F*ck Feelings – the blog

If you have any sort of mental illness or emotional issues and haven’t yet visited Dr. Lastname’s F*ck Feelings web site, you ought to. Now. (Well, right after you read my post, that is.)

Anyway, here’s a selection of my favorite inspirational quotes from F*ck Feelings:

“If doing what makes us happy was really most important, life would consist solely of eating gallons of Cherry Garcia while watching an endless ‘Jersey Shore’ marathon. And that does not a life make.”

“Just because mental illness doesn’t have a clear cause or a cure doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence. It’s merely a life sentence, so you might as well stop groping for answers and learn to deal.”

“Your flaws don’t have to be your downfall… especially since they’re not going away.”

“OK, if you can’t change someone, what can you do to stand being around them?”

“Accepting that we are all fucked by life is a basic tenet of the f*ckfeelings.com philosophy; there’s a certain zen to it, as we encourage not just being one with the universe and its glory but also with its amber waves of pain.”

“I’m not your friend, so I’m going to skip straight to telling you to shut up. I don’t like to hear people be mean to themselves. Don’t do it in my presence.”

“If you expect your medication to solve all of your problems, with no side effects, then your preferred method of transportation to the enchanted pharmacy castle should be a unicorn.”

“Just as everybody wants to go to heaven without having to die, everyone wants to find true love without having to suffer through dates.”

“Don’t begin the process of self-improvement by listing all the reasons you suck.”

 

Introduction to the “love-shy”

Painful:

The love-shy include fully grown men in their late 30s and 40s who are not only as “virginal” as it is possible for anyone to be, but who can also be accurately described as less experienced in ordinary dating, courting, and elementary kissing than the typical, contemporary 12-year old…  incapable of getting started with the opposite sex, quite in spite of their very strong desires for a close, loving hetero-sexual relationship…. men who would like nothing better than to be able to marry and to have children, but who are not moving towards these goals because of severe bashfulness, shyness and social timidity….

With very few exceptions, the love-shy do not take drugs. In fact, they do not allow themselves to become involved in anything or in any activity, wholesome or otherwise, for which there is any kind of existent social support group.

That is the whole trouble. The love-shy do not have anybody to relate to as a friend or to count on for emotional support…. In fact, they are about as severely cut off from these normal social gratifications as they would be if they were serving a life sentence in a federal or state prison….

As of now, there is no “Shys Anonymous.” I strongly hope that one of the fruits of this book will be the development of such a nationwide organization, and of other support organizations such as “Coed Scouts,” and “practice-dating” support groups.

From preface to “Shyness & Love”, by Brian G. Gilmartin (1987), pp. xxi-xxiii.

Negative thinking: I hate it when that happens

~ 1 ~

NEGATIVE THOUGHT:
I’m running out of time to change my life. If I don’t change things soon — get a career, hobbies, friends, a woman, etc — it will be too late and my life will be an empty waste.

RATIONAL RESPONSE:
There will always be time to improve things in your life. Even in my old age, I could find friendship, meaningful things to do, and even romance. Maybe these feelings of worry aren’t a dysfunctional thing at all — maybe it’s just my heart telling me what I really desire.

~ 2 ~

I wrote this back in the summer of ’04, before the deep depression that struck me that summer had yet struck (the second of three major depressions I went through in a four-year period; yeah, ouch, I know; depression’s a bitch).

It was shortly after I’d seen a nationally-prominent sleep specialist. I’d thought I was seeing him to help me with insomnia. Ahhh, no.

Instead, he peppered me with personal questions about my lifestyle, hobbies, social activities, relationships, etc. I was surprised by the whole line of questioning. It was as if he was honing in on my social anxiety struggles (which I hadn’t even mentioned). He emphasized the point that the older a person gets the more crucial it is to have social interconnections and involvement with others (true’nuff). It was as if he was indicating to me that my sleep problems were due to social anxiety and this lack of social connections*.

Yikes. When you’re shy and avoidant, the last thing you want to go through is exposure. I hate it when that happens.

Of course I had little to tell him in response. I should’ve been able to describe my history of shyness and withdrawal, but with the mood that this exam had put me in, it didn’t even occur to me.

I hate it when that happens.

Looking back on it, he was simply being assertive and straight-to-the-point, and I guess I was thrown off balance by it.

I hate it when that happens.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t return to him. He did however prescribe something for me — Lexapro (as it’s called in the U.S.). Bad idea. I think it made me nearly suicidal, as some anti-depressants have a risk of doing. That is, I think it raised my ability to take the initiative before it had any effect on my mood. So I felt deeply depressed and I enough drive to take action on it.

But I’m still here, so you can tell how that episode turned out.

Be vigilant with new meds, boys and girls, is the lesson.

* I disagree with that diagnosis in my case, fwiw.

Rational Responses to Negative Self-Talk

(First in what will hopefully be a series).

At home I have piles and stacks of worksheets on which I have practiced cognitive therapy for myself. The basic idea is to record one’s automatic thoughts during an emotion-causing situation, and respond to them. I mean irrational, self-defeating automatic thoughts, i.e. negative self-talk. Then you try to respond (on paper, at first – and boy am I good on paper, a paper tiger of CBT am I) to those thoughts, not necessarily with positive self-talk (this isn’t Stuart Smalley stuff) —

Minnesota sent him to the Senate

— but with rational, objective thinking.

I’ve got so much of this stuff in storage, some of it quite good imho, I figure I might as well share some of it with the world, and maybe a reader will find something of value in it.

These are my actual thoughts and my responses, edited for clarity.

Of course, YMMV.

~ ~ 1 ~ ~

Thought

I’m supposed to like this person. If I don’t like them, it means I’m cold and a mean person. I ought to enjoy the company of others, and if I don’t it means there’s something wrong with me.

Response

It would be nice to like lots of people, but you can’t just flip a switch. Liking someone, or enjoying their company, is something that has to come on it’s own, you can’t force it. Maybe it’s that so much of my mental resources are being used up by anxiety and pessimism and the effort to control my emotions, there’s no room for feelings of liking to arise. It’s going to be hard to enjoy anyone’s company when you’re all knotted up with anxiety.

To not feel lots of liking or excitement about someone doesn’t mean you’re bad. After all, I don’t expect everyone else to be all gaga over me.

Enjoying someone’s company, or even just being amused by them, does not make you obligated to become best of friends or get really close to each other. It’s all right to have one without the other. There are varying degrees to how well you get to know a person.

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

Thought

Why aren’t I interacting more with people? Because it’s not going to go right. It’s not going to go well at all. Things are going to happen to upset me.

Response

Am I exempt from having negative experiences? Even if I were to “recover” [i.e., overcome shyness and avoidance] and get better, I’m still going to have some shit in my life. It happens to everyone and it’s normal. By attempting to live my life avoiding painful experiences, I’m winding up with a life that isn’t “going right”, isn’t “going well at all”, anyway!

~ ~ 3 ~ ~

Thought

I need to know the right way to behave, what’s expected of me, so that i can give people what they want. But I don’t know how. I don’t know all the of usual, expected kinds of behavior in life. I don’t know what’s valid and what’s invalid.

Response

As long as you base your happiness and success in life on anticipating what others want from you and trying to fulfill it, you never will be happy and you never will have success. Maybe there is no “right way” for you to behave in all situations. Maybe there’s no magic formula for being the person I think I ought to be.

It’s not as if I am outside of life, outside of the world, waiting and watching for the perfect situational aware and/or the right mood to hit me, before choosing how to conduct myself. That’s an old fantasy of mine, and it’s inaccurate.

It’s often very difficult to know for sure what others want from you, anyway. Maybe most people aren’t as demanding as I’ve assumed. Maybe they’re not looking for you to fulfill their expectations to the degree you’ve assumed. Maybe you don’t have to know what they want at all times, and maybe the uncertainty isn’t all that threatening after all.

Maybe there’s nothing “valid” or “invalid” about me — just a big, messy human mix of thought, feelings, and behavior, just like anyone else. I am never living 100% right or 100% wrong.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There you go. That’s just for starters. Like it or not, there’s more where that came from.

I’m Using Man Gel

~1~

It was a Saturday and my doctor, – we’ll call him Hippocrates in my blog’s standard of renaming names to protect the innocent – just happened to be doing his turn to work a Saturday at the clinic.

The nurse took me back to the exam room area and stood me on the weight scale, which mis-weighed me as it always does. “Oops”, she said at first, “I almost took 50 pounds off of your there for a moment you weigh 145 not a195.” Hell it doesn’t matter because I don’t weigh 195 either. Like I said, their scale is off. You’d think a med clinic would have more accurately calibrated equipment. I wasn’t mad at this, more amused than anything. Took my temperature and blood pressure too, as they always do by routine. All normal as usual.

As we entered the exam room proper, she said “go head and sit down in the chair please.” Now, there were two chairs, placed side by side against the wall between the sink and the examination table. I chose the chair on the left and sat down. “Oh not that one, she said, the other one.” OK, could you be a bit more specific, I thought. She meant the other chair. Apparently she couldn’t see that there were two of them and I guess I was supposed to just know that she meant the one on the right. How silly of me. No worries, though. It was somewhat amusing too.

The nurse was middle aged, like 40-ish, and a 3 on the HB scale [warning: NSFW]. It wasn’t her usual day to work either and it showed. She yawned. She couldn’t’ remember if she’d seen me before. Well, I didn’t remember her either; on the three occasions that I’d visited Dr Hippocrates, I’d been introduced to three different nurses. This one didn’t understand what I written on my patient visit sheet (where it asked what would you like to discuss with your physician today?) I had a momentary bit of anxiety, worried that I wasn’t supposed to written on that form. I wasn’t here to have my T checked but that I’d decided to get treated for it. Low T, that is. It’s all good, though – I knew that Dr H. would remember my last visit when he’d told me about Androgel.

~2~

Libido in a bottle

Man-Gel

Then I waited ten minutes for Dr Hippocrates to come in. In the meantime I read a magazine article about Phil Mickelson’s arthritis. For some reason the magazine had chosen as it’s lead photo of him a shot of him in a gay, bright purple golf shirt. Well, the magazine was mostly targeted at women. It wasn’t SI.

So Dr H. came in with my charts and paperwork from previous visits, etc. Actually, he scuffed into the room with suede moccasin slippers on his feet. He seems like a good doctor and is friendly and smart and knows his stuff, but them slippers weren’t professional-looking. Okey-dokey, must be a casual Saturday thing. Of course, my gatekeeper (the inner voice) stopped me from saying anything about it. In fact it would never occur to me to make any such remarks. I’m too sensitive about making others feel embarrassed Even though I am always feeling embarrassed in most situations, myself.

I said, “I’ve been in here before about my T-level which was ‘low-normal’. And you told me about AndroGel. I was going to think about it, and I’ve decided to give it a try.”

“OK, good.” He was starting to remember me, perhaps? He looked at my lab results, which showed the T levels. Then, I realized he didn’t remember me, because he spent fifteen minutes telling me everything he had already told me the last time I was there.

Men experience a natural, gradual decline in T as they age, declining about 10% each decade. Even though its called ‘male menopause’ it’s not like the menopause women experience, because it’s not sudden or precipitous. There was the analogy of a bull elephant stampeding through a village, full of testosterone, and of violent men in prison. I would’ve had high T when I was a teenager, of course, but now my level was quite low for someone my age, he remarked.

“How old are you, again?” he asked, flipping the pages of my chart.

“Forty-four”, I said.

He hesitated just a split second, then chuckled a little and said, “Oh, you look a lot younger than that.”

Oops. He’d thought my T level was extraordinarily low (for a young man, which I’m not), not just a little low. I get that a lot – people telling me I look younger than I am, that is, not people questioning my testosterone level. I suppose that virginity, having only a few gray hairs, and staying out of the sun will do that to a guy. Anyway, the level was still a bit low, and treatments are available.

The typical patient who comes in seeking treatment for low testosterone is doing so because his relationship with his wife or girlfriend is suffering due to his loss of sex drive. There are other reasons as well – or, symptoms, I should say. These include having low energy, moodiness and irritability, fatigue, low motivation, and so on. Those would be my reasons, but I didn’t tell him that, specifically. I just added those symptoms in with low sex drive, as if it were all part of the same package.

He thought I was married. I told him no.

Sexually active? – No, but I’d like to be (throwing him a bone, so he’d think I was normal).

Seeing someone? – No.

Homosexual relationships? – No.

Have you ever been in a Turkish prison? – No.

Do you like movies about gladiators? – No.

(OK, I made up those last two.)

So, Dr H. was confused as to why I was concerned about my T level. He questioned me some more, trying to find out what, if I wasn’t eager to increase my sex drive and improve my relationship with a “partner”, I was hoping to get out of AndroGel.

Inwardly I bristled, though I remained calm on the outside. No one must find out my ugly secrets, you see. For a moment I thought I should’ve just lied and said yes, it’s to help my sex life with my wife. Good thing I didn’t, since I’m not wearing a wedding ring. Or I could lie and say it was for sex with my girlfriend. I’m not comfortable with lying, despite the habit of trying to conceal all my secrets. In the end I told him the truth, how it was recommended as supplemental treatment for depression.

His demeanor changed subtly. Not in a negative way — more like he lost his state of confusion (confusion caused by me and my Gatekeeper, that is) and he now understood that he had a different tack to follow. He began describing how there are of course other reasons for supplementing one’s testosterone, that sex drive is simply the most common one, and that medical science is still somewhat new regarding men and testosterone and it’s effects and how levels can vary and so forth.

I sat there and listened calmly – which for me means self-consciously trying to look normal, making eye contact, nodding, trying to smile occasionally, etc. (You ought to understand how deeply, thoroughly, overwhelmingly sensitive we fucked-up neurotic people are to the reactions to us shown by others, even the imaginary reactions. And, most of the time we’re barely aware that that’s how we are!)

As I sat there listening, sadness came over me. My Gatekeeper told me this was a mistake, that I won’t actually get the Rx filled, I won’t take it and won’t return for a follow-up visit, that I should’ve seen a specialist who has experience treating patients with comorbid psych conditions, that I’ve embarrassed him and made him uncomfortable, that I’m once again the square peg who’s doing something for weird reasons. I caught myself doing this, ruminating in front of Dr H, and then self-consciously worried that I might have a sad or distressed expression on my face and ought to control it so as not to make him uncomfortable. A bit of warm moistness rippling behind my eyes – if any depressives are reading this, you know what I’m describing, that hot black despair that arises and threatens to overtake you at inopportune times. If you’ve never experienced it you don’t know how powerful it can be. Not a good sign, here and now, don’t want to cry in front of him, what’s the matter with me?

That said, Dr H was tactful and understanding and still willing to prescribe the Man-Gel for me. If this were a novel, I would’ve made his character more bizarre, or judgmental or something, or perhaps gay and would hit on me, right? Such is life.

Do you understand the power that the fear of embarrassment can have over a person? That’s why I didn’t tell him I was a virgin. That’s why I also hesitated initially in telling him that my real motivation was to improve all those non-sexual things. What? Don’t’ you want to have a sex drive? No, because I’ll just wind up frustrated all the time. I went through my teens and twenties full of raging T, and came out of it still a virgin, because my gatekeeper would not let me get over my love-shyness.

One of my major, lifelong personality traits is an habitual reluctance to reveal personal details about myself to others. It’s that whole fear-of-being-shamed thing that comes with an avoidant temperament. It’s an automatic reaction, not something I decided on or planned to become. Thus, personal questions – even from a physician seeking to properly diagnose and treat one’s medical condition – are to be evaded.

Dr h handed me a prescription for this controlled substance. It’s not like steroids, though, so you’re not going to go to the gym and bulk up by using it. Nevertheless, that’s how the deeply concerned nannies regulators of our FDA has classified it.

We’ll see how it goes.