Posted by fxckfeelings on February 4, 2016
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As exemplified by our reader from earlier this week, depressive thoughts can be powerful, persistent, and, above all destructive. Despite that, it’s possible to defuse these thoughts by responding to them and not letting them have the last work. Here are five common depressive thoughts and how to correct them with the truth.
1) “I used to be able to get things done, and now I’m so tired and miserable that I’m just useless.”
Even truly useless items, like VCRs and rollerblades, are only useless to those who aren’t grandpas or capable of shame. Respond to this thought with the following: “I’m doing a lot, given the fact that I can’t help feeling shitty, my brain isn’t working quite right, and all I want to do is stay in bed and think of more reasons to hate myself. As such, I’m actually proud of all that I’m getting done, and I’m not going to waste time putting myself down.”
2) “I still can’t figure out what I did to make her dump me, except be the worst person who ever lived.”
Depression loves to tell you you’re the worst person, and even though you can clear up that accusation with a quick Google search, it’s easy to believe after a particularly tough rejection. Until Google invents an inter-cranial app, however, tell yourself the following: “If I can’t figure out why she dumped me—and Christ have I tried—it’s not because ‘I deserved it’ because of who I am or something stupid I did. I did nothing terribly wrong other than choosing a girlfriend who’s not a steady, faithful friend, and the worst thing about me is that I didn’t know better, which is no longer true.”
3) “I can’t now and will never find anyone to love a turd like me.”
Donald Trump, Billy Cosby, and multiple guilty death row inmates have found true love, so even if you were a turd, it wouldn’t necessary doom you to a life of solitude. Respond to your sad solitude with the following: “Most people find it hard to find a good partner, no matter how hard they try, so I don’t deserve criticism if I’m doing a reasonably good job of trying to date the available candidates, especially given how hard it is to leave the house or even shower or get out of these sweatpants.”
4) “My job (thus, my life) is going nowhere.”
As we always say, there’s a reason they call it work, which is to say, it’s rarely enjoyable, fair, or as rewarding as it should be. If you hate your job, that’s normal, not the end of the world, and a good time to remind yourself of the following: “Since the Constitution doesn’t promise happy employment, the only question is whether I’m doing a good job with the work I’ve got while I make a reasonable effort to pursue something better.”
5) “I can’t see the point in being alive.”
Only very sick depressed people may act on this notion, but odds are, if you’re feeling really down on yourself, the thought at least crosses your mind. Even if you never take it seriously, there’s no reason to take this bullshit, period. When depression questions your very existence, remember the following: “No matter how hard I try to be a good person, life can hurt. It sucks that the world is unfair, but it’s worth remembering that my pain is caused by bad luck and unfairness, not my own shortcomings. And if I can still get out of bed everyday and try to be a good person and make the world a better place that way, then that’s meaningful, no matter what depression says. I deserve to be here as much as anyone else, and I prove my worth everyday by trying to be the kind of person I admire.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 28, 2016
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Everybody knows that they should think before they act, but most people ponder whether they should act or not, not why they want to act in the first place. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re someone with a natural inclination to keep the peace at any cost, thinking before you act may still tell you that it’s best to placate an aggrieved party, even if doing so causes harm in the long run. So, before you think yourself out of doing anything at all, here are five good, non-feelings reasons for standing up for yourself and taking responsible action.
1) Constant Criticism
Since there will always be nasty, negative people out there (or not-normally- nasty people being negative due to stress or depression), it’s often not worth trying to stop someone from criticizing you, even if when you’ve done nothing wrong. On the other hand, it’s not good to listen to undeserved, repeated criticism indefinitely without giving yourself the right to calmly speak up, declare your self-acquittal, and refuse further discussion.
2) Rampant Risk to Self
When someone’s abusing drugs or alcohol or generally determined to endanger themselves, there isn’t a lot you can do, short of hog-tying them or freezing them in carbonite, to keep them safe. What you can do, however, is coolly voice your concern to them and offer your help. If they refuse it, you’ll know that you’ve tried, at least once, to stop them, and at this point you need to step back and protecting yourself from their destructive impact.
3) Serious Slack
If someone at home or work isn’t doing her share, there’s usually no amount of nudging, nagging, or passive aggressive notes that will get them to step up or even admit they’re not pulling their weight. What you can do, however, is have a reasonable discussion with them about what constitutes a fair contribution, ask them to examine their own actions, and then take whatever protective action you can if they’re still obstinate, e.g., reducing your share or finding someone else to share with, period.
4) Anger and Abuse
Obviously, if you have good reason to believe that someone is abusing their kids, you have a moral (and sometimes legal) obligation to take action. Instead of holding yourself responsible for personally stopping the abusive behavior, however, specify to the abuser what’s intolerable, what you’ll do about it if it continues, and what the repercussions will be for everyone involved.
5) Committing Crime
As a civilian, stopping someone you know from doing bad things and breaking the law isn’t something you should attempt on your own. What you can do is inform the offender what you can and can’t accept and then what you can do to stop being an accomplice or a victim.
Taking a stand doesn’t mean telling someone off, but calmly telling them where you stand, what you’re willing to tolerate, and what the possible consequences are for their bad behavior. You can’t make them stop, but you can make them see where you’re coming from and make things right with your own conscience.
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 26, 2016
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Avoiding conflict is an important part of making a long-term relationship work, but going too far to placate your spouse in order to avoid arguments doesn’t diffuse the conflict so much as internalize it. Not surprisingly, if you keep eating shit in order to keep your partner happy, that’s how you’re going to feel, and it’s what your marriage is going to turn into. It’s important then to know when and how to draw the line on agreeableness without being disagreeable; if you can avoid a big fight without compromising your integrity in order to do it, you can make your relationship last.
Early on in my relationship with my wife I fell into a pattern where almost every time we got into a big fight, I’d end up apologizing and admitting total fault, even if I didn’t feel that it was all my fault, basically because I didn’t want to continue the argument. She can be a dirty fighter who is great at playing on my guilt, but also, I’m not very good at being assertive and dealing with conflict. And now, as we have had more complex problems to sort through in our life, and the stakes have gotten higher (kids, in-laws issues, mortgage, etc.), it’s even harder to break this habit, which has resulted in me feeling resentful towards her and emotionally withdrawing at times, which is not something I want to continue. I do get her to “compromise” at times but often those compromises are still tilted strongly in her favor. I’m not a total doormat, but I’d like to stand a little more upright. My goal is to be more assertive, and not fear the outcome of being more assertive with her, which I imagine (based on many past experiences) is her losing her temper (rage, blame, etc.), sometimes making threats (divorce) and making me the bad guy, until I play by her rules.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on January 21, 2016
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At the start of a new year, you don’t have to be like our reader from earlier this week—someone in an usual career going through an usually hard time—to feel motivated to get your shit together. Here are five easy steps anyone can follow to get back on track no matter how rocky the terrain of your life happens to be.
1) Get A List of Goals
Obviously, if you’re trying to figure out how to get organized and motivated, you need to know what’s important enough to you to work for. Define these goals in terms of values, not results, e.g., include making a living, not making a mint. Think about what’s necessary, healthy, and fun in the long run, not what your wildest dreams are made of.
2) Put Together Your Priorities
The hardest part of prioritizing is learning to both accept the fact that two or three things deserve highest priority and the skill of juggling them all at once. It gets easier over time, and in the process of learning, you also get better at figuring out whether some of your priorities are actually worth dropping or putting aside.
3) Choose a Coach/System
Without a domineering spouse, day job, or ticking bomb in the basement, most people have to develop a system for self-management, particularly when they have to juggle their own obligations on top of their spouse’s, kid’s, dog’s, etc. Since most schools don’t teach you executive functioning skills, take a course and/or hire a coach. It’s amazing how much better you can do with a good to-do list, a set of urgency categories, and an omnipresent schedule.
4) Suss Out a Schedule
Assuming you have lots of responsibilities, limited time, and a strong desire to have fun, you need to create a schedule. A schedule helps you develop habits and shortcuts, so that you can reduce procrastination, deal with top priorities first, and make time for the things you really want to do. Again, don’t hesitate to take a course or use a coach.
5) Learn Your Limits
Many people experience endless feelings of responsibility once they engage in a serious task and those feelings can become consuming, particularly if an outside source (boss, spouse, parent, etc.) believes your share of responsibilities is never big enough. Train yourself to judge your responsibilities objectively by comparing them to your job description, taking into account your resources, and determining what a good person should do. Then you can remain focused on what’s really important, not overextend yourself, and not only get your shit together, but get shit done with a real sense of pride.
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 December 24, 2015
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Everyone—not just those who, like our reader from earlier this week, are diagnosed OCD or bipolar—struggles with unwanted impulses from time to time. It’s normal to sometimes fight the urge for a second helping of lasagna, and it’s also common, though more problematic, to crave another shot of whiskey. If you find yourself gripped by unusually strong, possibly scary, urges that are sometimes impossible to control, however, and are wondering whether something not-normal is going on, here are five symptoms of mental illness to look out for that may be hindering your ability to fight addictive behavior.
1) Unusual Obsessing
Rumination is a symptom of OCD that locks your brain in a rut and forces you to think, over and over, about something you want, are afraid of, hate, you name it. Normally, you’d distract yourself by thinking of other things, but OCD won’t let you, even though the obsessive thought may scare you or not be what you actually want at all. Don’t assume that these thoughts mean that you’re a weak or bad person deep down; if you literally can’t get someone or something off your mind, then something’s wrong with your mind, not with you, and you need help.
2) Habit Trap
Repeated rituals are what make OCD obsessions feel a little better, i.e., you can shut up the persistent worry that your family will get murdered if you check that the door is locked exactly ten times before bed. When that ritual is texting a crush to make sure he still doesn’t want to see you, however, the potential for humiliation is worse. Ask yourself whether you’re compulsively texting because it gives you temporary relief, before you find yourself dealing with long-term pain and embarrassment.
3) Needless Neediness
Worthlessness and emptiness are common symptoms of depression, which drive someone to date people who aren’t right for them because they can’t deal with the intense pain that comes from being alone. If you find yourself driven to be with partners who either aren’t that interested or worthwhile, consider whether you have other symptoms of depression, like hating yourself and having trouble tolerating your own company.
4) Undeserving Desire
Lust tends to disappear with depression (along with libido altogether), but it can get extra intense during the manic phase of bipolar illness. Sexual excitement can make an otherwise ho-hum relationship addictive, and a hyperactive sex drive can push you to do, say, and wear things that you know are dangerous. If your sexual desire is stronger than usual and causing you to do things that go against your better judgment, then it’s worth seeking help.
5) Mania Masquerade
Mania makes everything intense, not just your sex drive; it can obliterate self-control, not just in terms of your impulses, but of your limbs and other organs. And while that might seem like a terrifying experience you’d want to avoid, mania feels so amazing and empowering that you don’t just become blind to your lack of control, but intoxicated by it; dangers that you might normally avoid become extra attractive. So if your thoughts are racing, your sexual liaisons have become more dangerous, and your friends seem to be freaking out despite your insistence that you feel great, you might be in danger, and they might have a point.
Whether you’re aware of uncontrollable urges or so sick than you can’t even tell what urges are even good for you anymore, it never hurts to ask for help, explore whether mental illness may be part of your problem, and take whatever steps possible towards getting your impulses under control.
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 3, 2015
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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you have to rely on someone who’s reliably unpleasant, that doesn’t mean you should count on your whole life becoming just as miserable. Here are five ways to build an independent life while dependent on someone you don’t get along with.
1. Inventory Your Incentives
At least once every day, review the good reasons you have for staying together, e.g., for the kids, your health, the wish to avoid bankruptcy and living beneath a bridge, etc. Remind yourself that life is hard and you’re making the best choice you can in a tough situation. Go one step further and take pride in the fact that you’re not a victim; you’re managing what life has given you, at least until something better comes along.
2. Gather Your Goals
Draw up a list of everything you would like to have in your life, aside from a better spouse/live-in caretaker, a clean bill of health, and/or your independence. Include what you think is good for you, like, exercise and education, as well as what gives you pleasure, like seeing friends and going to the movies. Don’t dwell on what you can’t afford or can’t physically accomplish.
3. Seize a Schedule…
Translate those priorities into actual, frequent, regularly scheduled activities, getting coaching from a friend or therapist to help you, if necessary. Don’t shy away from challenging goals (i.e., ones that may be physically demanding), but if they turn out to be too difficult, don’t be ashamed of having to step back and adjust your expectations. Never let feelings of helplessness or failure slow you down or scrap your plans.
4. …And Stick to It
To overcome fatigue and procrastination, put your scheduled activities into an appointment book, app, helper monkey—whatever it takes to put a daily schedule and to-do list on your body in a device that can’t be ignored, lost or forgotten, whether it’s electronic or pre-industrial.
5. Amass New Allies
Look for potential close friends, but don’t get close by sharing woes about your husband or medical problems; don’t confuse becoming someone’s friend with becoming a victim that someone feels compelled to save. Instead, get close by sharing good times and mutual interests. With time, you can have a full life and not see yourself as stuck in a failed marriage, but rather in a highly functional and prosperous partnership, whether your partner appreciates (or just realizes) it or not.
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 1, 2015
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Regardless of whether a marriage is happy or not, it takes work to maintain your own priorities and point of view. In a happy marriage, pleasing your partner may interfere with your agenda as an individual. In a less happy marriage, feelings of failure may deprive you of energy and confidence, but it’s all the more important for you to remember who you are and what you value. As long as you do, an unhappy marriage need never prevent you from being successful as a person.
I have a chronic illness that may or may not go away. For now I am disabled to the point that I cannot take care of myself and I have to depend on my husband. We have been married for over 20 years, the first decades of which were spent raising two children who now live away from home. It seems the children were and are all we had in common, because as soon as child #2 left home, all hell broke loose and it’s been pretty bad since then. I know he will never change and become the person I want him to be, and why should he? He should be with someone who appreciates him just as he is, but I am the one stuck with him and I need to have a better attitude towards living with him because I have no choice. He still drives me crazy, even if It’s a little better since I figured out he cannot change. I am as kind and nice as I can be and I don’t think he really knows that I am staying with him because I have to. My goal is to find a better attitude for myself to make this unavoidable situation less unbearable.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on November 10, 2015
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Louis CK once said that no good marriage ends in divorce, but it’s also true that really bad relationships seem to go on forever; those connections built on intense neediness and over-responsiveness tend to get stuck in a death spiral as both parties endlessly circle the emotional toilet, never quite flushing their connection away. That’s because, once you care deeply about someone, it’s hard not to become over-attached and treat his or her commitment problems as if they were misunderstandings that might be your fault, even if that someone doesn’t treat you well and isn’t great partnership material. All of this can be avoided if you learn how to withhold commitment until you’re sure a prospective partner has the right qualities, regardless of how intense your need and attraction. Later this week, we’ll explore the five steps of bad relationship recovery, but you can’t recover until you know why it’s good to walk away from your bad relationship in the first place.
I’ve been in a relationship off and on for almost a year, and the reason for the “offs” is his fear of everything— three times he’s done the same thing and broken up with me for “a possible problem,” or “fear of ___,” or whatever stupid reason, but in the end I always find him and we get back together. I know this is a bad pattern. I mean, it’s pathetic to keep wanting to be with him after how he’s been such an asshole to me for no apparent reason. He chooses to treat me as if I were shit, as if he wants to hurt me badly while pretending it’s nothing. I know I should be mad and write him off as an asshole, but I can’t. I keep justifying his actions, because I know what he’s been through. Anyway, I love him and I hate that I can’t love myself enough to stop looking for him despite all the mean things he’s said and done to me, how he’s treated me like a toy. When I finally did stand up for myself recently and say some really mean things, he didn’t react at all, won’t respond to my apology…I don’t want to keep waiting for him to talk to me and my head knows that it’s stupid, but my heart keeps wanting to reach him. I’m not trying to be a victim—I believe that everything that happens to us is the consequence of our choices—but I need to know how to choose better for myself. My goal is to figure out how to get over this guy and the rut of our unhappy relationship.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on October 21, 2015
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While it feels good to let someone “know how you really feel,” especially when that person is making you feel really bad, the long-term effect on your relationships can be really awful. Earlier this week, we explained to a reader why venting is dangerous, so here are five things to consider before letting loose and doing permanent damage.
- Think Beyond The Catharsis
Don’t ask yourself whether your statement will make you feel better, introduce more honesty into the world, or punish those who deserve it. All of those outcomes, while glorious, are fleeting, while the resentment, bitterness, and anger that follow can last a lifetime.
- “Nobody’s Ever Died From Bottling Up Feelings…
…but plenty of people have died from unbottling them,” is another saying we use even more frequently than the fart metaphor. Don’t think for a moment that suppressing your feelings will harm your health or fill your life with pointless frustration; venting your feelings, on the other hand, is a good way to get punched, evicted, and generally put in harm’s way.
- Review The Record
Remember what happened the last time you shared your feelings (or the last few times), and, frustrating as it may be, admit that you can’t find a single reason why things won’t happen the same way this time. Or find the non-military circumstances under which berating someone could possibly be a positive motivator, period.
- Get A Second Opinion
Before addressing an issue with someone, try to persuade a neutral party that the issue is important, something might be gained from talking about it, and there’s something constructive you can do about it. If you can’t convince them, then it’s probably best to keep the issue to yourself. If you can, prepare a statement that begins with respect and optimism, describes the mutual benefits that could be achieved with change, and encourages the other party to do what he thinks best.
- Spell It Out, Don’t Shame It Up
If your husband’s sexual unresponsiveness would force you to take actions he might not like—finding intimacy outside of your marriage, seeking a sperm donor, etc.—then spell it out to him as a necessity that you want to avoid, but, if necessary, are determined to pursue. Make it clear that you’re not telling him this as a threat, punishment, or expression of anger or disrespect; you’re not venting your feelings, you’re explaining the facts, and it’s the difference between doing damage and seeking a constructive compromise.