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Feelings are the true F-word.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Frank Checks

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 18, 2015

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When you have a specific goal for yourself or someone you care about, it’s useful to imagine that goal as a physical destination, and set limits as the directions for getting there. After all, just nagging someone to do something they wouldn’t instinctively do is like being a GPS that tells the driver to “just get there,” and worrying about making a goal you haven’t considered carefully will leave you driving in circles. If you want to determine those limits, you need to know why your limits are better than the alternative so you can fully explain them, even if it’s just to yourself. If you can properly weigh the value of limits in terms of improvement, then you or that someone you care about can arrive at your goal via the best route possible.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t stand watching my son come home from school everyday, earphone in one ear, and go straight upstairs without acknowledging anyone so he can go hole up in his room and text and play videogames. When I tell him to get his face up and out of a screen before I take every last device away, he asks me why I’m punishing him. He’s a good kid and gets his schoolwork done eventually, but he doesn’t help out around the house or really engage on any level. My goal is to get him to see that it’s not healthy to do nothing but mess around with all this vapid technology without having to fight with him all the time.

It would be nice to have the kind of kid who naturally likes to socialize, chip in, and keep busy with healthy activities, but humans like that at any age are rare. After a long day—and, if he’s in high school, lord knows what horrors his day can include—most of us just want to zone out and relax with a glass of wine/Xbox.

Of course, if you express annoyance, your kid does what most people do when they feel criticized and under-appreciated—he finds a way to do even less. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Pairing Strife

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 5, 2015

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It’s remarkable how often people are blind to the true nature of their relationships; even more remarkable than the resulting number of bad conflicts, really bad romantic comedies, and truly horrific divorces. The only thing more frustrating than being blind is having to act as a seeing-emotion guide to one or both of the parties involved, either because you want them to ignore their differences or wise up to them. In any case, telling them how you feel about how they feel will probably make things worse. All you can do is remind them of their duty to do what’s right for themselves and hope that experience helps them see their way out of a horrible, unremarkable outcome.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve got two guys working in my warehouse who both do their jobs, but they can’t get along with one another, and their squabbling puts everyone on edge. The younger guy is very motivated and hardworking, but he feels the older guy is stupid and slows him down, and he gives him crap about it. The older guy isn’t lazy, but he is a little stupid and slow, plus he’s sensitive and he feels the younger guy doesn’t respect him, which is true. I’m their boss, so they both complain to me, but I don’t want to lose either of them because it’s a pain to train someone new. Plus I like them both, I just can’t stand how much they hate each other, and I can’t get them to sit down and work it out because it’d make things worse. My goal is to get them to get over this bullshit and get back to work.

As their boss, you have a right to insist that people working for you treat one another with respect and leave it to you to judge whether or not they’re competent. More realistically, however, bosses really just have the right to mediate between childish employees and absorb animosity. All this for better benefits and your own parking space.

Of course, being that you’re more like a father than an enforcer to your employees, you have as much power to make them get along as you do to get your kids to stop bickering in the minivan. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Focus Pocus

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 20, 2014

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In this day and age, it’s almost impossible not to know what Attention Deficit Disorder is (or to not have a direct connection to someone who has it, or to not have an opinion on it, just because). On the other hand, very few people are aware of Attention Surfeit Disorder, which is when people habitually get so perfectly focused on the problems that grab them that they can’t see why anything else matters, even if it’s a looming disaster. Whether you can’t focus on any one thing or focus far too much on one thing exactly, be aware that our brains have different ways of focusing, and that each has its own strength and weakness. Then, whether you have a fun diagnosis or not, you’ll be better at managing your priorities instead of following whatever captures your attention.
Dr. Lastname

I’m curious to your thoughts on subclinical anorexia. I was (voluntarily) hospitalized with anorexia nervosa last year. Since then I’ve managed to keep my weight out of the danger zone, but not up to where my physicians would like it. Honestly, I don’t see the point. Even at my lowest weight I completed an MPH at Hopkins (my third post-graduate degree), I’m in the “healthy” BMI range, technically, and I hold a full time job in addition to teaching science at a local University two nights a week. Who the hell cares if I don’t hit my target weight? My goal is to continue to achieve excellence without worrying too much about what doctors tell me about my weight.

When you focus too much on perfection in one particular aspect of your life, be it in terms of appearance or professional achievement, it’s like searching for a house based on the quality of the faucets; you become so fixated on the gleaming chrome that you don’t notice the lack of square footage, light, or even plumbing.

Obsessional, single-minded focus is always unhealthy when it gets you to disregard whatever else is truly important in your life, like your health and friendships. You tell yourself it’s good to work harder to make yourself better…while losing track of the fact that what you’re sacrificing is worth more than the excellence you’re driven to achieve. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Good Mortals

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 15, 2013

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Like a pain threshold, need to buy a Hank Williams record, and Jesus, a true appreciation of what’s important only seems to become clear when our lives seem most meaningless or most precious. When everything seems to be going wrong for yourself, or a loved one is going through his or her last days, you can feel like a helpless, frustrated loser, at least at first. Once you realize, however, that you’re just a human being who doesn’t have much control over the really bad things in life, you can stop feeling like a loser and start gaining perspective about what’s really important, like doing good and being good, with or without country music.
Dr. Lastname

I am 40 years old and have gone from a size 4 to a size 14 in very little time. Basically, I love food and drink, but I also take spin classes three times a week. I feel like no one will ever love me for who I am “on the inside” now that I’ve gotten this big, especially because I didn’t have a boyfriend until I got skinny in college. I had been seeing a therapist for four years, but my limited funds have gotten in the way. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think that to be loved meant to be thin. I want to convince myself that, like so many before me, being big doesn’t mean being unlovable, and to be ok with my weight, because I am beautiful with it (right?). How do I put my self-confidence out there again? I have a bunch of Percocets from a recent surgery, and while body image is not the only thing I struggle with, I think about those pills all the time. To date, they have been my medal of honor. They are here, and I am strong enough to leave them there, so far. Help.

It’s hard not to be lonely, dateless, and getting nowhere with diet and exercise, without feeling bad about your life. You feel ugly inside and out, in an ugly, unfair world, often from the vantage point of on an ugly, un-fun fake bike.

You want to empower yourself and you’re willing to work hard, but when nothing’s going your way, the confidence often just doesn’t come and the weight won’t go away. That doesn’t mean, however, that you’re a failure, or even that the world is quite as ugly as it seems.

It means you’re not lucky, at least not yet, even though you’re doing lots of good things to make your life better. You’re doing right by yourself, but as much as we all like to get inspired by stories of self-empowerment, the truth is, it has its limits. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Best Self-Exam

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 28, 2013

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Addiction is easier to understand if you picture it as a mental squatter, the way advertising for nasal decongestants depicts mucus as a working class family that happens to be gooey, green, and getting by in your sinuses. Even when people are strongly motivated to stop compulsive or addictive behavior, their addiction is often one step ahead of them, distorting their thinking to undermine their efforts and stay put. In some cases, they are so obsessed with the self-perceived ugliness of their bad habit that they can’t consider more important reasons for stopping, while in other cases, they are so obsessed with finding their addiction’s ultimate cause that they wind up blaming people who care the most and could offer the most help in their recovery/to send the addiction packing. If you’re ready to quit, avoid stoking up feelings of self-disgust or blame; instead, prepare to tolerate pain without blame while looking for positive reasons to manage lingering inner demons and keep them from setting up house.
Dr. Lastname

I think I meet the clinical definition of having an eating disorder (at least, according to the all-knowing and all-powerful Wikipedia). For the past four years I have been binge eating and semi-purging through excessive laxative use. Before that, for about two years, I was probably somewhat anorexic, although I say this in retrospect as I don’t think I either realized or would have admitted it at the time. (5’2” and less than 90 lbs. is pretty thin, though). My goal is to stop binge eating, and I don’t know how. My eating and obsession with food have basically taken over my life, and though I fight it and things have gotten better than they were a year or two ago, I’m constantly afraid of when I will binge next. I don’t trust myself at all. It affects my professional life, and I need to stop letting that happen. I miss the self-control and feelings of power and self-worth that my thinness used to give me. I realize that going back to that is not exactly a healthy goal, though. I’d frankly be pretty pleased if I could just stop binging and get on with my life.

It’s hard to underestimate how all-consuming an eating disorder can be; as you obsess about the ways to keep food out of your body, it becomes the main occupant of your mind. Every moment spent avoiding the act of eating requires twice as many moments of mental torment on the subject.

Then there are endless concerns about your appearance, feelings of worthlessness, compulsive behaviors, and the intense ties between them. Eating disorders foster a kind of self-obsession, a dependence on your own thoughts and secret behaviors that devalues other goals and relationships.

It’s not surprising then that managing an eating disorder requires, not more self-control, but an acceptance that you’ve lost control and a willingness to admit other people, like family and therapists, into your private, obsessive relationship with food. It’s not unlike the so-called First Step of managing an addiction—admitting your helplessness and recognizing the importance of values other than your needs and shame. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Yes We Plan

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 17, 2013

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It’s often been said that if you want to make god laugh, make a plan, but this is not the case for people dealing with mental illness, mostly because of all the pain you have to accept before you even get to the plan-making stage. If you ignore that pain, you’re a dumb ostrich who will make an avoidant plan, but if you focus too much on it, you develop a ruminative plan and become your problem. So brace yourself for unavoidable pain, prepare to do two things at once, and plan away. Then your choices will take you as close as possible to where you want to be, and your plan, or at least your ability to make one, will make any higher power proud.
Dr. Lastname

I have a big problem getting myself to study. I do things late and then don’t get good grades, or I don’t get anything done, or I stop somewhere in the middle. I guess I have a problem with concentration and also with laziness. I’ve also done this thing since I was a little child where I turn on music, I sit on a couch or my bed and rock myself, hitting my back towards the backrest of the couch, sometimes it takes hours, sometimes it’s quite quick, like half an hour. I also have quite low self-esteem, not sure what is the reason…I am trying to overcome it somehow but it always gets to me again and I have to deal with it and then I have these days like I do not want to get up—I can’t think of a reason to, and I do not want to go anywhere and I am scared of everything. Sometimes I feel like people are watching me and criticizing me and I don’t want to go to the market because I don’t want to deal with anyone. Sometimes I eat a lot because I am in that crazy mood and I feel bad about it, not because I’ll gain weight (maybe a little bit) but especially because of my health… I criticize myself a lot. I write something or say something and in a while I hate it even if the first impression about it was really good. So… I might be a little bit screwed up I guess… I would be thankful for some opinion or advice what to do with all this.

You’ve certainly got a ton of problems, including trouble concentrating, studying, getting up in the morning, keeping your weight under control, dealing with paranoid thoughts, etc. (but hopefully not memory, because I’d have to think there are even more issues you forgot and left out).

The big question to ask yourself, however, is not what’s wrong with you and to count all the ways, but what you’ve done with your life in spite of these problems. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Hard Weigh

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 13, 2012

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Given how little we control our own urges, it’s not surprising that we also have trouble controlling our reactions to them, but it is odd how often those reactions are totally wrong. Brains have a pretty good track record with instincts; get thirsty when hot, get sleep when tired, get away when near snakes, etc. When people get urges that are humiliating, however, even when they’re doing a good job of controlling them, they wrongly blame themselves, but when they get controlled by noble urges, even when they’re causing terrible harm, they give themselves a pass. So, however much you love or hate your urges, don’t give yourself a hard time about stigma or anti-stigma. Instead, remember your own moral priorities and ask yourself whether you’re doing the right thing with whatever urges, pretty or ugly, that you got, and to avoid snakes.
Dr. Lastname

I have yo yo’d with my weight for ever—I was 8 years old when I remember going on my first diet, and I had binged by lunch time. I have seen a psychologist regularly in the past and a psychiatrist more recently, and been diagnosed with a binge eating disorder as well as melancholic depression. I also have a history of being sexually abused when I was a child and required hospitalization once for an attempted suicide (prior to diagnosis) and have been on various anti-depressants. Last year I decided to press charges against my abuser and the investigation is still taking place. This was very big for me as previously I couldn’t speak about or put into words to anybody what had happened to me, but with the professional help over years, could make a police statement. I have managed to get into a healthy weight range many times in the past, but only when on a program like Jenny Craig or weight watchers, and I resent having to do these programs and can’t commit to them after I have done them once, but I can’t seem to stay in this healthy way of life on my own. I am either losing weight or putting weight on– my thought are always around food, what when and where I can eat next. I hide most of my eating from everyone including my husband. I feel like a drug addict and don’t know how to take control of my eating. I do really well in my career and other areas of my life, I just can’t flip this switch that turns me into a zombie when I want to eat. I read everything I can about these disorders, I talk about strategies with my mental health professional, but when the urge to eat takes over I go into a zone that I can’t switch myself out of. How can I stop this pattern?

Having an eating disorder is rough, but it’s even worse if you give yourself a disorder about your disorder, giving yourself a hard time for having a hard time. It’s especially unnecessary given the fact that it’s harder to find someone with complete control over unhealthy food impulses than it is to find a unicorn.

Almost everyone has trouble controlling eating habits, as evidenced, not just by the multi-billion dollar industry devoted to weight management (which, as you’ve discovered, is no silver bullet), but by the fact that very few people get permanent weight control without surgery. In reality, of course, as much as we try to control our weight, more often, it controls us. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

End Of Transition

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 8, 2012

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Although stopping long-term intensive psychotherapy can leave you in a state of mourning and fear, particularly if it occurs during tough times or against your wishes, it’s unrealistic to expect that returning to therapy will make everything right again. Instead, give yourself time to adjust to change and reassess your ability to stay functional and positive. Then, if you think it’s necessary, find a therapist who’s a good, supportive coach and use him or her for a different kind of therapy that keeps your head straight without stirring up your deeper feelings. If you’re certain that you have to be “in therapy” to get helpful support and are helpless without it, then the therapy you’re in is helping you a lot less than you think.
Dr. Lastname

In my early 20s I spent 4 years in therapy (which I think in and of itself says a whole lot about the not good place I was in my head). Therapy ended, not because I was ready, but because I moved. I am now 46, and in the years since I continued to work through a lot of things on my own, with my therapist’s voice in my head, if no longer in actual therapy sessions. In January my grandmother took a turn for the worse, with both health and cognition, and we had to place her in full nursing care. She has always been one of the most influential and positive forces in my life, so I had a hard time dealing with this. It sent me spiraling down into my 4th lifetime episode of depression. I’ve started back on Prozac, which I now realize I need to stay on for the rest of my life to try to prevent future recurrences, and I’ve spent the last 10 months in therapy with my former therapist via phone sessions as we now live 1,000 miles apart. I have finished working through a lot of stuff in that time, meaning I’ve changed my attitudes and perceptions and behaviors, which has changed my life, inner and outer. I wish I’d figured it out 25 years ago, during that first round of therapy, but better late than never. It’s been a hard year. My grandmother died 7 weeks ago. The grief hit me more than I ever imagined. I thought I’d prepared in those months when she was slowly dying, but I was wrong. What is the saying—Where there is no struggle, there is no strength? Good growth has come of the pain—I have returned to college, and I am training for my first full marathon in January. I am at a truly good place in my head and was ready to end therapy, so two weeks ago, with my therapist’s blessing, I had my last session. I knew, though, that ending therapy because I am truly ready is a celebration, but that it would also be a loss. It is currently hitting me harder than I imagined. How do I get through this and find a place of healthy acceptance of this transition?

While it’s unfortunate that stopping intensive psychotherapy after many years is hitting you hard, it’s not surprising. As you well know, loss is painful, be it the death of a loved one or the end of a source of support.

That said, your pain doesn’t mean your psychotherapy has been less complete than you thought or that you stopped it too soon, just that you can be a solid, resilient person and also be very sensitive to loss, both because of temperament and circumstances. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Hung Worry

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 4, 2012

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When people argue about medical self-care, be it with family or just with themselves, their feelings are often masquerading as reason. After all, emotions make decisions fraught and complicated, while reason tells you that you can never control your health, just make choices that have costs and probabilities. If you face those costs and probabilities with courage, you need never defend your decisions, regardless of their outcome. It’s natural to worry, but it’s useless to let worrying dictate what you do and don’t do with your health.
Dr. Lastname

My husband and I have a great marriage, but there’s one issue we seldom agree on, and it’s irritating as well as worrisome. Whenever I decide to get medical advice about a problem, like back pain or anxiety, he suggests I’d do better by sucking it up and staying away from doctors and medicine, which is the way things were done in his family. I, on the other hand, believe you owe it to yourself to get good medical advice and that getting treatment is the way you take good care of yourself. I don’t like his disrespect for my opinion or his lack of sympathy when I’m clearly suffering. My goal is to get him to at least respect my point of view.

It’s natural to emotionalize health care decisions in terms of fear because that’s how we often make them: when we’re worried enough, we see a doctor.

Trouble is, worry can as easily drive you to avoid as to overuse medical care and can also embroil you in endless debates with family members whose worry style is a little different from your own. And there are many styles to choose from. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Indefensible Despair

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 2, 2012

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When you’re overwhelmed with depressed or anxious feelings that don’t seem “justified” or connected to the usual events of your life, you first doubt whether you deserve to feel that bad, then doubt your sanity entirely. That’s because these intense, negative emotions tell you that you’re worthless and/or doomed when you’re not (at least, no more than anyone else), and most people assume their emotions must be at least a little right. In reality, symptoms pass and you’re never worthless or doomed as long as you can keep your perspective, so instead of jumping to dire conclusions when intensely negative feelings try to seize control of your brain, stand your ground.
Dr. Lastname

I feel guilty for feeling like I might be depressed. I have no reason to feel sad (and that word makes me cringe because it doesn’t quite sum up the multitude of emotions that devastate me on a regular basis; desperate, useless, pathetic, oxygen thief, loser and plenty other perfectly good adjectives could cover it) and because I can’t justify it, I start to feel frustrated. I’m like an elastic band – one minute I’m the happiest person on earth and the next I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel, ready to drop where I stand and content to never get back up again. I’m twenty and so it might just be that I’m walking the boundary line between physical maturity and teenagerdom, where angst haunts us all. I’ve had difficulties with this kind of thing in the past—my dad died when I was nine and I developed anorexia shortly after and while I’ve since ‘recovered’ (I hate that word), I still have issues with the way my body looks. I tried to kill myself when I was thirteen for no other reason that I can remember other than I had a rope and a bunk bed and fuck it, why not? Obviously I failed and I’ve never tried it again, but now and then I’ll look up at my ceiling fan and think, “Why not?” And then I’ll feel silly and awkward. But then I’ll be driving down the freeway and think “one jerk of the wheel and I’m out”. Or I have a headache and I’m staring at a very large bottle of aspirin and it’ll be there, in the back of my head, whispering away. It’s not normal to feel like that, is it? Even if they are just passing thoughts, it shouldn’t be like this. Does everyone think like this?

When you find yourself with frequent feelings of self-loathing and an urge to end it all, the question isn’t whether other people think like this (not usually), or whether you should have to feel like this (should or not, you do, and that’s the way it is), or why you feel like this (life is indisputably unfair and some people carry inexplicable pain).

The question you should instead be asking yourself is whether you can find a reason to live, knowing that you often don’t really want to. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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