’re unhappy with your current job, it’s important to remember that work is supposed to be unpleasant and that the chaos and instability of a major career change might be even worse. Here are five things to consider before changing career tracks so you don’t end up a train wreck.

1) Brace Yourself and Make a Budget

Force yourself to do a full audit of your expenditures so you can figure out how much you need and how badly you need it. It’s easy to spend as much as you’ve got when you’ve got it, but some expenses are necessities (electricity) and others aren’t so much ([insert sports team here] cable package), and you need to know before dropping your current career what they add up to over time so you can estimate how long your savings will cover you.

2) Assess the Amount of Work-Time You Can Take

Working extra hours at a job you love, whether you need them or not, can do you serious harm if it consumes all the socializing and parenting time required to keep you sane and your family happy. Avoid switching to a job that will be too time-consuming, particularly work that absorbs you, until you know how much time you can really afford and how much time you absolutely need for other priorities. Your job is to manage your priorities, not be managed by whichever one grabs you the most.

3) Scout the Market for Your Offered Skills

Even when you’re highly trained and good at what you do, the market for your specific services may vary greatly according to where you live and whether those previously trained and equally gifted have also chosen to live in the vicinity. Don’t jump to a more interesting field until you know what the market will pay for your services and if you do or can live where that market is strongest.

4) Investigate Your Partner’s Earning potential

If you’re in a committed relationship, never assume that a career that’s perfect for you will work well for your spouse; Of course you want one another to be happy, but if your new career destroys your family dynamic, or the schedule that either one of you thinks is necessary for the kids, or even the other guy’s career, then your whole house will be an unhappy one. Partnership isn’t about unconditional love, but about mutual planning, so that you know the limits that you have to work with.

5) Ponder Plan B

If you don’t know how you can face another day of the job you hate but discover you can’t easily leave, don’t despair; failing to make a change now won’t doom you to eternal unhappiness. Even if you can’t find an alternative now, a good option may present itself later, and in the meantime you can consider ways of making your current job a little less painful, like working from home, finding an engrossing off-the-clock distraction, or just giving yourself little gift incentives for every week you get through without murdering your manager. Don’t promise yourself escape or career happiness, but do promise to make the best of what’s available and to respect yourself for doing so.

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