Posted by fxckfeelings on January 8, 2015
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Unless you’re a robot, lobotomized, or the anti-cable news pundit, it’s impossible to assess a situation without some level of inherent, personal bias. It’s especially difficult if you’re assessing your own decisions; your judgment will appear consistently poor if you’re self-critical, or consistently justified if you’re critical of everyone else. Whatever your nature, don’t leave self-judgment to your reflexes; regardless of whether you tend to blame yourself, others, or both, take time to measure the moral value of your actions, particularly when life forces you to make compromises. Then act accordingly by protecting yourself when you deserve it, and making improvements when that’s what you should do, so you push your bias towards doing what’s best.
My ex-husband isn’t a bad guy, but he was and is a drinker who much prefers hanging out at the bar with the boys. We get along OK though, so we still live in the same house because we can stand to and it’s best for the kids. Lately, however, I haven’t had my usual energy due to my Crohn’s disease, and it bothers me. I always do OK at my full-time job and I never mess up caring for the kids, but I’ve been letting some of the household cleaning chores slide, and my ex has been giving me a hard time about it. I know I’m fucking up, so his criticism really gets to me. My goal is to find a way to restore my energy or at least get him to be more understanding of my condition.
Even if you and your ex are technically apart, it’s nice to keep things peaceful and together for the kids’ sake. It’s not nice, however, if the arrangement is putting so much pressure on you that you’re coming apart at the seams.
If you focus too much on responding to criticism and forget about whether you do or don’t deserve it, you take responsibility for shit you don’t control. And just because your ex can’t control his drinking doesn’t mean you can’t control your reaction to his complaints. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
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.
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 11, 2014
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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 3, 2014
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Sometimes anxiety and depression are not illnesses, though they may feel like it; they’re part of every human’s normal alarm system, warning you that something painful or soon-to-be-dangerous needs your attention. When anxiety and depression randomly tell you that the world sucks, however, that’s when you cross the line from normal to unnecessary, requiring attention. Either way, never rush to discount what anxiety and depression have to tell you about the world, but never believe them until you’ve assessed the alarm and reached your own conclusion.
My anxiety has been better lately, but it kicked up last weekend after my roommate’s friends broke a window in our apartment while they were tossing around a football. My roommate’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t want to pay for the window because he says the landlord doesn’t take good care of our apartment in a bunch of other ways. Now I’m starting to worry about what will happen when the landlord sees the damage and whether it will come out of my security deposit, which seems unfair, since I wasn’t even here. Anyway, my goal is to figure out whether I should up my medication because the stress from this whole thing is really hard to take.
Anxiety, like tiredness or anger, isn’t inherently problematic; if we never felt these things, it would be a big problem, and a probable sign of drug use, lobotomy, or being dead.
The issue, of course, comes with feeling anxious too much, or tired all the time, or angry at trees for being lazy. The current anxiety you’re feeling is the regular kind; it’s your response to your roommate’s actions that need rethinking. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 20, 2014
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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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 16, 2014
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You know that the how/when/why of diagnosis is a loaded topic, not just because you’re either longing to find or determined to reject one, but because those of you who read this site with some regularity know how many letters we get on the subject. A diagnosis is a powerful thing, but, like your authors’ posts, it’s rarely the last word. As always, ask yourself what a diagnosis really means before giving it too much meaning, or too little. We won’t be shocked or disappointed, however, if you want to ask us about what it means, also.
I have severe mood swings which don’t help at all, because some days/weeks I will be normal anxious me, but then I can have periods where nothing scares me anymore, pretty much like I’m ‘on top’, and I’ll have so much confidence. But then I have periods which are the exact opposite, meaning that I’ll be constantly upset and feeling self hatred for the way I am. As a result of this, I researched Bipolar Disorder and I have nearly all of the symptoms, I also took some of the online tests, which I know are not completely accurate but I thought they would give me a brief outline. Each one said that I possibly have moderate to severe Bipolar Disorder. After thinking for a while, I spoke to my mum, but she shunned the idea. I later convinced her to do some research on it and let me know her opinions, which I think she had no intention to let me know her thoughts as I only got a reply one month later as a result of my frequent questioning. She said I am definitely not bipolar. I have now been put on the contraceptive pill to control my irregular periods and mood swings, however they have not altered my moods, nor has the Teen Multivitamins that my mum has been buying me to prove that it’s entirely just my hormones. My goal is to control my moods and lessen my anxiety.
Just as there are eight major levels for classifying biological organisms—from general “life” down to the precise “species”—there are several unofficial levels of diagnoses. The most general level might be by location (e.g., the brain) and the more specific would be by identifying the cause of the disease. Unlike with plants and animals or even more common diseases, however, scientists can’t classify your individual diagnosis beyond basic symptoms. In sum, not surprisingly, it’s hard to classify crazy.
If the characteristics of the bipolar “species” vary greatly, depending on the person experiencing bipolar illness, then the usefulness of the diagnosis is limited, and your own observations and evaluation become much more important. What matters most then is not whether you do or don’t have a certified bipolar diagnosis, but whether your mood swings interfere with your life. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 13, 2014
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In a culture that proudly sells medications created by grade school teachers, financial advice by religious figures, and recipes by celebrity wives, being an expert, or just seeking advice from one, is, in many people’s “expert” opinion, stupid. While we are sometimes more knowledgeable than supposed experts, we sometimes really, really aren’t, but you can’t know whom to trust if you get too influenced by feelings of self-doubt or omniscience. Instead, ask yourself whether you have the information you need in order to make good decisions, and whether, when it comes to that information, someone else knows more than you. If you can be objective about your decision-making ability, you’re much more likely to accept your strengths and weaknesses and take them into account; become an expert on your own problem and you can confidently find the help you need, no matter what the source.
My wife has been disabled since her second nervous breakdown; I thought she was a free spirit when I met her, but early in our marriage, we both realized that something was wrong, and she was diagnosed bipolar. Now that I’m writing my will, I realize I should probably take account of her condition; she’s been doing well for the past year, but another breakdown is always a possibility. If I knew better what to expect for her, I’d know whether I need to protect her from misusing the money, or just make sure the money is put towards making sure she has what she needs when I’m not around, like a roof and even a nurse. My goal is to find an expert who can tell me what to expect from her illness and how I cam make sure that she’s taken care of.
There are plenty of instances where people choose to follow their instincts over professional advice, and, whether it involves not vaccinating kids, not hiring a licensed electrician, or not getting that oral surgery, the results are not often pretty (but plenty painful and dangerous).
When it comes to knowing what to expect from your wife’s relapsing mental illness, however, you and your wife are the top experts in this unique field.
The two of you know better than anyone what her illness has been like in the past; how frequently it recurs, how much disability it causes, and how much it affects her judgment and her ability to manage money. Unless your doctor is also a psychic, her powers to predict your wife’s future are nowhere as strong as yours. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 31, 2014
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Some pressing problems are like mosquito bites or cravings for bags of Kit-Kats; the amount of urgency they inspire is inverse to the amount of attention they deserve. Other problems, like that angry rash on your arm or the spreading leak under the toilet, would be much easier to bear if you did not have to think or talk about them, but they’re the ones that often require careful discussion and negotiation. So don’t let your problems tell you when to talk or keep silent. Ask yourself what’s necessary, and, exactly like an adult who can deal with problems responsibly, you’ll often find yourself doing the opposite of what’s comfortable, and knowing you’re doing a good job.
Please Note: This is our last new post until 9/4, since we’re taking August to focus on finishing our book. We’ll refresh the front page with older posts while you get refreshed in the sun, and we’ll see you (and your sunburns) in September.
I have awful OCD symptoms that I can’t find the right treatment for. For years, I’ve had graphic, uncontrollable thoughts about killing the people I really care about (my parents, my husband), and even though I have no reason to harm the people I love, the thoughts are so persistent that I genuinely fear I’ll hurt one of them. I started psychotherapy in my twenties, and it’s always felt good to have someone I could tell about it so I felt less pressure and fear, but after all these years and communication (and a couple attempts at medication), nothing’s ever really changed. Now I’m in my forties and I’m happily married, but my husband rolls his eyes when I bring up the subject and try to relieve my fear by airing it out. My goal is to end these thoughts once and for all.
Not surprisingly, the best way to get control over obsessive thoughts isn’t to obsess over them. Airing these thoughts might provide temporary relief, but instead of releasing them, you’re empowering them; they’re like a plant, and you’re giving them the air and sunlight they need to grow and grow.
You’ve clearly tried everything, including medications, which sometimes reduce the intensity of obsessional thinking. If nothing has worked, however, then you probably also know that there isn’t a cure. That means it’s time to practice acceptance, as well as restraint. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 2, 2014
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For people with mood disorders, one of the most dangerous moods is the one for love, because a steady relationship often seems like the reward for getting rid of mood swings or the free pass to feeling better about yourself. The problem, of course, is that it’s much easier to find the kind of love that will make your disorder worse than it is to find something that will last and survive real life problems, including your moods. So don’t hunt for love as a feel-good prize or cure. Instead, accept the fact that it’s a job that takes patience and discipline and, fortunately, can be done even when your mood sucks.
I used to enjoy being a party girl and having random hook-ups, but since I got sober a year ago, I gave all that up and my life is a lot better. I’m not having big mood swings, I’m working steadily, and I finally feel ready for a serious relationship with someone I really like and respect. Even though I’m sure I’m ready now and excited to find Mr. Right, I get really nervous around guys and never find ones that seem like good choices. My goal is to find a real relationship, because I’m great at meeting people and my mood is a lot steadier, and so I don’t understand why it’s not easier.
Doing a series of shorter road races might be the right way to train for a marathon, but having a series of brief, anonymous sexual encounters is not the best way to prepare for monogamy.
Even a runner knows that you don’t get the same kind of excitement from meters as you do from miles; a sprint is a quick thrill, a marathon can be a painful mess. That’s why, if you’re approaching the search for a longer-term romance with excitement in mind, you’re heading down the wrong path. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »