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Fail with pride.

Monday, December 22, 2014

He Dread, She Dread

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 22, 2014

Freaking out is good for your health in the moment if you’re facing a lion, zombie, or Beyonce, but if the moment passes and the freak-out doesn’t, then you’ve got problems. Some people then freak out about freaking out and see nothing but dark clouds sweeping in, while others shut the world out entirely and create a darkness of their own. In either case, if you don’t want fear to run your life, learn to assess your real risks and actual strengths. Then you can face anything from scary thoughts to American royalty without freaking out too much and feeling like your life is over.
-Dr. Lastname

Over the last few years, my panic attacks have been getting worse and nothing seems to work. So far, I’ve been able to hold it together and do my job, but I often have to hide in the bathroom for short periods in order to catch my breath and talk myself off the ledge. Valium helps a bit, but I have to be careful not to take it regularly or I’ll get addicted, which I’m very frightened of happening because addiction runs in my family. Other medication hasn’t helped, nor have changes to my diet and exercise routine, so I’m getting scared and desperate. My goal is to find a psychiatrist who can help me before anxiety ruins my life.

When you’re prone to experiencing random episodes of intense, meaningless fear that make your heart race, your throat close up, and your brain tell you the world is ending, it’s hard to be optimistic. They don’t call them panic attacks because they make you freak out about how great your future will be.

On top of that, panic attacks have no cure and, as you get older, anxiety tends to get worse. So, while it’s not surprising if you see the light at the end of the tunnel as either a train, a laser cannon, or the fires of hell itself, you have good reason for hope. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Hoping Mechanism

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 18, 2014

The human mind is capable of many complex, inscrutable functions, but when it comes to hopeless situations, they’re processed by a part of our brains that hasn’t evolved since we had tails. That’s why, in those moments, our instincts tend to go one of two stupid ways: either you deduce that nothing’s working and never will, or that nothing’s working but definitely will if you try the opposite of whatever you’re doing now. Thus does our lizard brain control our response to foreign policy, midterm elections, and alcoholism. Better to force some human-level reasoning to what’s rarely an either/or situation and respect what you’re able to accomplish with what you control. When your instincts tell you to give up is when you know you need to give a situation more thought.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m an alcoholic (with twenty years of sobriety), so when it became clear my daughter also had the disease, I tried to stay focused on doing my best to help her and not start freaking out and blaming her or myself. I think I did OK because my daughter is trying to stay sober and goes to meetings every day (I know, because she’s living at home now), but every eight weeks or so she stops going and, a couple days later, she’s drinking again. We then have a talk and she gets back on the wagon, but it wears me out and I’m losing hope. My goal is to figure out how we can get out of this rut without something horrible happening first.

It’s tough to see your daughter with an illness you know so much about and yet couldn’t prevent; given the season, you must feel like her ghost of Christmas future, if Christmas was less about Jesus and more about just drinking a lot.

On the other hand, it also sounds like you bring a great deal of knowledge and wisdom to the job of helping her. You don’t get outraged when she slips, and, perhaps as a result, she recovers her sobriety pretty quickly. Then, you manage to keep from losing it when she loses her sobriety all over again. At least until now. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Get Vent

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 15, 2014

As with nuclear waste, old hard drives and used take-out containers, there’s no clear way to dispose of unpleasant thoughts; some people feel like nasty feelings should be buried and ignored, and others that they must be purged and shared in order to be expunged. In actuality, feelings often aren’t unworthy even when they make you feel vaguely guilty, and don’t need airing even when they whine at the door and ask to be released. Before you decide whether your thoughts are hazmat grade, weigh them against your values and the consequences of self-expression. Often, you’ll find they don’t need to purged, just safely ignored.
-Dr. Lastname

After 25 years of happy marriage and three great kids together, I lost my wife to cancer two years ago. I think I’m ready to find another partner at this point, but I felt weird the other day when a co-worker suggested he set me up with a friend and I said I wasn’t ready. The truth is, I know a bit about her and, though she’s a nice person, she’s been struggling to find fulltime work for a few years now and there’s no way I could afford my current lifestyle if I had to support a partner. My goal is to figure out whether there’s something wrong with putting money ahead of love.

