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Feelings are the true F-word.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Psyched Ward

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 21, 2014

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Despite what the Ramones (R.I.P.) once declared, most people do not want to be sedated, especially if it’s for reasons involving “going loco.” Some people can’t think about psychiatric hospital admission as other than a form of kidnapping, and others as a failure that should never have happened if they took proper care of themselves. In reality, it’s good to think about psychiatric admission as something that can happen again regardless of how well you take care of yourself, and will rarely happen for reasons that you won’t ultimately agree with. The more you accept the possibility of hospital commitment and consider your own views about what makes hospitalization necessary, the more skilled you’ll be at managing the situation if it occurs again, even if it’s something you’re never going to wanna do.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve got depression that is usually controlled well by medication, but I had one bad episode three years ago when I got really down, couldn’t leave the house for a month, and was on track to starve myself to death. My parents were right to pull me out and take me to the hospital, but it was a horrible experience; there were some scary, sick people there, and staying there was traumatizing. Now my shrink wants me to put together a crisis plan that will tell my parents how to decide when they should take me to the hospital, if it ever becomes necessary again—a sort of “advance directive”—and I’m trying to figure out how to make sure that I don’t have to go back unless it’s really, really necessary. The last thing I want is to visit an emergency room where they like to lock people up, so I end up trapped in the nightmare ward again. My goal is to figure out how to minimize the possibility that I will get admitted again.

As traumatic as it felt to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, you are familiar with the bigger trauma that you would have experienced if you weren’t admitted. The scary people you say in the psych ward were probably fairies and pussycats compared to the hellscape that your own home had become.

You know how painful your depression was, how it interrupted everything important in your life, including work, relationships and your ability to care for yourself, and how it endangered your health and your life. That’s the trauma it’s now your job to manage, and avoiding the job because you’d like to avoid the hospital is a foolish move. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Hand-Me-Downer

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 13, 2014

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If you could ask Mary Cheney or A.J. Soprano, they’d tell you that inheritance, be it material or psychological, is always tricky. That’s because it’s easy to hate yourself when you can’t get rid of an inherited personality trait, like constant anger or depression, which makes it hard to ever feel happy or express love and affection. What life teaches you, however, is that many people find ways to take care of one another and contribute to the world, even when they’re not fully functional or in full control of their dark thoughts and sharp tongues. They deserve respect for whatever good they do when their feelings give them no relief or reward, and their genes don’t give them much of a choice.
Dr. Lastname

I grew up in a horrid family. My father worked long hours at a couple of jobs leaving my (very young) mother alone with my brother and me. My mother had no clue about parenting and raising children. My home was a miserable cesspool of put-downs, depression, negativity, and yelling. I get that my mother probably grew up herself with a “Mommy Dearest”/”Carrie” mother, but as we all do, I vowed to myself never to torture my children as my mother had done to me. But guess what, I now find myself yelling and haranguing my daughter (but not my son…hmmm?). I think the yelling and disrespectful attitude toward my daughter has been programmed into my DNA. It is my default reaction when I get angry (or when my daughter does anything–wrong– pretty much). I’ve done the anger management, self-help books, etc. I can’t stop. Please give me some advice on how I can stop the “bad psycho mother” cycle. I already see the signs of damage in my daughter.

It’s painful to grow up with an angry, critical parent, but it’s even worse to grow up with a parent who can’t provide for his/her family or care enough to try. Despite the pressures on your immigrant parents, they were able to survive and provide you with a home. Even if it was horrid, it beat the alternative.

So, even if you see yourself as a bad psycho mother, you’re also a caring, providing mother, and you need to remember that. That’s why you need to respect what you do right before picking at what you do wrong, because if you can’t see the big picture, you can’t get at the big issues with your parenting. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Parental Advisory

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 13, 2013

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Parents can be responsible for making sure their kids are clothed, bathed, and fed, and even the bathing part is a stretch if your kid is a teenaged boy. After that, almost everything is out of a parent’s hands, especially behavior. Under normal circumstances, there’s lots you can do to help a kid control his bad behavior, assuming you stay positive, provide him with effective limits, and encourage him to endure whatever internal demons and nasty frustrations are flipping him out. Under abnormal circumstances, however, you may well do everything, accomplish nothing, and find it’s better redirecting your energies to where they’ll do more good, even if it’s just making sure they have some soap.
Dr. Lastname

My twelve-year-old daughter can be difficult with her father and she’s not always respectful to her teachers, but she’s basically a good kid and I can count on her to do her homework and be reasonably nice to her sibs. Lately, however, I’ve been getting more complaints than usual and I’ve noticed that she looks pretty irritable and unhappy most of the time. I don’t want to come down too hard on her, but I don’t want to ignore the fact that I’m responsible for how she behaves and she hasn’t been particularly nice to people. My goal is to figure out how to take her problem seriously without making her feel I’m too critical.

When you feel responsible for your child’s behavior—or your dog’s, or even just your own weight or success—then you feel obliged to get it under control. Unfortunately, responsibility and control do not go hand-in-hand; if your kid is spoiled, needs a talking-to, and has the ability to learn from it, then a conversation might work. Otherwise, think again, because you’re trying to control what even she cannot.

In this case, you’re suggesting that your daughter already knows what she should be doing but that something is bringing out the worst in her. A serious talk about her behavior may help her stop, but there’s a danger, particularly if you sound too angry or moralistic, of worsening her mood, provoking self-hate, and stimulating defiance or self-harm. You both want the same thing, but frustration will make it even more impossible. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Balk Therapy

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 14, 2013

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Most of us feel driven to help someone who’s in pain, whether they want it or not, but as sitcoms, Jodie Foucault books, and alcoholics have tried to teach us over and over again, stepping in to relieve or prevent suffering isn’t always a good idea. The sad reality is that lots of pain can’t be helped, and the sufferer is the only one who can make the tough decisions required to manage that pain effectively. Helping, then, is often less a matter of providing relief and more of encouraging people to ignore pain that they can’t change and take credit for the good things they do about it. The outcome isn’t as dramatic as it is when you attempt to rescue someone, but it’s often a lot more meaningful for everyone involved.
Dr. Lastname

I’m a resident advisor in a college dorm (it’s free room and board, and I’m a psych grad student, so it’s training of sorts), but I’m stuck because I don’t know how to help one of the kids on my floor. He’s severely depressed and it’s complicated by the fact that his parents, who are Middle Eastern, don’t believe in mental illness and think he’s supposed to just get over it, so they won’t pay for treatment and would probably accuse him of shaming the family if they knew he got it. For a couple years, he was cutting his arms while keeping it a secret and not letting it affect his grades. Lately he says he’s stopped cutting but often thinks of suicide and sometimes gets into a strange, spacey state of mind where he’s caught himself standing on balconies and thinking about jumping. He’s a good kid and he denies being traumatized (I think he might be in the closet, and with his parents, I understand why he’s afraid to come out), but he obviously needs help. My goal is to find him the help he needs.

Before trying to help someone who’s suicidal and restricted by his own beliefs from getting help, you’ve got to remind yourself that your powers are sharply limited, and that, even under the best circumstances—if you had a practice and he was a willing patient—his case would be a challenge. This is the stuff they don’t teach you in school, or you’d switch your degree to finance.

You can coach him on his options, but the alternatives are all painful and there’s no guarantee of relief, so don’t expect to make him feel better; what you can do, however, is help him see his choices as meaningful and positive. In other words, if the desire to heal others is what’s driving your degree, it’s time to begin your coursework for Life is Unfair 101. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Nil Communication

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 1, 2012

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When a severe disappointment breaks you down, the pain is nothing compared to the damage done to the way you see yourself and your world. If despair sweeps away your most important values and relationships, it may leave loved ones with no way to help or save you from yourself, making repairs impossible. If, on the other hand, you retain some perspective and a sense of humor, you can fight the negative thoughts that flood your brain, regain respect for your own resources, accept the help that others offer, and rebuild yourself into someone better than before.
Dr. Lastname

I have really fond memories of my mother until I was eleven, at which point she became a drunk. Before then, she was really happy and loving and had lots of friends, but my father later explained to me that she lost a job she was very attached to, felt it was unfair, and became very bitter. My father loved her and did everything to help her, but she didn’t seem to care, even though the worse she did, the more she hated herself. He finally gave up, left, and took us kids with him because she couldn’t care for us. Recently (about 15 years later) I heard she tried to kill herself with alcohol and almost succeeded. I’ve been angry at her, because we were once close and I tried to help her, but now I’m afraid she’ll die and I still can’t understand how someone as nice and loving as she used to be could drink herself to death with so many people around her who love her. My goal is to find some peace between us before or after her death.

Alcoholism, like severe mental illness, sometimes lets people develop nice, warm personalities and rich lives before it declares itself. Out of nowhere, it changes the way their brains process information and feeling, and turns them into self-absorbed ghosts of who they used to be.

The mother you remember may well deserve your respect, but she vanished after disappointment triggered her addiction, making her incapable of loving others or saving herself. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Blues Control

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 6, 2012

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Like all symptoms of mental illness, anxiety and suicidal feelings seem controllable since they’re related to thoughts and how we look at things, especially since they have the potential to be so destructive. In reality, their primary causes are powerful, mysterious and, whether rooted in past events or biology, are not curable or easily reversible by the best treatments, most loving families, and strongest willpower. What good treatment and a loving family can do, however, is give meaning to the courage it takes to ignore pain and dangerous impulses, giving one comfort, if not control.
Dr. Lastname

How do you get rid of the pain from your child’s suicide? My son died four years ago, and our entire family is still devastated. We are all now living with depression, anger, and our own thoughts of suicide at times. We are all in therapy but it’s moving so slowly, it doesn’t feel like life is moving forward. After a tragedy like this, how do you get your purpose back?

While I can’t imagine anything much worse than having your child suicide, the key to surviving it is to understand how similar it is to having your child die of any other cause. No parents should have to bury their child, no matter how that child’s life ended.

Intuitively, suicide feels like a preventable cause of death, so it seems justified to review the many would-haves and could-haves leading up to it.

Mental health professionals sometimes make things worse by focusing on such possible “causes” as unacknowledged trauma, unshared feelings, or unrecognized calls for help, all of which mean blame. Blame then feeds the depression and anger you talk about, poisoning normal grief with feelings of guilt, regret, and failure. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Deep Blue Me

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 9, 2012

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Depression and life’s miseries have an amazing way of working together to make you feel like a loser who doesn’t belong, has nothing to contribute, and should not get out of bed. That other people are happy just makes you wonder what you did wrong, when it’s just misfortune and depression doing their job really well. The fact is, however, that we create value in life by pursuing what we believe is most important, regardless of whether we get lucky along the way. That’s why you need to assess whether you’ve done your best to live up to your values, disregarding negative thoughts and the failures over which you had no control. Then pain and negative thinking can’t succeed in damaging you, which means you won’t damage yourself.
Dr. Lastname

I’m not even sure where to begin so I’ll try and keep this as short and concise as possible. I come from a broken family– my mother was abusive and distant, and I became that way to the point where it was hard for me to feel genuine love for anyone because I never learned what love is. I got away from my family and had a string of bad relationships (where if I think about it, I am to blame really). I then met and almost immediately married my husband. He went along with it because he loved me, I pushed for it because I was insecure. I didn’t “feel” any real love for him but wanted him to validate my feelings because I believed then that that’s how love grows. For me back then, love = infatuation. I admit I’ve been messed up. I’ve beaten myself up enough. Anyway, our marriage has been rocky with a major indiscretion on my part and several minor ones (chatting/talking on the phone with strangers) on his part. He forgave me for my error and begged me to stay (this was 3 years ago). Only just a few months ago have I realized how fucked up I am and how I’ve let my “feelings” guide me to hell. I’m still trying to rewire myself and it’s hard work. Unfortunately I recently found out that my husband was still talking to random women for hours because “he’s lonely.” What scares me is that even though I am working on my issues, he still feels lonely and it’s likely he will hurt me again. I realize now that I do love him but I can’t always project it the right way or appear to be happy when really I’m feeling like shit. I keep thinking it’s all my fault that he feels lonely and that nothing I will ever do will help this. I’m really tired of dealing with my own crap and now realizing that he has his own set of issues that may or may not be related to me. I’m very confused. How do I stop obsessing over our faults and focus on the good? I don’t want to throw away everything I’ve accomplished because of my ‘moods’. Please help. How can I trust him again and more importantly, trust myself?

There are a lot of smart people out there with high standards, like yourself, who have brains that naturally favor negative thinking and family backgrounds that are full of sad events and broken relationships.

As such, it’s not your fault that your mind tends to put fault on you and call you broken. What’s worse, if you try to be more positive, your brain pushes back by calling your efforts to think happy thoughts a dismal failure (which, of course, they’re not). Brain 1, You 0.

So, instead of trying to focus less on your faults, aim higher by taking pride in your many remarkable accomplishments. After all, if you can’t think differently, you can nevertheless force yourself to think about different things. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

That Loathing Feeling

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 23, 2012

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Whenever you’re about to do something you feel you need to do, you’ve got to wonder whether it’s good for you. As any overweight person can tell you, we often need what we can’t have or shouldn’t get too much of, and “needs” (i.e., frosting) have a way of winning out over logic. So whether your needs are driven by depression or dreams of a better marriage, don’t let them shape your goals until you’ve asked yourself where they’ll lead, what matters most, and what you need to do to manage them. After all, the difference between a need and a want is a slippery, frosting-covered slope.
Dr. Lastname

I constantly feel the black dog shadowing me. Mostly I can function and I pay it a gentle nod on my daily musings but every now and again the feeling is so great I want to slide on into the abyss. I may allow myself to indulge for a day or so but am careful to put in place an exit plan before I do (I know this place can feel so good but not really be good). It often takes great effort to avoid this feeling and even more so to get out of it. Lately I’ve been wondering if my approach is purely avoidance on my part rather than management. Does it really matter if it’s working? Yet I feel that slowly the effectiveness is waning and I seem to have a feeling of despair more often. Is it poor anxiety management driving the depression?

Your letter focuses so much on your subjective, “black dog” feelings of depression that I don’t know whether you A, feel seduced by the idea of taking time off to indulge sad ruminations, B, are low enough that you’re planning your suicide, or C, crave scones from the same-named bakery Martha’s Vineyard.

If the answer is B and you believe you are capable of harming yourself, you need to get away from the computer and into an emergency room right away. Since your letter doesn’t read as totally helpless (or New England-based), however, I’m going to assume the answer is A.

Your feeling-focused ambiguity leaves me (and you) uncertain as to whether your depressive time-outs are becoming worse or dangerous, by impairing your ability to work and sustain relationships. The answer is to be found in your actions, not your feelings; think less black dog, more black and white. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Indefensible Despair

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 2, 2012

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

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

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

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

Symptomatic Meaning

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 9, 2012

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Horrible thoughts and feelings are supposed to make you feel as if there’s something horribly wrong, and there is, but it’s not necessarily with you. Even when your brain is giving you strange signals and your mood is in the pits, you’re the same old person with the same old values. Judge yourself by what you do with symptoms of mental illness, not by the way they make you feel or think, and you will never have reason to doubt yourself or despair.
Dr. Lastname

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anorexia nervosa purging type a few years ago. Both of these issues had pretty much consumed my life during the years leading up to that diagnosis and have continued to be impairing ever since. I started cutting myself two years ago (it has become more frequent this past year), and I’ve had several panic attacks in the past several months. Fortunately, my overwhelming desire to commit suicide has subsided, although I still think of suicide and my death in general fairly often. In addition to my own issues, I have watched my mom slip into a state of psychosis during the past two years, triggered by the death of her father. She has become so depressed, delusional, and violent that my parents separated and sometimes I don’t even feel safe staying in the house with her—a few weeks ago my dad and I had to stop her from going through with a suicide attempt. The police were called, and I had to hold her arms down while she was clearly in a psychotic rage. At one point, she tried to stab my hand to make me let go. She was taken to a mental health facility where she stayed for a week, and now she’s furious at us for making her go there and hasn’t been much better since then. I feel like I never get anywhere with therapists because they just prescribe medicines that make me feel numb to any emotions or focus on my eating disorder so much that I never get to work through these other issues. I feel like my life is unraveling and it’s gotten so bad that, honestly, I don’t feel like I even want to fix it. My goal in telling you this is to figure out a way to help my mom and how to get through school while I’m dealing with this.

It may seem strange to hear this, for someone who suffers as much as you do from depression, anorexia, and the burdens of taking care of a very sick mother, but I think you’re doing an amazing job.

Yes, you’re chin-deep in shit, but you haven’t drowned, and that’s a remarkable accomplishment.

Your depression hasn’t made you hate people or blame them, and your anorexia hasn’t caused you to pretend you’re not sick, so you must have a solid hold on reality. There you are, with all your pain, finding the love to help your mother and the energy to go on with your studies. You’ve got good values and a big soul. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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