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Welcome to my weekly advice column!
It is a space devoted to answering reader’s questions large and small, with an emphasis on mindful living. It is intended to inspire, uplift and guide my fellow elephants on this glorious and sometimes unfathomable journey we call life.
Here are this week’s most thought-provoking queries! If you would like to submit a question yourself, remember that all submissions will remain anonymous.
Also, I love hearing feedback, so feel free to light up the comment board with your take on whether I was wise, totally off the mark, or somewhere in between.
Why do we continually make choices that are bad for us (and maybe our families). Do we think we don’t deserve better? Is it easier?
You don’t mention the severity of the “bad choices” you have in mind, and that really is critical to my answer. We all struggle with doing the right thing…why? Because we are human. Because sometimes we are like rebellious children, sometimes we are selfish, sometimes we are bored or resentful, and when we feel these ways we often do stupid things.
Our general goal should be to see that and accept it without judgment as we try to do better. The more we get in the groove of doing better, the more habitual it becomes—but we will ALL always have our moments.
Of course, there is a different category of bad decisions we might make, things that jeopardize the health or safety of ourselves or those we love; excessive drinking, drug use, abuse of food (over or under eating, purging), dangerous sexual behavior etc., which are at a whole other level. If we find we are continuously engaging in those types of behavior, we must assess ourselves the same way; see what we are doing and accept it without judgment– but then we must seek help.
Sounds simple, right? So why is it that so many of us don’t do just that?
Fear. We are afraid of being rejected, humiliated, judged, un-loved. When we admit we are behaving in ways that are not okay, we need to ask ourselves this question, “What am I afraid of?” If you can ask and answer that honestly, you will have gone a long way toward changing your course.
No matter what happens, remember that compassion is always a stronger stand than condemnation, towards others and toward yourself. When you speak—even in the privacy of your own mind, make sure to use words of loving kindness and forgive yourself for being flawed.
I struggle with depression, most specifically dysthymia, which is a low grade constant depression.
The issue I have…I see on Facebook how others are going on trips and having fun and just being happy…and right now the best I can do is get my laundry done and get out of bed for work.
I thought about deleting my Facebook account, but I have a lot of good friends on Facebook, and I don’t think that is the solution.
How can I deal with this?
I’m so sorry that you are suffering. Depression is such an isolating disease. You don’t say what, if any, treatment you are currently seeking or have sought in the past. I can only hope you have the support of friends, family and a skilled health care professional on board. You need and deserve such people in your life.
As to your specific question, I would not suggest deleting your Facebook account. Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with those you love, and anyone with depression should seek ways to foster those connections rather than eliminate them.
I would say that you should try setting aside specific and limited times during which to be use social media, though. Only get online when you are feeling strong, and only stay on for 10 or 15 minutes at a stretch no more than once daily. That should diminish the collateral damage from the illusion that everyone else’s life is unbearably perfect.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your online community via private message. Lots of times when I feel awful, an instant massage conversation can change the energy of the whole day. I’ve gotten some of the best support, insight and straight up love from IM’ing with my Facebook friends far and wide.
Remember, you are not the only person who perceives social media this way—and it’s not limited to people who are depressed. I think it is a rare soul among us who doesn’t get sucked into the feeling that their life is pretty lackluster in comparison to all the shiny pictures that are posted every second.
Remind yourself that it is an illusion, and that each and every one of us has complex, challenging, often painful lives, regardless of how they are portrayed on the internet.
My girlfriend is making me crazy. She has deeply embedded “daddy” issues, step father issues, privacy issues, independence issues, she is extremely defensive and always competitive in a very negative way and she has self esteem issues that force her to be superior and condescending every time she speaks. She is very negative, bossy, demanding and complains non-stop.
Now, all of this is enough to drive someone nuts, but on top of ALL that, she hates sex. And THAT is the problem. I am ME, and sex is a very important part of who and what I am, as well as a very important part of a healthy romantic relationship. I am way too young to give up sex, but I love her, and I am in a real tough spot.
Someone recently told me that sex is for men like talking is for women. If men are given the “silent treatment”, i.e., shut out sexually, they feel completely disconnected, devalued, unseen and unloved. I think that is true. Sex is, of course, many things to men, but this aspect of it is rarely discussed, and is unknown to most women. Many women think sex is optional—for most men, it isn’t.
But your girlfriend’s behavior is unfair and cruel, even if it is born from ignorance. She may indeed “hate sex,” but that’s not all that’s happening here. You mention her constant negativity and lack of connection as well, and the no-sex is just another factor in her maintaining control over the relationship by maintaining distance. She is obviously afraid to be soft or vulnerable in any way.
I can relate, as this is something I struggle with myself—the difference being that I know I can’t always be in control and that there are more things happening in the world than just my feelings—especially when it comes to the people I love.
That said, this does not make your girlfriend a bad person. It makes her a frightened one. So the question is, is it possible to find some middle ground where the two of you can muster up enough mutual compassion and understanding to make this work?
You need to sit down while neither of you are upset and have a talk. You need to say this:
“I understand you require a lot of autonomy, but we are disconnected to a point that this relationship is dysfunctional, emotionally, spiritually and physically. That is not what I want. I want to be with someone who loves me and wants to be with me in return. Life is too short to feel as bad as I have been feeling.
I am going to make a change with or without you. If you would like to join me, we will have to have many conversations similar to this one, that are calm and aimed toward a common goal of growth. I’m going to need you to try and find the joy in life with me actively, and I’m going to need to have sex—not grudgingly—good, fun, loving sex.
I am willing to give this process X amount of time. If there is no change or improvement in the way we operate together, that is a deal breaker, and I think we’ll both need to move on despite how much I love you.”
I realize this is a mouthful, but the words have been backing up for an age. If she can’t be still long enough to hear you say these things I would take that as a very urgent warning that you need to leave the whole thing by the side of the road.
*For next week’s queries, please email me at [email protected].
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard