Posted by fxckfeelings on March 9, 2015
Share This Post
Telling the unadulterated truth can be an intoxicating experience; revealing a dangerous secret can give extreme sport-levels of exhilaration, and the thrill of hearing a secret exposed is why most people watch any locale of The Real Housewives. Unfortunately, also like extreme sports, the adrenaline rush of secret-sharing is often followed by a painful, embarrassing crash. Sometimes you can be more helpful by keeping private information to yourself, and sometimes you can acknowledge a secret while being respectful. In any case, think carefully about consequences before you decide how much exposure is necessary and prepare to explain this necessity with respect. Then you’ll be a good judge of when to shut up and how to share and keep your friendships/bones/dinner party invitations intact.
I don’t know when my depression started, but the symptoms became pronounced when I was in high school. I started seeing a doctor and taking medication when I was in college, and twenty years later, that’s still what I do for treatment. I told my wife about my depression while we were dating, and my close family know about it, but I’m not very open about it besides…I’m a private person overall, and I don’t want to deal with being judged by others. Now that my son is in high school, exhibiting the same symptoms that made my adolescence so difficult, I’m worried that keeping quiet about my own illness wasn’t the right thing to do, and I’m not sure what advice to give my son, either. I think I should tell him about my own experiences, because I want him to know that he’s not alone or weird, and that he shouldn’t be ashamed of being sick, but I don’t want him to be totally open about his illness, given how the other kids might treat him. Then again, I worry that keeping quiet about our illness just perpetuates the stigma…one of my brothers is gay, so it reminds me of what he went through when he came out, if that makes sense. Then again, my brother didn’t want to be a poster child, and neither do I, but maybe, for my son’s sake, I should be? My goal is to figure out how to talk to my son about his depression, and how and if to talk to others about my depression, also.
Some people feel liberated by sharing all their secrets, but most people, especially those of us who came of age before Facebook, enjoy our privacy. If you’re an especially private person—you don’t feel compelled to tell the world what you ate for lunch, let alone what your prescriptions are—then sharing information about illness is an especially uncomfortable prospect.
Even when an illness is stigmatized, however, there are unique criteria for making your decision, with specific benefits to both disclosure and privacy. It’s your job to figure out which is more important given the unique facts of your situation and your son’s.
If you were a celebrity, then being totally open about your disease would give you the chance to reach out to and help others, but as a regular guy, the only person who will consider you a role model is your son. You can find the level of openness that works for you without having to be a poster child (which, for the depressive community, means being down-and-out and proud). WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 5, 2015
Share This Post
It’s remarkable how often people are blind to the true nature of their relationships; even more remarkable than the resulting number of bad conflicts, really bad romantic comedies, and truly horrific divorces. The only thing more frustrating than being blind is having to act as a seeing-emotion guide to one or both of the parties involved, either because you want them to ignore their differences or wise up to them. In any case, telling them how you feel about how they feel will probably make things worse. All you can do is remind them of their duty to do what’s right for themselves and hope that experience helps them see their way out of a horrible, unremarkable outcome.
I’ve got two guys working in my warehouse who both do their jobs, but they can’t get along with one another, and their squabbling puts everyone on edge. The younger guy is very motivated and hardworking, but he feels the older guy is stupid and slows him down, and he gives him crap about it. The older guy isn’t lazy, but he is a little stupid and slow, plus he’s sensitive and he feels the younger guy doesn’t respect him, which is true. I’m their boss, so they both complain to me, but I don’t want to lose either of them because it’s a pain to train someone new. Plus I like them both, I just can’t stand how much they hate each other, and I can’t get them to sit down and work it out because it’d make things worse. My goal is to get them to get over this bullshit and get back to work.
As their boss, you have a right to insist that people working for you treat one another with respect and leave it to you to judge whether or not they’re competent. More realistically, however, bosses really just have the right to mediate between childish employees and absorb animosity. All this for better benefits and your own parking space.
Of course, being that you’re more like a father than an enforcer to your employees, you have as much power to make them get along as you do to get your kids to stop bickering in the minivan. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 16, 2015
Share This Post
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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 29, 2015
Share This Post
Strong emotions often push us to act without weighing consequences, simply because we feel helpless and need to take action; that’s why the world has so many unworn expensive shoes, memorial tattoos, and children born just before or after their parents’ divorce. In reality, we’re often screwed no matter how we choose to react, or we’re just panicking for no reason and no action is required in the first place. In any case, no matter the emotional forces, think first and act later, weighing your alternatives and acting only if you think it’s necessary. You might not feel any immediate relief, but in the long run, you won’t have anything (or anyone) to regret.
My grown son has always been very difficult, but his last outburst was just too much. He caught me at a time when I was having a tough time and felt vulnerable, and I told him I thought he was being a selfish, self-centered little shit, so he told me never to talk to him again and hung up. Unfortunately, even if I shouldn’t have said those mean things out loud, I was right; he’s a jerk, so none of his friendships has lasted and his kids are very careful not to aggravate him. Even though I feel really guilty about it, I just can’t bring myself to pick up the phone or write him and try to patch things up. I know that if I don’t reach out to him, I won’t see those kids, but if I do, I’ll have to have a conversation with him, which is just going to be unpleasant and end badly. My goal is to figure out a way to repair our relationship so I won’t dread talking to him or feel bad about being such a heartless parent.
The good news is that you’re living evidence that Asshole™-ishness isn’t always genetic. The bad news is that you have still spawned an Asshole™.
As we’ve said before, Asshole™s can cause serious harm without any real provocation; they’re usually very needy, and their neediness causes them pain that they think is your fault, particularly if you’re a parent or other person who stirs up those feelings by virtue of your very existence.
Asshole™s truly believe you deserve punishment. What you deserve, besides a better son, is protection. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 22, 2015
Share This Post
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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 5, 2015
Share This Post
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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 22, 2014
Share This Post
Freaking out is good for your health in the moment if you’re facing a lion, zombie, or Beyonce, but if the moment passes and the freak-out doesn’t, then you’ve got problems. Some people then freak out about freaking out and see nothing but dark clouds sweeping in, while others shut the world out entirely and create a darkness of their own. In either case, if you don’t want fear to run your life, learn to assess your real risks and actual strengths. Then you can face anything from scary thoughts to American royalty without freaking out too much and feeling like your life is over.
Over the last few years, my panic attacks have been getting worse and nothing seems to work. So far, I’ve been able to hold it together and do my job, but I often have to hide in the bathroom for short periods in order to catch my breath and talk myself off the ledge. Valium helps a bit, but I have to be careful not to take it regularly or I’ll get addicted, which I’m very frightened of happening because addiction runs in my family. Other medication hasn’t helped, nor have changes to my diet and exercise routine, so I’m getting scared and desperate. My goal is to find a psychiatrist who can help me before anxiety ruins my life.
When you’re prone to experiencing random episodes of intense, meaningless fear that make your heart race, your throat close up, and your brain tell you the world is ending, it’s hard to be optimistic. They don’t call them panic attacks because they make you freak out about how great your future will be.
On top of that, panic attacks have no cure and, as you get older, anxiety tends to get worse. So, while it’s not surprising if you see the light at the end of the tunnel as either a train, a laser cannon, or the fires of hell itself, you have good reason for hope. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 11, 2014
Share This Post
A doctor’s diagnosis may make a serious illness official, but talking about it with professionals and people you trust is what makes it real. That’s why admitting you’re seriously sick can be so hard; if you admit you’re ailing from something manageable but incurable, the illness might scare people away, but if you admit it and become obsessed, you might needlessly scare yourself. That’s why you have to consider carefully when it’s better to focus on your problem and make it public, and when it’s not. Talking about your problems might make them real, but not talking about them doesn’t make them disappear.
I’m perfectly healthy now, but I had a couple nervous breakdowns when I was eighteen and twenty, and I wonder whether I should tell my fiancée. I really don’t want to drive her away. I tried stopping my meds a month ago, to see if I’m really OK now, and I still feel great, so I wonder if I need to tell her about a problem that I may not have any more, now that I’m twenty-six and working full time in a profession. I exercise and eat right now, which I didn’t do then, and I’m really not a nut job. My goal is not to screw up a wonderful relationship by bringing up past events that may not matter any more.
It’s common for people who take medication for severe mental illness to decide they no longer need said meds once they start feeling better, and it’s not hard to understand why; it’s natural for someone who’s taking crazy pills to rationalize that sanity equals success.
After all, you wouldn’t keep wearing braces after your teeth got straight, or taking antibiotics after an infection cleared up. Especially if you felt your fiancée might leave you if she found out you once had a slight under-bite or athlete’s foot.
The difference, of course, is that medication is supposed to manage your symptoms, not make your brain better. That’s why stopping treatment can be so dangerous, because declarations of health can turn to hubris at a frightening speed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on November 17, 2014
Share This Post
No matter what the talking heads say, a bleeding heart is not a partisan trait, nor is it always a negative one. You don’t even have to be a registered voter to be a good, caring person, and party affiliation doesn’t determine whether you’ll care too much and take responsibility for problems that you can’t really help. Learn how to assess your responsibilities realistically, whether you embrace or reject the problem at hand. Then, when a problem comes within range of your heart, you’ll be able to decide what to do without having to blindly follow any party line.
My girlfriend’s father is a widower in his mid-eighties who is still physically fit and able to drive. He is a difficult man, socially awkward and uneasy in company. He fills his days by going round thrift shops and yard sales buying old books and large quantities of stuff which he does not need or use. He used to sell it, but the dealers he supplied have died or long been retired so it just mounts up, particularly since his wife died. Now his house is a mess and a lot of living space is now uninhabitable. He cannot bathe or shower as the tubs are used to store stuff. My girlfriend feels guilty and stressed, but is too busy to do anything about it. I wonder whether I can move in with her if this is a family trait. I find this sort of lifestyle depressing and off putting. She is a kind and reliable person with many good qualities. My goal is to work out a coping strategy.
Caring about other people’s problems is a good trait if you can do something to help them, but otherwise it’s a good way to cause yourself trouble you don’t need. It’s just like hoarding, except with anxiety instead of expired food and dead cats.
Before taking on responsibility for an unsolvable problem, ask yourself whether that problem is likely to cause you trouble, or whether there’s anything that really needs to be done about it. Unless your girlfriend’s father wants to use your house as a storage unit, living with his hoarder status might not be too much for you to bear. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 20, 2014
Share This Post
In this day and age, it’s almost impossible not to know what Attention Deficit Disorder is (or to not have a direct connection to someone who has it, or to not have an opinion on it, just because). On the other hand, very few people are aware of Attention Surfeit Disorder, which is when people habitually get so perfectly focused on the problems that grab them that they can’t see why anything else matters, even if it’s a looming disaster. Whether you can’t focus on any one thing or focus far too much on one thing exactly, be aware that our brains have different ways of focusing, and that each has its own strength and weakness. Then, whether you have a fun diagnosis or not, you’ll be better at managing your priorities instead of following whatever captures your attention.
I’m curious to your thoughts on subclinical anorexia. I was (voluntarily) hospitalized with anorexia nervosa last year. Since then I’ve managed to keep my weight out of the danger zone, but not up to where my physicians would like it. Honestly, I don’t see the point. Even at my lowest weight I completed an MPH at Hopkins (my third post-graduate degree), I’m in the “healthy” BMI range, technically, and I hold a full time job in addition to teaching science at a local University two nights a week. Who the hell cares if I don’t hit my target weight? My goal is to continue to achieve excellence without worrying too much about what doctors tell me about my weight.
When you focus too much on perfection in one particular aspect of your life, be it in terms of appearance or professional achievement, it’s like searching for a house based on the quality of the faucets; you become so fixated on the gleaming chrome that you don’t notice the lack of square footage, light, or even plumbing.
Obsessional, single-minded focus is always unhealthy when it gets you to disregard whatever else is truly important in your life, like your health and friendships. You tell yourself it’s good to work harder to make yourself better…while losing track of the fact that what you’re sacrificing is worth more than the excellence you’re driven to achieve. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »