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Fail with pride.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dire Alarm

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 13, 2015

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If you’ve been struck with a severe medical illness, then PTSD is like the mental aftershock. Instead of recovering from your initial illness, you can end up struck with panic attacks that turn recovery into a sequel to your suffering. Just because you can’t recover feelings of calm equanimity, however, doesn’t mean that you’re not on the mend or that you can’t lead a meaningful life in spite of anxiety and not working. Learn how to fight negative thinking, even when life sucks, the anxiety won’t go away, and the ground never stops shaking, and you can still find meaningful things to do with each day.

-Dr. Lastname

My life is currently in complete disarray and I’m on medical leave from work to resolve my health issues, which almost took my life several times over the last few years. I go to a therapist who also teaches yoga, and started seeing a CBT as well, but my daily life is still miserable and I need help. I’m currently sitting at my computer sweating, crying, shaking and no amount of medicine or breathing technique or exercise is helping. My goal is to figure out how to get my health issues under control.

Expecting to get most health issues under control, including depression and panic attacks, is often a way to make yourself even more unhappy and sick.

That’s because we can never totally control our health or our illnesses, and cures are few and far between. In your case, you’re obviously doing all the right things—getting medical help, seeing therapists, exploring various kinds of treatment—so give yourself credit for what you’re doing, and cut yourself some slack for not being able to control what your brain and body have decided to do on their own.

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when you’ve recently experienced extreme medical problems, and it’s impossible not to get freaked out when experiencing the extreme symptoms of a panic attack, but you know, deep down, that the anxiety will pass.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Risked Off

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 7, 2015

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Most tough decisions involve competing risks of the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don’t variety; tougher still are those that factor in someone you care about, so now they’re damned if you do or don’t. In evaluating risk, however, we often over-fear threats that cause pain but aren’t dangerous and under-fear true dangers because they won’t hurt until they happen. So if you’re realistic about rating risk, and don’t overreact to the risk of emotional hurt, your decisions will often become clearer. That will make it easier to damn your doubts and do the right thing.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t really get into the specifics of my job (for reasons that are about to become obvious), but I work in a partnership with another woman at a job where a mistake could cause serious injury, and my partner is always drunk. I’ve tried to talk to her about it, because I’m an alcoholic myself (two years sober, in the program), but she denies everything and changes the subject. I don’t want to bring it up with the higher ups, however, because, even though her being drunk puts us both in danger and scares the shit out of me, I know she’ll lose her job, which will just make her drinking worse. My goal is to figure out what, if anything, to do about it that won’t get her in trouble or both of us in a dangerous situation.

While Alcoholics Anonymous believes that there are no “former” alcoholics, there are many different kinds, e.g., active, in recovery, functioning, possibly just French, pickled, etc.

As an alcoholic in recovery, you should know that AA also says that we’re only as sick as our secrets. And your secret, about her secret, could make you both very sick indeed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Sick Change

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 27, 2015

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Of the many things out there that people can be afraid of—spiders, heights, gays—the one thing that truly scares the shit out of all of us is change. Whether it’s good or bad, change is unfamiliar, and unfamiliar is inherently frightening. Sometimes, particularly when it’s forced on us, we think change will turn out badly and it doesn’t, but when we really don’t want change, we try to prevent it, and that can be at our own peril. Don’t let neediness or fear control your view of the future (or marriage). Whether you’re facing or adapting to change, think through what’s good for you, and you’ll become better at forecasting its impact and taking pride in your brave response.
Dr. Lastname

After hip surgery, I felt like I was in a fog…it wasn’t just the physical adjustment, but there was a freak complication during the procedure, and my brain might have lost oxygen for a bit. I came out of it with no energy, and my memory was shot. The doctor said that was normal, but now it’s a year later and I still don’t have the energy or mental sharpness that I used to depend on. My husband says I’m different but that he likes the new me just as much as the old one, if not more, because he thinks I’m calmer and a better listener. I think he’s just being sweet, so I’m still afraid to spend time with old friends or co-workers so I don’t frighten them and humiliate myself since I just feel slow and stupid. My goal is to get my old self back and stop being a pale imitation of the smart go-getter I used to be.

When you lose something great about yourself, whether it’s the ability to strike out the side in the big leagues or make it as a supermodel or just remember the names of everyone at the party, it’s hard not to dwell on everything you’ve lost and search desperately for a way to get it back.

Unfortunately, change is inevitable with age and it’s always uncomfortable, even when it’s welcomed. You can find the courage to withstand a career-salvaging Tommy John or Tummy Tuck. When the changes are more mental than physical, however, there’s almost nothing you can do, even though you’d give anything to turn back time.

You’re right to try to get back to your old self, at least at first; that’s what rehabilitation is about, for a limited time. Almost always, however, when there’s a permanent component to an injury, your goal needs to shift from total recovery to management of a permanent impairment. That’s when you transition to becoming a sportscaster, a trophy wife, or, in your case, someone slightly different. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Fools of Engagement

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 23, 2015

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Unless you’re a professional football player, litigator, or interventionist (or an amateur Asshole), you probably don’t enjoy confrontation. That’s usually a good thing, since there’s a reason that confrontation and incarceration sound so similar. It’s not good, however, if you’re just putting off a showdown while you try to understand your provocateur’s reasoning, or because you’re too forgiving of confrontation-worthy behavior. Like the football player, self-protection is one of your most important jobs, so learning how and when to take a stand requires the same amount of attention and follow-through as it takes for society to make laws and police to enforce them. If you do your job properly, you’ll know how to get through to someone without having to go pro and/or get into their face.
Dr. Lastname

It took a while for my pizza shop to become successful because I’m an outsider in this very small community, but I’m a friendly person and my pizza is good, so I’m finally starting to get lots of regular customers. My problem is that one of those customers likes to come in for dinner two to three nights a week with his two very hyperactive little kids— they run around the restaurant, yell at one another, and bother all the other customers while dad ignores them, eats his pizza very slowly, and reads the newspaper. He makes me furious because I don’t understand how he can allow his kids to be so rude and obnoxious, and I’m worried about his driving other diners away. I’ve given him dirty looks and cleared his table forcefully, which he ignores. If I say anything, it just sounds angry, random, and, according to my brother who works with me, possibly offensive. My goal is to get this person to either stay away or leave the kids at home.

Whether you’re dealing with customers, relatives, or people who take up an entire overhead bin/park across three spaces/don’t wipe down the gym equipment when they’re done with it, it’s hard not to become over-reactive when people seem to disregard your expectations about personal space.

Unfortunately, the more reasonable you feel your expectations are, the more unreasonable you get when they’re ignored. If you were entirely rational, you’d assume their actions were their problem—evidence of stupidity or insensitivity rather than a personal insult—and do what was necessary to protect yourself. Unfortunately, you are not a robot, and, as such, you know from rage.

To you, rude people should know better and are disrespecting the rules of civilization. If they don’t respond to dirty looks or loud honks—indications that you are on to their willful disrespect—they are defying those rules and deserve punishment. While you, like so many, are tempted to provide that punishment, the result of such feelings, even when you’re dealing with your own kids, is almost always ugly and leads to trouble.

So stop expecting your customers to be civilized, or just knowingly uncivilized, and don’t feel obliged to improve their behavior. Instead, define the limits of bad behavior that you believe are acceptable in the space that’s your responsibility to control, then plan out a safe, polite and effective intervention. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »


Posted by fxckfeelings on February 26, 2015

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Between for-profit education and for-bullshit accreditation, it’s harder than ever to figure out who’s actually knowledgeable and who just has access to a printer. It’s just as hard to figure out your own level of expertise when you have to weigh in on personal matters; being an outsider gives you better perspective, even if it makes you wonder whether you belong, but being an insider can ruin your perspective, even though it makes you feel connected and close. Either way, take perspective whenever you can get it and don’t blame yourself if you must sacrifice comfort and closeness in the process. You may not be a certified expert, but your opinion will be valuable nonetheless.
Dr. Lastname

My immediate family has never been easy, in part because my parents went in for favoritism— dad adored my sister and mom my brother while I had to fend for myself. Now we are middle-aged and they are old and infirm and my father is ill. This has set off a toxic dynamic between my siblings who are having furious rows and exchanging horrible insults over the burden of our parents’ care. I travelled 400 miles to visit them and my sister walked out of our parents’ home at 2 am and found a hotel after a shouting match (which I stayed out of). Even though I did not have a happy childhood and was nobody’s favorite, I do wish to help them through their final days without being caught up in the warlike dynamic that my father’s impending death seems to have unleashed. My goal is to balance the demands of my own life, be a good daughter to my dying father and confused elderly mother, and avoid being drawn into the rivalry of my younger siblings who were both favored over me.

Kids who feel like losers are often comforted with the promise that it’s the outsiders who grow into the most successful adults; whether you’re talking about surviving high school or a tough home life, the popular kids peak early, and the weirdoes wait longer to achieve much more.

Your outsider upbringing might not have brought you wealth or an Oscar, but it has given you more strength and perspective than your more popular siblings could understand.

Your siblings’ closeness to your parents might have been a gift when you were kids, but it can become a liability at this stage if it also gives them an unlimited sense of responsibility for your parents’ welfare, and also plays into a blaming sibling dynamic. They end up mad at themselves, and at each other, for not doing a better job.

It’s an impossible position for anyone to put themselves in because there are obviously times when you can’t take care of your parents, or when the best care in the world can’t spare them from the pain and deterioration of aging. If you don’t know the limits of your responsibility, there’s no end to the guilt you can impose on yourself or those whom you feel aren’t doing their fair share.

Instead of feeling endlessly burdened by your parents’ decline or angry at your siblings for not doing enough, you can stay focused on helping out and staying civil. Perhaps your parents’ neglect wasn’t heartless, but an ingenious way of preparing you to be the one child able to stay positive and avoid a meltdown at just the time when they most need to feel that the family is calm and united.

Celebrate the wisdom and skills you’ve gained as a family outsider who had to take care of herself. Then share your wisdom with your siblings by respecting your own contribution to your parents’ support and showing little inclination to judge theirs. Show pleasure in their company and regret for the fact that no amount of support can make your parents’ lives much easier.

Being nobody’s favorite seems to have helped you to be kinder and less reactive than your siblings. If you stand by your goals of being helpful and avoiding conflict then your parents will benefit, perhaps your brother and sister will learn from your example, and you’ll achieve more than most people, cool or uncool, ever do.

“I feel like I was never embraced by my family and that what’s left is disintegrating, but I have my own ability to maintain positive relationships and will not let fear and guilt drag me into conflict.”

I love and support my daughter in almost all things—she’s my only child, and the one good thing my piece of shit ex-husband ever gave me—but she and I are fighting all the time these days because I told her that marrying her boyfriend is a bad idea. After the bloodbath of a divorce she lived through with her father and me, I thought she’d never consider marriage, ever, but now she’s really set on marrying this guy and really upset that I can’t support it. I know they’ve been dating for a long time, that he’s never hurt her, and that they aren’t doing this for any obviously stupid reasons. But for whatever reason, I don’t totally trust this guy, and I don’t think it’s worth the risk. My goal is to get my kid to respect my insight instead of fighting with me and ending up heartbroken.

Protecting your child from harm is certainly part of a parent’s job, and your bad marriage gave you good reason to regard marriage as painful and potentially harmful. As kids grow up, however, your ability to protect them diminishes, as does your responsibility to do so. So no, you can’t always stop them from making mistakes and suffering, but you can stop feeling responsible while continuing to help them learn from the things that go wrong along the way.

If you make yourself responsible for your daughter’s marital choice, you will fight with her, hurt your relationship, and drive her into the arms of a guy you don’t trust. Instead, remind yourself that her boyfriend is her business; your job is to teach her how to screen a partner for trustworthiness and learn from mistakes.

Begin by asking yourself what you learned from your broken marriage, putting aside your feelings of anger and betrayal. Pay attention to the information you had at your disposal when you first married your husband: what you knew about his reliability, behavior in past relationships, and trustworthiness. Don’t fault yourself for being overly trusting or foolish back then, just ask yourself whether you were diligent in looking at or uncovering evidence of his trustworthiness.

Without bad-mouthing your ex, share your wisdom with your daughter regarding good methods for doing a complete pre-partnership investigation into trustworthiness and compatibility. Don’t argue with her about whether her boyfriend is a good guy, because she needs to figure that out herself.

Feel free to disagree, if necessary, about her methodology or data interpretation, but don’t close yourself off to the possibility that you may be overly critical of her boyfriend and somewhat biased against the institution of marriage altogether. What was wrong for you might not be wrong for her, especially if she’s given her decision careful thought.

Your goal isn’t to get her to respect your insight into her boyfriend’s character, but to respect her own ability to observe behavior and understand what it means. As long as she can learn from your mistakes, as well as her own, your discussions will strengthen your relationship as her chief coach and booster and help her find a good partner (or at least one much better than her dad).

“I don’t have good feelings about my daughter’s current boyfriend, but I will urge her to gather objective evidence and weigh it realistically without letting our disagreements become personal.”

The Mental Touch

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 16, 2015

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Some medical issues can be resolved quickly, but most of the serious ones aren’t that easy; for every temporary infection and sprain, there’s the eternity of diabetes and, of course, mental illness. Just because your crazy isn’t going away, however, doesn’t mean you can’t try to figure out how to lead a sane life anyway. And if you can get your crazy under control, you have to stay vigilant in order to keep it that way. So don’t try for control that is perfect or permanent; that’s as farfetched as a cure. Prepare to take one drug and one symptom at a time until you know what you have to deal with and what works best for the long run. Even if you can never cure the pain, you don’t have to let it be an overwhelming pain in the ass.
Dr. Lastname

I’m not depressed any more, but going to the hospital and taking medication didn’t change the fact that my wife looks at me in a different way than she used to, and she spends more time at the gym, where there’s a handsome trainer who knows her name. She says I’m crazy and paranoid because this guy’s gay and just being friendly and, after twenty years of raising the kids, she’s too tired to mess around anyway, but I know what I see. And there have been signs in the way she seems happier and sweatier when she gets home from working out and her sweat smells more manly than feminine. My goal is to get someone to see that it’s more than coincidence, and that I have good reason to feel she can’t be trusted, and I’m not just nuts.

The paradox of feeling paranoid is that validating your fearful suspicions is what you both crave and dread the most. If you’re right, then you’re not crazy, but neither are your worst fears; your sanity may be intact, but your world would be destroyed.

Having those fears invalidated isn’t so hot, either, because it means that you can trust the world around you, but your own brain is suspect. So if proving and disproving your suspicions will always end badly, learn how to give less weight to those nagging thoughts in the first place. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Shame and Fortune

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 12, 2015

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Like dental surgery, high school, and Bar Mitzvahs, humiliation can be pretty painful, but it’s not always a good thing to avoid. Sure, it sometimes makes you reactive to people and values that don’t really deserve your attention, but other times it alerts you to the fact that you’ve been acting like a jerk and need to change. So, before fighting the fact that you looked or done bad, judge your own behavior to know whether it’s time to clean up your act, or just pay attention to doing what you think is right. Then you’ll gain something from your suffering, even if it’s just knowledge and not passage into manhood.
Dr. Lastname

Christmas day turned into a nightmare this year because I failed to set a clear boundary with my adult kids, and the fall out has set me back on antidepressants. My soon-to-be ex-husband chose to spend the entire holiday with the family of the woman he had a long affair with. I have tried to be civil to her and my kids have met her for the sake of their father, but when my daughter wanted to set up a Skype session with her dad from my house, it was a step too far for me. My protests were overruled, and it all got worse when one of my other kids became angry and refused to participate, which led to un unpleasant atmosphere and bickering. I intervened only to realize that the woman and my ex could see me and hear what was going on. I felt humiliated and very angry to be put in this situation in my own home. The day was wrecked for all of us and I did not help by getting drunk and overturning the tree. I wish to be able to have minimal contact with my ex while accepting that my kids want him in their lives. My goal is to avoid triggers like this by setting firm and clear boundaries, knowing my limits, and having a coping strategy to maintain self-control.

It’s always hard to set boundaries if you don’t know what you’re setting them for; most middle eastern countries were given fairly arbitrary boundaries, so it’s not surprising that that region and your Christmas experience have an eerily similar level of conflict.

Your intended boundaries may be more purposeful than those given to Pakistan, but if your purpose is to avoid humiliation, then you’re giving top priority to the way you look to other people. Particularly to your ex-husband’s soon-to-be new wife, and she’s the last person whose importance, or even streamed image, you want to amplify. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Forced Perceptive

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 13, 2014

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“Sensitive,” like “funny,” “nice,” and “enjoys long walks on the beach,” is one of the many superficially-bland-yet-possibly-dangerous qualities women say they look for in a mate (even the beach thing, since that long walk may be to his kill-room). Since sensitivity basically means “is comfortable talking about feelings,” it’s not surprising that we don’t value it, but even objectively, it can be problematic; being in a healthy long-term relationship depends on supportive actions as well as the freedom for two people to go about their business without always feeling close or grateful. So don’t overrate words or even helpfulness. Look for a guy who enjoys spending time with you, on the beach or elsewhere, but isn’t hurt when you want time to yourself.
Dr. Lastname

My boyfriend is absolutely reliable and adores me in his quiet way, but he never seems that interested in what I’m doing and has little to say about himself. I know he always likes to see me and that he cares about me a lot, but he never wants to talk or suggest fun things to do, so I wind up sharing and doing more information with people I hardly know, or do know, but who aren’t as important to me as he is. He’s a great, reliable guy, but he’s also kind of boring and closed off. My goal is to figure out what kind of future I have with someone who seems so uninterested in finding out more about me, and yet also seems to love me.

Most of us warm to attention and feel better when someone shows an interest in how we think and what we ate for lunch; if we’re needy or in pain, the absence of such attention may feel like neglect. The need to share thoughts and lunch are why Facebook is so successful, but it’s not what should drive a relationship.

It’s easy to forget that attention is cheap and that supportive actions are more important than encouraging words. It’s like the difference between a friend and a “Friend;” the former shows you he cares by what he does, the latter “cares,” and often doesn’t remember who you are. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Re: Liable Source

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 27, 2014

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Along with avoiding conflict, favoring calm, and having taste that’s too sophisticated to tolerate Michael Bay, human beings are also notoriously bad at correctly placing blame or finding the true source of an issue. We punish ourselves for problems that we have no control over and indict others for creating trouble that it’s our job to prevent. Instead of rushing to judgment, we should ignore our thoughts, dreams, and tempers and consult our values first. Then we can decide whether we’ve really done wrong and need to do better, or whether someone else has erred. Either way, we’ll know where the blame truly lies and be able to buck our nature to calmly find a solution.
-Dr. Lastname

I have done a pretty good job of keeping things together through a very tough few years. I have mostly come to terms with the break up of a long and unhappy marriage and become a stronger person as a result. In my waking life I have learned to choose my thoughts and control my feelings and behavior to good effect. The trouble is my dreams, which are frequent and often disturbing. In dream-life I am still very emotional and out of control and tied to past experiences. I will dream I am dancing with my ex or that we have reconciled happily and wake up feeling sad. Or I dream that my new partner is cheating or being an asshole when he has given me no cause to doubt him. Sometimes I wake up in a state of distress after reliving painful events without the benefit of rational thinking and wish I could sleep without being invaded by the bizarre and the uninvited. Are dreams just random or a result of what lurks in the subconscious mind? My goal is to have faith that I have coped quite well with very difficult circumstances and to understand the message behind my restless nights.

It’s a good thing we can’t be held legally responsible for our thoughts or dreams, or we’d all be in jail, riddled with STDs, or kicked out of school due to failing exams we didn’t know we had or excessive public nudity. If the law can’t punish you for your dreams, there’s no reason to punish yourself.

We also know that depression floods us with irrational, negative thoughts, causing us to blame ourselves for everything that has gone wrong and assume that everything will go wrong in the future. So making a big deal about dreams seems like a sure way to magnify the impact of negative thoughts and self-doubts that we neither deserve nor control. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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 »

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