Posted by fxckfeelings on January 7, 2016
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If life puts you through the ringer, as described by our reader from earlier this week, it can leave you feeling like every last ounce of hope and joy have been wrung out of you forever. Here are five ways to get through hell with some of your positivity intact.
1) Less Reaction, More Distraction
Keep busy—the more time you spend working, volunteering, cleaning the garage, etc., the less time you have to think, remember, or have any serious talks you aren’t ready for. You’re not running from your feelings or avoiding facing the truth; you’re just working hard to keep these things from taking over.
2) Busy Body, Busy Mind
Exercise isn’t just a distraction, it’s a sort of healthy meditation; it gives you a chance to focus, but it’s active enough so that you can’t just sit and sulk. Running on the treadmill while watching Bravo will give you distraction, fitness, and endorphins all at once.
3) Dare (Not) to Compare
While it’s natural to want to gage your progress, never compare yourself to others, be they non-hell dwellers or hell-ions like yourself, because there’s always someone who’s happier and luckier. Think instead about what you’re doing to cope with hell, including surviving the pain and unusual heat.
4) Count Out A Cure
Don’t expect relief to come until it comes; assuming that a good talk with an old friend or therapist, a long vacation, or just a new pair of jeans will provide all you need to ease your ache will probably disappoint and then discourage. One day, the pain will be bearable, but all you can do is wait and focus on other things in the meantime.
5) Shelf Self-Blame
Never ask yourself what you did wrong to wind up in a feelings hell, or berate yourself for all the mistakes you made; sometimes things hurt even when you did everything right and nothing wrong. Remind yourself about the good things you were doing when everything went bad and the good things you continue to do in spite of the way you feel. It’s hard to be a good person when pain doesn’t stop, but if that’s what you’re doing, be proud of the way you’re surviving life at its worst.
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 November 24, 2015
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If you’re cursed with obsessive yearnings for something that’s out of reach, it’s natural to feel ashamed, particularly when you feel blessed in other ways and sharing your feelings would cause pain to those you love. It’s then also natural to obsess over how much you’re obsessing, which obviously just makes things worse and hard to feel anything but cursed. Unfortunately, however, ruminations are ruminations because you don’t control them. What you can control, of course, are the decisions you make about those yearnings. If you do what’s right regardless of your yearnings, you should recognize the significance of your accomplishment, and if you need tips for managing those yearnings, we’ll provide them later this week.
My husband and I can’t have our own biological kids, due to my husband’s infertility. We have a healthy and strong marriage, so that’s not the problem, and I’m also not mad at him for not being able to get me pregnant. I wish I was, however, because I feel like that’s an easy fix (or at least I can find plenty of how to do that online). What I am searching for is how do I stop wanting to be pregnant. We have adopted and our child is wonderful, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to carry a child of my own. As much as I have searched and asked, infertility advice is about dealing with in vitro or other fertility treatments or how to repair a marriage after infertility, not how to cope with this kind of loss, so I am searching for advice on how to move on. My goal is to figure out how do I accept my fate and stop wishing (desperately) for pregnancy.
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 15, 2015
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It’s strange that, as children, we’re pushed to declare what we want to be when we grow up, and then get disappointed with ourselves when we can’t achieve that goal, even though most kids want to grow up to be king or a dinosaur. If you get to adulthood without an idea of what you want to be, plausible or no, you may feel doomed if uncertainty and indecisiveness make such decisions difficult or illness makes your chosen path impossible. In reality, what matters most is not choosing a career or doing well at it, but being a decent and independent person as you find your way in life. Then, whether a career appears or, like the dinosaurs themselves, comes to a premature end, you will grow to be a strong person who can be proud of your choices.
I’m in my mid-20s and struggling from some choice-paralysis in regards to my career. I went to college on the other side of the country a few years ago and obtained an arts degree (I know, I know – bad move), and am doing administrative work. I find it deeply unsatisfying but it pays quite well, considering. I also know that if I wanted, I could build a solid career here in something practical, I would just have to decide which career. On top of that, my family is here, and I’ve taken up meaningful volunteer work. I have some friends with their masters that are starting up serious careers, and then some that are doing things like buying houses and getting pregnant, which makes me feel like maybe I should just find a boyfriend and start settling too. On the other hand, I deeply want change, a bigger city and different industry options. I got into a program at a college in a bigger city on the other side of the country, and it’s probably as useless as my current degree, but I would love to go back to school and be more qualified in something. Also, this city I would be moving to has more varied industries. But leaving my job and going back to school on the other side of the country means I would have to take out more student loans which just seems stupid. I know there is no right answer and that everyone goes through this in a way—if I go, I can always come back—but the part of me that wants to be pragmatic knows that with my current debt, moving would actually set me back a lot. My goal is to reconcile my desire for a cool arts job in a bustling city with my growing desire to be practical and either make a decision to find something that works for me here, or move, explore other options, and not look back.
Like marriage, a career is about the long game and shouldn’t be judged by its immediate rewards, be they to your mood, wallet, self-esteem, etc. Besides, while marriage is hard work, a career is just hard work; the only way to get the same kind of bliss from a new job as you would as a newly wed is to start working in porn.
Once you take that into account, it’s becomes easier to simplify your career choices, particularly when it comes to work, going to school, or change in general. Right now, in your mid-twenties, you have a great opportunity to explore career options, new cities, even sexualities if you’re so inclined, all without having to worry too much about pay or security. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 11, 2015
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Humans have long struggled to control strong emotions—to put limits on our heart’s desires or angry thirst for justice—but those emotions can become even more dangerous when they push us to try to control other people. You may want to control someone because you love him, or you may hate someone because she’s trying to control you, but in any battle for control, be it over passions, loved ones, or central Asia, there are very few victories. If you can tolerate those urges without allowing them to drive your priorities and control your mouth, however, you can avoid an epic struggle. You might not be in control, but at least you’ll be free.
My stepfather recently went to the doctor and got diagnosed with pre-diabetes and some other things. This means that he would have to stop drinking and smoking. It’s been a month or two since then though and he hasn’t done a thing. I feel so angry and scared for him whenever I see him making a drink or smoking because it’s like he’s just pretending it will go away. Some of his logic is that some people smoke and drink for years and they live to be 90, but his parents deal with some pretty life-threatening health risks. I think to myself, “doesn’t he realize how serious these issues can get?” I talked to my mother about it and she says that he said he won’t give up drinking entirely, if at all. I feel so incensed because he is making us watch him ruin his body and his health. I know it would be hard for him but I feel like he should just suck it up, because if he doesn’t want to do it for himself, shouldn’t he be doing it for us? We’ve talked to him about it and he just blows us off. I think he is an alcoholic and I don’t know what to do. I can barely look at him but I want to help him. I don’t think he will ever admit to his problem and he won’t ever go get help for it. My goal is to figure out a plan because I can’t stand to see him kill himself like this.
When you share a strong bond with someone, you don’t just have feelings for them, but with them; it’s hard to watch someone you love suffering because, when you really care about him, you’ll experience his suffering, as well. The pain you feel if you lose him, however, will be yours to bear alone.
Trying to steer him away from possible distress, however, often makes your own distress worse, because you can’t control his decisions, addictions, or decisions about addictions, and pushing usually causes push back. You can share each other’s pain, even if it comes from accidentally hurting each other. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 19, 2015
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The issue of control—what you’re responsible for controlling (not much), whether it’s possible (not often), and what happens when you try (not good)—is a frequent topic around here. Our frequent negativity is due to the fact that people often try to control something they can’t, be it in themselves or others, while they should instead be trying harder to control their response to their helplessness. Fact is, the inability to control something doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, but that that something can’t be controlled, period, so redefine your responsibilities instead of pursuing the control you wish you had but never (ever) will.
Since my father died unexpectedly last month, I’ve found myself bursting into tears without warning, and I know it’s upsetting my children. We were all close to him, but he and I had a special bond, and his death has left a huge hole in my life. I’ve never felt anything like this before—he’s the first person close to me that I’ve lost, and lost suddenly—and I’ve never lost control like this in front of the kids. My wife says grief is natural, but I’m worried that I’m really acting crazy and scaring them, and I just can’t stop. My goal is to get a grip before I hurt my kids.
While the pain of grief, like depression, is uncontrollable, what you do with it isn’t; some people ease the pain with booze, hibernation, and/or memorial tattoos. It doesn’t make a lot of sense then that you’re beating yourself up for some tears.
You’re not making bad judgments due to your grief, but, instead of expecting to get rid of it or hide it, ask yourself what your goals should be to manage it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 1, 2014
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Unlike most pay-cable drama series, old relationships can often be best judged by how they end; bad relationships tend to leave you with lingering attachment and confusion, and good relationships can leave you feeling so free, you might even wonder whether you cared enough in the first place. Of course, what matters most is not whether a relationship leaves you feeling fettered or free, but what you did with it and how you carry it forward into the future. You might never get over how your relationship/Dexter ended, but if you look at your relationships in terms of effort, value, and achievement, instead of feelings alone, you will have no trouble finding positive meaning in what happens next.
I’m scared about trusting again. I met my now ex through a friend last year and the attraction was instant. When we met he was up front that he would be going traveling six months later for an indefinite period, but this was fine with me as I understand the need to travel. It was the easiest relationship either of us had been in, it just worked. At first, he changed his trip to come back every couple of months for some weddings, so we thought we would try long distance to see if it could work. Then, unexpectedly, he breaks up with me because he said he doesn’t love me and feels he should be madly in love with me by now. He also says he’s never been in love before (the butterflies in the stomach kind which I tried to explain wasn’t love but initial lust) even after being in long term relationships. I went through his phone and turns out he met someone while volunteering. the fact that he has left me for someone else and could replace me so quickly has crushed me. I feel betrayed but mostly feel so insignificant. My thoughts have become obsessive over it. My goal is to stop how feeling so horrible about myself.
When the one thing you and your beloved have in common is a belief in the power of close chemistry, you know you’re in trouble; that’s like having a relationship based on the fact that you’re currently sharing an elevator or a common cold. Don’t start planning your jubilee anniversary just yet.
Unfortunately, getting along quickly, easily, and intimately with a lover is never a good guarantee of anything other than that he’s someone with real sales potential.
The fact he intended to travel for a long, unlimited period of time and isn’t in his early 20s (I assume) also tells you that he values excitement over commitment, and the most exciting things in most long-term relationships is figuring out what to have for dinner.
Ask yourself how thoroughly you completed a due diligence character review before deciding he was a wonderful partner. You should have checked out his prior relationships and how they ended, as well as what he wanted to do with himself when he came home and whether he wanted a partner to do it with. It would be interesting to know how big a nest-egg he was using and how he planned to replenish it. These questions may not build romance or make good love songs, but they sure predict how things will turn out.
You were right to suspect that the value he places on good company might allow him to replace you pretty quickly, and probably before you knew you were history. Since friendship is all about having a good time together, there wouldn’t be much point in his continuing the relationship since you, clearly, were no longer having a good time or likely to be good company.
You’re absolutely right, you deserve someone who believes that you, and a relationship with you, is important. What you must screen out are people who feel that you’re important as long as you’re pretty, charming, and/or fun, and not for deeper reasons. You didn’t get dumped because you’re insignificant but because you didn’t make this distinction and protect yourself properly.
Let your pain teach you a good lesson, namely that it’s important to put a higher value on your definition of a serious relationship, and not to give your heart to someone who doesn’t take relationships as seriously as you do.
Hopefully, they’ll also be fun, at least some of the time, and enjoy traveling, but whether they are or not, you may someday find yourself thanking your ex, the wandering schmuck, for helping you learn what’s important to look for and hopefully for finding the real, not-temporary thing.
“I feel like I’m disposable to someone who seemed to think I was wonderful, but I know I did nothing wrong to lose his love. I may feel like shit, but I’ll accept my lesson in how to make better choices.”
I grew up with my wife, so we knew each other for most of our lives. We got married right after high school and were especially close when she died last year, so it seems very strange when a day goes by and I actually find myself having a good time. The kids give me a funny look when they see me smile, as if they can’t understand why I’m happy. Of course I miss her and often talk to her, but she was dying for two years and, now that it’s over, I can feel life getting easier and simpler. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m avoiding grief, or if I cared as much as I thought I did. My goal is to respect and value the most important relationship I had.
One thing you understand better than your kids is that a relationship is better defined by actions than feelings. It’s not that you didn’t have loving feelings for your late wife, but you’re also proud of the way you cared for her during her illness while also raising kids together. Without that actual achievement, loving feelings wouldn’t have meant nearly as much.
So don’t measure your love by how passionately distraught you are now that she’s gone; rely on your own experience and wisdom to define what’s meaningful about your love. It sounds like you could rely on one another and that you shared a dedication to the kids and one another’s lives and concerns for years. The way she lives in your heart is more important than the depth of your sorrow. Help the kids value what they shared with her, rather than dwelling on what they missed out on. Pain causes us to think about what we could or should have done or what might have made things better, so instead, lead them to think about the difference she made in their lives and the ways they helped her get through her illness.
If you feel more vulnerable and in need of support, be careful to find the right kind. Find a positive therapist or hang out with friends who are good at reminding you that your strength did not depend on your wife, and that you can find ways to keep your family life steady and manage loneliness as a surviving, single spouse without requiring an immediate partner.
A good marriage doesn’t leave a void that has to be filled or a grief that is more unbearable. It leaves you, in this case, with a strong family and confidence in your ability to keep it running the way you and your wife believed it should be. You know the advice she’d probably give you; to not make up criticism you don’t deserve while you get on with life and see how well you can manage the family on your own.
“I feel like the world should never be the same after the loss of my wife, and it isn’t, but we worked to build a world together, so if it seems, in some way, to continue on unchanged, that’s partly our doing and what I’ll continue to do until something better comes along.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 17, 2014
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Timing isn’t just a crucial factor in comedy and decent microwaved popcorn, but also in finding relationships, especially when you’re reentering the dating scene after a long absence. Some people decide they shouldn’t try again because they got hurt, and some that they should just to relieve loneliness. In truth, however, some hurt people have good reasons to keep dating and some lonely people are likely to get into trouble if they try it. So don’t let feelings guide your dating decisions. The most important thing to consider when timing your return is whether dating is worth doing and whether you have the skills to manage the risks. Then, whether it works out or not, you’ll know you made the right decision, and you’ll know when the time is right.
I’m in my early 50s, and newly widowed after my husband’s extended illness. I’ve been lonely for a long time, he had Alzheimer’s and was like a child for many years. Recently, I joined a dating site and met a number of men. In the last three months, I’ve had eight sexual partners. I decided to get testing done for STDs and found out that I have hepatitis B. I ‘m not really sure whom I contracted it from, and not sure if that matters. I have advised all of my partners of my diagnosis. My question is, how do I go on from here? I’m scared of what this diagnosis means, and embarrassed to be in this situation. I can’t tell my family or friends because they would be appalled that I was having casual sex, and a couple of my partners have been nasty and threatening. I had hoped to eventually pursue a healthy long-term relationship, but now I feel dirty and like damaged goods.
To endure a husband’s suffering and early death from Alzheimer’s is a major achievement, at least to anyone who knows how hard it is to watch someone slip away bit by bit and not be able to mourn him or move on because he’s not yet gone. It’s a harrowing experience that would leave anyone struggling to find her footing.
Whatever other feelings your brain may throw your way, or however you explore your post-married life, you deserve to feel pride. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 29, 2013
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Whether you believe in a particular psychotherapy or find the very prospect of head-shrinkery scary, don’t let the emotions that draw you towards or away from the therapist’s couch drive your treatment decisions. Develop your own fact-based procedures for deciding whether you’re fucked-up enough to need therapy and, if so, whether there’s a treatment that isn’t too risky and has a good enough track record. Maybe we’d all like the experts to figure that out and make such decisions for us, but we’re better off picking the brains of experts and then making treatment decisions, pro or con, for ourselves.
Please note: We’re taking next week off for a long-deserved summer vacation, but look forward to hearing about your back-to-school/work misery when we return.
How long is too long to be in therapy? I have been in therapy for four years now, and it has helped enormously. I went into therapy initially because of a trauma situation, but I don’t want to stop, even though I’ve long worked through that trauma, because I still think I can benefit. Still, now that I reached the four-year mark, I’m wondering, how long is too long?
If you’ve read this blog, you’re probably aware of our belief that the most important goal of mental health treatment is seldom to relieve all your pain; that’s usually an impossible pursuit, or one that just shifts the pain from your head to your wallet and your friends, who are sick of hearing about what you learned in therapy.
The better goal of therapy is to use it to figure out how to prevent that pain from interfering with the way you think about, and lead, your life, and lucky for you (and us), your question reflects this healthy priority. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »