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.
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 6, 2017
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Good sleep, along with YouTube videos of porcupines eating and fresh mozzarella cheese, is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Unlike those other things, however, it’s not just a joy but also something of a necessity. A life without hungry porcupines or good cheese of any kind of unfortunate, but one without sleep can feel excruciating, so it’s not surprising that those who just can’t shut themselves down at a reasonable hour are so eager to figure out what’s wrong with them and so quick to blame themselves for their sleeplessness. While we now have clinical sleep specialists and a bunch of helpful theories, suggestions, and treatments, we don’t, of course, have any solid answers or cures. The answer then isn’t seeking complete control over your insomnia, but learning to manage it and find pleasure in life despite it.
In short, I cannot sleep. I mean, theoretically I can (because, well, biology), but practically I can’t, and I know it’s all in my head— the fact that I feel that “I have insomnia” makes it so much harder, because, obviously I don’t have any clinical disease that it’s a symptom of, just some mental block that makes sleep impossible. I really, really want to sleep and get back control over this one thing without depending on anything (drugs, diets, etc.) or anyone to fix the problem for me. My goal is to get to the bottom of whatever’s causing this insomnia and get rid of it.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 29, 2016
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Some people assume that “fuck feelings,” aside from an excellent book title, is a statement intended to devalue or eliminate feelings, like an emotional “shazam.” In reality, of course, feelings have their own way of telling you that they’re very important, no matter what you chant at them, and that the only way to feel better is to air or obey them. Your best tactic then isn’t to look for a magic word or pill to keep your thoughts or feelings in check but to constantly remind yourself that they aren’t as important as your values and knowledge of right and wrong. Even though you can’t control your feelings, you shouldn’t always believe what they tell you or do what they want you to do (but you should buy and believe books that give advice like this).
I’ve been reading your book and I’ve made some very positive strides towards accepting myself. However, I have Schizoaffective and Bipolar Disorder and I am wondering why I continue to do weird wacky things, even after I accept that I should f*ck my feelings, they don’t totally go away. My goal is to eventually get better control of my behavior by coming to terms with my illness.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
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.
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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 3, 2016
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As we often say in our family, everybody has at least a touch of the ’tism, but if you find yourself dealing with a new diagnosis of a spectrum disorder, like our reader from earlier this week, it can feel like the time for jokey phrases, along with your life as you knew it, is over. It’s important to remember, however, that you’re life hasn’t changed, just your classification, and that having an actual touch of the ’tism t’isn’t the worst thing. Here are five advantages to having an autistic spectrum personality style.
1) Extra Intellectual Ability
Dr. Asperger himself used to refer to kids with his namesake syndrome as “little professors,” and they often grew up to be big professors, or, at the very least, big thinkers in important fields. For people on the spectrum, the tendency to express intellectual interests may have made you a dweeb as a kid, but as an adult, it can help you make a good living.
2) Success Thanks to Social Insensitivity
A lack of awareness of social cues may handicap your ability to make small talk and get dates, which can feel devastating, especially during adolescence. On the other hand, it can also free you to ignore the need to be popular so you can focus on pursuing the things that truly interest you. And as an adult, especially in a world where spectrum disorders are more accepted, it’s easier to find and befriend people who find connecting as hard as you do.
3) Handicapped Communication
It’s not just hard for people with spectrum disorders to read other people’s emotions, but to understand and communicate their own feelings clearly. While it can sometimes be tough to have difficultly conveying how you feel, your intellectual style of communication can help you discuss and clarify abstract ideas that emotionally fluent folks often can’t.
4) Challenged by Change
In school, it drives people with Asperger’s crazy to stop mid-activity and start a new one when the bell rings or have to abandon one class schedule and learn a new one every year or semester. Out of school and into adulthood, the ability to focus for a long time on a single problem without the limits of a bell or class schedule helps those on the spectrum to solve problems that others can’t.
When you’re young, open opposition to stupid statements may win you few friends and bog you down in painful struggles with the parental or educational authorities. Once you’re older, however, and know what you’re doing, it may help you stand up for yourself, negotiate cleverly, and prevent anyone from compromising your basic principles because you need to be liked.
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 8, 2015
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We may not have written the book on Assholes™, but, as authors of a thoroughly informative chapter on the subject, we know a lot about the uncanny ability Asshole™s have to make others, their children especially, feel responsible for their unhappiness. So if you’re the unfortunate spawn of an Asshole™ (who’s also unfortunate enough to not own a copy of our book) who wants to have a life of your own, define for yourself what it means to be a good son or daughter and live up to your own expectations, not your parent’s. As long as you can bear the pain of Asshole™ guilt-slinging, you can ultimately be proud of your own decisions, and, hopefully, another family member can give you our book as a stocking stuffer.
My mother is a real piece of work. My previous therapist is of the opinion that she most likely has borderline personality disorder and is a covert narcissist, but of course that cannot be verified because she won’t enter a therapist’s office long enough to be diagnosed. In the past year, I have finally opened my eyes to the emotional abuse of my childhood and the unhealthy enmeshment of my adulthood. I am determined to break free of her controlling and needy behavior. I’ve accepted the fact that she will not change, so I have been setting boundaries such as no longer allowing her to gossip to me about other family members, not visiting as often, and reducing phone calls to once a week. But in her eyes, this is Bad Daughter behavior and it cannot be tolerated; when she questions these boundaries, any reply from me other than total submission and groveling is met with rages for my “snippy” tone and how I think I’m better than everyone. She sends me 10 page letters about how she can’t believe a daughter would treat her this way and then lists all of the ways the numerous people in her life continue to disappoint her. When I don’t respond to those, she enlists my sister and brother to do her bidding and guilt me back into submission. She has said to me numerous times that she is entitled to say anything she wants to me and I’m obligated to take it because she is my mother. I want to live my life free to make my own choices about how I choose to spend my time, without being called to account for my comings and goings. I want freedom and peace! My goal is to effectively learn to say to myself “f*ck Mom’s feelings” and just go on with my life. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 9, 2015
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If, like the reader in our previous column, you have a need for validation—that quest for the evasive “gold star”—that can never be satisfied, therapy probably doesn’t have magic curative powers. With the following methods (and possibly a different kind of therapy), however, you can manage those needs without letting them control you.
1. Be a Good Friend, Not an Enemy
Make a list of the values you expect from a good friend or roommate, like honesty, responsibility, dedication, loyalty, and an ability to keep promises. If you don’t want to make a list as a friend would, create a report card as if you were a boss or Chemistry professor rating your possible protégés, whatever works.
2. See How You Measure Up
Use those criteria to rate yourself, focusing on your behavior and ignoring other people’s opinions as well as your own inner doubts, fears and insecure thoughts. The goal here is to be objective and fair; your inner-judge is a friend, not TV talent show judge.
3. Make It Right
If you assess yourself fairly and make the grade, then give yourself an A/high-five and proceed to validation rehab. If you find there are areas that need improvement, use your drive for excellence to set reasonable goals and devise methods for achieving them, using a therapist if necessary.
4. Harness Your Habits
Identify validation-hungry behaviors like smiling too much, over-praising, or over-apologizing. Again, create a report card if necessary to rate yourself in social situations, ignoring inner doubts, fears and insecure thoughts. Try for a zero score, regardless of urges to brighten your smile, express extra interest, or beg for reassurance that you’re actually a good person.
5. Power Through
No matter how hard it is to go cold turkey from getting a warm reception, ignore the depression/anxiety of validation withdrawal. Give yourself a medallion or a gold star after every noteworthy milestone of consecutive validation-free days, and keep giving the negative, needy thoughts the attention they deserve (none).
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 21, 2015
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Back-to-school time can bring emotional issues bubbling up to the surface as personality conflicts and intense power dynamics pop up and throw you and your family off-kilter.
Here are five all-too-common back-to-school issues and our advice for dealing with them.
1) Your Kid Hates His Teacher
It’s terrible to imagine your child feeling miserable for an entire school year, but as your kid’s number one teacher (tenured in perpetuity), you’re the one to help him manage frustrations and make the best of them. So take time, gather facts, and see if there’s something you can do to improve teacher-child communication or their attitudes towards one another, or have a positive talk with the principal about finding a better match for your son. Otherwise, do your best to teach him that learning is more important than any single teacher, that surviving the year is more important than showing your teacher he can’t get away with being a jerk, and that he can get through tough times like these with his family’s support.
2) You Hate His Teacher
Of course, if you hate your kid’s teacher as much as he does then you can at least validate his views, although it will take a lot more discipline and self-restraint to get through the year. If your kid is fine with his teacher but you aren’t, then you’re stuck keeping your feelings to yourself, at least at home. You could try having another positive pow-wow with the principal, listing reasons why a different match would be more successful. If your kid seems happy in the class, however, then you’re probably better off following common logic and avoiding the principal’s office entirely. If your kid can survive a year with this jerk, so can you.
3) You Hate The Other Parents
If you don’t like the values or characters of other parents in your neighborhood—and, given how passionate some parents can be about their specific choices and yours, this is not an uncommon scenario—school can be more alienating for you than for your kid. Your job is to keep your frustration to yourself and help him feel he belongs in class, whether or not you feel you belong. Your hope is that the kids are better than their parents and that your kid will find friends he likes in his class, even if you can’t.
4) The Other Kids Hate Your Kid
If your child is being picked on, definitely try to work with the school and other parents to stop bullying, but be prepared to get a lot of defensive responses because no parent wants to admit that they’ve spawned a bully and schools often lack the resources to really tackle the problem. Coach your child on how to handle bullies or just avoid them, but be sure to let your child know that you think he’s fine, even if he’s a social outcast for the time being. There may currently be no friends at school, but there are always friends at home.
5) You Hate Your Kid
Every parent fears having a kid s/he really doesn’t like, so commend yourself on surviving this living nightmare. You can see a therapist or ask yourself whether you’re overly irritable with everyone and need to improve your behavior and/or try medication for improving your mood, but if the answer is that it’s just your kid that’s a jerk, then you’re stuck. So if you’re burdened with unavoidable negative feelings, build up your ability to be a true professional, regardless of how you feel. Teachers have to spend huge amounts of time with kids they hate, so you can, too.