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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Mistakes’n Identity

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 28, 2017

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Finding stability after an especially shaky period is a major and worthwhile achievement, but it may leave you feeling a new kind of uncertainty, stranded between troubled old friends who know you well and well-balanced new friends who would be totally thrown if they learned about your past. Gaining respectability, however, doesn’t require you to hide your past or get approved by other respectable types; instead, decide for yourself whether your efforts have helped you become a decent, independent person. If you respect what you’ve done with your life then you can insist on finding solid friends, whether you have a solid past or not.

-Dr. Lastname

Due to a combination of bad luck, poor decisions and generally reckless behavior, I went through a difficult patch in my late teens/early 20s. A brief highlights tour: abortion, severe depression, being broke, sex work, failing out of college…all in all, it was shitty. Ten years later and I’ve gotten a degree, a good therapist, some success in a far-less-shady line of work…I’ve even gotten engaged to a very nurturing and wonderful man. The problem is that these two realities—my past and my present—are so at odds with each other that it’s becoming increasingly hard for me to deal with. For example, having lost a lot of friends during the bad years, I have recently started trying to make new ones with colleagues I really like and would like to be closer to, but having to hide the details of my past/“double life” means they’ll always be at a distance. The same thing applies to my fiancé’s family, since knowing about my past will make them both wary of me and create difficulties for him. Even my long-time friends (who know my history) are reluctant to talk about the topic, and now that I’ve recently started experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks about that time, it does hurt that I can’t seem to confide in them about the practical problems that I am currently facing. I am functioning quite well about 75% of the time, but my moods can be unstable and at the times when I see this situation stretching out of me for the rest of my life I feel, frankly, almost as depressed as I did in the bad old days, despite being happy and extremely grateful about how well things have turned out. My goal is to A, find some way of making peace with my past and B, figure out some way of sharing my experiences with friends in a way that is appropriate but lessens my feelings of loneliness.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Twist and Doubt

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 27, 2016

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Like pooping our pants, biting our enemies, and enjoying Disney Channel shows, self-doubt is a regrettable aspect of childhood we’re supposed to grow out of. If, however, years of learning, practicing, and getting older don’t keep persistent self-doubt from pestering you on into adulthood, it’s usually taken as a sign of low self-esteem and possible failure in normal maturation. In actuality, it can also be a trait that, for reasons we don’t understand, afflicts mature people who have worked hard, gained skills, and deserve much more confidence than they ever experience. We don’t think these traits can be changed by treatment, prayer, or, as always, anything short of lobotomy, but we have many ideas on how you can manage self-doubt almost as well as you do your bowels.

-Dr. Lastname

I am constantly plagued by negative self-talk. Most days I lack confidence in nearly everything I do. No matter what it never seems to be enough for me. How can I let go of the constant self-judgment and self-criticism? These mental habits sabotage my day–stirring anxiety, panic, and impulsiveness. My goal is to change this internal negativity into something positive, nourishing, and/or helpful. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Lies About A Face

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2016

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Maybe it’s an extension of normal perfectionism, but obsessing over perceived physical imperfections is an affliction that sometimes happens to very good people. Unfortunately, doctors have neither been able to find the reason behind nor the cure for these obsessive thoughts, but if you’re one of those unfortunate people, you aren’t totally without hope. Though feelings of ugliness are painful and hard to bear, there are ways to remind yourself that they aren’t the truth, and that your future never need be as ugly as the thoughts in your head.

-Dr. Lastname

My concern has to do with feeling ugly. I often feel quite not-OK with how I look, specifically my face, and it causes me unease and unhappiness. I also feel I was very unhealthy and underweight in my late teens (from eating very little and working way too hard at school), and that I could/should look better/like my handsome brother, and often just feel kind of this general malaise and shittiness when it comes to my appearance. I can’t imagine ever even wanting to date somebody given how almost guilty and unhappy my looks make me feel. Every mention of attractiveness and even the sight of a pretty girl quickly triggers a twinge of sadness and a kind of sigh and a drive to ruminate, which I’m finding it hard to deal with now and I’m and worried about coping with it in the future when life gets much harder. Right now I live with my parents and am quite comfortable, but I don’t know how I’m going to function when I’m on my own struggling in the real world. I can’t imagine happily meeting friends for brunch and not getting weighed down by the whole, “I look gross as hell and it’s probably my fault and things might very well suck forever and I might be screwed” train of thought. My goal is to be less affected by my feelings about how I look and have some sense of hope about the future.

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The Great Aspy

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 1, 2016

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Unlike severe autism, autism spectrum disorder is more a collection of differences than a disease. True, there are disabilities and moments of feeling alienated, but some abilities are enhanced, so it’s less like being broken and more like being Batman. So if you have Asperger traits, don’t make it your goal to be “normal.” Recognizing your weaknesses does not oblige you to eliminate them, but to learn how to use your strengths to manage them and be the person you are (and perhaps save Gotham, if you’re so inclined).

-Dr. Lastname

I’m over 60 and have just discovered/realized I am on the autism spectrum (what they used to call Asperger’s). I’ve spent my life trying to fit in to a neurotypical world. I’m also a little over a year divorced from someone who emotionally abused me for almost 20 years. Between these two things, I’m kind of reinventing myself. I’m already saying f*ck to ‘normal’ (neurotypical) and to society’s dictates for women my age, but that doesn’t mean I’m totally comfortable with what’s happening. My goal is to figure out how f*cked I am, and what can I do about it. 

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Steps To Get Your Sh*t Together

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 21, 2016

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At the start of a new year, you don’t have to be like our reader from earlier this week—someone in an usual career going through an usually hard time—to feel motivated to get your shit together. Here are five easy steps anyone can follow to get back on track no matter how rocky the terrain of your life happens to be.

1) Get A List of Goals

Obviously, if you’re trying to figure out how to get organized and motivated, you need to know what’s important enough to you to work for. Define these goals in terms of values, not results, e.g., include making a living, not making a mint. Think about what’s necessary, healthy, and fun in the long run, not what your wildest dreams are made of.

2) Put Together Your Priorities

The hardest part of prioritizing is learning to both accept the fact that two or three things deserve highest priority and the skill of juggling them all at once. It gets easier over time, and in the process of learning, you also get better at figuring out whether some of your priorities are actually worth dropping or putting aside.

3) Choose a Coach/System

Without a domineering spouse, day job, or ticking bomb in the basement, most people have to develop a system for self-management, particularly when they have to juggle their own obligations on top of their spouse’s, kid’s, dog’s, etc. Since most schools don’t teach you executive functioning skills, take a course and/or hire a coach. It’s amazing how much better you can do with a good to-do list, a set of urgency categories, and an omnipresent schedule.

4) Suss Out a Schedule

Assuming you have lots of responsibilities, limited time, and a strong desire to have fun, you need to create a schedule. A schedule helps you develop habits and shortcuts, so that you can reduce procrastination, deal with top priorities first, and make time for the things you really want to do. Again, don’t hesitate to take a course or use a coach.

5) Learn Your Limits

Many people experience endless feelings of responsibility once they engage in a serious task and those feelings can become consuming, particularly if an outside source (boss, spouse, parent, etc.) believes your share of responsibilities is never big enough. Train yourself to judge your responsibilities objectively by comparing them to your job description, taking into account your resources, and determining what a good person should do. Then you can remain focused on what’s really important, not overextend yourself, and not only get your shit together, but get shit done with a real sense of pride.

5 Tips for Managing Yearnings

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 27, 2015

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Even for sane people, brains aren’t always totally cooperative, reliable things; most of us deal with unwanted thoughts and urges on a daily basis, like doubts about our looks or abilities or nagging impulses to do, say, or touch things that should remain left alone, at least in public. When those yearnings are extra persistent and painful, however, like our reader from earlier this week who couldn’t shake the urge to get pregnant, there are still ways to keep your brain in control. Here are five ways to keep unwanted thoughts from overstaying their welcome.

1. Snap Out of It (Literally)

As silly as it sounds, it does help to put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it every time you have the unwanted thought. It turns out that the distraction helps to stop a thought from turning into a rumination. If it helps to follow up this proverbial smack on the nose with a newspaper with a treat, all the better.

2. Acknowledge and Answer

Instead of taking the thought at face value and letting it get you down, respond to it by reminding yourself that you’ve made the best compromise possible, tough decisions are often painful, and you’re proud of your ability to put up with pain. If the voice isn’t going to shut up, it’s going to be told that it’s wrong.

3. Utilize Unassuming Obsessions

Since it’s fairly difficult to pull up distracting positive thoughts when you’re in the throws of heavy, nagging obsessions, try instead to distract yourself with unimportant, public ruminations, like how it’s unclear whether people watch Empire because they think it’s really good or delightfully idiotic, or why the Red Sox fired the one announcer who could make a horrible season watchable.

4. Stand up to Shame

Negative thoughts flourish with shame and secrecy—if you’re too ashamed of them to get talk about them or get help, they’ll get the run of your head—so tell those close to you that you suffer from ruminations and appreciate distraction. If you don’t want to wear the rubberband, you can ask them to step on your toe or pinch your tush if you ever, ever start to share the subject of your ruminations.

5. Seek Support

Spend time with other people who suffer from ruminations (an OCD clinic should know where you can find a support group). You’ll find many nice, otherwise sane people who experience painful, intrusive thoughts and still find ways to go on with their lives. They may also have more good hints about how to ignore the thoughts and prevent their painfulness from driving you to feel like a failure. Either way, they can help you to feel less alone, more in control, and thinking more positively about the problem in general, even if you can’t stop thinking about other things.

5 Ways to Manage the Need for Validation

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).

Gold Stars, Validation, Fxck Feelings

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