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The only way to truly change a person is by killing or maiming them, so stop.

Monday, May 29, 2017

5 Biggest Lies About Insomnia

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 24, 2017

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Many of us, not just our reader from earlier this week, struggle with insomnia. Of course, said struggle doesn’t just mean dealing with sleeplessness but with the false and terrifying myths about the many ways insomnia can ruin your life. If you can’t sleep and can’t stop being freaked out by the potential effects it’s having on you, please do yourself a favor and read these five biggest lies about insomnia and the sad/sleepy truths you should believe instead.

1) “Insomnia is preventable and treatable with good sleep habits.”
No illness is ever guaranteed to be preventable and treatable, especially those that are more behavioral than physical, and statements like these aren’t just false but damaging as they often create unreasonable expectations for control. Yes, good sleep habits will push you in the right direction, but life will sometimes disrupt your sleep habits in ways you can’t avoid and even the best of habits can’t always control the neurological demon inside your brain that decides it wants to play and read and have great ideas just as your body wants to collapse. So yes, always be open to treatment, but don’t despair or blame yourself when they aren’t as effective as you’d like.

2) “Insomnia is always a sign that you’ve got bigger issues that require treatment.”
Insomnia may sometimes reflect your worries or neuroses, but that doesn’t mean that logging several hours on a therapist’s couch to work out those issues is guaranteed to unclog your non-existent sleep valve and make rest possible again. If you do find yourself being kept up with anxious thoughts, then do what you can to put your worries into perspective while also accepting your insomnia as just another part of your current bad luck so it doesn’t become yet another thing to get worried about.

3) “Sleeping pills are bad for you.”
All pills are potentially both good and bad for you, from Advil to vitamins, and focusing on the bad part is a good way to let fear demoralize and immobilize you into avoiding potential treatment altogether. Instead of spooking yourself away from medication, educate yourself as to the particular risks of each type of sleeping pill, both in terms of trying it once and, if it’s helpful, taking it more often. Then weigh those risks against its benefits. Of course, always use non-medical methods first, but when insomnia doesn’t respond to non-medical methods, you have a right to research and consider plan B.

4) “If left untreated, insomnia will permanently damage your health.”
Living damages your health, period, but insomnia’s potential impact on your wellbeing is a lot less clear. It does good when it puts you on alert for danger and trouble, as when you need to stay up to watch over a sick child or are required to stay on call for important news. On the other hand, it can also weaken you, at least temporarily, when you’re so tired that it’s harder for your body to fight off an infection. Either way, if you let a fear of insomnia exaggerate its dangers then that fear will cause you far more harm than insomnia ever could.

5) “Insomnia won’t just damage your health, but your ability to do anything from your job to parenting to operating heavy machinery.”
You may not be able to perform at your highest level when you’re tired, but ask any parent what they’re able to do when they haven’t slept well and they’ll tell you that they seem able to do everything well enough since they haven’t gotten fired or wrecked their car despite not having a decent night’s sleep since having kids. Instead of letting insomnia terrify and paralyze you, use that fear to become a knowledgeable and confident manager of insomnia. Once you learn the facts about how insomnia affects you and how you can deal with it, you won’t have to let scary myths keep you up at night.

5 Better Goals for Controlling Your Illness

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.

5 Ways to Forget Trying To Be A New Person

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 10, 2016

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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you find yourself yearning for a direction in an otherwise meandering, misfit-esque life, it’s not worth trying to get somewhere new by trying to get a new personality or character. Before you try to get on a new track, forget trying to be a new person and take these steps to assess whether and how you need to get your shit together.

1) Figure Out Your Finances

The first step to getting your life in order is figuring out whether you have the funds to stay solvent and stable. It’s not enough to cover each month’s expenses, particularly if you’re using your credit card to do it and have nothing put aside for disasters (e.g., car repairs, months of unemployment, a case of cancer, etc.). Think of worst-case scenarios, figure out what you’ll need, and give yourself an honest earnings target that includes health insurance (see item below and cancer reference above).

2) Get Honest About Your Health

You’ll find it hard to get anywhere if your body isn’t on board, so getting your health assessed is a key part of getting your life straight. Don’t just ask yourself whether you’re eating healthy or are strengthening your immune system; after all, there’s little agreement on how much you should or can use your diet to control your health. What you can do that will have a big impact, however, is to exercise, stop smoking if you haven’t already, stop drinking as much if it interferes with your other important goals, and work at reducing your weight if necessary.

3) Meditate On Your Morals

A moral code can act like a compass that guides you through all of your big life decisions, so figuring one out and sticking to it is necessary if you want to figure out a better way forward. Besides, anybody can act like an asshole if he isn’t careful since all it takes is obliviousness and a few urges that might make you cranky or in need of something belonging to someone else. So ask yourself which qualities you admire in others and would want to emulate yourself, and also ask your nearest and dearest whether you have your inner asshole under adequate control. If you have no nearest and dearest, that might be an answer.

4) Focus on Family

Getting your shit together can’t happen without getting your (ancestral) house in order, so ask yourself what, if anything, you owe your family and what values and relationships you enjoy or not and whether they’re worth holding onto, even if you don’t enjoy them every much. Then score your behavior by how well it matches these goals, giving extra points for participating in family events you don’t necessarily enjoy but believe are necessary for keeping the clan together.

5) Get Real About Your Relationships

If you think you don’t have your shit together because you don’t have a partner, you might have the wrong idea; not everybody is suited for partnership, and there’s no shame in being a hermit if it suits you best. So begin by asking yourself what you want relationships for, i.e., if you’re just looking for some distraction and fun, or if you’re eager for something that involves work, promises, and a tolerance for dirt and unpleasantness. Then rate your efforts to start and maintain such relationships, ignoring what you don’t control, like the behavior and character of others or the feelings they cause. And if you decide that you don’t really care about wanting a relationship, period, then not having one may not be what’s normal, but you can be confident that it’s what’s right for you.

It’s admirable to want to get your shit together, but cleaning up your act doesn’t mean becoming a new, perfect person; your standards for having your shit together should come from your own values and be a reflection of your imperfect self, not what people expect of you. Even so, they aren’t easy to achieve, so be prepared to work hard if there’s a deficiency you decide to work on and give yourself high credit if there isn’t.

Character Factor

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 8, 2016

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While it’s easy to change our outsides—a new haircut here, a gastric bypass there—changing who we are inside can be next to impossible. If you don’t just want to be a better person, but have a different personality altogether, then trying to change yourself can just makes things worse. There are ways, however, to respect yourself even if your personality and personal abilities fall far short of your ideal. You might not be able to change who you are, but you can change your view of who you are and be proud of being a good person, despite your less-than-good nature.

-Dr. Lastname

Briefly, I’m a middle-aged guy, have a decent job in marketing, live with my girlfriend, and try to be a good person. I grew up without a father, and maybe having no male role model has made it hard for me to feel like a grown-up. I’m directionless, single, never married, no children. I haven’t really committed to a career, and I’ve spent a lot of time either unemployed or underemployed and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. So far so good, but here’s where it gets weird. Every time I see a movie with a strong male lead, I find myself starting to imitate the fictional character. I observe their mannerisms, and begin to emulate them for days, weeks, or even months. I even check out the way they dress—the various accessories like clothes, shoes, and hats that they wear—and then I start to accumulate those things as well. As you might imagine, this can get pretty comical when I start walking around looking like Indiana Jones complete with fedora and leather jacket (no whip, I have my limits). Sometimes I’ll watch a TV show in the morning, emulate that character, then see a movie in the evening and want to be that character. The problem is that I don’t know who I am or what to do (as far as making plans, goals, etc.) when I’m not playing a role, wearing a costume, or planning my next purchase. When I’ve tried not to shop or emulate a character (for a few weeks) I feel anxious and directionless. By contrast, when I do shop or have a character in mind I feel full of purpose, even a little manic. The fictional imaginative character acts like scaffolding for my own personality. But buying accessories has gotten to the point of compulsion, where I don’t feel I cannot not have the item and still be okay. My goal is to be myself and start living a real life, but I’m not sure who the hell that is anymore.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Worry Favor

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 16, 2016

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Despite the bad rep it always gets, we like to remind people that anxiety can be a blessing and a curse. After all, anxious people sometimes do better work because they’re afraid of failing (and were once better at survival since they were afraid of being eaten). On the other hand, sometimes their fear of failing prevents them from working or doing anything at all. So if you’re an anxious person, learn how to use your anxiety to your advantage. Then, when it flares up too much, you will know how to use it for motivation while protecting yourself from the curse of paralyzing panic.

-Dr. Lastname

I recently completed several large and important projects at work in a brief amount of time. I am satisfied with my work and proud of myself for finishing, but due to the emotionally and mentally taxing nature of this work, I am exhausted in every way that it is possible to be exhausted. I find myself getting sick a lot, and I have had two anxiety attacks in a single week. Because I have a tendency toward anxiety, introversion, and depression, my exhaustion takes the form of wanting to withdraw and shut down. My supportive spouse is willing to shoulder more work at home (which leaves me feeling guilty), but, as much as I would like to, I can’t reduce my workload at my job at the moment. But I find it very difficult to deal with people there without feeling panicky and irritable. What I really need is like a month’s vacation, but I know that I am not going to get it without destroying my career. If I hang on for one more month, I will get a week off, but I have to make it until then. My goal is to get through the next four weeks without totally collapsing or burning bridges with colleagues and friends. 

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 ways to manage family members who drive you crazy.

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 27, 2015

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Whether you’re an independent adult or stuck living with your family due to age or poor finances, your techniques for avoiding conflict begin with the same premise; you can’t change family and you’ll make things worse if you try. Once you can accept that, you can take these steps to make a bad situation/gene pool more bearable. It’s not an easy process, but if you want to keep your family intact/alive, it’s worth it.

Step 1:  Learn to keep your mouth shut

Remind yourself that further communication and efforts to change your family are not only useless, but harmful. After all, you’ve probably tried many times to argue your point, and all it’s done is create resentment and excuses to slam doors and break plates. Try once more if you’d like, just to drive the message home, but then it’s time to step out of the ring and stay silent.

Step 2:  Don’t be a jerk

You may have reason to feel hurt, wounded, and even abused, but acting like a jerk will undermine your confidence and give your enemies an even more solid opportunity to claim victimhood themselves. So try to act according to your own standards of decency, even if your feelings are screaming for revenge, or at least a loud tantrum or protest. You might share their genes, but you don’t have to share their attitude.

Step 3:  Focus on your own goals

Get busy doing whatever it is that advances your own priorities, like making money, seeing friends, and building your own independence. The more you do, the less opportunity there is for family interactions, and the less important they’ll be when they occur. This is obviously harder if you’re still living at home and your family is on your case, but when they try to accuse you of being distant, self-important, etc., remember Step 1 and don’t take the bait.

Step 4:  Memorize your lines

If you’re challenged by questions or accusations that stir you up, prepare scripts for answering briefly and without anger or defensiveness. For example, if your mother is always on you for being uncaring or your brother constantly makes nasty remarks about your supposed attitude, say some variation of, “I understand you feel worried/angry/devastated/ill-treated and I’ve thought it through carefully, because your opinion is very important to me. I really disagree however, and, without getting into it, think we should just leave that subject alone.” Then the subject is closed.

Step 5:  Set limits and stick to them

The best way to keep visits and phone calls pleasant is by keeping them short; either set an amount of time that you think is long enough to fulfill your obligation but short enough to avoid conflict, or have an excuse lined up to peaceably end a call or visit if things start to take a bad turn. Even if you’re living together, never let yourself be trapped for very long; if all else fails, physical escape is a surefire way to escape an argument, so keep your exit open, whether it’s to the next room, a locked bathroom, or the coffee shop down the street.

Life is Unfair.

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 »

Disgrace Worker

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 5, 2015

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Humiliation may cut like a knife, but it’s more like a double-edged sword when it comes to problem solving. Sometimes it warns you that you’re doing something wrong when you’d be otherwise oblivious, but it can also sometimes frighten you needlessly when you’ve really done everything right. Keep your mind and skin intact by not letting humiliation stop you from judging your own actions, taking credit for your actual accomplishments, and making changes if you think they’re necessary. Only a fool would do otherwise.
Dr. Lastname

I’m in my 40s and in pretty good health, but I’ve had problems with my memory after hitting my head on the ice a year ago, and it’s driving me crazy. At work, I just can’t remember whether I told or asked someone something before, so I hesitate to speak up and then wrack my brain trying to figure out what I actually said and did because I’m so afraid of humiliating myself or looking weak. I’ve gone from being confident and outspoken to quiet and timid, and people wonder what’s wrong with me. I’ve asked my doctor to check out my memory and see if I need treatment, because I’m too young to be going senile. My goal is to do whatever is necessary to function properly and stay on top at work.

Whether you work at a fancy brokerage or the Burger King drive-thru, most of us rely on quick recall at our jobs, particularly if we want to impress a group of fast-talking peers, ace an interview with an employer or client, or just avoid getting reassigned to bathroom captain.

It’s not surprising then that your concussion-induced memory problem has triggered anxiety and self-doubt. From what you don’t say, however, it doesn’t seem like slow recall has impaired your ability to actually hold your job, just to impress while doing it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Ragemaker

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 28, 2012

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While it’s never good to act on angry feelings, their ability to distort one’s perspective also make them one of the hardest feelings to ignore; after all, love is a strong emotion, but you don’t often see a large, hugging mob. For most people, the real risk in anger isn’t punching, but picking on those closest to you. So when you feel the rage building against someone you love and you know it’s not for the right reasons, don’t feel guilty (or even more angry), just stick to your usual rules for being a good spouse or parent, acting civil, and doing your job. Usually, anger will pass, clarity will return, and hugs won’t be necessary.
Dr. Lastname

I truly love so many things about my husband, but I’m not happy with myself. I’m overweight, I have hormonal imbalances that I’m addressing with my physician, and I’m sluggish and moody at times, almost feeling like a depressive state. Lately, however I’ve been trying to get healthy physically and mentally by using diet and exercise, as well as engaging in life more (a tennis tournament with family and friends, walking with my teenager, and training for a 15K I’m running in the fall). While my husband says he supports me, and even wants to do the same, his actions are the opposite—he buys junk food, he works hard during the day but then plants himself in front of the TV all night. I’m beginning to feel disgusted and even resentful about his behavior. I know he’s a wonderful man, but I don’t know why I’m becoming so intolerant of his behavior, or even if I have the right to be upset. He is the same man, I’m the one that’s changing, so why am I so pissed off all the time? I just don’t know how to get back to some kind of friendship where I enjoy him like I used to, and it scares me. I love him so much, but I even find myself cringing sometimes to his touch. I just don’t know what caused this kind of shift in my thinking.

Nothing feels more personal than anger, but often, the opposite is true; although we feel angry at someone or feel their anger directed at us, anger often starts with a mood rather than an issue, and then targets innocent bystanders simply because they’re there.

What’s worse is that anger often elicits more anger, thus finding a way to feed on itself. You focus your anger on your husband’s faults (his lack of self-discipline), while feeling angry at him for making you angry, and then getting angrier when he gets angry at you for being unfair.

The sad fact is that sometimes you can’t stop angry feelings, regardless of how undeserved they are, how much pain they cause, or how much you address your issues with friends, loved ones, and therapists. Anger often just happens, particularly when there are hormones and depression involved. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 11, 2011

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Whether or not it’s more blessed to give than to receive, both activities are loaded with lots of potential punishment, particularly if you feel unworthy and/or poor to begin with. If giving is necessary to make you feel worthy, you’ll end up a good-hearted sucker, and if being given to is the only thing preventing you from living in a trailer down by the river, you’ll end up in a black-hearted rage. There’s no need to feel bad about giving or receiving if you feel proud of who you are rather than how well you’re doing. A healthy perspective is the best blessing of all.
Dr. Lastname

My friends tell me I’m too good to my ex-wife because I always take care of her when she’s in town by giving her a place to stay, feeding her, and tending to her medical needs. Even our kids say she uses everyone, promises everything, and gives back nothing, and, after many years of marriage and an equal number divorced, I know they’re right. I argue back that it’s not smart for me to antagonize her after she’s promised me half the estate she inherited from her dad, but they tell me that she never keeps her promises and she always figures out a way to blow her money on impressing new acquaintances and going on shopping sprees. My goal is to find ways to protect myself and maybe satisfy my friends’ concerns without fighting with my ex- and maybe losing her bequest.

God bless the giving people of the earth—kindergarten teachers, foster parents, 02% of psychiatrists—but I’ve said many times that, no matter how saintly their exterior, the givers’ biggest recipient of generosity is often their immediate feelings.

Let’s face it, giving feels good (partly because it offers peace of mind to the persistently guilty), and that means it’s bad, at least under some circumstances. Giving too much, like any source of good feelings, is dangerous to you and detrimental to the object of your charity. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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