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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vexed Generation

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 27, 2015

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Ideally, being a grandparent offers the best of both worlds; all the fun of playing with kids with none of the pesky responsibility that comes with being directly responsible. If the actual parent isn’t responsible, however, then everything gets flipped on its head, and you’re in a worst-of-all-worlds scenario where you have all the protective instincts of parenthood without any of the authority to do something about it. So, if you feel a grandchild needs your help, don’t let your protective instincts take over, because charging in is never as effective taking small, careful steps. You may not be able to get the best results for you or your grandchild, but will certainly make things better.

-Dr. Lastname

My adult daughter and her toddler live with me and my husband because she has failed to maintain employment to take care of herself. She has had opportunities to work but always quits because of “issues” she has with the jobs. She is irresponsible, manipulative, and is a liar. If I put her out, my grandchild will suffer from poverty and lack of nurturing (the child’s father is not in the picture, so help from him is not an option). My goal is to find a way to handle this without hurting the child.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Disorder Form, Part 2

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 13, 2015

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Finding equilibrium in your life is hard; as we discussed earlier this week, creating balance in a family of unbalanced people is nearly impossible. In other families, however, you can coach someone into a new, more positive direction. In doing so, you can help them create more security in their own lives, improving their balance and strengthening your bonds instead of risking them.
Dr. Lastname

I worry about my son because he’s had a hard time getting his life started since he graduated from college a few years ago. He’s very bright and was always a hard worker, but, right after he graduated, it took him a long time to get going and find a job, probably due to a combination of depression, anxiety, and no focus. In any case, he’s now working, but he needs a graduate degree if he wants to make a decent salary in his field and have any sort of financial security, and he never gets around to applying or even looking into possible local programs. He’s not touchy about being pushed, but I hate the idea of nagging him. My goal is to get him to see that he needs to do more if he really wants to be independent.

Helping kids get organized does not require nagging, just administration. Remember, a good boss doesn’t nag, just sets a clear direction for a good reason, assumes that’s what you want to do, and helps you get there. Take that approach as a parent, particularly when, as in your case, your son doesn’t get angry about being advised, encouraged, or incentivized. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Instability Insurance, Pt. 2

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 7, 2015

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On Monday, we discussed how stress can change people and turn a strong, intelligent woman into a bad-boyfriend addict. While stress can push you to pick up bad habits, it can also push you away from good ones. Whichever happens to you, regaining control begins with an acceptance of the fact that you’ve lost it, but that you’re still the same old person inside. Then invite help from friends, build new habits and be patient, and you’ll eventually bring your behavior into line with your character. Just because stress changes you doesn’t mean careful management can’t change you back.
Dr. Lastname

I worry about the way my daughter stops contacting me for months at a time when she gets depressed. At least when she was in high school, she lived with me, so I could keep an eye on her and force her to stay on top of her work and get out of bed. Now she’s out of school and won’t even answer my texts. I worry, but I don’t want to antagonize her or undermine her independence by barging in on her. Meanwhile, I understand from her brother that she has trouble getting out of bed or even checking her mailbox, so it seems like she needs me now as much as she did when she was a kid. My goal is to help her without making her feel that I’m trying to take over her life.

It’s true that actions speak louder than words when it comes to expressing affection or commitment, but some people’s behavior is really impaired, even when their affection and commitment are genuine. Depression notoriously can prevent people from checking their mail, answering their phones, or even showering or leaving the house. No wonder they get more isolated and depressed.

What you’ve learned from watching your daughter endure prior bouts of depression is that her withdrawal doesn’t reflect specific negative feelings or a lack of independence; just a neurological shutdown. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Cease Love and Understanding

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 20, 2015

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While a large percentage of the population enjoys live-Tweeting every thought, Instagramming every cloud, and updating their Facebook status with every fart, there are still some people who prefer to keep their lives fairly private and don’t care what you think about “Scandal.” For whatever reason, some people need to be understood by everyone they know, while others would rather be known only by those they specially trust. In any case, don’t let a frustrated need, whether to be understood or ignored, get you to doubt yourself. Judge your behavior by what you know, rather than by how isolated or crowded you feel, and you’ll find the perfect privacy level.
Dr. Lastname

I knew that intravenous antibiotics might not help my Lyme disease, but I appreciated the fact that my internist was willing to try an experimental treatment. Now that it’s clearly not helping, however, she continues to act as if I’m basically pretty well and that I should continue my physical therapy for the muscle pain and be glad it isn’t worse. All that tells me is that she really doesn’t understand how debilitated I feel and how much the disease has affected my life; her lack of understanding makes me feel worse than when I came to her for treatment. My goal is to find someone who hears what I’m saying and can comprehend what I’m going through.

We all want understanding from doctors when illness makes us feel helpless, forces us to reduce our expectations or change our lifestyles. If they don’t understand the depth of our pain—especially when illness has pushed us so far down—then it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to find the treatment that will pull us up.

It’s a lot like wanting a comforting parent when you’re hurting and your life is a mess; without that comfort, everything feels much worse and it’s harder to figure out what to do. You want understanding and nurturing, which is hard to find from somebody who wears a lab coat for a living. 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 »

Breaking Sad

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 9, 2015

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People often have simple, easy expectations about complicated, difficult feelings; grief should resolve itself with time, and overwhelming guilt should be resolved by redeeming actions. Of course, grief doesn’t always disappear on schedule, if ever, and guilt shouldn’t become overwhelming unless you’ve actually done something wrong. So don’t grieve for persistent grieving and do feel guilty for over-reacting to guilt. Adjust your expectations, hold on to your values, and get used to the simple fact that painful feelings have a logic of their own.
Dr. Lastname

I lost my son ten years ago when he was hit by a drunk driver, but I still think about him every day, and sadness comes back periodically. I’ve always liked to stick with the things I liked—I’ve had the same job for many years, the same friends and hobbies, and I’m often reasonably happy—but he was my only kid, I never remarried after his father left us, and I just sometimes wonder whether I should still be thinking about him and feeling sad so frequently, even after all these years. My goal is to learn to accept his death in a healthy way so I don’t grieve forever.

Like rage and exhaustion, grieving is one of those feelings that you’re only “allowed” to experience for a limited amount of time; otherwise, everyone around you wants to kill you, and that’s only if your emotional-overdose doesn’t kill you first.

While rage and exhaustion really can burn you out, grieving over a death, even for ten years, isn’t necessarily unhealthy or unusual, and it certainly isn’t guaranteed to hasten your own demise.

In reality, people differ in the depth of their attachments and life doesn’t always offer second chances. So your experience with prolonged grief after losing your only son may be unavoidable, if uncomfortable, and, of course, sad.

After all, you’re the type of person who experiences strong, lasting attachments, so your relationship with your son would probably have been central to your life if he were still alive. Based on your long history with the same job and friends, it seems that you’re also the sort of person who values continuity and relationships over adventure, change, and new experience.

The pain of prolonged grieving could have become destructive if it caused you to lose interest in relationships or the values that shaped your life, but that isn’t the case. You’re living the life you want to lead; you just miss your son.

It’s hard to live with grief, so don’t make it worse by wondering why you can’t make it stop. Certain kinds of grief never end, but that’s what comes of loving, having children, and being fully committed to them. You wouldn’t want to be a different person; you’d just want life to less cruel to people like you.

So don’t question lasting sorrow. It’s a reflection of the loving relationship you had with your son, it hasn’t stopped you from leading a meaningful life, and it’s a key part of that meaning and of who you are. You have moved on in so many ways, even if your heart hasn’t.

Don’t feel bad about feeling bad; feel good about having a good relationship with your kid, even if he isn’t here anymore.

STATEMENT:
“When I find myself still grieving for my son after many years, I wonder if I’ve really moved on. I know, however, that I’ve made the most of what life has offered me even when it’s been unbearably painful, and grief hasn’t changed what I care about or have tried to achieve.”

I can’t stop feeling like I screwed up because an executive I hired a year ago feels I hired him under false pretenses. It’s true, his prospects changed recently when I relocated our company, but, when I hired him, I didn’t know that was going to happen. He doesn’t accept my explanation, however, and feels I’ve derailed his career, or at least uprooted his life. The situation reminds me of my mother, who always lamented how becoming a parent sidetracked her career, and I hate the idea of making anyone feel that way. My goal is to stop feeling guilty all the time.

As a manager, your job is to allocate responsibility fairly after considering a person’s job description and workload, and to avoid making anyone responsible simply because you need someone to blame. That might be emotionally satisfying, but it’s bad management. Especially if the person you’re mindlessly assigning blame to is yourself.

Don’t let yourself become responsible for an employee’s unhappiness, or even your mother’s unhappiness, without first stopping to examine the facts.

You suggest that you did nothing wrong, but you continue to blame yourself because he does. Forget about him then and consider your job description and what you could or couldn’t do about his career. Then ask yourself whether you treated him properly. If you met your own standards, then give yourself the right to disagree and to decline responsibility for ruining his life.

It’s hard to watch someone feel his life is ruined. Even though life sometimes takes a turn for the worse, however, it’s seldom helpful for anyone to see himself as a helpless victim who can do nothing to improve his situation but blame his problem on someone else. Taking on responsibility for other people’s problems doesn’t just hurt you; it also hurts them by giving them an excuse not to look for a solution.

So don’t take responsibility you don’t deserve and don’t listen to whining; you have a responsibility to protect yourself. Maybe you acquired the habit of feeling responsible for the sad lives of others as a child, but you’re an adult now, and a boss, and the blame stops with you.

STATEMENT:
“I feel terrible to hear someone say I’ve ruined their lives. I know, however, that I haven’t done anything wrong and that, if someone’s luck is bad, it’s their job to make the best of things without complaining. I will no longer accept undeserved blame or listen to unhealthy complaints.”

Nuclear Over-Reactor

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 29, 2015

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Your brain’s ability to identify problems is a lot like that of a drug-sniffing dog, which is to say, despite its training and experience, it still occasionally confuses flour with cocaine or gives the OK to a cargo ship packed with heroin. In order to avoid overreacting to a non-problem or writing off something dangerous, think carefully about the consequences of problems and your intuitive response before deciding whether you need to act or sit on your hands. That way, you’ll be a more effective problem-assessor (and possibly problem solver) and more than earn a treat.
Dr. Lastname

Since my husband and I divorced, I feel like my daughter is slipping away. The divorce wasn’t bitter, but my daughter has the same sensitive temperament as my ex-husband and just generally takes after him more, so she seems more comfortable with him than with me. She and I love one another, but we don’t have the same natural rapport that she and her father have, so, all things being equal, it makes me feel a little on edge when we’re together. When I try harder to show I care (buy her clothes, take her to concerts, etc.), it seems to make her more uncomfortable. I feel like I’m losing the most important relationship left in my family, and I should encourage her to tell me why I make her nervous. My goal is to find a way to make our relationship work.

It’s natural to think you can get closer to your kid by being more like the person she’s close to. Unfortunately, trying to be like someone you’re not is like a dog trying to walk only on his hind legs; it’s hard work, curious and awkward for everybody nearby, and eventually, you’ll be unable to resist returning to a natural/quadruped state.

That’s why a major requirement for partnership is finding someone who can accept your temperament the way it is, which might also explain why your partnership with your husband wasn’t sustainable. Either way, you can still have a successful partnership with your kid, even if you aren’t 100% compatible. 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 »

Unspoken Word

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 22, 2015

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Private health issues heal the same way that visible open wounds do; bind them up for too long out of shame and they’ll fester and get oozy, but if you put them out there too much they also risk getting oozy, as well as scaring away everyone, including those who want to help. When it comes to hidden problems, never assume that communication is the equivalent to antibiotic, but always fight unjustly negative thinking, whether you voice it silently or publicly. As long as you credit yourself for what you do with what you can’t help, rather than blaming yourself for bad performance, you’ll communicate well with yourself and others and keep scarring to a minimum.
Dr. Lastname

I was never a bad mother, but I’ve always got weird thoughts in my head about how I’m going to harm members of my family. I’ve never, ever acted on these thoughts or purposefully hurt anyone, but the thoughts’ persistence made it so that I was never able to just relax and enjoy my daughter when she was growing up. So when she recently told me that she and her boyfriend, whom I really like, are going to get married, I looked gloomy because I was immediately swamped with thoughts about how I was also going to harm him now, too. My daughter told me she was hurt because I seemed unhappy about her decision, but I didn’t want to let her know how crazy my thinking is (I’ve never told anyone but my doctor about it), so I just told her I was sure I was going to be very happy with him and was just bad at showing it. My goal is not to ruin my kid’s happiness with my craziness.

It’s easy to understand why you might feel ashamed of having murderous thoughts, even if they have nothing to do with how you really feel and have zero influence over what you do. Involuntary thoughts are like a terrible roommate that lives in your own head; they’re slobs that are always around, pestering you for attention and refusing to take the hint and leave.

The major thing that makes mental illness so hard to describe, comprehend, or, for some people, even believe in, is the way it can make your own brain turn against you. We’re used to our stomachs, joints, and even prostates turning against us, but our brains are literally supposed to know better. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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