Category Archives for "Parenting"

How to deal with an inept parent

Soumyaguna asks:

I have always wanted a good father, at least a sensible one whom I could look up to.

Until now, I have been thinking maybe I have given less effort, or maybe I’m not understanding mine, but his ego is so big and it has overshadowed him as a father, a husband, and most importantly his humanity. 

He’s very good for others, very helpful, calm, understanding and every good thing possible, maybe because he feels they’re his family and we are nothing.

No matter what I do, he is never gonna appreciate or satisfy or even congratulate one of us.

Everyone I try making a step ahead towards him, he does something to push me back 10 steps away, but now I feel I have lost him for life.

Now maybe he’s just my biological father and nothing else.

He wanted me to learn scooty, he taught me how to, but then he wants me to drive only the way he says. The second I started driving he was screaming for no reason and kept on saying you are not driving, not driving, like this, like that, more than I could take. I got scared of such nonstop poking continuously, and in that nervousness, I got unbalanced and he had to take over. I started driving again after a year and today again it happened; he just started off with his babble. I was asking him not to, saying I’ll drive nicely, at least trust me once, but he again gave me an anxiety attack.

I don’t know how can someone be so egotistical that they can’t even understand a normal thing.

I now feel it would have been better if I didn’t have him in my life.

He’s the worst thing ever happened in my life

Hi Soumyaguna –

There’s an old saying, “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives.”  I’d add “you can pick out puppies too!” but you get the idea.  And it’s true – everyone is stuck (and/or blessed) with the family they’re given.  

It’s also normal and true that every human goes through a time in their lives when they can’t stand their parents, and when their behavior makes them intolerable to their parents too.  With most people, there are more than one of those times!

And it sounds to me like you’re dealing with both of those issues right now.  An imperfect father, and a tough specific time.

Now of course I don’t know him at all, but from what you say, he sounds like a very good man to the world, who’s just inept at his relationship with his child or children.  That’s what I mean by “imperfect.”  I’d love to improve him, but unless he starts writing me too, I can’t do much on that count.

What I can do is to suggest to you that you try doing something extremely mature.  Many people don’t achieve this till their 40s or so, and lots don’t ever accomplish it.  And that’s to look at your father as a complex person, with strengths and faults, and accept him as he is.  

Why is that so hard?  Because you have ingrained in you a sense (every child is born with this) that your parents are perfect.  And as you get older, and see how imperfect they are (and everyone is highly imperfect!), that gets enormously frustrating!

There’s lots of filmed record of Adolf Hitler with children.  He seems very kind, supportive, and fun with them.  And most people consider him the greatest monster in the history of humanity.  Again – people have strengths and weaknesses; your dad isn’t as good with you as Adolf was with those kids, but your dad hasn’t murdered half the continent either!  

Your dad is a LOUSY driving instructor!  TERRIBLE!  But I’m sure he sees it a different way.

True story: a few years ago, my human friend Handsome needed to make some extra money, and found out that a friend of his had a daughter who was struggling in her learning to drive, so he took a job to tutor her at it.  He was surprised to find that she was actually quite good for a beginning driver, and just needed a few pointers to help her become that much better.  He and she talked about how odd this was – why had her parents thought she was so bad at it?  Then one day he went out to lunch with his friend, her mother.  And she was a HORRIBLE driver!  Distracted, even dangerous!  SO much worse than her daughter!  He found this hilarious – and, credit to her – so did his friend.  The fact is, your parents changed your diapers, they taught you to walk, they taught you to speak; and after all these years, they still see that completely helpless little child when they look at you.  How comfortable would you be seeing a 3-year-old driving?!  That’s probably what your dad sees in you now!

In other words, just like Handsome’s friend, your dad is condemned to being a really lousy and inept driving instructor – as well as failing at letting you know what he really feels about and toward you.  And this last one, I promise you, is a lack in him that causes him great pain.  The lack you feel is matched by so many others in his life.  Have you ever heard that beautiful song “To Make You Feel My Love?”  He can’t achieve that at all!

I’m not telling you to not be angry with him.  You get to.  You deserve to feel his love, and he fails at that.  

But this is who he is.  And you have the rest of your life ahead of you, and I hope will find the love you haven’t felt many times over.

So do your best, my friend.  You deserve better.  But Handsome deserves a dog who doesn’t shed everywhere and never pulled him down a hill so hard he nearly broke his arm and doesn’t bark super-loud right next to his ear — but he’s got me instead.  And loves me more than life.

Someday you might even feel that way about your dad.  But not now.  And that’s okay.

Just get through this.  (And find a better driving instructor!!!!)

Love,

Shirelle

What to do when self-consciousness makes you lose sleep

Arty asks:
School is starting very soon for me. I’m going into 8th grade! Lately it’s been really hard to go to sleep. I’m actually typing this at 3:39 am. I talked with a friend of mine earlier and we started talking about uniforms and stuff. (I go to a small private school) I wore my uniform and she wore hers. As usual I looked stupid in mine. My skirt was basically at my knees which isn’t too horrible but I feel like it makes me look old. And I just hated how I looked in it. Now, I’m not exactly a pretty girl. I’m overweight. Not extremely but enough to make me self-conscious. And I also have acne and pimples and stuff. It’s not super horrible compared to others but still.  And compared to my friends who all look amazing! They all have mainly clear skin and are fit and everything, I feel like crap. So my self-worth has really just gone down the drain. Anyways going back to my friend, I told her some of this. How I don’t look very pretty and I’m ugly compared to her and stuff. And throughout it she’s like ‘What no! Ur not ugly!! Dude I feel the same way’ and stuff like that ,and I kept telling her “Dude you’re literally gorgeous and I feel like whenever someone says ‘ur not ugly’ or ‘ur super pretty’ they’re just lying,’ and she was like ‘I feel the same way!!’ And so the call ended and everything and I was feeling better. But then I started overthinking hours after the call, and realized that throughout that conversation, she didn’t once call me pretty or anything like that. She just kept saying I wasn’t ugly!  And I feel so selfish saying this since she was just trying to help, but not once did she compliment me or anything. And so I realized that she really doesn’t think I’m pretty. And I honestly don’t know where I’m going with this – I just really need to rant and get some advice! So then I keep telling myself, who cares what anyone thinks! It literally does not matter! And everyone is also worried about how others perceive them. And with this new worry along with my stress of starting a new school year and leaving friends behind, and hoping that I still keep in touch with lots of them. It hurts. And also with just wanting to cry, to sob, to scream, to shout. But for some reason not being able to cry or shed tears – it’s just really piling up. I tried talking to another friend and I told her “I hope ur not still mad at me” (we got into a fight earlier) “cuz I really need you” and she was like “I’m here, what’s up” and usually I can talk to her. I can be honest with her and just tell her. But I was too embarrassed I think, so I just asked her about sleep pills and she said “you don’t need sleep pills, you just need to let go of some stress. And then she was like “I’m a little upset with you dude.  You say you need my help but don’t want it. Maybe you should think about what you say before you say it next time,” which made me feel even worse. I just didn’t wanna pile up more stress on her. Her mom has cancer and money is low and they’re in debt and on top of all that she cuts and stuff so I just didn’t wanna bother her with anything else. And she was being sweet about it and stuff, like “I can’t force u to tell me but I can’t help u if u don’t” so I have half the nerve to go tell her everything, but I’m too scared.  Honestly this was just a rant for me, but I would really appreciate it if you could tell me what you think I should do. Should I talk to my friend or should I get some insomnia pills?  How do I handle the stress better, and how do I get myself to cry? I know you don’t have all the answers, but I hope you can let me know soon!

Hi Arty!

So first of all – I love hearing from you, and it’s totally fine to write me and rant.  No problem at all. So don’t worry if you don’t have an exact question.  Sometimes the most useful thing a dog can do is just be there to hug and cry into their fur, I know!  I’m happy to be that!

But I will talk about two things here.  Your self-consciousness and your sleep.

First, about the self-consciousness.  You are going into 8th grade, so I’m guessing you’re 13 years old, is that right?  Your body is changing more and faster than it has since you were a tiny baby, and more and faster than it ever will again.  This is the biggest lasting change you’ll ever go through (unless of course, heaven forbid,  something happens to you that causes a permanent injury!).  Most particularly your hormones are exploding, which causes weight gain and skin issues.  Now I don’t know what you look like, and as a dog I judge people by other things than looks anyway.  But I can say it’s totally normal that you’re going through a phase when you don’t look as pretty as you did a couple of years ago, or as pretty as you will a couple of years from now!  My human friend Handsome told me that he was a “late bloomer,” so his face didn’t break out till he was two years older than you.  Meaning that you might go through this now and then look a lot better than the kids like him in a couple of years!  But in the meantime, of course I’ll suggest you do things for your health that improve your looks, like exercise more, drink more water, keep sugars and caffeine down and please please please don’t start smoking or vaping, as those will only make things worse.  Will these guarantee a perfect complexion and a model figure next month?  No.  But they will keep you heading toward the best you can be.

Now one thing we dogs have over you humans is this whole self-consciousness thing.  Because our brains are smaller, we literally Don’t Have it!  Humans tell me I’m a beautiful dog, but I’m not aware of that beauty, or of the beauty in any other pooch.  I call my human Handsome because I love the way he looks and smells, but is he someone others would call Handsome or Plain or Ugly?  I don’t know – or care!  He’s gorgeous to me!  

And there’s no time in a human’s life when they’re more self-conscious than their teen years.  Right where you are!  So it’s normal to feel like you’re the ugliest person in the room, or the least liked, or the one everyone thinks of as dumb.  And let me tell you – you’re wrong!  Because everyone else in the room feels the same way.  Your friend was telling you the truth when she said she feels the same fears you do.  Now was she purposely avoiding telling you you’re pretty, or did she just not think of it?  I don’t know.  

But here’s what I do know.  You Will Get Prettier.  Your face will clear up, and if you choose to work at it, your figure will improve.  So no matter what you think of yourself today, this all can get way better.  

Now onto sleep – It’s also normal for teens to have sleep issues, and especially to feel the need to stay up late and sleep in late.  But you do want to – for your studies, for your looks, and just your health in general – work to get your sleep patterns at least a little closer to school hours.  Worries and stress will always make anyone have trouble falling asleep, but I know a few tricks you can try to help you doze off earlier.

First, stop all electronics at least half an hour before you want to sleep.  Yes, that includes your phone!  The light from them seems to make lots of people’s brains stay awake.  Instead, do all the electronic stuff you want earlier, and then stop, get yourself ready for bed, and climb in with a book or a magazine.  Why?  The reflected light from pages affects you differently from the radiated light of a phone or tablet or computer.  Reading printed material will actually get your eyes tired instead and lead to your falling asleep.

If that’s not enough, though, here’s an idea I like a lot.  Lie there in the dark, and ask yourself two questions:  What was the worst thing that happened to me today, and what was the best?  As your mind works to answer each, it will have to scan over your whole day.  And in doing that, it might uncover something you’ve forgotten.  “Oh, I was supposed to call my aunt back!”  “Oops I have to do that one page of homework!”  Then just turn a light on, write that thing down, and try again.  Often you’ll fall right asleep then; your brain hadn’t let you go unconscious while that issue was still there unremembered!

And if that’s still not enough?  That’s when I’d say you might consider talking to a doctor.  But until then, I’d focus on the effects of electronic light and the stress of too many things being on your mind.  

Okay, Arty, that’s a lot to take in, I know!  

Oh, but there’s one bit that pulls this whole letter together.  Did you know that the body burns off lots of fat while sleeping?  And that getting good nights’ sleep is as helpful for weight-loss as exercise?  And did you know that getting lots of sleep is great for your skin too?  So ironically, fixing the one issue here is going to help the other!

I won’t tell you to just have fun in 8th grade.  You’ll be self-conscious, tired, and go through some rough experiences I’m sure.  But I can and will urge you to try as best as you can to break through all that, and connect with friends, enjoy growing up, and laugh as much as you can.

After all, laughter is one of the few joys in life we dogs don’t get to experience.  And since you don’t get a tail to wag, you really ought to indulge it!!

All my best,

Shirelle

The Pain Worse than Pain – the struggle against stress

            I lost my best friend.

            I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to come up with a way to sugarcoat that, but I can’t find one.  Aria’s cancer got better, then worse, then better, and then lots worse, and finally her human friends had to kindly help her go, so that she wouldn’t suffer more. 

            I’ve told you many times that all dogs hate war.  Well we’re not too fond of cancer either, let me tell you!

            You all know about how much I loved her (and still do), and how much her life was dominated by fear and pain from things she suffered in her early years.  If there’s one blessing to her not being here, it’s that I do believe she’s free of those completely at last, and living in pure fearless joy.  Just what I’m always wishing for you.

            So I don’t know that I have a lot else to tell you.  I’ve told you about her life story – and anyone who wants to know more can always check out the book A Dog of Many Names which tells about those first years, before she was named Aria.  And anyone who’s ever lost anyone they loved knows the pain of grief.  Nothing for me to teach you there.

            But I do want to share something her human friend Ugmo wrote to me.  It’s not something he’s proud of, but he’s okay with me sharing it as he thinks it’s pretty universal, and might help somebody get through a tough time in a better way. 

            So I’m going to go do what I’ve been doing a lot lately – and just lie in my yard and feel the ground, and miss my friend horribly.  It’s the only way I know to truly get through sadness like this – to feel it fully and connect as deeply as I can with the earth that gives and takes all her beings.

            And let Ugmo talk with you about what he learned, in this most painful time of his life.

Hi Shirelle –

I know you miss Aria like blazes.  So do I.  It’s hard to wake in the morning and expect her lying on the bedroom floor, or to open the front door and look to see where she’s hiding from the squirrels – and in each case, to be reminded that she’s not there, and never will be again.  It’s just been a couple of weeks, but my eyes are already tired of crying.

But I have a strange confession to make to you.  It’s not as bad for me now as it was before.

Grief is pure.  Missing is awful but simple.  Crying is searing but relieving to my whole body.

What I’m not experiencing now is stress.  Stress that was mixed with grief and terror, so much that I almost couldn’t take it.

As you know, Aria got diagnosed with her cancer about five months ago.  And no one has ever found a cure for this specific one, Hemangiosarcoma.  Other cancers might be eradicated by operations or chemotherapy, or even improving a diet and exercise.  But not this.  Medication and good energy work can slow it down, but it shows back up eventually.  And once it gets to an essential organ, it’s just a matter of time.

That’s what happened with Aria.  She made it about four months, but then, on one awful day, she got very tired and lost her appetite, and I took her to a veterinarian who found that her liver was bleeding, and told me it was hopeless, that we needed to let her go that night.

You hear about the five stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.  Well I guess I’d had all my denial and anger and bargaining already, so I went straight into depression and acceptance.  I sat in the lobby weeping, waiting for her friend Fifi to show up, as she’d want to be there for the end.  She arrived, and we took Aria into a small room and covered her in kisses and hugs and telling her all the lovely things we could. 

And she… got better!

Seriously, she improved.  Her strength came back a little, she seemed happier, and when the veterinarian came in to get her, she looked down and said “That is not the same dog!”

So after seven hours in the Emergency Room, which I’d expected to include putting her down, we took her home.  It was hard to sleep, because anytime her breathing shifted, I’d wake to see if she was okay.  At one point that night, I was sure she was going down again and ready to take her back to the doctors, but again, she recovered.

In the next few days, this all continues, including my sleeplessness.  She’d seem better, but then refuse to eat, so she got weaker and weaker.  I’d annoy or anger her by trying to get pills down her throat or putting food in front of her nose that she used to love but now found disgusting.  I got to where I was more scared that she’d starve herself to death than that the cancer would get her.  And I could feel that she was feeling my frustration, and afraid of it.

And so I found myself wishing she’d just be done.

Shirelle, this is why I’m writing you.  Because I couldn’t believe that that thought was able to come into my mind.  I loved – and love – Aria more than anything on this earth.  And I wanted every second I could get with my pup.  Nothing in me wanted her gone.  Except that something in me… did!  I could feel it.

What in the world was that?

            It was the voice of my stress, screaming so loud inside me that it overshouted my heart.  For moments, I’d forget what I wanted most – to keep Aria around as long as I could, and give her as much love as I could, and help her get through this as much as I could – and feel, instead, only how much I hated feeling all this worry, this helplessness, this confusion, this stress.

            Now, once I realized this, I was fine.  I still had all those awful feelings, but I never once again experienced wishing for it all to end.  In fact, I realized that I only had one full wish – I wished she had never gotten this cancer!  But since she already had it, I had to live with just partial wishes – that she’d get through the next day without pain, that she’d get a burst of puppy energy, that she’d eat, that she’d be happy a little bit more. 

            And those smaller wishes came true, many times.

            I’ve found, since realizing this about myself, so many others experiencing the same things.  Sure, everyone hates stress, but I mean people doing stupid, self-destructive things just to avoid feeling it.  Getting so uptight in a close game they make mistakes and make themselves lose.  Worrying about their teeth being bad so skipping going to the dentist for years.  Fearing they’re not attractive enough to compete with the best-looking person at school, so overeating and quitting exercise. 

            The only reason stress has all this power is because we let it.  The moment we see it for what it is, it becomes much weaker.  And when it does, we can begin again to live our full lives, with our full hearts. 

            Aria died, but I’m so glad I’m not looking back on my soul dying on her first.  Our last weeks were beautiful and joyous and sad and very close.  Stress had tried to take that away from me, but I’m so glad it failed.

            And today?  Well I’m the sad mess I described to you, but I know I’ll get stronger over time.  And Aria is… do you remember a song I played you once, Shirelle, called “Beyond the Horizon?”  That’s her now, I have no doubt.  Loving, feeling love, fearless, and knowing more than you and me put together!  And absolutely free from all the stupid stresses we suffer down here!

            I’ll see her there again, and I know you will too.  Wagging her tail in that circular way, lunging at us with those quick side-shot kisses of hers, and cuddling up for hours on end. 

            But here, for better and for worse, are just memories.  As Shakespeare wrote, parting is such sweet sorrow.  And that sweet sorrowful dog left so much sweetness and sorrow in my heart, and yours, and those of all who loved her.

            We’re the lucky ones, Shirelle.  We’re the ones with the beautiful pain.  I hope it never goes away.

            Love Always,

            Ugmo

Should you accept someone back after they ghost you?

Pkt asks:

My boyfriend ghosted me almost 10 days ago.  We were together for 2 years, and the  last couple of days I’ve been feeling really terrible. We did have a few small fights before he ghosted me, but we sorted them out so I thought everything was fine (and it actually was; we had a really good talk just a day before he blocked me everywhere). So when he blocked me I panicked. I texted him on snapchat and finally he replied by saying “he doesn’t wants to be in a relationship anymore.” That’s the only thing he has said I asked him what happened, but he never replied. I just don’t understand. In the past he did say that our relationship doesn’t have any future, as we come from extremely different family backgrounds, and our families would never approve of it, so he was worried about it, but we are just 18 now and I feel hopeful that maybe in the future they might approve of it. I’ve assured him many times that, no matter what, we will find a way to be together and I’ll be always be there for him. A month ago the same thing happened; he told me his family found out about us and so we broke up. But a few days later he told me that he lied, his family doesn’t know anything, and he was just irritated. We met after that and sort of patched up. After that everything was pretty fine. We did have some small arguments and he kept complaining that he is tired of “my behaviour” and how dumb I am, and how he needs to explain everything to me. He feels like I should automatically understand everything that’s going on in his mind. I am so confused right now. I feel like he at least owes me an
explanation. I don’t know how to move on if I don’t get a closure. I even asked him if I have done something that hurt him, but he just replied “no.” But still I feel like it’s my fault and his silence is just making me restless. Today I called him from my mom’s phone (because he has blocked my number) but he didn’t pick up. I’ve tried everything I could to try to talk to him and make this work, or at least find the reason behind all this. I’ve tried my best to be a better person for both of us, and I’m still trying. All I wanted was for him to be a little bit patient for me, and it’s still not enough. I just want to know what happened.  So how do I let go?
I feel like this is so wrong, like how can he just walk away like that? He knew how much it would hurt me if he just left me like this, without an explanation, but he did it anyway – and it hurts terribly. Is it even worth trying now? Should I give up trying to reach to him? Have we really broken up? What do I do if he ever comes back (I don’t think he ever would, but I’m a very hopeful person)?

Hi pkt –

Of course I don’t know your boyfriend, but two things really stick out to me here.  One, that he has told you that he believes your different backgrounds would preclude your families accepting your relationship, and two that he seems to think he’s told you more than he has, as if he’s expecting you to have read his mind.

These two things together make me think that his family has made very clear to him what he should be doing, including in relationships, and that he’s unhappily decided he needs to obey their wishes and cut things off with you.  And that, very importantly, he thinks he’s explained this to you – even though, for you, he hasn’t explained enough!

So if I’m right, when you write him and ask what’s going on, he just finds it irritating, thinking you ought to know exactly what’s happening since he’s explained it all – Even though he really hasn’t!

And if I’m right… then my advice is to let this go.  And let him go.  Not so much because of whatever differences your families might have, but because he’s not mature enough yet to handle such a situation.  He’s frightened (ghosting is an act of fear) and trying to do what they say is right.  I’m not saying he’s wrong to obey his family, but a more mature man would have handled this in a much clearer, and braver, way. 

There may be a day in the future when he realizes what he’s done.  And that day he might well come back to you, either just to apologize for doing such a clumsy job of things, or to try to restart the relationship.  And if and when he does, I hope you accept his apology, and maybe even him.  We all have to mature at the rate we do (I didn’t stop biting Handsome’s ankles till I was about three!), and he doesn’t sound like a bad guy.

But he’s not what you need right now, or what you deserve.  My suggestion is to enjoy the memories of the times you had together, but now find people who are more able to handle life’s difficulties in a strong and open way.

All my best,

Shirelle

Why do our parents irritate us so much!

Akenn asks: I really love my parents and they love me too but sometimes they bring out the worst in me.  Why am I feeling this?

Hi Akenn –

What you’re describing isn’t just normal, it’s universal.  It’s been true as long as parents have had children.

Think of it like a computer.  If you got a completely unprogrammed computer, and started to program it, you’d give it certain orders, right?  Like “When I push 3A, it puts out a beep” or “When I write out 1382721, it skips down three lines.”  Right?  So from then on, any time anyone pushes 3A or 1382721, that computer will do those things.  Okay?

Well you’re the same way.  You were born largely unprogrammed.  And the programming started immediately.  And all that data was entered by your parents!

Now everybody (yes even me) has qualities that can irritate or anger someone.  Maybe someone has a slightly grating voice.  Or gets upset in an annoyingly passive-aggressive way.  Or loses their temper too quickly.  Or even makes an irritating sound when they chew! 

Now most people would just shrug off these qualities.  “Big deal, I like being around _______, so I’ll put up with that about them.”  But not when it’s your parents!

You see, when you were a little child, you saw them as perfect (the way I see Handsome, and he sees me).  But as you got old enough to think for yourself, those qualities in your parents started to bug you more.  But you still feel you should see them as perfect, as a good kid. 

And when you mix those mild (or bigger) irritations with voices inside you saying you should see these people as flawless, you’re bound to get SUPER IRRITATED!

And then we get back to what I said about programming.  Because now, while your friend’s parent will have some irritating qualities too, they don’t bother you nearly as much as your parents’ silly quirks do.  And – and here’s the bad news – for the rest of your life, those weird things about your parents will keep showing up in other people (friends, coworkers, spouses!) and bug you even more!

And in the meantime, you correctly say they “bring out the worst in” you.  What’s the worst?  Oh intolerance, judgment, even cruelty. 

And how do I know all this about you?  Because, as I said before, this is true of EVERYBODY!

So what can you do about it? 

Struggle.

Yes, as you get older, you’ll learn to accept your parents more, especially as you meet more people and learn more qualities that bother you.  You see, your parents might chew too loudly, but someone else will really betray you, or rob you, or lie about you… and suddenly those qualities of your parents, which will always bug you, won’t seem like such big deals.  And your parents’ great qualities – their love for you, the fact that they took care of you as a child, the qualities you share – like senses of humor or love of art or music or sports, whatever it is – will become more treasured to you.

So it’s going to be fine.  All will be alright.  Just try to take a deep breath when your dad turns that same turn of phrase he always does, or your mother cuts vegetables in that particular way.  There will be a day, maybe not too long from now, when you’ll actually treasure the irritation!

Now I’m sorry I have to go, since Handsome’s calling me.  In that same way he always does with that tone of voice that is so demanding and unfair and bothersome…  the love of my life!

All my best,

Shirelle

What to do when your Anxiety makes all the things that cause your Anxiety worse

Natalie1615_17 asks:

I’m a student, 17 this year.  Since last year my symptoms for anxiety have been obvious, I kept complaining about how my tummy aches, and mom just brushed it off, until, at the end of last year, things worsened and I was sent to the hospital immediately. The doctor diagnosed me with ibs-d which is over sensitive bowel movement that led to runny, loose watery stool. I was prescribed with 15 types of different pills, because ibs comes with nausea, bloating, gas, headache, vomiting. I wanted to end my life. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything. This year, school reopened, and I am stressed about it because I do not know how to deal with it. For 5 months, I have been missing school a lot, but still catching up with my homework and all, but my grades dropped drastically. Because of this, I’m getting yelled at constantly by my mom because she thought I was playing truancy, laziness and stuff. I just do not know how to tell my mom I have anxiety and stress, I just hoped she would understand. I have been alienated by my friends; my sickness also caused a big misunderstanding among them because they too were like my mom assuming I hate school. At this point, my mentality has been drained out and I’m just tired. I don’t know what to do anymore. At nights I spend my time alone crying, yelling, because of anxiety killing me.

Hi Natalie1615_17 –

As I see it, your letter can be summarized simply as: “I have high anxiety, and every symptom of it gets me more misunderstood and in trouble, which of course just causes me more anxiety.”  This situation would be intolerable for anyone; it sounds like one of those experiments where they would give dogs treats for doing certain actions, and then change the treats to punishments, and the dogs went mad.

I wish I could help more, but I do have two basic thoughts on this.  First, I think you should try a different strategy with your mother.  Stop denying that you hate school, or that you’re truant or lazy or anything else.  Just look your mom in the eye and say “Mom, I’m 17 years old.  Most kids my age hate school and are lazy.  Why do you think I’m different?” And let her answer.  My guess is that if you present her with the fact that everything she says about you is true for you and most kids, she’ll be more willing to consider that there’s something else going on with you.

And second, I urge you to find a therapist.  I’m not calling you “crazy” or anything like it, but you have two great reasons to see one.  First, your anxiety is impairing your life in some major ways, including your grades and emotional well-being.  But secondly, because your IBS is very likely anxiety-related.  If you can reduce your anxiety overall, you might well reduce the intensity of irritation and pain there.  It doesn’t have to be a doctor, or anyone hugely expensive, and you might not even need to visit them many times.  You just want someone who’ll listen and help you handle and reduce this anxiety, so that you can start enjoying your experience of what many consider the best years of a person’s life.

Natalie1615_17, there is no reason in today’s world that you shouldn’t be seen for who you are, and helped out with what’s going on with you.  Anything I can do, just let me know.  But just know I’m 100% on your side.

All my best,

Shirelle

What to do if you’re an introvert in a job for extroverts

oceanne asks:

I have started a job for a company as a promoter – my first job. I wanted to try because I am a university student and the hours were good for me. But I feel like it is not made for me. I am big introvert and I underestimated its impact on my mental health. I used to suffer from social anxiety. It is less now. Today, when I came back from work, I cried and I don’t know why. When I told this to my parents they told me that it was no big deal. But I feel that this is draining me. I’m asking myself if I need to keep the job or quit?

Hi oceanne –

You are not alone, oceanne!  So many jobs require people to put out bright excited social energy, while so many people are shy or nervous or, like you, just introverted.  There’s nothing wrong with being introverted; as I’m sure you know, that’s just considered a personality type, like extroversion – neither better nor worse.  But just as a pup like me would hate a job restricted to a cubicle where I couldn’t run around sniffing and licking people, you’re finding it hard and draining for you to work in promotion while you’d rather curl up with a book!

I do have a story for you though, about my human friend Handsome.  He’s always been a friendly guy, but mostly kept to himself (or home with me!).  And while he enjoyed socializing, he always had great anxiety about going to parties.  You see, he had this great fear of starting conversations with people he didn’t know, as they might not want to talk with him, might prefer to be left alone, might be cold and rejecting to him.  

This would present problems in his different jobs, and even more so in his social life, as you can imagine.  It reached a peak one night when he was having a birthday party at a restaurant.  Some friends picked him up so he could have a few drinks without worrying about his driving, and on the way, while talking with them, he almost fell asleep!  Not because he was tired, or because they were boring – he could tell, it was because of his anxiety about being at the party.  But all the guests there were friends of his who he liked and had invited, so what was he anxious about?!  What in the world was he to do about this?!

Well, right at that time, he was entering a new career, where he would need to market himself to others in the field regularly.  And specifically, he knew it would be good for him to go to big meetings every few weeks where he’d have to introduce himself and make himself known.  This terrified him!  But he also realized, this was his chance to finally beat this problem.

He forced himself to attend every one of these meetings he could.  And at each, he’d sit at tables of people he didn’t know, and make sure he talked with each one.  He’d stutter, his voice would crack, but he’d do it.

And you can probably guess what happened:  first, he found that everyone else there felt just the same, and were glad that he’d “break the ice” by talking with them.  But then, over time, he developed a reputation – as the friendly social guy!  The one who was at ease talking with everyone, the one lacking in social anxiety!

And one other thing happened.  You’ve likely heard of the Myers-Briggs test, a series of questions which determine, among other things, whether one is an introvert or extrovert.  Well he’d taken it in the past, and it correctly showed him to be introverted.  But after a few years of this work, he was in a situation where he took it again, and this time it put him right in the middle – half-introvert half extrovert.  His work to overcome his anxiety had actually changed his personality and the sorts of social occasions he enjoyed!

So, back to you.  What I’ve told this long story for, oceanne, is to tell you that it’s your choice!  You can live a happy life as an introvert, in which case you probably will want to change jobs pretty soon. Or you can work hard to change how you’re seen, and get more comfortable as a promoter, and maybe even start to enjoy it after a while.  

The big question, my friend, is what you’d like to be.  Would you like to be able to do more things socially, or would you prefer to stay by yourself more as time goes on?  

If you want to change, my advice is to do what Handsome did – grit your teeth and engage in every social event you can.  And see what changes come.  But if not, if you’re happier with the way you are, just know there’s nothing wrong with that, and you can find all sorts of jobs, and friends, and romantic partners, who fit that perfectly.

You’re fine, oceanne.  Choose that future and embrace it!

All my best,

Shirelle

How to move past a loved one’s suicide

Vaughn asks:

I need help dealing with my emotions. I’m not used to this. I lost my dad in November last year to suicide and I’m having trouble dealing with what I feel. He was the only person I could speak to about anything.  Now I find myself bottling things in to the extent where it’s affecting my relationship with my girlfriend. And I’m having trouble finding myself again. Please help.

Hi Vaughn –

I am so horribly sorry. Losing a parent to suicide is one of the most painful experiences I can imagine.  Losing a parent is always awful, but knowing that he chose this path will hurt forever.

I want, though, to push one very important fact onto you about this.  All beings, whether dogs, humans, or ants, instinctively want to keep alive.  It’s one of our most basic urges.  So for anyone to choose the other direction means something was horribly wrong.

Sometimes it can be a rational choice – such as when a person is in severe chronic pain with no hope of recovery, and chooses to put themselves and their loved ones out of the misery of their slow painful decline.  But most often suicide comes from a state of major depression, where the person’s mind convinces them that there’s no way to achieve any happiness or meaning, and the best solution is to end their lives. 

Depression is a horrible liar.  It will tell a person that they have no hope, when there are many possible solutions to whatever’s going on.  And worst of all, it will shut off their awareness of their worth to others, and others’ worth to them. 

If this was the case with your father, he didn’t kill himself despite his love for you and yours for him; Depression made him completely unaware of those giant beautiful facts.  It’s just that evil.

I knew a man who killed himself because he was incredibly stressed, as his business had fallen on bad times and he had been accused of stealing money from it.  After his death, he was found innocent – he hadn’t stolen anything, and the evidence was clear that he hadn’t.  And in his case, he left behind a loving wife and adorable little daughter, who will never get over this. 

Another way of looking at this is that he didn’t kill himself.  Depression murdered him.

I’m bringing all this up, Vaughn, because you are related to him, and Major Depressive Disorder is often a biologically inherited trait.  And you’re telling me that you’re bottling up all your feelings, that your dad was the only one you could talk with, that you’re having trouble dealing with your feelings, and that your relationship is struggling.  These are all worrying signs to me!

My friend, I will be glad to help you in any way I can.  But I URGE you to find and hire a good therapist.  Someone with the education to work with your current grief and the possibility that someday you might develop Depression.  It might be a professional psychologist or a counselor at work, or someone at your place of worship… all that matters to me is that they are kind and have training in this. 

My friend, I can’t stress this enough:  what you have gone through, and are going through, is too much for anyone to handle on their own.  Asking for help at a time like this is not weakness; it’s intelligence. 

If your father could talk right now, I know that he’d agree with me.  He’d want you to do anything you can to feel better and lead a happier life.  Happier than his.

And please, if there’s anything else I can help with, let me know.

All my very very best to you,

Shirelle

How to win over someone shut down by divorce

K-Xengah asks:

Despite the drama going on in my life, I think I’ve had time to actually genuinely like someone else who isn’t my ex (the first person I have genuinely been interested in in 5 years). He’s older than me and divorced with two kids, but the day he came to see me and we hugged and talked for a bit, I felt this “zing” and I would like to see what happens. He’s super reserved though, so when we do talk our conversations are okay… just okay. But I want more. He works in another city and he invited me to visit him and I want to see if we can be more or if I should just end it. I really need advice on how to go about this situation. And I also keep wondering if he would consider me like that or is he just completely closed up.

Hi K-Xengah –

WOW!  I love hearing news like this!  Of course I’m hoping it works out, but even if it doesn’t, to know that your heart is waking up like this is great.

So I need to start with one question.  You sound like he hasn’t shown any particular interest in you beyond friendliness, but he invited you to his city.  That sounds like he actually is interested in where this relationship might lead.  Or is there something I don’t know?

But regardless, what I truly believe from your letter is that this man is shut down.  Maybe he was a lot more effusive and social before his divorce, but now he’s very hesitant.  If you’ve read any of my letters or articles about my friend Aria, he’s like her.  He’s been hurt, he’s learned not to trust… but he’s also hopeful and willing to take a chance.

And that means that, just like her human friend Ugmo, you have a special job on your hands.  You need both to encourage more to happen (while protecting yourself of course) and to build his trust that you’re not like the person or people who’ve broken him before.

What will that mean?  Well I don’t know him of course.  But the more you can find out about what went wrong in his marriage or other relationships, the better.  Let’s guess though – if you can work to make sure you always tell him the truth (which doesn’t mean “the whole truth” about everything, just don’t lie), you communicate from a place of kindness, you disagree and argue with fairness, treat him with appreciation as much as possible and shame as little as possible, and forgive forgive forgive!

Oh and one other thing I’ve learned from Handsome.  If you want to be with this guy, that means you’re accepting that he is a father who, if he’s a really good man, will almost always put his children first.  If you can’t accept that, then it’s never going to work out for the two of you.  Now understand, that wouldn’t make you a bad person – just someone who needs to be put first in a relationship right now. 

But I’ve seen it over and over.  Women will like Handsome and the way he treats them.  And then they’ll realize how much he loves me, and how high a priority he puts on me, and they’ll pull away.  “She’s only a dog.  Can’t we just leave her out in the yard alone for a few days, maybe put some food out for her, she won’t mind.”  Yeah, that doesn’t work at all!  Or worst of all, one once blurted out at him, “Who’s more important to you, Shirelle or me?!”  He was so shocked at the question it took him hours to come up with his answer:  “The one who’d never ask me the question is the one I’m sticking with.”  You see, if he’d said she was more important, his fear would always be that someday she’d ask him to prove it!  And that terrified him. 

So my biggest advice to you is, if you want to be with someone with children, to NEVER ask him to put you ahead of them.  He’s looking for a partner.  Try to be it. 

If you can do these things, K-Xengah, I can’t guarantee that your relationship with him will work, any more than I could guarantee any other couple.  But I can guarantee that you will have done everything in your power to help him trust you.

And once someone trusts, they become so much more able to love. 

So with my trusting heart, I’m sending YOU all my love, and very very best wishes,

Shirelle

Whose fault is it when one person is hurt by another person’s joke?

sweetparker asks:

I had a fight with my brother and we haven’t talked in a week. He was joking around with things I’m sensitive about. I ignored him for several days because he hurt my feelings. Then he got angry and he stopped talking to me too. My mother thought I was at fault for escalating a simple joke and that I should lower my ego and apologize. But I don’t want to. Is this an act of self-entitlement? He never apologized for hurting my feelings. So why should I?

Hi sweetparker –

Your question is so important, and so open, that I can’t give an exact answer to it.  There are so many questions I’d have about it – are you just a little sensitive about those issues or are they huge and devastating to you?  Did he know how much his joking would hurt?  Does he do this all the time?  What made him so angry (as opposed to any other time you’d gotten upset with him)?  Does your mother always take his side?  How would she be if he made jokes like that about her?  And do you often react this way? –  so many questions that I can’t remotely offer an opinion.

What I can talk about though is what happens next.  It sounds to me like you’d like the issue to be resolved, and for you and your brother (and mother) all get along.  But it sounds like you also need to have your feelings acknowledged.  So, in other words, you don’t want this to lead to you and him never speaking again, but you also need to know that he understands what he did that bothered you so much.

My best advice is for you to write him a letter.  Yeah, I mean old-fashioned, where you write in pen on a piece of paper.  And explain three things:

First, explain what he means to you, and how much you want to have a relationship with him, even a better one than you’ve had before.

Secondly, explain what it was about his joking that hurt you.  And that while you are okay with him joking (maybe you even really like it) sometimes, this was a special case where it bothered you too much.  And – and this is the most important part – that you feel you can’t trust him the way you need to until he shows you that he understands the difference.

And third, tell him what you need.  What he can do to make it all okay, so that you two can have the relationship you want.  And that you really hope this is possible.

Now I can imagine you reading this and saying “Why should I spell it all out for him?  Isn’t he mature enough to realize all this on his own?”  Well, maybe he’s not!  And if so, how great for you to teach him how to deal with this issue – because it will come up again for him.  Maybe with a co-worker, maybe with a girlfriend or wife, and maybe even with your mom!  And his life will get so much better if he knows how to handle situations like this!

So that’s my best advice for now.  But if I’m missing something important, and can help with that, please let me know.

And to your question about entitlement, yes, a family member IS entitled to being treated fairly and caringly by her family.  And the others are entitled to be treated right by you too.

After all, when I’ve done something I think is funny and my human friend Handsome doesn’t – like biting his ankle – or he’s done something he thinks is funny and I don’t – like teasing me with food and then eating it – we’ve had to teach each other what’s okay and what isn’t.  And from doing so, we’ve got about as great a relationship as any I’ve ever seen anywhere.

I’m hoping for the same for you, your brother, and your mom.  Forever!

Shirelle

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