Having raised three kids and nursed a wife through cancer, you know that money isn’t the enemy of love— life is.

Life throws trouble at you, like medical problems and tuition, and love is what helps you give things their proper priority and makes you hurt when you can’t do as much as you’d like.

If you had no one to love in your life, and no better opportunity to find someone to share it with, then you might have good reason to sacrifice wealth and stability for a loving partnership. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Denial By Fire

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 11, 2014

A doctor’s diagnosis may make a serious illness official, but talking about it with professionals and people you trust is what makes it real. That’s why admitting you’re seriously sick can be so hard; if you admit you’re ailing from something manageable but incurable, the illness might scare people away, but if you admit it and become obsessed, you might needlessly scare yourself. That’s why you have to consider carefully when it’s better to focus on your problem and make it public, and when it’s not. Talking about your problems might make them real, but not talking about them doesn’t make them disappear.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m perfectly healthy now, but I had a couple nervous breakdowns when I was eighteen and twenty, and I wonder whether I should tell my fiancée. I really don’t want to drive her away. I tried stopping my meds a month ago, to see if I’m really OK now, and I still feel great, so I wonder if I need to tell her about a problem that I may not have any more, now that I’m twenty-six and working full time in a profession. I exercise and eat right now, which I didn’t do then, and I’m really not a nut job. My goal is not to screw up a wonderful relationship by bringing up past events that may not matter any more.

It’s common for people who take medication for severe mental illness to decide they no longer need said meds once they start feeling better, and it’s not hard to understand why; it’s natural for someone who’s taking crazy pills to rationalize that sanity equals success.

After all, you wouldn’t keep wearing braces after your teeth got straight, or taking antibiotics after an infection cleared up. Especially if you felt your fiancée might leave you if she found out you once had a slight under-bite or athlete’s foot.

The difference, of course, is that medication is supposed to manage your symptoms, not make your brain better. That’s why stopping treatment can be so dangerous, because declarations of health can turn to hubris at a frightening speed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Crime of Need

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 8, 2014

Making an emotional argument might convince other people that you care a lot about your cause, but it often won’t do very much to actually help you get what you’re arguing for. This is especially true in bad relationships, where emotion often exacerbates conflict or drives you to decisions that will make everyone miserable in the long run. If you back up your choices with evidence, not emotion, you’ll get further, get what you need, and likely get out of the bad relationship all together.
-Dr. Lastname

My estranged husband and I are about to begin mediation sessions to see if we can agree on how to divide our assets without spending a fortune on lawyers and court fees. We are on civil terms and have let things drift regarding our divorce, but it needs to be finalized so we can both move on with our lives. I am in a vulnerable position and need to get as good a settlement as I can; I want to get the most out of this expensive process without reacting in my old way if he presses my buttons, which he will. I felt angry recently when he told me that he resented any inference that he is less than honest, when he knows very well that he lied a great deal in the marriage. I do not wish to rehash old rows, score points or get sidetracked, and worry that I will get emotional and upset which will not help my position. How do I find a coping strategy in what has the potential to be a minefield and make the most of our time with the mediator? My goal is to stay focused and calm while doing my best to protect my security and to be assertive when necessary.

If your ex wants to be a dishonest, prickly asshole, you know there’s nothing you can do to stop him; if you could, you wouldn’t be getting divorced in the first place.

Fortunately, there is a sort of emotional kryptonite you can use to protect yourself (and your buttons) that will keep you from reacting in kind. If you want to neutralize emotional, provocative behavior, expose it to facts and cool confidence. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Faux Self-Opinion

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 4, 2014

Loserdom, like Asshole™-itis, bigotry, or lupus, is rarely a problem for those who’ve convinced themselves they have it, and often a problem for those who’d never consider themselves susceptible. When you’re lonely, it’s easy to see yourself as a loser, and if you’re living with an Asshole™, it’s easy to get won over by his belief that everybody’s a loser but him. So, if you feel like a loser, check to see if you’re being unfair to yourself or too fair to somebody else. Then rate yourself carefully, give yourself the respect you deserve, and lose your bullshit diagnosis for good.
-Dr. Lastname

I escape into work, but really don’t have much of a life. I’ve worked in city government for 10 years and, since I’m really shy and not very attractive to girls, I haven’t had much success cultivating a social life, but I’m enthusiastic about my job. I enjoy mentoring younger co-workers, volunteering at city shelters, and coaching youth sports. My boss says she doesn’t know what she’d do without me, but it worries me that everyone else seems to have a personal life and I don’t. My goal is to live a more normal, balanced life and have a family.

Many of the expectations of a “normal” life are, generally speaking, sensible—going to college, getting married, and having a career are all smart things to pursue—but they’re also not possible or just desirable for everyone. Given that “normal” people also spend tens of thousands of dollars on weddings and line up overnight to buy new telephones, however, being “normal” is often overrated.

Very good people can have very real impediments to normalcy, like lacking some skill, or living in the wrong place with people who are on a different wavelength, so they don’t get the same social opportunities as others who may be much less talented or hardworking. They aren’t weird or inferior, just unlucky or unique. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

To Help and Back

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 1, 2014

Everybody needs help sometimes—even Putin could occasionally use a hand dismounting his steed—but not everybody’s idea of what constitutes constructive help is the same. This disconnect can be especially unpleasant in families, because parents instinctively want to help their children, but if their children prefer their help to be more tempered or less tough, feelings are going to get hurt. If you can remember the good intentions behind the bad technique—be you the receiver of help or the giver—you can figure out ways to communicate constructively, even with someone who wants to do right but just can’t help himself.
-Dr. Lastname

I have a pretty good relationship with my mother, but I can’t really talk to her about my problems or ask for advice because she gives me an earful. I know she means well, but she always worries about me and has her own theories about the courses I should have taken in college and the jobs I should have looked for. If anything goes wrong, she has theories about whom I alienated and what I should have done to make people like me. Like, right now, I’m dealing with a bad break up, but I have to pretend to be cheerful on the phone with her, because once she finds out what happened. she’ll list all the ways I ruin relationships or make bad choices in partners. It’s impossible. My goal is pursue my own course without losing her support when I need it or having to hide parts of my life from her.

You’ve obviously gotten good at not taking offense at your mother’s recriminations and learning to accept her tendency to overreact. Unfortunately, understanding is rarely a two way street; just because you accept her flaws doesn’t mean she’ll be able to stop herself from giving you an earful about yours.

So, even though you don’t see her observations as malicious or let them trigger your own doubts, her inability to control her worries or her mouth makes it unlikely that she’s ever going to change. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Severe Discussion

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 24, 2014

Communication is often seen as the best diplomatic tool in domestic conflict, but if your emotional battlefield is riddled with verbal landmines, then trying to talk things out may just push the battle onto new fronts. Instead of saying what you want to say (but shouldn’t) or avoiding what you need to say (but should), find an unemotional way to talk about responsibilities and say something helpful without provoking controversy. Give yourself time, be realistic about what people don’t control, and you’ll find good things to say, even when your natural instincts would lead you further from diplomacy and into self-destruction.
-Dr. Lastname

Please Note: No new post on Thursday as we’ll be celebrating American Thanksgiving and enjoying the beginning of the busy misery season (Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day). Have a good holiday, and we’ll be back on December 1st.

I’m not crazy about my son’s wife, and it really irritated me to find out that she’s very jealous and frequently checks my son’s cellphone to see if he’s had any unexplained calls. When my son comes to me for advice, I’m not sure what to do. I want to tell him the truth, which is that he married a suspicious nut who will never trust him or anyone else, but whenever I do that, it just makes their fighting worse and everybody ends up angry at me. I know I should probably just reassure him that there’s always a way to calm her down, but I don’t like to bullshit my son. My goal is to do what’s best for him without being dishonest.

Many negative human emotions, like anger, misery, and being obsessed with inane Youtube videos of pets, are understood to have a viral quality. The negative influence spreads, from one person to another, until a cat with a permanent scowl gets a Christmas special.

Unfortunately, when you become third party advisor to marital trouble, you’re dealing with that kind of negativity; it doesn’t spread so much as jump from the person complaining to whoever’s listening. It’s less of a virus and more of a parasite of the relationship-killing variety. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Plague of Focus

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 20, 2014

If focus exists on a spectrum from oblivious to obsessed, you’d be surprised how hard it is to find a happy medium, and how impossible it is to budge your brain if it tends to work at either extreme. So don’t blame your mind for paying attention in a way you don’t want or need. Once you accept the way it works, you will become better at making it work for you, no matter what its preferred setting.
-Dr. Lastname

I hate some of the sounds people make. Chewing, mouth breathing, loud repetitive nose breathing, even excessive coughing if I’m in bad mood. I know it’s ridiculous, because I make these noises too; they’re human noises. It’s not that I hate everyone’s noises, like my friends’ chewing is fine, but my dad’s annoys me. I hate myself for this. I hate myself because I can’t control my facial expressions, I try really hard to, but people still notice; my whole body language changes when someone is making a sound annoying to me. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, because I know they can’t help it, but I can’t help it, either. My stepmother makes a lot of noises. She has nose issues so she chews, drinks, and breathes loudly, all the time. I love her, and I try so hard to keep myself in check, but it’s not working. My reactions, subtle or not, are causing friction. My goal is to control my issue.

The problem with fixations like these is that the effort you make to ignore body noises just makes you notice them even more, which just leaves you more irritated and more determined to ignore them, and so on. You grimace because you can’t scream, and want to scream because you can’t just staple their mouths shut.

In these situations, it’s easy to blame people who irritate you for driving you nuts, but you seem to accept the fact that what’s happening is nobody’s fault. You don’t expect them to breathe or chew more quietly simply because those sounds disgust you. You just wish you could control your reaction, or at least your sourpuss. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Fault Setting

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 17, 2014

No matter what the talking heads say, a bleeding heart is not a partisan trait, nor is it always a negative one. You don’t even have to be a registered voter to be a good, caring person, and party affiliation doesn’t determine whether you’ll care too much and take responsibility for problems that you can’t really help. Learn how to assess your responsibilities realistically, whether you embrace or reject the problem at hand. Then, when a problem comes within range of your heart, you’ll be able to decide what to do without having to blindly follow any party line.
-Dr. Lastname

My girlfriend’s father is a widower in his mid-eighties who is still physically fit and able to drive. He is a difficult man, socially awkward and uneasy in company. He fills his days by going round thrift shops and yard sales buying old books and large quantities of stuff which he does not need or use. He used to sell it, but the dealers he supplied have died or long been retired so it just mounts up, particularly since his wife died. Now his house is a mess and a lot of living space is now uninhabitable. He cannot bathe or shower as the tubs are used to store stuff. My girlfriend feels guilty and stressed, but is too busy to do anything about it. I wonder whether I can move in with her if this is a family trait. I find this sort of lifestyle depressing and off putting. She is a kind and reliable person with many good qualities. My goal is to work out a coping strategy.

Caring about other people’s problems is a good trait if you can do something to help them, but otherwise it’s a good way to cause yourself trouble you don’t need. It’s just like hoarding, except with anxiety instead of expired food and dead cats.

Before taking on responsibility for an unsolvable problem, ask yourself whether that problem is likely to cause you trouble, or whether there’s anything that really needs to be done about it. Unless your girlfriend’s father wants to use your house as a storage unit, living with his hoarder status might not be too much for you to bear. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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