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Fail with pride.

Friday, March 24, 2017

5 Better Goals for Controlling Your Illness

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 31, 2016

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There are no surefire ways to cure, let alone control, mental illness, so, if like our reader from earlier this week, you find yourself yearning for a way to get your sick brain well, then you should stop torturing yourself and start redirecting your energies elsewhere. Here are five better goals for controlling your illness.

1) Assess Your Own Symptoms

Make your own list about the things that bother you most about your illness, paying more attention to your own experiences than the descriptions from doctors or textbooks, or whether you fit one specific diagnosis or another. Give priority to the symptoms or problems that endanger your safety, cause you pain, make it hard to work, or interfere with being a good friend. Only you know what symptoms are worth keeping an eye on and making an effort to manage.

2) Keep Track of Trouble

Until doctors develop a blood test or breathalyzer for measuring mental illness, you’re the one who knows best how you’re doing from day to day. So keep a log or diary of your symptoms and status, reviewing the list of problems that bother you and putting a number from 1 to 5 next to each one representing how bad it is on that given day. That’s the only way you can tell whether whatever you’re doing to get better is having a good effect or not.

3) Adjust Your Expectations

While you should of course work to get better, you should never expect to achieve total recovery. Some people do get better and never have symptoms again, but it isn’t necessarily because they’re good patients and know how to do the right thing (though that helps). It happens, mainly, because they’re luckier and their illness is not as bad. So instead of expecting to get better, get real about the work you have ahead of you and what the realistic rewards are.

4) Punishment Hinders Progress

If you try too hard to make yourself better and become too obsessed with your illness you’ll spend all your time looking for treatment and be too busy to spend time with friends, enjoy a fine meal, or generally go about your usual business. As hard as you should try to explore treatments that might work and pursue methods that you think are helping, you shouldn’t keep going with a treatment that isn’t working, nor so focus on treatment that you forget to live your life.

5) Remember the Real Goal

The fact is, you don’t beat an incurable disease by making it go away but by going about your business in spite of all the trouble that the mental pain, fatigue, doctor visits, medication side effects, and general chaos of your illness throws in your way. When you can tolerate all that shit, stick to your values, and try to live a life that matters, you’re accomplishing something incredible.

Runaway Brain

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 29, 2016

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Some people assume that “fuck feelings,” aside from an excellent book title, is a statement intended to devalue or eliminate feelings, like an emotional “shazam.” In reality, of course, feelings have their own way of telling you that they’re very important, no matter what you chant at them, and that the only way to feel better is to air or obey them. Your best tactic then isn’t to look for a magic word or pill to keep your thoughts or feelings in check but to constantly remind yourself that they aren’t as important as your values and knowledge of right and wrong. Even though you can’t control your feelings, you shouldn’t always believe what they tell you or do what they want you to do (but you should buy and believe books that give advice like this).

-Dr. Lastname

I’ve been reading your book and I’ve made some very positive strides towards accepting myself. However, I have Schizoaffective and Bipolar Disorder and I am wondering why I continue to do weird wacky things, even after I accept that I should f*ck my feelings, they don’t totally go away. My goal is to eventually get better control of my behavior by coming to terms with my illness.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Legal Disintegration

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 23, 2016

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Once you’ve been struck by a natural disaster—a snow storm caves in your roof, a tornado takes off your roof, and flood sweeps away your roof and the house it’s attached to—you have no choice but to grit your teeth and start over. Legal disasters, on the other hand, often seem resolvable, thus luring you into putting the rest of your life on hold while fighting for a victory that may never come. So never assume that a legal problem will end, even if right is on your side. If a lawsuit has blown the roof clean off your life, start learning how to begin again instead of waiting for it to eventually blow back into place.

-Dr. Lastname

My ex-wife has falsely accused me of physically and sexually abusing her and our children over the course of our entire marriage (over 20 years). The accusations have resulted in a complete cutoff of any contact with my elementary school-aged children. I’m hoping it will be ultimately resolved in the family court system but after two years, I’m losing hope. The loss has been overwhelmingly devastating for me and isn’t getting any better over time. I go to bed, crying and having dreams about my children when I fall asleep. Only to wake up again, crying. I’m not sure how to cope with this anymore. It’s really taken a toll on me. My goal is to figure out how to move forward.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Signs You Need to Fight Addictive Behavior

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 24, 2015

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Everyone—not just those who, like our reader from earlier this week, are diagnosed OCD or bipolar—struggles with unwanted impulses from time to time. It’s normal to sometimes fight the urge for a second helping of lasagna, and it’s also common, though more problematic, to crave another shot of whiskey. If you find yourself gripped by unusually strong, possibly scary, urges that are sometimes impossible to control, however, and are wondering whether something not-normal is going on, here are five symptoms of mental illness to look out for that may be hindering your ability to fight addictive behavior.

1) Unusual Obsessing

Rumination is a symptom of OCD that locks your brain in a rut and forces you to think, over and over, about something you want, are afraid of, hate, you name it. Normally, you’d distract yourself by thinking of other things, but OCD won’t let you, even though the obsessive thought may scare you or not be what you actually want at all. Don’t assume that these thoughts mean that you’re a weak or bad person deep down; if you literally can’t get someone or something off your mind, then something’s wrong with your mind, not with you, and you need help.

2) Habit Trap

Repeated rituals are what make OCD obsessions feel a little better, i.e., you can shut up the persistent worry that your family will get murdered if you check that the door is locked exactly ten times before bed. When that ritual is texting a crush to make sure he still doesn’t want to see you, however, the potential for humiliation is worse. Ask yourself whether you’re compulsively texting because it gives you temporary relief, before you find yourself dealing with long-term pain and embarrassment.

3) Needless Neediness

Worthlessness and emptiness are common symptoms of depression, which drive someone to date people who aren’t right for them because they can’t deal with the intense pain that comes from being alone. If you find yourself driven to be with partners who either aren’t that interested or worthwhile, consider whether you have other symptoms of depression, like hating yourself and having trouble tolerating your own company.

4) Undeserving Desire

Lust tends to disappear with depression (along with libido altogether), but it can get extra intense during the manic phase of bipolar illness. Sexual excitement can make an otherwise ho-hum relationship addictive, and a hyperactive sex drive can push you to do, say, and wear things that you know are dangerous. If your sexual desire is stronger than usual and causing you to do things that go against your better judgment, then it’s worth seeking help.

5) Mania Masquerade

Mania makes everything intense, not just your sex drive; it can obliterate self-control, not just in terms of your impulses, but of your limbs and other organs. And while that might seem like a terrifying experience you’d want to avoid, mania feels so amazing and empowering that you don’t just become blind to your lack of control, but intoxicated by it; dangers that you might normally avoid become extra attractive. So if your thoughts are racing, your sexual liaisons have become more dangerous, and your friends seem to be freaking out despite your insistence that you feel great, you might be in danger, and they might have a point.

Whether you’re aware of uncontrollable urges or so sick than you can’t even tell what urges are even good for you anymore, it never hurts to ask for help, explore whether mental illness may be part of your problem, and take whatever steps possible towards getting your impulses under control.

5 Tips For Dealing With An Asshole™ Parent

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 10, 2015

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Having an Asshole™ parent is never easy—just as our reader from earlier this week, along with countless other readers/comedians/former Presidents over the years—but you can make it easier if you refuse to accept all the blame foisted upon you by their loving Asshole™ arms. Here are five ways to define your responsibility for the happiness of an Asshole™ parent, and, in doing so, quietly declare your independence.

1. Exact Expectations

Ask yourself what kind and how much support, contact and company you would expect from your own adult daughter, assuming you will remain blessedly free of Asshole™ genes by that stage. Give particular thought to what you would expect if you were sick, in trouble, or just trying to keep in touch.

2. Put Her In Perspective

During the above process, ask yourself whether, assuming you’re well, not in crisis, and not an Asshole™, you’d feel entitled to impose all your needs on your adult kids. In all likelihood, you would consider it your job to prioritize their needs ahead of your own and to hope they would do the same with their children.

3. Push Perspective Further

Ask yourself whether, like your mother, you’d consider yourself entitled to tell your kids anything you felt like saying, or to unload your disappointment with your friends or other relatives, or whether whining is ever good for anyone. If you’re answers are all “no”s, then tell yourself “no” when you want to feel guilty for not giving her an ear when she wants to do any of the above.

4. Assess to What End

If you still think you owe it to your mother to be her ever-patient audience, then ask yourself how much happiness it actually gives her, and for how long, for you to be her punching bag/emotional support, and whether that happiness is worth the cost to you in terms of loss of energy, privacy, sanity, etc.

5. Put it in Writing

If your values tell you that your mother’s expectations of you are unreasonable and her approach is harmful, and/or making her happy is not worth the cost, prepare a brief statement that you can stick to, no matter how powerful her combined Asshole™/parenting powers. In it, assert that, though you really like to make her happy, you have different views about the amount of sharing that is good for a relationship, and that prevents you from complying with her requests. Now you’ve defined your responsibility to her, but more importantly, you’ve defined it for yourself, so no matter what she thinks, you know what’s right.

ADHD-I-V-O-R-C-E

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 17, 2015

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You’d think that people would want to stop doing things that are irrational and painful, but it’s because they’re uncontrollable that they’re doing them in the first place without being able to stop. In any case, don’t let your allergy to irritability control your partnership decisions. Look at the whole person before making up your mind about the value of preserving your relationship. Then, if you decide it’s worthwhile, we’ll have tips later this week for using your acceptance as a tool in negotiating a better relationship that any (mostly) rational person could agree to.

-Dr. Lastname

My husband has been diagnosed with ADHD, takes meds for ADHD, and sees a psychiatrist twice a month. A couple times a week (sometimes more) he gets angry/irritated with me for the tiniest of missteps. I’m usually surprised and I never know what will set him off. I’ve been seeing a therapist who helps me to maneuver around it and not take it personally, etc., but it always stings when he gets pissed at me. It seems kind of human to flinch when anger comes at you out of the blue. Plus, he denies that it’s anger, even though if any human were to overhear his voice and see his face, they would say, “wow, he’s pissed at her.”  He’s really wonderful in many ways (which is why I’m trying to find a solution), but I don’t know if this is something that can be resolved. I have a metaphor for the situation: its like we have this lovely glass of water, but he keeps pissing in it, then says, “just drink it, it’s just a little piss.” Well, no thanks. I know sometimes bad and unfair things happen and when they do, by all means, get angry…but his anger is way out of proportion. My goal is to have peace and harmony in our marriage. 

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Screwed at work? How to deal.

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 1, 2015

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Sometimes, the good guys win, but when that happens, it’s usually followed by closing credits and an argument with your friends over whether it was all worth seeing in 3D. In real life, the bad guys don’t just win more often, but they make you feel like such a huge loser that you sometimes feel like your life is over. The good news, if there is any, is that your feelings of failure aren’t exactly real, either; if you’re working to get back on your feet, despite what you’ve been through, then you’re like a big screen hero. Later in the week, we’ll spell out the exact procedure for doing so.

-Dr. Lastname

I recently lost my job thanks to some crazy bosses. They made sure they lied and set me up so that I wouldn’t be able to get unemployment. Now I technically have the time to focus on some other projects I’d put on hold, but I’m so stressed out from losing my job and not being able to help my husband out or even have the money to start my business that I can’t focus and get anything else done. I feel totally stuck and completely screwed. My goal is to figure out how to get my mind straight so I can get back on track. 

When you’ve been unfairly knocked down and don’t immediately have the resources to pull yourself back up, it’s natural to feel, to use the aforementioned clinical term, “completely screwed.” You feel powerless to fight back, pull yourself together, or do anything but curl into a ball under a bunch of blankets with a bag of Doritos for the immediate future.

What you have to remember, of course, is that you’re not responsible for doing the impossible, just for dealing with total shit as well as you can. Between your state of mind and the state of your finances, immediate recovery is just that, impossible, and when you’ve already been knocked down so hard, there’s no reason to kick yourself even lower.

Your goal then isn’t to find energy and concentration that aren’t there, or start a business with money you don’t have. It’s to take good care of yourself while you get over trauma and depression and then get back to your old priorities.

Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with your priorities or, apparently, your marriage. Depression will get better with time but, whenever it’s disabling or not, there’s good reason to seek treatment with therapy and, if absolutely necessary, medication. With time, you will learn much from the collapse of your last job that will help you find better work in the future.

Your husband doesn’t see you as a failure or slacker, so don’t judge yourself by unfair standards. Being screwed is a normal part of life and you’re learning how to survive and recover. You’re probably not even doing it badly, it’s just hard not to feel self-blame and despair. So don’t apologize to your husband or retreat from your friends. Instead, let them know you need their support while you work out a way to keep busy, exercise, and resume work.

Once you’ve been screwed, you have to accept that it’s going to be a while before you can get back on your feet. In the meantime, remember that there’s nothing about this experience that makes you a failure. Eventually, there will be much about it that will guide you in better directions, starting with up from under the blankets and off the floor.

STATEMENT:

“I feel shattered, but that’s a natural reaction to a normal-yet-shitty experience. I earned my pain the hard way, by working hard and running into trouble I didn’t cause. I will recover as fast as I can and as well as I can.”

5 ways to manage family members who drive you crazy.

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 27, 2015

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Whether you’re an independent adult or stuck living with your family due to age or poor finances, your techniques for avoiding conflict begin with the same premise; you can’t change family and you’ll make things worse if you try. Once you can accept that, you can take these steps to make a bad situation/gene pool more bearable. It’s not an easy process, but if you want to keep your family intact/alive, it’s worth it.

Step 1:  Learn to keep your mouth shut

Remind yourself that further communication and efforts to change your family are not only useless, but harmful. After all, you’ve probably tried many times to argue your point, and all it’s done is create resentment and excuses to slam doors and break plates. Try once more if you’d like, just to drive the message home, but then it’s time to step out of the ring and stay silent.

Step 2:  Don’t be a jerk

You may have reason to feel hurt, wounded, and even abused, but acting like a jerk will undermine your confidence and give your enemies an even more solid opportunity to claim victimhood themselves. So try to act according to your own standards of decency, even if your feelings are screaming for revenge, or at least a loud tantrum or protest. You might share their genes, but you don’t have to share their attitude.

Step 3:  Focus on your own goals

Get busy doing whatever it is that advances your own priorities, like making money, seeing friends, and building your own independence. The more you do, the less opportunity there is for family interactions, and the less important they’ll be when they occur. This is obviously harder if you’re still living at home and your family is on your case, but when they try to accuse you of being distant, self-important, etc., remember Step 1 and don’t take the bait.

Step 4:  Memorize your lines

If you’re challenged by questions or accusations that stir you up, prepare scripts for answering briefly and without anger or defensiveness. For example, if your mother is always on you for being uncaring or your brother constantly makes nasty remarks about your supposed attitude, say some variation of, “I understand you feel worried/angry/devastated/ill-treated and I’ve thought it through carefully, because your opinion is very important to me. I really disagree however, and, without getting into it, think we should just leave that subject alone.” Then the subject is closed.

Step 5:  Set limits and stick to them

The best way to keep visits and phone calls pleasant is by keeping them short; either set an amount of time that you think is long enough to fulfill your obligation but short enough to avoid conflict, or have an excuse lined up to peaceably end a call or visit if things start to take a bad turn. Even if you’re living together, never let yourself be trapped for very long; if all else fails, physical escape is a surefire way to escape an argument, so keep your exit open, whether it’s to the next room, a locked bathroom, or the coffee shop down the street.

Life is Unfair.

How to MOVE ON.

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 25, 2015

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What to say when you can’t let go!

Not surprisingly, ending an important relationship—be it with a person or even a job—usually stirs up negative feelings because the circumstances requiring the relationship to end are rarely pleasant, agreeable to all parties, or completely without alternatives and drawbacks. The way to make the best of moving on is to do your own assessment of whether it’s necessary and whether you lived up to your obligations and kept your promises before walking away. Then prepare a statement of your thoughts about the ending, omitting any mention of anger, doubt, or guilt.

Moving on is hard. Don’t make it harder by expressing all you feel. Make it easier for yourself and others by celebrating the positive and accepting what can’t be helped.

Life is Unfair.

Breaking up with a boyfriend after not getting along for far too long

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • you can’t make the fighting go away by talking about issues with him, a shrink, or anyone else
  • major, possible steps to make things better between you two, like cutting back on your hours at work or moving house, aren’t likely to be worth the hassle
  • his good character traits and ability to function as a partner don’t outweigh the bad chemistry

Script: “You know how much I value our relationship and the many good things about you as a person, but after everything we’ve tried, I can’t see a way to stop the fighting, and I think it’s better for both of us to admit defeat and move on.”

Leaving a hated boss on not-hateful terms

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • you’ve done everything possible to make the relationship work well enough to make working there bearable.
  • there’s no possible way to stay at the company under different management
  • you’ve got a better opportunity or can survive unemployment

Script: “I’ve learned a great deal from this job and your leadership, and I’m sure what you’ve taught me will be of great help in my new position [without mentioning that what you’ve learned is how to survive a bad boss].”

Breaking up with a girlfriend who expects commitment you can’t deliver

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • her good character traits and ability to function as a partner don’t outweigh your belief you can’t give her what she needs in the foreseeable future
  • you aren’t just panicking in the face of a possible (and terrifying) life-long commitment
  • you will be strong enough to resist the urge to still see her occasionally and string her along

Script: “I know how happy we are together, but you’re looking for the kind of commitment that, sadly, I can’t provide, and I’d rather end things now before you get more invested and a separation would be even more painful.”

Distancing yourself from an alcoholic parent or sibling

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • providing him or her with close support doesn’t have enough positive impact on his or her health and welfare to justify the amount of pain and distress the relationship causes you
  • you have made every reasonable attempt to get him or her to consider getting sober
  • there is nothing you can do to change him or her, period

Script: There is no script at first you because you just have to distance yourself without declaring that you’re doing it or apologizing for it. Then, if he or she’s upset, say, “I know we’ve had so many good times together, but I need to focus more on my own well-being now by spending more time with kids/job/baking hobby, and I look forward to you getting more involved in those aspects of my life once you become sober and more independent.”

Distancing yourself from a friend who has gradually become someone you don’t like

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • there’s nothing positive or helpful you haven’t already said
  • you’ve been a good friend and done your share; otherwise, try to even the scales
  • s/he’s not going to change and that whatever you like about this friendship does not outweigh the dislike

Script: Again, forego an announcement in favor of just returning calls and messages less and gradually fading away. If challenged, say, “I think you’ve been a great friend, but chemistry sometimes changes, no matter what you or I might want, and I think right now we’re both better off spending more time apart.”

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5 Types of Back-to-School Drama Parents Are Likely to Encounter (and How to Deal With it):

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 21, 2015

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Fxck Feelings - Back to School

Back-to-school time can bring emotional issues bubbling up to the surface as personality conflicts and intense power dynamics pop up and throw you and your family off-kilter.

Here are five all-too-common back-to-school issues and our advice for dealing with them.

1) Your Kid Hates His Teacher

It’s terrible to imagine your child feeling miserable for an entire school year, but as your kid’s number one teacher (tenured in perpetuity), you’re the one to help him manage frustrations and make the best of them. So take time, gather facts, and see if there’s something you can do to improve teacher-child communication or their attitudes towards one another, or have a positive talk with the principal about finding a better match for your son. Otherwise, do your best to teach him that learning is more important than any single teacher, that surviving the year is more important than showing your teacher he can’t get away with being a jerk, and that he can get through tough times like these with his family’s support.

2) You Hate His Teacher

Of course, if you hate your kid’s teacher as much as he does then you can at least validate his views, although it will take a lot more discipline and self-restraint to get through the year. If your kid is fine with his teacher but you aren’t, then you’re stuck keeping your feelings to yourself, at least at home. You could try having another positive pow-wow with the principal, listing reasons why a different match would be more successful. If your kid seems happy in the class, however, then you’re probably better off following common logic and avoiding the principal’s office entirely. If your kid can survive a year with this jerk, so can you.

3) You Hate The Other Parents

If you don’t like the values or characters of other parents in your neighborhoodand, given how passionate some parents can be about their specific choices and yours, this is not an uncommon scenario—school can be more alienating for you than for your kid. Your job is to keep your frustration to yourself and help him feel he belongs in class, whether or not you feel you belong. Your hope is that the kids are better than their parents and that your kid will find friends he likes in his class, even if you can’t.

4) The Other Kids Hate Your Kid

If your child is being picked on, definitely try to work with the school and other parents to stop bullying, but be prepared to get a lot of defensive responses because no parent wants to admit that they’ve spawned a bully and schools often lack the resources to really tackle the problem. Coach your child on how to handle bullies or just avoid them, but be sure to let your child know that you think he’s fine, even if he’s a social outcast for the time being. There may currently be no friends at school, but there are always friends at home.

5) You Hate Your Kid

Every parent fears having a kid s/he really doesn’t like, so commend yourself on surviving this living nightmare. You can see a therapist or ask yourself whether you’re overly irritable with everyone and need to improve your behavior and/or try medication for improving your mood, but if the answer is that it’s just your kid that’s a jerk, then you’re stuck. So if you’re burdened with unavoidable negative feelings, build up your ability to be a true professional, regardless of how you feel. Teachers have to spend huge amounts of time with kids they hate, so you can, too.

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