Posted by fxckfeelings on December 28, 2017
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Finding stability after an especially shaky period is a major and worthwhile achievement, but it may leave you feeling a new kind of uncertainty, stranded between troubled old friends who know you well and well-balanced new friends who would be totally thrown if they learned about your past. Gaining respectability, however, doesn’t require you to hide your past or get approved by other respectable types; instead, decide for yourself whether your efforts have helped you become a decent, independent person. If you respect what you’ve done with your life then you can insist on finding solid friends, whether you have a solid past or not.
Due to a combination of bad luck, poor decisions and generally reckless behavior, I went through a difficult patch in my late teens/early 20s. A brief highlights tour: abortion, severe depression, being broke, sex work, failing out of college…all in all, it was shitty. Ten years later and I’ve gotten a degree, a good therapist, some success in a far-less-shady line of work…I’ve even gotten engaged to a very nurturing and wonderful man. The problem is that these two realities—my past and my present—are so at odds with each other that it’s becoming increasingly hard for me to deal with. For example, having lost a lot of friends during the bad years, I have recently started trying to make new ones with colleagues I really like and would like to be closer to, but having to hide the details of my past/“double life” means they’ll always be at a distance. The same thing applies to my fiancé’s family, since knowing about my past will make them both wary of me and create difficulties for him. Even my long-time friends (who know my history) are reluctant to talk about the topic, and now that I’ve recently started experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks about that time, it does hurt that I can’t seem to confide in them about the practical problems that I am currently facing. I am functioning quite well about 75% of the time, but my moods can be unstable and at the times when I see this situation stretching out of me for the rest of my life I feel, frankly, almost as depressed as I did in the bad old days, despite being happy and extremely grateful about how well things have turned out. My goal is to A, find some way of making peace with my past and B, figure out some way of sharing my experiences with friends in a way that is appropriate but lessens my feelings of loneliness.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 24, 2017
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If, like our reader from earlier, your best efforts to find someone to be friends with, let alone date, are constantly fruitless, it can be hard to deal with both loneliness and the desperation that comes with it. So, instead of letting loneliness push you to lower your standards and reach out to the wrong people, let yourself embrace being alone a bit more. While you keep searching for connections, here are five ways to like being alone so you can’t be spooked by being lonely in the meantime.
1) Seek Out Activities You Can Enjoy Solo…
Take up hobbies that you can enjoy alone or in groups, like crafting, gardening, or running. If it makes you stronger, wiser, or richer on Etsy, so much the better, but the main goal, after getting used to your new hobby, is to actually like it and look forward to it. What you’re after is not a Fortress of Solitude but a well-stocked zone in your house, well-tilled corner of the back-yard, and well-established running path where you look forward to spending time of your own and/or with some other people who enjoy the same yarn/plants/stride lengths that you do.
2) …While Soaking In Activities You Can Enjoy Solo
As smart as it is to find solo activities that can also be done in groups, it’s also worth pushing yourself to try things alone that you’re used to doing with others; from going to the movies alone to driving cross-country by yourself, take on tasks that you might be wary of doing without a partner in crime. By doing so, you’ll gain a sense of independence that will help you overcome the fear of loneliness and teach you to enjoy your own company. Plus, you will often find that people are more eager to chat with you when you’re by yourself and the best adventures are more likely to happen when you’re not part of a couple or crowd.
3) Volunteer Your Time
You may think that being alone is pathetic, but there’s nothing less pathetic than contributing your otherwise solo time to a good cause, like teaching or caring for others. Even if you don’t meet like-minded people, you’ll feel useful, not just social, and build meaningful relationships with those you help. If they happen to be people in your community, you can stay in touch over many years, but if they’re not you can learn about other cultures and widen your view of the world. In any case, you’ll start to see your non-working, not-friend-filled time as a gift, not a burden.
4) Get A Damn Dog
Cats may be fine pets (for some people, who aren’t the authors), but they tend to encourage anti-social, house-bound behavior; even if you force your cat to go out for walks, most people are keen to avoid someone with a pissed off cat on a leash. Dogs, on the other hand, aren’t just loyal in-house companions; walking them forces you to be active and, if you live near a dog park, even social, although they also allow you to talk to yourself in public without seeming crazy. Most importantly, they oblige you to think about the needs of others (particularly when it comes to their need to eat, poop, not eat something that will make them sick and poop way too much, etc.), which is really what having a family, or any loving relationship, is all about.
5) Never Stop Looking For A Better Match
Just because you’ve learned to love your own company doesn’t mean you should then give up on finding someone who appreciates it as much as you do. For many people, finding worthwhile friends doesn’t result from trying to be more friendly or sociable; in most cases, there was nothing wrong with their social approach in the first place, but, for lots of reasons beyond their control, there was something wrong with the ability of their personality to mesh well with the people who happened to be around them. If you can pursue your own path until you finally meet a person or group that is a good match for you, and then enjoy, then you won’t need to fear loneliness while finding your own kind of fulfillment.
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2017
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Sometimes our brains act like our parents, tricking us with white lies so we’ll do what’s best for us. Unfortunately, unlike our parents, our brains sometimes get the wrong idea about what the right is for us in the long run. Parents reason that it’s OK to bribe kids into eating broccoli or coax them out of inappropriate behavior with empty threats of brain damage or blindness (or both) if the benefit outweighs the crime, but brains often do the opposite, convincing us that we should do what feels best in the short term, consequences be damned. So, if like our reader from earlier this week, your heart is broken and your brain is giving you any of the following seemingly legitimate reasons to reach out the person who did the breaking (with the secret hope of putting everything back together again), push your brain to think twice.
1) “I’m genuinely concerned about her wellbeing.”
Unselfish love is a wonderful feeling and seems above approach reproach, but once you’ve learned that a specific love will likely lead to misery/not-wonderful feelings, you’re supposed to protect yourself and keep your own wellbeing in mind. You may genuinely believe that the act of checking in on your ex is truly altruistic and that no harm can come from wanting good things for another human being, but if that were true, then martyrs wouldn’t exist. Your job isn’t to sacrifice yourself to save your ex but to keep yourself out of troubled relationships, exhaustion, and pain. Your brain may tell you that you’re doing the right thing by making sure she’s OK, but experience tells you that the buzz you get from seeing and helping her is like that from any other heavy drug; short-lived with a nasty hangover and a high risk for longterm damage.
2) “I don’t want to get back together, I just want to get some closure.”
Closure, like true love or perfect New York apartments, is another of those good feelings we see Nora Ephron movies for (RIP) because real life seldom provides it. As long as you’re honest and fearless in sharing your true feelings, TV and movies generally tell you that you can end a relationship with both parties (or more) accepting that it’s over and that, regardless of sadness and loss, with no resentment, unfinished business or unanswered questions, or self-doubt. Unfortunately, experience and Woody Allen movies (his career and integrity, RIP) tell you otherwise. Yes, you should try to be honest and accepting, but when closure doesn’t happen, remind yourself that the irreparable conflict is why the relationship didn’t work in the first place; if you were able to feel closure, you probably wouldn’t have broken up. In real life, closure isn’t a possibility, just an excuse to see your ex for a momentary respite from the pain of being closed out of his life.
3) “We were friends before we dated so we should be able to be friends now.”
Most people weren’t really friends before dating, just friendly; most people go through a platonic, getting-to-know-you period before dating begins in earnest (unless they’re in an arranged marriage or lost a bet in Las Vegas).
As such, they don’t actually have a pre-existing relationship to fall back on if romance fails, because real friendship requires a kind of comfort and trust that no one controls or manufactures at will, even with the best of intentions. That’s why even good people can’t necessarily be friends with the people they used to date or even love, even if they wish them well and have the strength to apologize, forgive, and get over past grievances. So, if your feelings and chemistry permitit, friendship is great, but if it’s not working, don’t try to pretend the uncomfortable or negative feelings aren’t there or you’ll make them worse. Being friendly non-friends is better than trying to force a friendship you just can’t have, especially since you’ll probably ruin any possible friendship in the process.
4) “I just want to let her know I forgive her.”
We may watch Nora Ephron movies to experience things that rarely happen in real life, but we watch Larry David to see someone suffer the same humiliations that we do, mostly from trying to do the right thing, at a safe distance. Trying to offer forgiveness is one of those good deeds that usually backfires and makes for good comedy on TV but tragedy in real life. After all, if your ex did something wrong but doesn’t see things that way, then forgiveness feels like condescension or re-accusation and will just stir up her old resentments. If she acknowledges responsibility, then forgiveness may be acceptable but won’t change the fact that most kinds of bad behavior happen again unless someone really, really wants to change, and even then they can’t always do it. In other words, you’re forgiving something your ex may not be able to prevent herself from doing again. No matter how strong the urge to give your ex the gift of forgiveness, do the more difficult work of finding acceptance instead, both of her unfixable flaws and your own covert desire to reconnect. Then decide whether further contact will give you the protection you need from whatever you’re forgiving her for.
5) “I just want to tell him this story I know he’d find really funny—it’s not like I want to get back together again or anything.”
Next to the aforementioned “I just want to ask him for my favorite T-shirt/mug/broken umbrella” excuse, “I just want to tell him (X unimportant fun thing)” is one of the flimsiest pretenses there is. As innocuous as it may seem to share stories that you used to enjoy together, it’s risky to share anything together until the not-enjoyable negative feelings left over from most normal breakups have truly cooled. Yes, you might like to see him again and remember the good times (and to possibly remind him or you of your friendship—see #3), but doing so won’t really help you and your ex move on to the next stage of life. Again, most of the painful feelings caused by breakups can’t be smoothed away by good talks, conjoint crying, or wacky anecdotes. It’s best not to reach out to your ex until you can be sure you’re truly over each other, but paradoxically, being over it means that you can hear a funny story (or do almost anything) without thinking of your ex or wanting to reach out to him at all.
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 20, 2017
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If someone breaks up with you for what you perceive to be unfair or unfounded reasons, one of the ironic effects of of the unjust uncoupling is that you can become so filled with confusion, pain and resentment that you can become the very kind of negative person your ex accused you of being in the first place. While there’s no reason to like the negative person you’ve become, there’s every reason to fear the results of sharing your feelings with your ex, even if you’re desperate to share something with her to win her back. Finding something sweet, giving and positive to think about and say may then seem like a good, positive solution that could restore your self-esteem and do some good. If being with her makes you become such a bad version of yourself, however, there are reasons to think twice about offering to help your ex feel better and instead use a different approach that will make you the better person you used to be.
I have an ex-girlfriend that suffers from depression and also has Aspergers. When she broke up with me, she accused me of being a liar and becoming a different, uncaring person over the course of the relationship. I don’t think any of those accusations are true, or that she even believes them, and I haven’t been able to get over her. Even though she said harsh words to me, I do not think she meant them and it was just the depression and Aspergers talking, especially since she told me she’s been depressed her entire life. I know that this might sound selfish and dumb, but I want to write something that could express that to her and maybe help her in the future. I will admit that I still like her and that’s why I’m writing, but I also really want her to be happier overall. My goal is to be able to get her out of her misery and be able to have a better life. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 13, 2016
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“Work,” like “nazi,” or “feces,” is one of those words that has an inherently negative connotation (except for a very select group of Germans). That’s why, if you’re unhappy with your current job, it’s important to remember that work is supposed to be unpleasant and that the chaos and instability of a major career change might be even worse. Here are five things to consider before changing career tracks so you don’t end up a train wreck.
1) Brace Yourself and Make a Budget
Force yourself to do a full audit of your expenditures so you can figure out how much you need and how badly you need it. It’s easy to spend as much as you’ve got when you’ve got it, but some expenses are necessities (electricity) and others aren’t so much ([insert sports team here] cable package), and you need to know before dropping your current career what they add up to over time so you can estimate how long your savings will cover you.
2) Assess the Amount of Work-Time You Can Take
Working extra hours at a job you love, whether you need them or not, can do you serious harm if it consumes all the socializing and parenting time required to keep you sane and your family happy. Avoid switching to a job that will be too time-consuming, particularly work that absorbs you, until you know how much time you can really afford and how much time you absolutely need for other priorities. Your job is to manage your priorities, not be managed by whichever one grabs you the most.
3) Scout the Market for Your Offered Skills
Even when you’re highly trained and good at what you do, the market for your specific services may vary greatly according to where you live and whether those previously trained and equally gifted have also chosen to live in the vicinity. Don’t jump to a more interesting field until you know what the market will pay for your services and if you do or can live where that market is strongest.
4) Investigate Your Partner’s Earning potential
If you’re in a committed relationship, never assume that a career that’s perfect for you will work well for your spouse; Of course you want one another to be happy, but if your new career destroys your family dynamic, or the schedule that either one of you thinks is necessary for the kids, or even the other guy’s career, then your whole house will be an unhappy one. Partnership isn’t about unconditional love, but about mutual planning, so that you know the limits that you have to work with.
5) Ponder Plan B
If you don’t know how you can face another day of the job you hate but discover you can’t easily leave, don’t despair; failing to make a change now won’t doom you to eternal unhappiness. Even if you can’t find an alternative now, a good option may present itself later, and in the meantime you can consider ways of making your current job a little less painful, like working from home, finding an engrossing off-the-clock distraction, or just giving yourself little gift incentives for every week you get through without murdering your manager. Don’t promise yourself escape or career happiness, but do promise to make the best of what’s available and to respect yourself for doing so.
Posted by fxckfeelings on November 22, 2016
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Young people in search of their vocational calling are often told to “find a job you’ll love.” What they aren’t told, however, is that most people love eating, having a roof over their heads, and getting to keep all of their teeth, and it’s easier and better to find a job you hate that helps you achieve those beloved goals than to search endlessly for work you’re passionate about while homeless and hungry for soft foods. Job satisfaction is never guaranteed nor fully under our control, so if working a shitty job is often unavoidable, working hard, whether your job calls to you or not, should be a source of pride, not shame.
I started my own business almost ten years ago, and it’s since grown really well with a staff of about 17 or 18. The problem is, I don’t enjoy the business I’m in very much at this point, so I am grappling with whether I should stop and do something else, or just carry on putting up with it. It’s hard to give up on something I’ve invested a lot of time and effort in, the business is doing well, I don’t want to put all my employees out of work, and I’m scared that I’d be throwing something valuable away and live to regret it in the future. My goal is to figure out whether (and how) I should stick to a job that I can no longer stand. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 19, 2016
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Because trust between people who know one another well usually depends on how well they treat one another (and their cars, pets, and fancy coffee makers) over time, we tend to assume that mistrust would not flare up in a close relationship without good reason. Unfortunately, some apparently normal people are sometimes prone to limited bursts of paranoia, so mistrust can also arise spontaneously for reasons that we don’t understand. That’s why it’s important to develop objective methods for assessing the causes of mistrust, whether it’s your own or others’, and whether it’s broken-espresso- machine-related or not.
I love my partner very much— he makes me very happy, and I feel very cherished. Despite that, however, I cannot trust him because there have been a few times that he has neglected to tell me very important things that affected us. He will keep me informed for a week or so, and then neglect it again. If I cannot trust him, can this relationship work? Can someone who behaves like this change? My goal is to figure out whether I can stay with someone I love, even if I can’t take his word. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 7, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re often plagued with uncertainly that’s beyond problematic and into the realm of downright paralyzing, here are five tools you can use to fight crippling self-doubt.
1) Compose Your Personal Code of Conduct
Pretending you’re judging the work or moral conduct of a friend, define standards for deciding whether his or her performance and character are good enough, avoiding the impossible standards of perfection you usually impose upon yourself. Spell out the standards you’re using to making your decision, and make sure to account for you/your friend’s circumstances, shortcomings, etc. when deciding how high those standards should be set.
2) Generate An Internal Judge Judy
Become the judge in your own internal court of perfection, using your new code to consider and rule on whatever nasty accusation your brain throws your way. Don’t hesitate to confer with a friend or therapist, but remember, once you’ve rendered a decision, it carries the weight of the Authority of your Code. As in Judge Judy’s court, all decisions are final.
3) Push Back Against Persistent Doubt
If your inner-Judy disagrees with persistent accusations made by the Prosecuting Center in your brain, use that gavel to talk back. Don’t expect the prosecutor to shut up or go away, but do take the time and effort to state your own opinion and do so with sincerity, confidence, and conviction. Your job is to stand up for yourself and the firm values that you’ve established (and not tolerate any nonsense).
4) Shut Out the Ceaseless Retorts
Having done what you should to discredit your brain’s unfair accusations and criticisms, and knowing that your mental prosecutor never sleeps (which is why your nastiest doubts appear in your nightmares, and why people still show up to Judy’s court in ripped dungarees), don’t give your doubts more attention than necessary. Whenever you recognize an old criticism you have previously reviewed, judged, and declared invalid, ignore it using whatever technique works for you, e.g., meditation, exercise, a distracting binge watch, etc.
5) Self-Respect is Your Standard
Keep in mind that your primary goal is not to quell your self-doubts but to meet life goals despite them, which can include educating yourself, working your dream job, building friendships, finding the right partner, and possibly raising kids. If you’re able to do those things while dealing with the pain of self-doubts and the extra work required to manage and deal with them, then you deserve respect and should consider yourself a success, no doubt about it. On to the next case on the docket.
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 19, 2016
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All of us have insecurities about our looks, but some people, like our reader from earlier this week, have insecurities that can be crippling, overwhelming, and totally undeserved. If you can’t help but obsess over perceived flaws in your appearance, here are five ways to suppress those horribly negative thoughts about your body.
1) Busy Your Brain
The more absorbing the activity, the less opportunity you’ll have to examine your body, think about its shortcomings, and come up with ideas about what you did wrong. If it’s work, you’ll also get paid, and if it’s exercise, you’ll get healthy and improve your body in other ways. In any case, it’s do-it-yourself therapy that’s far cheaper than the conventional kind with other incidental rewards.
2) Stay Social
Socializing with close friends keeps you busy and distracted while also giving you comfort and social feedback that contradicts your sense of repulsiveness. Through those friends you may actually find other people who like to be with you and even look at you. It won’t stop the thoughts, but it is a good distraction from them that also gives you ammunition to contradict them.
3) Train Your Thoughts
Therapists can give you fact-based ideas to use to contradict your negative thoughts with positive truths. When the negative thoughts creep in, repeat these truths to yourself in order to repel or even prevent those negative thoughts from invading your beliefs and devaluing what you should be proud of.
4) Prioritize Peace of Mind
If you want something less strenuous than exercise to keep your brain busy, you can learn how to meditate, shut off your mind and, if possible, hypnotize yourself into a relaxed state. Become expert on the various techniques for inducing relaxation and pursue whichever ones seem to best suit your style. Then do them regularly, no matter what your state of mind.
5) Observe Self-Censorship
Prevent yourself from indulging your negative thoughts out loud and talk about your body with nothing but respect, even when you’re letting others know about the negative thoughts you’re having. Never repeat those negative thoughts in a tone of affirmative belief. Make it clear you’re not looking for reassurance and that you won’t let your body-part-abhorrence change the way you behave or how you socialize, just that this is what goes through your mind and you’re doing what you can to keep it under control and away from your day-to-day life.
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.