Posted by fxckfeelings on January 5, 2016
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When you lose someone you really care about, the despair can also cause you to lose your confidence; you sometimes feel you should be stronger, or should have cared less, or that you now lack the independence to recover. In reality, we have as much control over how we feel about or experience loss as we do over our loved ones. Some people wind up with much more pain than others, and much more than they deserve. What you can always do, however, is find meaning and value in the relationships you’ve cared about, and, in doing so, find reasons to believe in yourself and carry on.
In the past three years I have lost my father, my husband, my son, and had a bad breakup. I also am responsible for the care of my handicapped mother. The loss of my son and the breakup have both happened in the last three months. I feel overwhelmed and cannot pull myself out of it. It’s too much to go through all at once, and I can’t see any relief in sight. My goal is just to survive the excruciating period of my life.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 17, 2015
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Part of what makes depression so powerful is that it doesn’t just wipe out your will to live internally, but pushes you to drive away the friends and partners that would help you fight back. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you feel like your depression is causing you to lose loved ones, here are five ways to keep your safety net intact and prevent a depressive period from damaging close relationships.
1) Nix the Needy
Select friends who aren’t overly sensitive or reactive, because somebody who always takes your random bad moods personally isn’t someone who’s going to stick around for very long (and will make you nuts with guilt in the process). Instead of straining your face (and brain) with a fake happy face, find friends who are comfortable with depressive symptoms and know how to roll with it.
2) Fly Your Sad Flag
Educate friends and family about depressive symptoms, particularly social withdrawal, sadness, and irritability, so they’ll know that what you’re going through is due to your disease and not their actions. Your message to them is, I’m not angry with you, I haven’t stopped caring, and I haven’t lost my appreciation for your jokes. What I have done is get stuck with this disease that occasionally makes me miserable and unpleasant.
3) Help them Help you
After outing yourself as a depressive, tell your loved ones what they can do to help when you feel down, so they don’t try too hard to cheer you up, get you to share your feelings, and generally make things worse (with the best of intentions). For instance, let them know not to take it personally when you cancel during dark times, but also that it’s helpful if they push you a little harder to get out of the house, despite your grouchiness.
4) Enforced Fun
Make it easier for your friends by preparing a list of those social activities that you believe are healthy and good for you to try doing when you’re depressed, even if you won’t feel at all like doing them and might not be at your most fun self while they’re happening. Then share it with your friends and ask them to help you create a social schedule when you’re down and hold you to it.
5) Emphasize Effort
Resist the depressive urge to find fault in yourself by comparing your social interactions while you’re depressed with what they are normally. Instead of noting how badly you’ve shut down, focus on the many steps you’ve taken to manage your depressive symptoms, including social withdrawal. Then give yourself credit for all the extra work they require and respect yourself and your friends for the value they place on your relationship, even when it’s no fun. You can’t control your dark moods, but with the right friends and approach, you can survive them intact.
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 15, 2015
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Depression can make everything in your life seem worthless, so it’s shouldn’t be surprising if your negative thoughts infect those closest to you and convince them that your relationship is worthless as well. In reality, of course, depression doesn’t change the good things you’ve accomplished, just your perception of them; they’re just a set of bad feelings that will pass, but if the people around you are as convinced of your depressive thoughts as you are, then perception becomes reality. If, however, you can select friends who are relatively immune to the infection of depressive thoughts and good at remembering what they like about you, even when you don’t like yourself, you’ll have a better chance of coming through a bad depressive bout without losing the stuff that makes life worthwhile.
Everything feels pointless, from waking up to eating. My partner left me because, during a period when we were apart, I kind of shut down all emotions and capability for affection and she thought I didn’t love her anymore. Later, I realized it was the same behavior that my mother would display when she got her manic-depressive episodes and had to leave me for a few months at a time. And I didn’t see what had happened to me with my partner until it was too late. I didn’t realize I even did it as a kid. Now I have this insane pain in my chest all the time and I don’t see where I am going further in life and why to even bother with it…on top of that I think I have some problems with letting people come close to me to create a strong bond, given my history. My goal is to make sure that I never go back to shutting down my emotions like this when I have to be apart from any future partner, and also, to let go of the partner who left me, because I still want us to try again, but she will not. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 15, 2015
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Earlier this week, we heard from a reader who’s having trouble coping with a disabling illness. While such situations may feel hopeless, there are ways to make the best of life and have a lot to be proud of in the process. When you have an overwhelming health issue, here are five things you can do to cope.
1. Stop Asking Why…
Resist the temptation to figure out what you, your family, your boss, your cat, etc., did to ruin your health. Don’t think for a minute that exercise and healthy eating offered you significant protection, or that your failure to recover constitutes a medical mystery or probable malpractice. A guaranteed healthy existence is something advertisers promise in order to sell things; in the real world, no one is immune to bad luck.
2. …And Ask Smarter Questions
Instead of blindly accepting whatever treatment is offered, ask yourself, your doctor, and whatever relevant literature exists what the chances are that it will help you and how you can measure its benefit. That way you can stop that treatment and move on if it’s not doing you any measurable good. It’s also helpful to contact other people with a similar condition, not just to compare treatments, but to prove to yourself that life can be this unfair to anyone, not just you.
3. Be Patient and Persistent
Don’t quit treatment because the first efforts have failed. If, as suggested above, you’ve educated yourself about all treatments, then list those you think are worth trying and pick your doctors’ brains about the ones they would try on themselves. Don’t rely on your doctors to make all the decisions; work together as a team to figure out what actions are worth trying.
4. The Mental Health Factor
Read up on the way anxiety and depression can make you feel like a failure, riding a roller coaster into a seemingly-bottomless pit that’s actually a well of shit. Find out about all the treatments that can protect you from these dangerous distortions and try those you think can help; but whatever you do, don’t assume the helpless voices in your head are reliable and worth listening to.
5. Take Stock/Credit
Make a list of your usual priorities—like keeping busy, spending time with the people who matter, and continuing to be a good person by your own standards—and build those priorities into your schedule, making allowances whenever possible for the fact that you are sometimes incapacitated. Then review the immense amount of work you do to manage symptoms and tolerate disability, and respect your efforts while continuing to live your life, despite poor health and bad luck.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 7, 2015
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On Monday, we discussed how stress can change people and turn a strong, intelligent woman into a bad-boyfriend addict. While stress can push you to pick up bad habits, it can also push you away from good ones. Whichever happens to you, regaining control begins with an acceptance of the fact that you’ve lost it, but that you’re still the same old person inside. Then invite help from friends, build new habits and be patient, and you’ll eventually bring your behavior into line with your character. Just because stress changes you doesn’t mean careful management can’t change you back.
I worry about the way my daughter stops contacting me for months at a time when she gets depressed. At least when she was in high school, she lived with me, so I could keep an eye on her and force her to stay on top of her work and get out of bed. Now she’s out of school and won’t even answer my texts. I worry, but I don’t want to antagonize her or undermine her independence by barging in on her. Meanwhile, I understand from her brother that she has trouble getting out of bed or even checking her mailbox, so it seems like she needs me now as much as she did when she was a kid. My goal is to help her without making her feel that I’m trying to take over her life.
It’s true that actions speak louder than words when it comes to expressing affection or commitment, but some people’s behavior is really impaired, even when their affection and commitment are genuine. Depression notoriously can prevent people from checking their mail, answering their phones, or even showering or leaving the house. No wonder they get more isolated and depressed.
What you’ve learned from watching your daughter endure prior bouts of depression is that her withdrawal doesn’t reflect specific negative feelings or a lack of independence; just a neurological shutdown. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 3, 2015
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As you might have noticed, the site’s been going through some changes in the past week or so as we prepare for the release of our book, F*ck Feelings (see pre-order links to the right, it makes an excellent Labor Day gift).
This week, we debut our biggest change—instead of doing two cases per post, we’re going to do two per week. New posts will still go up on Mondays and Thursdays, but those posts will contain just one case, and it’ll be the Monday case and the Thursday case that have a unique and insightful connection, as opposed to two cases within each entry.
We hope you approve of these changes, and we appreciate your patience as we revamp the site and drag it from the WordPress dark ages.
In conclusion, please enjoy FF 2.0, and also, please buy our book. These A/C-bolstered electric bills aren’t going to pay for themselves.
When people are under stress, they sometimes become different people. While nobody aside from Bruce Banner experiences a physical transformation, stress does make some people repeatedly do things they know they shouldn’t. If stress sucks you into a bad habit, learn to accept your loss of control, put shame aside and have faith that the real you is still there and will come back from your mental-Hulk state. Next time, we’ll discuss the strange flipside of stress-induced compulsion.
I pride myself on being a pretty independent woman, so when I realized I had to give up on a relationship that was going nowhere with a guy I liked, I barely let it phase me. Six months later, however, I fell hard for someone else and, when he dumped me, it seriously messed me up and made me miserable. That’s when I was horrified to find myself calling my previous, going-nowhere boyfriend again. Since then, I can’t seem to stop calling him, even though I feel the same old vague emptiness after we spend time together. I’ve never seen myself as weak, but I feel like an addict every time I get sad and find myself picking up the phone. My goal is to figure out what went wrong with me to make me become someone who can’t stop calling someone whom I know will leave me feeling worse.
Experiencing the urge to do something destructive, be it calling a crappy ex, eating your weight in Oreos, or returning to the vodka trough, isn’t always a sign of overall weakness, weirdness, or creepiness. More often, it’s a sign that a part of your brain is possessed, and Oreo-loving demons don’t get up and leave on their own.
That’s because these compulsions often have a life of their own, and sometimes independent people who are proud of their self-control find themselves struggling with the urge to do something they really don’t want to do, whether it’s drinking, eating, or over-connecting. Nobody’s immune to bad habits, not even good people. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 23, 2015
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While the whole concept of “shoot first, ask questions later” sounds cool to many of us, it obviously has some detractors (namely, those who were shot before they could have been vindicated through question-asking). In reality, as always, you need to strike a balance, because, while asking questions can sometimes interfere with action, taking action can be a way to avoid asking difficult questions. So, instead of assuming that either is good without the other, learn how to limit your questions to those that are necessary and how to take action, hopefully unarmed, even when you’re not sure how things will turn out.
I’ve been taking a medication for several years that has been very good for my depression, but now I’m having obsessive thoughts and my doctor thinks I should take a larger dose and see if it reduces the OCD. She says there’s always an advantage in taking one medication instead of two, and that a month of taking a larger dose every day will tell me whether this medication can help all my symptoms or whether I need to try something else. It’s hard for me to take the same dose every day, because the medication makes me jumpy, so I always take less when I need sleep and then I take more when I need to be awake. In addition, I read on the internet that larger doses might make me fat, or, in some cases, suicidal, so I have a lot of doubts about this increased dose, and a lot of questions that nobody seems able to answer. My goal is to find somebody who has the answers (you?) and figure out the best way to deal with my obsessive thoughts.
If you’re having obsessive thoughts, and both you and your doctor acknowledge this to be a problem, then maybe you shouldn’t take your endless doubts about medication at face value. You can’t alleviate obsessive thoughts by entertaining them, which is what you’re doing here.
It’s valuable, of course, to make careful decisions about medication, and your questions would be useful if your medication were really designed to work quickly and help you stay awake. Instead, it’s designed to help you stop obsessing about factors like these, and to do so at its own pace. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 9, 2015
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People often have simple, easy expectations about complicated, difficult feelings; grief should resolve itself with time, and overwhelming guilt should be resolved by redeeming actions. Of course, grief doesn’t always disappear on schedule, if ever, and guilt shouldn’t become overwhelming unless you’ve actually done something wrong. So don’t grieve for persistent grieving and do feel guilty for over-reacting to guilt. Adjust your expectations, hold on to your values, and get used to the simple fact that painful feelings have a logic of their own.
I lost my son ten years ago when he was hit by a drunk driver, but I still think about him every day, and sadness comes back periodically. I’ve always liked to stick with the things I liked—I’ve had the same job for many years, the same friends and hobbies, and I’m often reasonably happy—but he was my only kid, I never remarried after his father left us, and I just sometimes wonder whether I should still be thinking about him and feeling sad so frequently, even after all these years. My goal is to learn to accept his death in a healthy way so I don’t grieve forever.
Like rage and exhaustion, grieving is one of those feelings that you’re only “allowed” to experience for a limited amount of time; otherwise, everyone around you wants to kill you, and that’s only if your emotional-overdose doesn’t kill you first.
While rage and exhaustion really can burn you out, grieving over a death, even for ten years, isn’t necessarily unhealthy or unusual, and it certainly isn’t guaranteed to hasten your own demise.
In reality, people differ in the depth of their attachments and life doesn’t always offer second chances. So your experience with prolonged grief after losing your only son may be unavoidable, if uncomfortable, and, of course, sad.
After all, you’re the type of person who experiences strong, lasting attachments, so your relationship with your son would probably have been central to your life if he were still alive. Based on your long history with the same job and friends, it seems that you’re also the sort of person who values continuity and relationships over adventure, change, and new experience.
The pain of prolonged grieving could have become destructive if it caused you to lose interest in relationships or the values that shaped your life, but that isn’t the case. You’re living the life you want to lead; you just miss your son.
It’s hard to live with grief, so don’t make it worse by wondering why you can’t make it stop. Certain kinds of grief never end, but that’s what comes of loving, having children, and being fully committed to them. You wouldn’t want to be a different person; you’d just want life to less cruel to people like you.
So don’t question lasting sorrow. It’s a reflection of the loving relationship you had with your son, it hasn’t stopped you from leading a meaningful life, and it’s a key part of that meaning and of who you are. You have moved on in so many ways, even if your heart hasn’t.
Don’t feel bad about feeling bad; feel good about having a good relationship with your kid, even if he isn’t here anymore.
“When I find myself still grieving for my son after many years, I wonder if I’ve really moved on. I know, however, that I’ve made the most of what life has offered me even when it’s been unbearably painful, and grief hasn’t changed what I care about or have tried to achieve.”
I can’t stop feeling like I screwed up because an executive I hired a year ago feels I hired him under false pretenses. It’s true, his prospects changed recently when I relocated our company, but, when I hired him, I didn’t know that was going to happen. He doesn’t accept my explanation, however, and feels I’ve derailed his career, or at least uprooted his life. The situation reminds me of my mother, who always lamented how becoming a parent sidetracked her career, and I hate the idea of making anyone feel that way. My goal is to stop feeling guilty all the time.
As a manager, your job is to allocate responsibility fairly after considering a person’s job description and workload, and to avoid making anyone responsible simply because you need someone to blame. That might be emotionally satisfying, but it’s bad management. Especially if the person you’re mindlessly assigning blame to is yourself.
Don’t let yourself become responsible for an employee’s unhappiness, or even your mother’s unhappiness, without first stopping to examine the facts.
You suggest that you did nothing wrong, but you continue to blame yourself because he does. Forget about him then and consider your job description and what you could or couldn’t do about his career. Then ask yourself whether you treated him properly. If you met your own standards, then give yourself the right to disagree and to decline responsibility for ruining his life.
It’s hard to watch someone feel his life is ruined. Even though life sometimes takes a turn for the worse, however, it’s seldom helpful for anyone to see himself as a helpless victim who can do nothing to improve his situation but blame his problem on someone else. Taking on responsibility for other people’s problems doesn’t just hurt you; it also hurts them by giving them an excuse not to look for a solution.
So don’t take responsibility you don’t deserve and don’t listen to whining; you have a responsibility to protect yourself. Maybe you acquired the habit of feeling responsible for the sad lives of others as a child, but you’re an adult now, and a boss, and the blame stops with you.
“I feel terrible to hear someone say I’ve ruined their lives. I know, however, that I haven’t done anything wrong and that, if someone’s luck is bad, it’s their job to make the best of things without complaining. I will no longer accept undeserved blame or listen to unhealthy complaints.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 1, 2015
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The only thing people are worse at accurately evaluating than “family values” politicians and Marvel movies is their own character. That’s the drawback of judging something using your emotions and expectations, not facts and fairness; it makes us as apt to judge ourselves too harshly as to excuse ourselves too readily. In any case, don’t trust your self-judging instincts until you’ve examined the facts, reviewed your standards, and decided how you would judge a friend under similar circumstances. Then, however you feel, stand by your verdict/review of Ant Man and act accordingly.
I’ve lost a few really close friends over the years, one after the other, and it’s got me wondering whether I’m really a jerk (or “Asshole™”?) but don’t know it. Most recently, my best friend froze me out when he accused me of hating his boyfriend; I swear I kept my thoughts about him to myself, and besides, I didn’t think the guy was so terrible, but either way, I was shocked when my friend dropped me and I had to hear from someone else that he was married. Before that was the friend who was always mad at me but then went nuclear when I suggested spending less time together, then a handful of ex-boyfriends who think I’m the devil, a job or two I was awkwardly let go from without warning…when everything was happening, I thought I was doing the right thing, but with a such a long enemies list, I have trouble trusting my judgment. My goal is to figure out whether I’m just bad at choosing friends or bad at seeing myself for the jerk/Asshole™ I really am.
Since the first rule of Asshole™ club is never wondering if you’re an Asshole™, you probably aren’t one. On the other hand, the first warning sign that someone’s an Asshole™ is learning that they’ve got a list of people who’ve wronged them that’s longer than the list of ingredients on a can of Pringles, so your concern is understandable.
Of course, everyone can act like an asshole sometimes, but that doesn’t an Asshole™ make, especially since you probably regret that behavior while an Asshole™ would expect a trophy for it. What you need then is a reliable, objective way of examining the moral value of your actions (and the value of those friendships, as well). WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 7, 2015
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Most tough decisions involve competing risks of the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don’t variety; tougher still are those that factor in someone you care about, so now they’re damned if you do or don’t. In evaluating risk, however, we often over-fear threats that cause pain but aren’t dangerous and under-fear true dangers because they won’t hurt until they happen. So if you’re realistic about rating risk, and don’t overreact to the risk of emotional hurt, your decisions will often become clearer. That will make it easier to damn your doubts and do the right thing.
I can’t really get into the specifics of my job (for reasons that are about to become obvious), but I work in a partnership with another woman at a job where a mistake could cause serious injury, and my partner is always drunk. I’ve tried to talk to her about it, because I’m an alcoholic myself (two years sober, in the program), but she denies everything and changes the subject. I don’t want to bring it up with the higher ups, however, because, even though her being drunk puts us both in danger and scares the shit out of me, I know she’ll lose her job, which will just make her drinking worse. My goal is to figure out what, if anything, to do about it that won’t get her in trouble or both of us in a dangerous situation.
While Alcoholics Anonymous believes that there are no “former” alcoholics, there are many different kinds, e.g., active, in recovery, functioning, possibly just French, pickled, etc.
As an alcoholic in recovery, you should know that AA also says that we’re only as sick as our secrets. And your secret, about her secret, could make you both very sick indeed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »