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Fail with pride.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Disorder Form, Part 1

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 10, 2015

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Despite all of our attempts to make our lives secure—wearing protective gear, creating a savings account, building a Y2K+X shelter—we’re all subject to nature’s whims. Most of the time, we’re just scrambling to maintain life’s delicate balance between order and chaos. Of course, there are certain, non-weather related natural disasters that can create disorder; namely, those we’re naturally related to. That’s why, in particularly unstable families, any interaction must be planned with a map of the likely fallout and that Y2K+X shelter stocked to the gills. Later this week, we’ll see how shaking things up can sometimes make the family balance stronger.
Dr. Lastname

Even though most of my family are crazy and a pain in the ass to be around, I still love them and have found a way to keep them in my life without letting their bullshit make me miserable. I’m worried though that, if they come to my wedding, then our relationship is going to fall apart. I can’t not invite them, because they know it’s happening and will show up with or without an invitation, but if they do show up, it’s going to be a shitshow. My father is a nice guy but a mean drunk, and there’s no way he’ll be sober. My oldest sister is a compulsive klepto who would probably disappear the wedding gifts, and another sister is well along in following our father’s staggering footsteps (my brother moved far away to get away from them, and I can’t blame him). I’ve told my fiancée I don’t want to spoil the event for her parents, who are very nice, but I’m afraid of what my family will do to create chaos and ruin what we’ve paid for. My goal is to have a wedding that doesn’t blow up on me and hurt innocent bystanders like my wife and her family.

Whatever you decide to do about inviting your family to your wedding, it’s clear that you accept them for who they are, but that acceptance is dependent on certain factors, i.e., where they are, and for how long. When it comes to family, especially awful relatives, better living through boundaries is often the rule.

Even if you’re not interested in punishing, hiding, or changing them, and you can talk about them honestly with your wife-to-be (who is not asking you to disown them), you’re also not interested in inflicting them on the public or your new in-laws. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Accident Prevention Reassurance

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 27, 2015

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Obviously, accidents are, well, accidental, but if we purposefully avoid identifying relative responsibility, then we risk putting ourselves and others through them again. After all, if we don’t take responsibility for accidents that are not largely accidental, we miss an opportunity to prevent them. And if we do take responsibility for accidents that are entirely accidental, we compound the misery unnecessarily, which may make more accidents happen. So, instead of getting swept up in shame or guilt, add up the facts and seek second opinions. Accidents happen, but if you don’t learn from them you’re deliberately setting yourself up for more mistakes.
Dr. Lastname

My sister drinks because she says it’s the only way to make her anxiety go away—her anti-depressants don’t do it—but she’s been hospitalized three times now because of blackouts caused by drinking and taking extra medication. She gets mad when they try to keep her at the hospital for observation because she always says that she didn’t want to kill herself, she was just trying to get some relief for depression and screwed up by drinking, and being at the hospital makes her more depressed and then she signs out as quickly as possible. She’s mad at me and the rest of the family for insisting that she has a problem with alcohol and needs help, because she thinks we’re just freaking out over a few stupid mistakes and we’re doing this because we like to make her feel worse. My goal is to find her the help she needs.

As you already know, the only problem your sister will admit to having is the one she has with you and your insane overreacting, and maybe also one with your family, who should love her the most but are making her difficult life even more excruciating. You almost can’t blame her for turning to the bottle.

What’s hard for you to accept, of course, is that you can’t get through because, from what you’ve described, her mind is focused entirely on the way she feels in the moment, and in most moments, it’s lousy.

She might have even felt suicidal at the time she almost died, but since she doesn’t afterwards, what was a suicide attempt is now, in her estimation, a silly mistake. As such, she’s not lying, she’s just incapable of seeing the big picture. Shrinks call people whose depressed and angry feelings distort things this way “borderline personality disorders” and, when their distortion is as severe are your sister’s, there’s nothing much that can help them, at least not for the time being.

So don’t try to argue or tell her how much she needs help. Instead, simply trust yourself and act according to what you see and believe. You can’t promise her that she’ll feel better if she stops drinking, particularly not at first. You can promise her, however, that treatment and sobriety can help her think more positively, act more carefully, and reduce the risk of accidental overdose and death if she truly wishes to build a better life.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Monster Barrage

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 16, 2015

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Deciding whether or not to accept the challenge to fight an Asshole™ shouldn’t be difficult—whether you’re facing an Asshole™ or an actual asshole, every instinct should tell you to get the hell out of there. Of course, sometimes the Asshole™ seems like the only thing standing between you and justice, so before you go “mano a anus,” consider the validity of your anger, the likelihood of ancillary damage and cost, and the value of whatever it is you hope to win. Then, whether you’re the one who must do the fighting or just counseling someone else, you’ll come up with a strategy for either fighting or fleeing that will have the least-shitty results.
Dr. Lastname

My father died recently and my unmarried younger sister still lives in the family house with our elderly mother who is now struggling with memory loss. Over the years we have been a dysfunctional family with a lot of sibling rivalry, and my brother and I find our sister argumentative and difficult. Being around her for any length of time involves walking on eggshells and she and our mother have a turbulent relationship although she is her favorite child. My parents’ will states we will all benefit equally upon our mother’s death but now our sister is trying to emotionally blackmail us into pledging the house to her. She feels that she deserves it as she is the main caregiver. However, she has been supported by her for years and has always been hesitant to find work. We find it distasteful to be arguing about money with our mother still living and our father deceased just weeks ago. My brother and I are both happy to inherit our fair share when the time comes but worry that our sister will syphon off the funds my mother has and expect to keep the house as well. We feel like vultures in wait and do not wish for bitterness or conflict but our sister is often unreasonable and bombastic and we have problems of our own. My goal is to find a way to withstand manipulation and protect our interests without causing our mother’s remaining time to be made unhappy and stressful.

The feeling of unfairness is like the emotional salt in the psychic wound left by loss. After all, it never feels fair when you lose someone you love, but having that pain exacerbated by an Asshole™ sibling adds extra sting to the agony.

It’s hard to avoid becoming paralyzed by that pain, as well as guilt over the anguish you could cause your mother by arguing with your sister. Before you go to war with your sister, however, give thought to whether winning a victory would be meaningful, or even possible, given her Asshole™ tendencies.

Your sister is being totally unfair and unreasonable, but as with mortality itself, there’s a point when you have to lay down arms and give in to the inevitable. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Wrong Guard

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 13, 2015

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Protectiveness isn’t just a noble family virtue, but a likely evolution-driven behavior, instilled in us to insure the survival of the family genome (or at least another generation of helicopter Neanderthals). Unfortunately, the urge to protect is also usually emotion-driven, thus making it liable to backfire. It’s not unusual then, especially when it comes to your fellow genome holders, for you to have to protect yourself from someone’s misguided protectiveness, protect someone you care about from their own protection-driven behaviors, or both. So use careful reasoning to determine when protection is possible, when it’s not, and when it’s likely to do more harm than good. You’ll actually become a good protector if you react less to feelings and more to what’s truly best for your family’s future.
Dr. Lastname

My father is well-meaning but a little loopy, especially now that he’s older, and somehow he got it into his head that my wife is cheating on me with a handsome, younger co-worker. In reality, my wife and I are very happy, and we like and occasionally socialize with this co-worker and his husband, but clearly, it ends there. Still, every time dad visits he gives my wife dirty looks and tries to take me aside to tell me I can’t trust her. She and I used to laugh about it, but now that my dad’s been harping on this bullshit for over a year, it’s starting to get on our nerves and our kids, while young, are starting to suspect that grandpa’s upset about something and want to know what it is. I’ve tried to reassure my father that it’s just in his imagination and to keep it there, but he can’t stop. My goal is to figure out a way my father can spend time with my family without causing my wife pain and upsetting the kids.

Keeping the peace within a family isn’t always easy; it’s hard under your own roof, but even harder when you’re running interference between the family you’ve created and the family that created you. Sometimes, however, the efforts required to keep everyone happy aren’t just doomed to failure, but to make you (and others) miserable.

Your natural instinct is to work harder and try to meet everyone’s needs—your wife and kids, your job, your misguided old man—but there are times when the demands become impossible, and instead of dedicating boundless energy towards making things work, you have to create boundaries and instruct others to work around them. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Task Asker

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 25, 2015

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Taking on responsibility is like drinking fine wine; the right amount will make you feel pleasant and, as of the latest study, improve your health, but the wrong amount will either leave you flat or flat on your face. Unfortunately, how much responsibility we decline or assume is too often a matter of thoughtless emotion and habit rather than reasoned consideration. So develop your own procedures for examining the responsibility that you should really claim. Your result will always reflect your best efforts if you drink/choose responsibilities, well, responsibly.
Dr. Lastname

My girlfriend is very nice to her father, who doesn’t like to let her out of his sight during her visits (which are every weekend, rain or shine). He’s always had weird mood swings though, going unpredictably from doting to totally paranoid, so she does her best never to rock his boat. I thought she’d be happy when I offered to come along—given that the visits take up most of her weekends, going with her would make it easier for us to see each other—and initially, she was excited for me to join her. As his mood started to change during that first visit, however, she became very controlling and nasty with me. She said she wanted to protect me and also make sure I didn’t upset him, but she was just plain rude, and I felt she needed to know how abusive she’d become, which then triggered a big fight. My goal is to see her father get some help, because if he can work out his issues, maybe she will have no reason to become so unpleasant.

It’s not unusual for people who bend over backwards with kindness to snap into rage; bend anything too far and it’s bound to snap eventually. Unfortunately, the person who gets snapped at isn’t always the person who was doing the pushing in the first place.

These types knock themselves out to be unselfish and meet the needs of others, but instead of getting thanks and cooperation, they get obstruction, demands and criticism, which, understandably, can make them a bit testy. Then they feel guilty for their nasty words, and have to try even harder to do the backwards-bending Pilates. If they didn’t snap, they end up twisted into a human Cinnabon. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Misgiving Parade

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2015

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Anxiety, like exhaustion and hunger, is one of those sensations that always and unfairly has a negative perception. After all, exhaustion is just your body putting on the brakes, hunger (not the chronic kind) is your body telling you it’s ready for pie, and anxiety is your body’s fire alarm that puts you on high alert and out of danger. Unfortunately, however, even when you take the right steps to protect yourself, the alarm doesn’t always shut down and sometimes it tells you to do things that really won’t protect you at all. Then you may still be anxious, even though you’ve done the right thing, or you may do the wrong thing because you’ve listened uncritically to your anxiety. In any case, if you develop a disciplined way of assessing risks and benefits, anxiety won’t control you or always be to your detriment. Then you’ll be good at protecting yourself without making self-protection (or maybe sleep or eating pie) your only goal in life.
Dr. Lastname

I want to put my current relationship on hold, but I’m worried that I’m just backing away because I’m afraid of intimacy. He’s a nice guy with a good job, and now that it’s legal here he really wants to get married, so I wonder if I’m just scaring myself out of a good thing because commitment makes me nervous. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been stressed lately at work and feel overwhelmed. I don’t want to overreact to the fact that he expects me to call every day and, when I couldn’t, because my cellphone broke, he wouldn’t talk to me for three days out of anger. My friends say he’s rigid and overbearing, but they can be overprotective. My goal then is to figure out if I have a problem with intimacy or anything else that makes me so hesitant to commit.

Deciding whether or not to break up with someone, like deciding whether or not to move or look for a new job or get bangs, is one of those high stakes decisions that deserves a lot of consideration and often comes with at least a little anxiety. After all, you have a lot to lose, the gain is uncertain, and when you actually want hair somewhere, it can take forever to grow out.

The trouble with anxiety, however, is that it doesn’t just make you nervous about doing things that you really need to, like leaving the house, going to work, and figuring out your order at Chipotle, but it can make you second guess the validity of good, solid data and reasonable judgments. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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 »

Destruction Manual

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 22, 2015

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If there was an ancient koan about self-destructive people, it would probably question whether the constant screw-ups are caused by making crazy decisions, or failing to make good ones (and maybe a leaf and stream would be involved). Unfortunately, some actively self-destructive people are the way they are, and some passive failures just can’t be who they should be. So, if you’re perplexed by someone who can’t do right or can’t avoid doing wrong, don’t assume you can help or that they can help themselves. Take a careful look at their ability to accept help and do better before deciding whether help is possible, blame deserved, and certain riddles (and people) would best be left alone.
Dr. Lastname

My sister has always had a lot of struggles in her life, starting from when she came out at a young age and lost our mother soon after. My dad has given her a lot of support financially over the years and continues to do so, even though she’s got a partner (male) and a baby whom we all adore and look after any chance we get. Here is where the rest of the family and I are starting to get concerned; ever since my niece was born, my sister smokes pot daily with the baby right beside her, and recently she’s been making some rash decisions: breaking up with her partner who loves her and supports her; dating a woman with a history of being unstable and bringing her to their house; and planning to move out although she has no job/income. The whole situation is starting to take its toll on my aging dad (who is very involved in the care of her child) as well as the rest of the family, and if anyone tries to broach our concerns with her she explodes into a rage. Ultimately I think the root of the problem is the pot addiction (maybe combined with the anti-depressants), her unwillingness to quit smoking, and the fact that our nephew is affected. We are all at a loss as to what to do and how to approach it for fear of alienating her and thus our nephew, but we need to set some boundaries around our support for her. Or, do we stay out and let her live her life, meanwhile watching how it affects our nephew and divides the family? Our goal is to figure out how to offer help without getting cut off and heartbroken.

Unfortunately, you’re right in assuming that your sister will probably respond negatively to any limits you place on her. In short, if you imply that she’s fucking up her life, she’ll say fuck you, but with you and your family cut off, your niece will be extra fucked over.

The key to not making things worse as you try to help is remembering that some people are just like that and can’t be rescued. You can be sure that your sister’s messing up her life because she’s designed to do just that; she’s a human wrecking ball, but nobody’s at the controls. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Foe Future

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 15, 2015

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When it comes to navigating through problems in a relationship, you can’t always trust your ability to recognize the difference between major issues that can be worked through and those which mark the end of your journey altogether. Even if you can see what terrain lies ahead, there may still be no clear route to getting past the issue. So don’t assume you should have an intuitive relationship GPS to tell you how to overcome problems and know which are predictable or your fault. When things go wrong, re-analyze your plans and prepare to accept sudden changes to your destination.
Dr. Lastname

After some rocky years, I’ve worked hard to build a supportive relationship with my son, but I’m worried about his new girlfriend. He’s crazy about her, and she seems to like him, but she was so surprisingly critical of him and everyone else at our first meeting that I left feeling very worried. He explained afterwards that she’s very sensitive because she was abused and that she’d made it clear to him that she was sorry that she had lashed out, but that didn’t do much to ease my concerns. Then again, if I asked him why she treats him badly and why he puts up with it, he would just stop talking to me. But if I say nothing, I’m worried I will lose him to a very unhappy relationship with a difficult woman. My goal is to save him from rejection or worse without possibly sacrificing what we’ve struggled to maintain.

Any time parents take on the responsibility of saving their kids, there’s often a huge sacrifice involved, i.e., a savings account, a kidney, or, if you’re literally taking a bullet for your kid, a pulse.

Thankfully, saving your kid from a bad relationship need not be your responsibility, nor must it require a huge sacrifice of any kind, from losing your life to your fragile relationship with your son. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Knowing Pro

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 5, 2015

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We’ve written many times about the way mental health professionals especially tend to be either demonized or canonized; nobody expects their dentist to fix their lives or thinks their accountant is a monster and a fraud when s/he’s not perfect, but these are the expectations for those who deal in problems that are frightening and poorly understood, like mental illness. People would like to think therapists can provide control, but they’d also like to think the problem will go away by itself if you return to your usual routine. If you can accept the fact that some problems can’t be solved, however, and that the influence of professionals is always limited, you’ll be ready to learn everything you need to know and become your own expert on tough problems, imperfect professionals, and, if you’ve got the time, your own taxes.
Dr. Lastname

My fifteen-year-old son does poorly in school whenever he gets depressed, which is fairly often, but his current school’s counseling staff is totally worthless—they haven’t just failed to help him, but so many students that their ineptitude is an open secret amongst parents and teachers—so I’m worried that they won’t do much for him once the depression starts and his grades slip. My goal is to figure out what to do to get his school to provide the counseling services he (and other kids) deserve.

If counseling were a reliably good treatment for depression and was available exclusively through schools, then you’d have a worthwhile fight on your hands. The movie version would win awards and you’d get your face on a dollar coin.

Unfortunately for your Oscar dreams, but fortunately for your son, the stakes for your battle aren’t nearly that high.

In reality, the help that almost all counseling provides is limited, and may have less to offer now that you and your son are knowledgeable about depression and can talk to one another about it. Your school’s counseling staff may be especially weak, but their legendary ineptitude need not get in your son’s way. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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