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Dear Polly,

I love and learn so much from your columns (and Molly’s too!). Thank you for putting into direct, beautiful, and entertaining words such key wisdom for all of us! Your enthusiasm for this world and this life always shine through (hand in hand with your acknowledgement of how shitty our current times can be). I find I feel energized and thoughtful while and after reading you.

So much love to you and yours! ❤️

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Thanks for writing this, it made me cry. I've fallen into this strange place of thinking that everything I do is clumsy and weird and embarrassing, just out of stress and health stuff and too much overthinking this ugly moment. When you're putting yourself out there on your OWN platform, it's so freeing, but it's also like standing on the corner doing a striptease sometimes. It's easy to feel fragile, like WHO WOULD WANT THIS? How could I be so self-doubting about my work, after all these years?

So reading this is very helpful today.

Sometimes it's hard to take any love in from the world. But when I stop and take some in, that's when I realize that I have to give more love to strangers, too. I know that is so goddamn basic, but I want to make sure I'm bringing whatever I've got to this moment, you know? Things are so shitty and people are in pain. I've been so fucking overwhelmed and outmatched by the ways this pandemic has been crushing people. I don't have magical answers. But you're reminding me that just being there and saying I SEE YOU is enough. I think we all need that reminder. THANK YOU. XOXOXOX

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Sep 5, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Heather you are truly a light in this sometimes cold-fucked up world. I’ve treasured your words for yeeeaaarrss, since you were reviewing t.v.shows but somehow bringing wisdom and truth and emotion into it.

Maybe just today you can absorb all the love and support, and don’t worry about giving back? Just today. I have extra for you. I have many pages in a word doc where I copy paste things you write so I can turn to them when I’m feeling low. I’m so glad you turned to us today so we can give you back a little.

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Argh. Thank you. I am so resistant and non-absorbent!

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Yes! I have whole passages from Ask Polly columns that I've copied by hand into my journal, to help me absorb them. Thank you for doing such good work, and giving voice to conflicts so many of us experience.

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I do this too!

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Heather, you are a beautiful soul and you’ve helped me through (lucky me!) a letter you answered, countless letters to others, and your books. I’ve been following you since my early 20s and your advice shaped my life. I also had some serious health stuff and it literally and figuratively sucks the life out of you. You begin to question why you even wanted anything in this life to begin with because it just feels like everything is too damn hard. As someone who has come out the other side (and I say that still having terrible health days), there is beauty here. Thank you for saving me too many times to count. I love you from afar and always!

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Okay crying. Thank you to everyone on this thread. Don't want to get too "hurray look at me" just: thank you. I feel this.

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Sep 6, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Huge fan of yours since the early days of Rabbit Blog. Remember when you wrote this?

"Yes, eventually, everyone's humans become scowly and old and bark into their cell phones and wear bad shoes, but it doesn't matter, because when their parents look at them, all they see is pajamas with feet."

Well, *I* remember! This was one of the best things I've ever read, this little nugget of pure emotional gold couched in wry and witty prose. And it was timely for me on a personal level as well. I started following your career right about then.

My point here is that when you start to perceive yourself as clumsy, weird, and embarrassing, remember that many (manyyyyy) of us consider your unique perspectives, your resonant and abundant compassion, your humor and your clear-eyed candor, to be valuable gifts.

I will always see my favorite writer in pajamas with feet.

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oh no, you are awesome and a ton of people benefit from having read your writing. just keep doing what you are doing.

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One of the best things we can do right now for ourselves is to try to catch that spiral of overthinking and find some way to change the mental channel. You deserve to NOT torture yourself. Thank you for your writing, Heather. It helps me get through life. ❤️

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Thank you Heather. And thank you, fellow reader, for this comment. I really need the reminder to catch that spiral and stop spinning at the moment. Or to spin in a different way?!

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deletedSep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky
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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I am signing in to comment (which I declined to do earlier) because what Anne and Ken say to you, Polly and Molly and Heather, is so true. Your open heart and corner strip tease have enriched my life immeasurably. Thank you.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

100%! I avoid fawning as much as I want to because it feels like tucking a $50 into your g-string, like, TOO grateful? But some days I feel like you crawled in my head and knew just what I needed to hear and I thank you mightily.

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My boyfriend is boring and not witty. He acts like an idiot most of the time (fart jokes, fake wining, that sort of thing). He is an otherwise incredible person; sweet, supportive, loyal, kind, a good listener, ambitious, forgiving, willing to grow. But he withholds his mind from me so much I'm beginning to wonder if he even has one. All my life i thought i wanted to be the object of someone's affection but now i'm allergic to it because i can't stand feeling like the only interesting and intelligent person in the relationship (I say this while very acutely aware of how ordinary my 'interesting' and 'intelligent' is). i'm tired of dating myself and rolling my eyes at the 30th fart joke of the day

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

That's a really tough situation. I had a similar situation in the past, and I went to friend after friend asking them if they thought this guy was right for me, and if I'd be an idiot to break up with someone who is, at the end of the day, a good guy. I felt so guilty about even questioning the relationship, too, which I think made things worse. I think the best lesson I learned out of it was that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' answer, and it's okay to just feel like someone's not a good fit for you, even if they're an otherwise great person.

That being said, I know things are really hard right now, so however you decide to move forward, I truly wish you the best. You sound like someone who knows what she wants, which is a really great attribute to have!

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

After my divorce, most of my friends didn't want to bad talk my ex. That's probably a smart idea – I love bad-talking exes but often regret it. Anyway, I finally got my best friend to admit that she thought my ex was boring. He was, to me and to my friend, and I think it said a lot about our relationship. For one thing, boring is subjective. One person's boring is another person's fun and hilarious. Before we broke up, my ex told me once that only I thought he was boring – his friends at his new job thought he was fascinating. Differences of opinion! I think we all deserve to be with someone who thinks we're fascinating. I stayed with my ex for a long time because I thought it was more important to be with someone loyal and moral, rather than interesting. After we broke up I learned that it's possible to be loyal, moral, AND interesting to talk to. I totally relate to the idea of "dating myself" – it gets old! I highly recommend trying to find someone who is a good listener and interesting for you to listen to, as well. Don't feel guilty about your totally subjective opinion if someone just isn't right for you.

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THIS is exactly what I would say. It's fine for someone to irritate the fuck out of you if they're also really great to talk to and fun to have sex with and good to you. My husband is pretty goddamn annoying at times. The other day I said to him, "You can only do what's in front of you, but no one is in the air traffic control tower." I'm always in the fucking tower. It sucks to be alone in the tower, but the truth is, he handles a ton of our concrete tasks. He also loves ideas. A guy doesn't have to have a fuck ton of big ideas as long as he loves ideas and loves talking. But what you're describing is someone who maybe doesn't like talking or thinking that much. And is that really YOUR guy? I think you already know that it's not. It's so fucking hard to break up with someone who's kind and loyal. It sucks so much. But like Nancy said, we ALL deserve to trust our subjective taste and we all deserve great connections that don't bore the hell out of us! xo

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

It's so interesting how I feel like I can relate to this but in a totally different way. My boyfriend of three years is also boring, but not in a fart-joke way... in a college-lecture way. He will talk ad nauseam about topics he knows I'm not particularly interested in, and suggest the same boring-ass philosophy documentaries for us to watch over and over again. He over-intellectualizes everything, which is so weird because he went to art school and has a wonderfully creative mind, and is super supportive of all my wacky mental health shit. Of course we have the occasional evening when we just watch Bill & Ted and are able to joke with each other, but good christ.

He's terrible and maybe also my forever person.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I once googled 'How to stop boyfriend from ted-talking at me'. Regretfully, no useful results came up. I feel you

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🙌 if only...

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Honestly, I think back to this Polly original, though I don't know if it applies to you:

"Right around the time I got engaged to my husband, he started to look like the geekiest man alive to me. We went on a trip to Spain, and day after day we would drink beers together in beautiful places, and I’d think, 'I’m going to spend the rest of my life listening to this twerp talk.' " https://medium.com/the-awl/ask-polly-i-am-severely-chafed-by-my-gentle-compassionate-boyfriend-f2c64ed69f27

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I consider this kind of topical boredom pretty annoying but also acceptable. Not to be essentialist, but here's my essentialist take anyway: A man will bore you with SOMETHING. Men can be very very very very boring. The only non-boring men I know are very very very very very very very very very difficult. I can't handle a difficult man. So some boredom will be fine. Fart jokes, though? No.

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Thank you Kristina! This response meant more to me than I can articulate. You guys sound like a beautiful and lively couple

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

It took me years to realize my ex-hubby was not neuro-typical. He wasn’t waaaay over on the autism/Aspergers scale, so it wasn’t at all obvious. Eventually though his inability to have nuanced conversations (as opposed to repeating his same ideas over and over), hyperfixations, and narcissism became intolerable to me.

I’m not suggesting you don’t try to work with him! Lord knows I tried for years, with the support of mental health professionals (and I am one myself). Brains are just quirky, weird things, and not all dogs are going to learn new tricks.

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the person im dating makes terrible jokes too and when I don't respond he seems to get hurt. I feel like its just a way of poking me for attention but I have children and can't handle him acting like another one. other than that he's wonderful, but I feel like an asshole

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I had a boyfriend once who told the same 2 bad jokes almost every day. It was.... the worst. It's like he wanted me to hate him. And he laughed really loudly at them, every day. It made no fucking sense. He was like a broken toy. Was it even for me? It almost felt aggressive? Just bizarre.

In your boyfriend's case, it feels like an insecure tic. You have to calmly tell him that his way of trying to connect with you is not working and it makes you withdraw, which feels really bad. Try to be ready to talk about other ways you can connect and give him reassurance, if you can. Maybe ask him what he's looking for. Sometimes you ask a question like that, and a man will say, I'M JUST FULL OF JOY AND JOKES! I JUST WANT YOU TO LAUGH! So you might have to go deeper: What's missing here, for you, and how do we get there together?

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Sometimes a man like that is looking for an audience, not a partner. Signed, Experience.

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Was he also the human incarnation of Beavis and Butthead? I think I might know him

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Hot take: Men are not funny

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I’m struggling with direction. I am 39 I had hoped to be married by now and have a career as a writer but I am single, I write sometimes usually for free. I am frustrated with my life and myself and it feels like time is running out. 4 years ago I moved from the UK to the US, it was a long held dream, but it’s been tough, I’ve bounced between freelance jobs, dated emotionally unavailable men and then there’s the rest. In the last 3 years 3 people close to me have died, in one instance I found the body, then as I started to get over this I got an email, all of my life’s belongings had burned down in the UK. Now I have nothing to go back to either. I feel incredibly stuck and like I’m mourning my life as I live it. I try to date but no one likes me back, how can I help myself see that I have options and not be so sad. I feel trapped by finance constraints and everything else in my life seems empty. I can’t imagine anyone ever loving me again and that’s the worst bit.

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I'm so sorry for everything you're going through. You have to grieve and face your sadness but you also want to build a life -- two things that can feel like they're at odds. I wonder if you should be trying to date at this moment? It feels like you're taking yourself in this fragile state and exposing yourself to strangers when what you need is to connect with people you know and trust. You also need to figure out some shape of a life that will feel good right now, no matter what happens next: what do you enjoy, how do you want to live?

When I was 34 and going through a rough breakup, I was worried that I'd never get the life I wanted. I sort of made a contingency plan: I'd get a dog. I'd freeze my eggs in a year or so and have a kid alone if it came to that. It wasn't the most INSPIRING thing but it felt really good to know that I would probably be okay even if my dreams never came true. I could make it on my own. When you're feeling half decent, I would try to write down a few different concrete things that would feel good right now, and a few contingency plans.

That's the pragmatic piece of this. Right now, though, you need to grieve and you also need to understand that showing up for sadness is LOVABLE. Vulnerability is lovable. You are lovable in this sad sad place. You should find a therapist and talk about where you are, for sure. And you also need to occupy this sad place, feel it, breathe it in, honor your losses without layering SHAME on top of that pain. The shame and the certainty that no one will ever love you and the escape into looking for love are a big piece of the problem. Reconnect with friends and with yourself instead. Give yourself some space to feel good outside of the big project of love. This is an important time of growth for you, a real crisis, but you have to embrace it fully instead of trying to FIX EVERYTHING and FIX YOURSELF. You're good already. You're lovable. You will make it. Be where you are. xo

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You sound like such a cool person though. If someone dropped into my life who was a writer, who had moved between countries, who had survived trauma, I would want to date that person. So there's one vote for the 'you are eminently lovable' viewpoint.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I'm with you on the almost 40 (well I am 40 ;) and single bit, it's tough. I don't know if this is helpful but it feels like you do have a lot to mourn...moving and starting over and actual death and relationships ending and the loss of your belongings. I have also moved around quite a bit and it takes so much more time to get my footing than I imagine/expect. I try to give myself grace for this and acknowledge that building relationships and a life in a new place takes time but the loneliness can be awful, especially during a pandemic. I guess I am just here to say that I hear you and appreciate you sharing yourself as it made me feel less alone. Sending a hug over the internet

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Thank you, I so appreciate you sharing that. I see other friends in my position but I always think everyone is finding it easier than me- it’s kind of you to share your thoughts and I’m glad I could make you feel less alone. That makes me feel good.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

that's so hard, GL. Still, only a true badass moves across continents and wants to be emotionally available and share her reality here. +another vote for loveable

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Sep 5, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I'm 37 and moved countries 3 years ago and single with financial constraints & emotionally unavailable men and a pandemic. Only sharing half of your struggles (no deaths or fires) I find it almost unbearable at times. This is a lot! Give yourself a break to feel like it's a lot. And you're doing it anyway, you should feel proud. Sending hugs.

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Thank you for taking time to write to me, I’m sorry it’s tough for you too, but it gave me a lot of comfort that you shared this. Sending hugs back to you too. This will get better. Xo

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

That sounds so difficult to endure. It also sounds like you have a big heart and a lot of determination, even when things are hard, and that's pretty lovable in my book. Please hang in there.

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thank you.

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This really hit home, I know exactly how you feel and I am so sorry for the hardship that you have been through. I moved from Sweden to the U.K. almost five years ago for a man who a couple of years down the line broke up with me over text message and then let his mum (his mum!) deal with the admin of our breakup. I managed, with therapy and friends, to get into a good place and decided to stay in London. I’ve changed jobs and my career is going well but with the pandemic pay rises are on hold and now turning 36 I also feel stuck and I worry that I will never be able to afford my own flat (even renting), dating is hard and I’ve lost track of the guys I think I have a connection with that then after 4-5 dates just disappear from the face of the planet, will I ever meet someone and have the possibility of a family (which I want), should I stay here or move back home where all my friends have settled down and are having kids? I am trying to be proud of myself for having the guts to uproot my entire life and build something from scratch, for putting myself out there over and over and for not having lost the ability to be vulnerable when it comes to relationships and dating but fuck - it is hard. It is so hard. Maybe it’s ok to feel defeated, tired and occasionally tempted to give up, maybe we do need to feel our feelings and our longing and be ok with not being ok?

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It’s so ok to embrace being a human being, without holding templates over yourself of other people’s lives or even your own expectations! Learning to accept oneself feels like the biggest, hardest modern project. Here we are, constantly evaluating ourselves with metrics of failure in hand, feeling like failures as we do it. I admire so much what you’ve done when you wield your metric of bravery! You’re incredible! And so are the others on this thread, moving to another culture is HARD and the grief and dissonance are so constant (even when accompanied by new growth and joy) that whenever we draw breath we feel the work of it. Even single, you and your vulnerability and courage are amazing. Even in London. And dare I say it but few and far between are the English people who value, embrace, and reckon with vulnerability. May you find someone who sees your superpower for what it is.

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“The grief and dissonance are so constant (even when accompanied by new growth and joy) that whenever we draw breath we feel the work of it.” This. This is amazing. Thank you x

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Your words "... like I'm mourning my life as I live it."

These are incredibly powerful emotional ideas.

They're definitely Not the kind of heart-break scaffolding that many, if not most people are willing to talk about.

There is a broken-ness to everyone around us and most of them are simply trying to pretend that life is somewhere, vaguely, over 'there'.

This 'There'... is the cause of all my own and other people's suffering.

This whole Greener Grass, Younger Spouse, Fresh New Kid/Pet... is meant to help us avoid where we are currently.

No one wants to stay put and look down at the puddle or brown mess they're standing in.

As potential-adults... I would encourage you to stand where you are. I too, am currently going through my own mourning as I live. I have become like those mythic vikings of centuries past... who have burned their boats as they landed on new shores... and have to spend the rest of their lives building something new on foreign soil... all the while mourning the life that no longer exists.

Whether Vikings truly did such a terribly brave/scary/heartbreaking thing to themselves... I know that modern humans do such things all the time. They run away from home, never to return because they came. Escaping places too bleak for anything life-affirming.

My own blood family had hurt me so many many many many times in my childhood that I had to decide I would no longer allow them to keep casually damaging me. So most days I am mourning.

I did not think anyone could truly love someone as damaged as me.

So I turned to praying, meditating and hoping.

I *do* believe that if even single a molecule of hope lives in you, it may be enough to grow, seed-like into something that takes root and digs deep into life's rich buried aqueducts and hidden wells of sweet nourishing possibility.

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You’re say you’re struggling with direction but you’ve made one big dream come true so far - you moved to the US. You know (better than anyone) what a tough and competitive and complex process that is but you did it! That sounds like someone with direction to me. You want to be a writer and you are indeed writing - not being paid 100% of the time doesn’t make you any less of a writer. You sound amazing, so cut yourself some slack. A whole life in a new country doesn’t come together all at once. It takes time, but you’ll get there. x

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My sister in law committed a violent suicide end of June. There has been no memorial of any type as my brother in law is a scientist and anti-religious/spiritual. He thinks we should just remember good times as she struggled with her mental health last year. I am having a tough time accepting this. I know it’s Covid time and safety issues but even a small family Zoom would be beneficial. Should I just mind my own business? My children are grieving and I worry for their only child, my nephew. His mom is gone one day and that’s it. It breaks me.

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It's really hard stepping in and pushing an agenda with your in-laws when you weren't raised in that family. I've done it a little because I'm pushy and "helpful" and whew, it did not go well. That said, having a small family Zoom would be extremely wise and helpful for many of you. Sure, some will hate it and some will skip it and some will feel like they're being dragged into something they don't want to do. I hated planning my dad's funeral and didn't want to have a funeral at all. But after the just unrelenting hell of planning and then crying in the church and crying into a hole in the ground, I understood the point of it all. Even if it's awkward, after you do it, you'll feel like you did something that had some meaning and weight, that helped you with closure a tiny bit. You should talk to your spouse about it and have your spouse set it up if possible. It's important. And no matter how negative the response -- avoidant families really fucking hate to be pulled into feelings fests -- know that you're doing something generous for them. Don't overthink or over-manage it. Just set it up and show up and know in your heart that this is what's needed, whether anyone can express that clearly or not. Hang in there and stay present and keep that open heart, it's important. xo

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Lost a relative to suicide as a child, I hope you host that Zoom. The temptation is to stuff something like this down and carry on. But repressing it could be very damaging to you and really everyone involved but especially the kids.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I recommend joining The Dinner Party https://www.thedinnerparty.org. I have also experienced a traumatic loss of someone I loved to suicide. This is the only place I have found where people openly talk about the difficulty of this specific type of grief.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I've also found https://friendsforsurvival.org/ to be helpful, finding ways to talk about it matters at whatever speed or way you're able to.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I'm so sorry for your loss. I don't know how to help with the brother in law, but surely he can't stop you and your family from having your own memorial for her? It might give you a bit of the peace you need.

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I feel awful even posting something so trivial when it seems like everyone else has much bigger problems. I’m sending my love to all of you, truly. Polly/others, I have the biggest dreams for myself. I have sky-high plans for my life- always have. I want it ALL. But recently, I’ve felt so down about everything. I feel completely talentless, unloveable, and mediocre. The voice creeps in my head and asks me if my dreams are even possible or worth wanting. I’m nowhere near close to the success I want, and it’s making me wonder if I’m not that special. I don’t expect things to happen overnight, but I always thought I’d be closer now that I’m older. Also, imagining any other life than the one in my dreams hurts. A lot. I don’t know where to go from here.

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I know exactly how this feels. I was there for a solid three years of my life. When I look back, I see a lot of fear and insecurity and shame. I had no idea how twisted my view of myself was. I either felt like some kind of grandiose comedic burlesque act or a bag of dicks. I felt like I had to be EVERYTHING and GET EVERYTHING or I'd be a failure.

That's not how real life plays out. Having big dreams and sky-high plans is fine. But you have to make concrete plans on how to crawl there every day, and you have to ENJOY THE CRAWLING. If your plans feel uninteresting or punitive or wrong or just duty-bound, then you have to ask yourself, "What do I like about this work?" When you nurture a connection to what you love, everything gets easier. You have to be connected to the work, though, not just to your glorious vision of where it will get you. Trying to shortcut your way through the work (and the shame it kicks up!) will not get you what you want.

Facing your fears is important. Right now, every time you try to work on your dream, it kicks up your fears. Your fears are conjured by attempts at progress. The more you care about your dream, the more fear and shame will appear. Know that. Sit with it instead of telling yourself SEE, YOU'RE FUCKED, YOU'RE A FAILURE. Listen to the failure voices and write them down a bit. Consider how odd and arbitrary it is to just decide that the things you love will always be out of your reach because you're eternally damned. WHY DO SO MANY OF US BELIEVE THIS?

Let the bad voices show themselves. Then do the thing in a small way right here and now. Notice how much you enjoy it. When you don't enjoy it, give yourself a little time and space. Exercise instead - physical activity will build your positivity and your ambition. Then return to your dream, knowing it will feel bad at first but you'll tolerate that.

It's fine not to be that special. I don't think I'm that special right now, at all (although I do love to nurture the illusion that I am, occasionally!). Hard work and a love of what you do is everything. Even when it's small and no one can see it, if you can feel it, it will grow. Trust that. xo

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I think this is great advice and would add that chasing a dream life because you want to feel special may lead you in the wrong direction. The last paragraph is so important—wake up every day and work hard at something you love. You'll know you love it because it feels honest, it doesn't feel like you are losing yourself when you are doing this work. Cliche but important advice—focus on the journey, not the destination. You'll arrive before you realize it.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I've been feeling pretty bad too, so I'm right there with you and everyone else. I'm 24 and feel very insecure about the state of my friendships. I feel ambivalent over all my them, and I feel especially lonely right now. I really wish I had a best friend, a go to. I have to constantly remind myself nothing is wrong with me and people struggle with friendships in their 20s. But still dealing with a lot shame, especially given how Covid has made it nearly impossible to meet new people (I'm not on social media). I want to believe in deep meaningful friendships, but sometimes wonder if I am capable of them. How can I honor my desire for friendships in a crazy time like now, while also not basing a lot of worth around them?

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Sending you love. It took me a while to develop solid friendships and now that I have them, covid has made us all distant no matter how much love is there. You are deserving of friendship and you will find the right friends. But just know this is a weird time for everyone and that your “lack of connection” feeling has nothing to do with you being unloveable. ❤️

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

This is so common and not enough people talk about it. It helped me to remember that friendships Nate about quality not quantity. I have two best friends. They live in other states. I know they're forever friends because they support me fiercely and also call me out on my shit. And I still ask myself why I don't have more local brunchy kinds of friends and if there's something wrong with me. It's not the lack of friends holding you back. It's the shame. And shining light on it is the first step. When you expose your vulnerability to the people around you that's when you learn who is going to accept you for everything you are.

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Friendships are worthy, and so are you! <3 You're not on social media, but are you on forums for topics of interest to you? That could be an avenue

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I'm really struggling with absorbing the onslaught of terror and sadness over the last six months. As a result, I feel like I'm squatting inside myself—like I'm a tight ball of tension that wants to swat people (people I love deeply!) away and keep everything out. The problem with being a squatting ball of tension is that I'm not really letting any lightness or compassion in, either. I'm lucky to have sources of both—even amidst what feels like a hellscape—but I can't seem to mend this brain-body connection rupture or lessen the guilt around not being able to "fix" it. I'm being hard on myself, wondering if I'm giving enough love and support to the people around me while grasping for equilibrium for myself. My desire for sex and physical touch feels diminished, and my ever-present sensitivity feels like a live wire. I would love your thoughts, insights, solidarity.

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Don't know any useful advice but I think I know the feeling you're talking about. I feel like a holding receptacle for the world's pain. Taking lots of showers helps. Sometimes just gotta tell myself to get over it too, because feeling other people's pain rather than one's own is actually a luxury in one sense.

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Now might be a good time to find a therapist. I’m not a therapist but I’m feeling similar things, and I too struggle with the mind-body problem of being a tense human with overwhelming anxiety and scant embodiment or even body awareness, because I was raised mind-over-matter (eg, my mother’s mother died on her birthday, but as she relates things, “the day I turned 65 my back went to hell!”). May I suggest what’s been suggested to me and above, sort of, in response to other similar problems: move your body gently. Maybe yoga? I love Underbelly Yoga, they have online and live-streaming classes and a dedicatedly inclusive practice. Or walk. Notice your jaws and neck and shoulders and core muscles, and when you discover they’re tight, relax them specifically and witness your physical tension. Try to take deep breaths periodically, if they don’t produce more anxiety. Touch yourself more, casually, hands on opposite elbows and biceps, tapping or patting. See how it feels. Do a semi-mindless physical activity and talk to yourself about your body while you do it. These incredible vessels of ours are holding so much, and working so hard to protect us. Time now to thank them and learn how to put some of their work down.

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Thank you for being here, Polly. My most difficult relationship right now is with myself, which feels like such a privilege but is also incredibly frustrating! I don't understand my emotions at all, even in therapy sessions--it just feels like a system I don't have the keys to. I'm tired all the time and nothing feels energizing any more. The pandemic situation has been difficult in that I feel like I've really made an effort to try to take care of my wellbeing, but I still feel rotten--and I can't even tell if I would feel like I were making progress if it weren't for the chronic stress, or if I really am just stuck. I'm not good at not being good at things in general, but it's extra frustrating to not be good at things that feel so vital and so unoutsourceable. Do you have any words of wisdom?

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I've been in this space lately, too. "Nothing feels energizing" sums it up. I was walking 4 miles and then doing strength training last week and I still felt blah. I cut out drinking. Still tired. I had a few days where I was just MAD. It was really hard not to push everyone away. I didn't want connection or warmth and I would read my own words about these things and think "Shut the fuck up." I mean, that's a pure blast of shame.

I know I blow the SHAME horn so fucking repeatedly, but I was really starting to feel ashamed of myself without noticing it, and it was starting to inform EVERYTHING. Every. Single. Thing.

Shame is blocking your emotions right now. The only way I know to get out of that place and get your emotions flowing again is exploring your emotional state in a meditative way WHILE DOING SOMETHING ELSE: cleaning, weeding, cooking. Take the state of your brain and the state of the world off the table, stop thinking, and just do a concrete task. Feelings and hard labor. Being present and physical work. That combination will take you out of EVERYTHING I DO IS WRONG and plant you in the moment.

Pain and sadness and stress will bubble up, and you should observe it and let it happen without FIXING anything or DECIDING YOU'RE BAD.

Resting more is good, too. Eating things you really are hungry for. Staying off social media as much as you can. And honestly, turning away from all media for a few days is good. Reading books and napping for two days: how would that feel? Get back into your body and just treat it with kindness and leave the world behind.

I'm trying to give myself a week with zero expectations because I just had surgery. I basically never manage this -- I mean, look, I just started this thread and I should be napping! But I've found that the more I say DUDE THIS IS HARD, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE PRODUCTIVE, the more I feel okay. And also I need to turn off the news feed often. It sucks being that person. But that's who I am. I cannot stomach this moment easily. I have to do what I can to feel good.

I'm sure I'll repeat some of this and also say it in some new more useful way somewhere else on this thread, so keep reading, we'll figure this shit out. Does anyone else have stuff that works for them in this pandemic nightmare? I mean we are all so completely surrounded by ourselves, that's the thing. I'm starting to notice when I OVER-reflect, mostly while trying to write something THAT MUST BE BRILLIANT. It becomes obsessive. A lot of the time what I need is to just stop and close my screen and rest and talk to my kids or pet my dogs and just rejoin reality.

Anyway, we're all in it right now. Lots of people will have a lot to say about this! TELL US YOUR SECRETS! Everyone needs concrete fucking coping strategies at this moment.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

All of this!^ Limiting online media and getting into my body and touching real things (tending plants, reading actual books, cooking, playing cards, writing postcards, doing chores, macrameing) definitely has been helping me.

Also, I'm the type of person who likes to feel like she has all the answers. In my decades of existence, I never paid much attention to the concept of humility. But it's been profoundly useful to discover it now.

These days I find great relief when I say, without judgement, "I don't know. I just don't know." And then I remind myself that I am one human being, and right now, I might not be able to help, fix, or even understand the state of the world, and that is OK. This isn't to keep me from trying. It's to create some space to exist in a difficult time without shame.

Polly, you've been so eloquent about how FUCKING HARD this time is. Thank you for saying it so well and so often. That kind of validation is pure gold.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

What's working for me the most (I say "working" in the very loosest sense of the word) is physical movement. You mentioned weeding and cleaning. Those.have worked for me too along with long walks, swimming in the river (sometimes I get a tiny bit stoned first and get very curious about the sensation of the water on my skin), playing an instrument, dance, standing barefoot in the yard, watering plants, washing dishes, naps, sex in the right context.

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In agreement. I am sober and have felt free to wild away at activities that folks often get stoned to do. Talking to crows and trees and my jolly self, drawing colorful shapes, touching natural beings, touching myself. The other night my mind was unbearably busy, I took a bath and actually had to commit to being there by counting seconds down from 180 or whatever.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thank you, Polly, you're such a treasure and this is so helpful. I hope you heal smoothly!

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Two things have helped me:

1) Concrete thing:

https://soundcloud.com/liveawakepodcast

Each of these are 10-15 minute meditations I do with my eyes closed. Just choose a title that seems fitting for whatever you need at the moment. They help so much when I can't get out of my own head. I've been doing them with my team over Zoom since the pandemic started and people keep coming back every week (to work...and to the meditations ;))

2) More general thing:

March-June I was very "forgiving" of myself and did whatever ~decadent things I wanted because #unprecedentedtimes. Then I realized that what I wanted was to be able to look back on 2020 and think, "if it weren't for covid, I wouldn't have _____."

I decided what I wanted that to be and every day I make some progress towards it. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, I come back to: am I fulfilling that promise to myself? Yes? I am good.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

There with you. Sometimes I feel like therapy makes things harder because I have to face my feelings instead of compartmentalizing. Staying healthy in both body and mind is SO MUCH WORK and I don't want to do any of it. Mostly I know exercise would help with both, but I just can't face how weak and sad my body (including my brain) is right now.

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I am an exercise fiend generally and find it hard to get motivated, plus now I'm on enforced rest after surgery. I think one way to ease into it is by choosing 2 small exercises -- 20 squats, 20 sit ups -- and just doing that once a day as a break between other tasks. People act like you have to train for a marathon or eat cheese doodles all day. Small increases in activity help and get your mind in a better place. Walking is also magical. You need to do something that doesn't feel onerous and punishing, and learn to half-enjoy it. The first few times are the hardest, but after that the rewards really show themselves, mood-wise. I say this at a time when I've been exercising AND very moody, mind you. But movement really shifts the course of my day. You have to connect with your body to notice that, though. Just stretching and trying to give your physical self some appreciation and love sounds pretty goofy but it's something overthinkers tend to neglect.

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Walk walk walk. It's the only thing I did for the first 5 months of social isolation and I honestly think it saved me. When I can't motivate for it I download a book or podcast or call a friend on my headset.

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So much this! I've never been able to truly figure out exercise and trying to do it now just seems utterly unsurmountable. Very glad I'm not alone at least.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I've recently started doing therapy and trying to express my emotions is hell-like. I am more aware than ever that I go through life trying to feel as little as possible. I'm sorry for what you're going through, but I don't have any wisdom.

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as silly as it sounds, looking through descriptions of different emotion words can be really helpful. if we haven't grown up knowing the words to use, or really attending to the ways other people talk about their emotional state, it's a whole other language to learn. and being able to articulate to solely yourself is a start that further down the line can lead you to be able to express to others.

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Sending you lots of solidarity and I hope things start to get easier for you!

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I feel the same way. This whole period has taken such a toll on my ability to trust myself, which was already a fragile concept for me anyway. All I know is (easier to say to you than to me!) that it sounds like you're being awfully hard on yourself. I'm glad you're in therapy. Does it help sometimes? Do you like to journal to try to process your thoughts and feelings? I find that helps me. You're more capable than you think you are, that's almost a given.

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I've struggled with trusting myself lately, too, and that's my ENTIRE FUCKING RELIGION. Well put. Lately I feel more trust in myself when I simply step back a little and stop PUZZLING THROUGH WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME and just say: You're okay. Life is really hard at the moment. Find something that doesn't feel fraught and do that. Often this means vacuuming. But it does help.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thank you, Sara, this is such a kind response and I really empathize with that fragility of trusting oneself. The therapy does help sometimes but I also feel very directionless there--I don't really understand what I'm supposed to be doing during the session or in between sessions to make the most of it, if that makes sense? I've been working on journaling lately with a little success, but I still struggle with pausing the judgments long enough to actually write the honest thing down. And it's been a week or two there, so this is a very good reminder to get back to it!

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I'm with you! I am sometimes terrible at the journaling too, but when I can be nice enough to myself and manage to tone down the judgment, it works. In therapy, try and take the pressure off -- it's so fucking hard to express ourselves sometimes, when your feelings are just like a weighty knot in your chest. I'm a new fledging therapist myself and I can tell you that to be "doing therapy right" is just to be expressing yourself as best you can, being vulnerable and open as much as you can (which I find to be painful a lot of the time, but it's a massive step forward) and reflecting on what helps soothe you, in between. What helps you undo mental patterns (like telling yourself you're not good at being good at things in general -- that's a story I know and love to tell too!). You're doing so much better than you think you are, you're thinking about your feelings and you're trying... I'm certain of that without even knowing you.

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I love my partner with all my heart, and he has been a godsend throughout this whole bullshit quarantimes. But we live in a goddamned studio apartment, and I swear to motherfucking christ if he farts

ONE

MORE

TIME

I don't know what I'll do but I'm pretty sure it'll be some sort of spree.

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Take a look at his diet! Is he eating fake sugary things?

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I'm working a full time job from home, and so is my husband. Our son is in first grade and we're trying to do remote learning. It sucks. He can't really read yet, and it's also incredibly distracting and chaotic. His poor teacher is doing her best, but it's 25 6-year-olds on a Webex call. He ends up unfocused, we get frustrated about it. We're constantly being interrupted and we get frustrated about that. He ends up in tears at least once a day during "school" and so do I. We're all intense people. My job is high pressure, I'm managing people remotely and have a new boss. I'm so stressed and tired so much of the time. I sometimes feel like a raw nerve, and if my kiddo asks me for my attention ONE MORE TIME I'm going to lose it. And then I feel like a raging asshole. And, as a corollary, like I'm failing at my job and failing at parenting.

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Everyone is failing at everything. Be kind to yourself above all. Try to assign times where you're on call to your son and other times when your husband is on call and you "disappear" (lol I know good luck). I like all of Anne's suggestions below, too. Keep saying, using your words, to your husband and your son and yourself: "This is hard for all of us, this is a lot." I've been saying that almost every other night to my family. I've loosened my idea of what my kids should be taking on. I just want them to try to enjoy their day. Not saying school is nothing, but I remind myself often that figuring out how to be happy EVEN NOW is a great challenge for them. What do you love? What do you want to explore while you have this time? That's not first grader talk, but just being in the space of "We can all loosen up and fuck up and it's fine, there is no failure here," is crucial. Sometimes you have to come down from the control tower and just be on the ground, not minding the big picture, letting things flow, letting a few things slip through the cracks. This is not a year for perfection or even BEING GOOD. It's a year for wading through the mire without letting it destroy you. Go easy on yourself, and forgive yourself, over and over. xo

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Sep 5, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

some suggestions: you can try offering your son concrete options for what to do when he can't handle the "school". have it be a collaborative process determining the menu of options. you can also make sure he has specific times he can come interrupt (don't tie them to a reason, have them be consistent times). you could give your son a tape recorder to record his questions so he doesn't forget them since he can't read/ write yet. you're not failing as a parent; this is immensely difficult. taking time for fun/silly storybook read-alongs ( you may already doing this) at the end of the day as a ritual goes a long way with improving literacy and as an end of day connection point that is relatively low-stress.

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eta: to work around literacy you can set an alarm for the interruption times and take a little bit of time each time to practice clock (digital and analog) literacy with him. these are just suggestions and you're already doing SO MUCH!

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I like all of these suggestions so much. It's all an experiment. Most of all, just try to stay calm and connect as much as possible.

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Thank you both for your kind words and advice! We're already doing a lot of the practical suggestions, but they're still appreciated. I think the key thing for me to remember is how I frame it--as you may have guessed, coming out of the control tower, loosening up, and letting things fall through the cracks is not easy for me to do without triggering a whole bunch of shame. I'm taking "there is no failure here" as my new mantra. Thank you!

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AnonymousSep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

All the hugs to you. This such an overwhelming time for both parents and partners. Go easy on yourself. Your feelings are valid, whatever they are on any given day.

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I have PTSD and I am afraid of men. I struggle with longing, like fucking yearning for love but at the same time being repulsed by the thought of it. I'm trying to make myself bisexual. I'm trying to crawl into myself and like marinate my innards with some kind of love (like self love or loving the child in me that wasn't loved). I'm trying to think of sex as something that doesn't need to happen but it feels false because it does. Also, even if I came to trust men again, doesn't the world require me to still fear them, if a bit lesser than I'm doing right now? I have to learn to fear men the right amount. I should love and fear men to be in the world, again.

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Tess, sending my love to you. You can set the pace. You have to. No one else will. Your pleasure and safety are paramount. I have been there. I prayed very hard to not be scared of men anymore as it seemed like I was frozen in time. Around that time, I joined a fight gym and was there to work out, but it introduced me to the guys on the fighting team, and they were hilarious, handsome, and very silly. They reminded me that only a weak man is violent to women. Healing comes in weird and unexpected places. It thawed me enough to let me be brave enough to know I was going to recover, on my own time. You weren't dumb or stupid. Someone used your trust and openness against you. Give yourself everything you need, and then you will see that you attract more people (friends, lovers) who understand that to be close to you, they need to respect you. You will find the people who will be gentle with you. You will enjoy sex again. You will love again.

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Hi Tess, I feel you so much on this! I've been single for over a decade despite YEARNING for love too, and fear of men definitely plays a huge role. (I also recently discovered I'm probably bisexual but there's a part of me that thinks, 'what if I just want to be?') I just want to say that it IS possible to have a happy, healthy relationship with zero sex. There are plenty of happily partnered asexual people in the world, sex doesn't have to happen. But yes, this is so so hard. It's hard to even want, truly want, I think, when you are so afraid. I don't have the answers but I'm about to start EMDR therapy which I'm hopeful for, and Pete Walker's work on PTSD has helped me. I wonder if there can be a balance between fearing men and trusting singular men who've proven themselves worthy of trust. But first I think feeling safe and loved are the priority. I'm trying to marinate in self-love too, it's so so hard. I'm crossing my fingers for you and me both.

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folks, the difference between being bi and wanting to be bi? is how you feel in your gorgeous body when you imagine being with people, are with people, look at people, talk ro people, lick people etc. Check out trauma somatic therapies to introduce more connection with the body, slowly and gently.

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so when i imagine being with women, i feel it allll, but then IRL, most of the time i don't feel much. i'm constantly wondering if i actually want my fantasies in real life, or if it's some kind of disconnect. I'll definitely look into this, thanks!

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I feel similar at times. I gather that I need to be patient with me and that I need more time than any relationship ever afforded me. Thanks!

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I’m turning 31 on Wednesday. I have weird birthday melancholy. September is already a weird month. August feels like the Sunday of the calendar year to me and September is the Monday. Nothings wrong. I’m just sad and I don’t know why.

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I can’t help but laugh at all the late summer birthdays who came here to commiserate. Are we all deeply fucked?!

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August is truly the Sunday of the calendar year. I've always had a terrible time in late summer, so... you're not alone. <3 I'm turning 30 on the 26th and having VERY unsettling feelings about mortality in general, which is just super great lol

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Happy early birthday! Thank you for your solidarity and wishing you happy moments in this always weird month!

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Same, I’ve turned 31 in late august and i felt anxious. August feels very disconnected, and kind of lonely. And 31 feels like time passes by very quickly. Not a great combo.

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Katherine, I feel you on this. August can feel disorienting and disconnected—you're not alone. Sending you love and equilibrium.

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PS Happy Birthday for then! I'm 32, I feel you <3

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This is such a good way to put it! Also, as an August birthday, I still subconsciously believe that August is the mid-point of the year and then am terrified to learn that it's 2/3 of the way through. Anyone else?

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Happy Birthday! I just turned 31 too. Strange time for birthdays. Do something that brings you joy! Long walk in the park with coffee? <3 Sending warm wishes your way.

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Happy birthday to you too! Thanks for the kind thoughts. Hope you find some September joy too❤️

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Hi Heather. Going to join your vulnerability striptease and out myself as the LW for “want to stay”. I stayed. He got therapy. It’s been two months. When he was in the shower I had a strong urge to check his phone and I found lots of evidence of cheating. I packed up and left silently and will not ever be returning. We had a birthday trip coming up for me tomorrow. It was in my name so I cancelled. All that to say, I don’t regret a fucking thing. I told convention to go to hell and did my own thing and it felt really freaking good. And better yet, I followed my heart and the path it was nudging me towards. I can’t explain why that path was chosen for me by my heart but it was right for me, even though that same heart is in a whole lot of pain right now and mourning the loss of a carefully planned future. That said, I’m really loving the idea of not carefully planned futures nowadays so I’ll roll with that.🥰

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Also this “shower phone reveal” all happened about 2 hours ago. Nice and fresh!

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Well done!!! Just packing up and leaving silently is such a massive fuck you forever to him, I love it! Go give yourself all the love in the world, go have a wonderful life!!! Best of luck ♥️ x x x

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Hi Heather/Pollu: I've got the classic case of being trapped in a "chill" relationship with a dude. He hasn't DONE anything to make me increasingly angry, aside from the fact that he, well, hasn't done anything. We've been existing in this horrible limbo and the results of me texting him that I felt like we weren't getting anywhere was him saying "he's not in a place for a relationship but I've become one of his favorite people." And of course I went along with it and here we are, months later, still absolutely no where. I can't even say that I want a monogamous relationship with him bc I feel like he hasn't been vulnerable with me and I don't even really know him, but I know I feel like its getting increasingly painful to not know where we stand. How do I bring this up to him in a way where he doesn't feel like he's getting attacked (especially since I haven't voiced much concern as of yet)?

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I think I'd just pick a time when you're feeling okay and not angry, and then say: "I really want to know you better and I feel like I'm trying and I'm curious and I'm here but you don't want to show yourself to me. Is that true? What prevents you from wanting to tell me where you are?"

Remember that you're not there to teach him a lesson or punish him for not giving you enough. You're showing up and trying to see REALITY: you want to know what's possible. You want to see who he is, and where he is. And if that's the last thing in the world he wants you to see, then you're going to see THAT.

If you tend to love an avoidant puzzle of a man, I would look at your relationship with your parents and ask if there are avoidant puzzles there, too. If you don't address the original wound, it'll be hard to separate it from your current situation, which translates to: anger, blame, biting your tongue, not asking for what you want, and then giving a lecture on how great you are and what this man SHOULD be doing in the fact of such a glorious gift from the gods.

All of my lectures to boyfriends were really lectures to my parents. I was saying: "You can't even see me. All you want is my jokes and laughter. When I'm sad, you back away. I have more to offer you. Love all of me, not just the part that serves you."

Think about what you really want from love, and stand up for it. It's not about whether or not you're exciting and attractive and not pushy and not nuts. Don't fall into that ego trap of believing that when someone withdraws, your job is to BECOME SHINIER. You just want connection. You want to know him. It's simple. If he doesn't want that, he doesn't deserve blame of it. It would be really generous of him to tell you the truth about that right now. Thank him for it and know that there are men who are capable of a lot more.

And if he makes weird sputtering noises but then gets vulnerable and honest with you? That's when the real relationship begins. You still get to figure out if you want it or not, though. When the chill leaves, it's a whole new ballgame with new rules and new feelings. Honor yourself. Speak up without anger. Stay calm. Intimacy is HARRRRRD. Be good to yourself. xo

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*polly

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Sep 5, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

When I was dating my ex, he once said (in a joking, self-loathing way), "you should date [my friend], you're both so hilarious in a way that I'm not." Welp. We're broken up now (which has been very tough) and his friend and I have been texting nonstop for months. Friend has been super respectful, checking in with my ex frequently to ask if it's okay to talk with me and I've done the same, as we are now all very close with one another. Ex-bf told me I'm more than welcome to date his friend (which hurt, tbh).

This guy is insanely funny and I somehow NEVER tire of talking to him. He also brings out the funniest side of me and is a super sweet, smart, kind person. I asked my ex-bf if he thought friend liked me and he told me that he'd asked him already and he said: "Don't worry, I have a strict rule that I'd never date someone a close friend loved."

I think that rule could be overcome *but* I find it so hard to become attracted to this guy. When we hang out, the three of us, I feel nothing and just find myself pining for my ex. But it's the same even when we're 1-1. He is perfectly normal looking, I just...?? When we're texting though, it's a different story, and I want him. In any normal situation, I would orchestrate a hook up to calibrate but 1) covid and 2) once we cross into that territory, it feels like there's no going back.

We've become so close though that I'm considering literally moving somewhere with this guy for a month to work remotely and get away from the Norcal fires.

What does it mean if attraction fades in person?

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Sometimes that changes if you're patient with yourself and just enjoy each other's company without pressure. Sometimes it doesn't change. There's no reason to force anything or to try to make it into something it's not. These things find their level. You have to be patient and just watch it take shape and see how you feel as you go. Kind of a loose vague answer, but I think staying loose and vague instead of trying to define this thing IS the best answer here. Moving somewhere together sounds likely to trigger your avoidance. You might need some way of spending time together that's a little less all-in than that to figure out how you feel and what kind of energy exists between you.

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Thank you <3 <3 <3

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Sep 5, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I so hear you on the “no going back”! I have felt trapped in relationships incessantly, particularly by cultural tropes that dictate and limit my freedom to do whatever (as long as we don’t deliberately harm sb). You can change your mind! Everybody can! I am also not too hot by how tightly this threesome (three people relationship) is wound. Sounds confusing. I imagine myself wanting more space and boundaries.

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Thank you <3 <3 <3

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I am a 27 year old woman who has never had her first kiss or any romantic encounters. In 2019, I felt like maybe something with a new crush could work out. I asked him to hang out one on one and he said yes (but it wasn't a date....just 2 friends talking) and I felt like I could progress things. I felt like maybe I could get my first kiss at 26. But then my bday happened and then the pandemic happened. And now it feels like I can't get my first kiss at 27 or 28 with how long things are going. It feels like I can't get past this developmental milestone ever! I grew up religious so I was always a late bloomer and I do have some shame attached to romantic things. People get arranged married in my religion, and dating is not allowed. I don't want to get an arranged marriage but so many of my friends are. It feels like the most logical thing to do. I clearly am not good at finding anyone for myself (and I feel desperate at times). When you are pathetic, socially anxious, (possibly ugly), arranged marriage seems to be the right choice. But for some reason I want romance! I sometimes think if I can have ONE....just one...romantic kiss or date, I could finally say I experienced it and maybe say yes to an arranged marriage. I care too much about the magic of romance.

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You deserve romance! Romance is good! Plenty of guys are in your situation and wish they could meet you. Trust me. You are not pathetic.

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It's okay! I didn't have a real relationship (or a good kiss) until I was 26. Once it happens, it starts happening a lot more. Definitely get on dating apps if you're not already. It's okay to be picky but you should be able to set up at least one date every 3-4 months (covid makes it hard, I know, but also easier because virtual dates can be quick and fairly painless). You'll be fine! So many exciting romantic encounters ahead of you. <3 Don't lose hope.

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I just quit my job (in order to spend more time with my child, I had incredible working hours) - it was definitely the right decision but everyday I wake up with so much anxiety now that I can barely breathe. It's not so much financial anxiety, it's more reading 250 job descriptions every day and not wanting or feeling able to do even one of them. A feeling of not fitting/beonging in this world. I feel like a giant question mark and it's driving me insane: when people (kindly) try to ask me where I can see myseld or what I'd like to do in the future I just go blank and can't think of anything. I'm 35 for fuck sake. I should have figured this out a long time ago. It's driving me nuts, waking up everyday, asking myself: so what do we do NOW?

ALSO: WHO THE FUCK QUITS HIS JOB IN A FUCKING PANDEMIC??????

Sorry for everything, blah. Also my bad English.

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Job descriptions are insane nowadays. They want someone to do 8 jobs on one salary and for that someone to possess every human quality imaginable

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I am exactly in the same situation...or almost: 37, 2 kids. Can‘t find it in me to motivate myself for a new job, hate everything, no idea whatsoever what to do next and strangely a bit okay with it. Sending much love.

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Much love back to you, Eva and thanks for your reply. We'll figure it out. xo

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I quit mine too. And I've struggled with "what do I like and what can I even tolerate and commit to" for a lot of years. Were you by chance a really good student growing up? I have often felt like I learned to get validation from my teachers for my achievements so early that I never learned to validate myself. Like, I'm not sure what to do if I'm not getting recognized for it. One question I stumbled on that helped was "Is there anything that you enjoy the process of a lot, without being attached to any outcomes?" In other words, is there anything you'd do just for the sake of doing and not because you think the outcome would give you that hit? For example, I always thought I was a good writer and think it would be amazing to be published, but I actually don't enjoy the process of writing very much and I suspect that my real motivation to publish would be the hit of recognition at the end rather than the enjoyment of the process itself. I hope this is helpful. If it's not, I hope it at least feels reassuring that you're not experiencing these lost and blase feelings alone.

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Thank you, Anna. <3

Yes, of course: really good student, people pleaser, kind of good at everything (but at nothing in particular) - I know it's about enjoying the process, but even this simple concept is stressing me out: like.... I immediately tend to overthink this: do I really enjoy this? Could this be something? Nah. Could I use this for anything? So I kind of immediately jump to the result (which is not necessarily recognition) - I guess there is so much shame lingering around that I can't enjoy or feel anything just for the sake of doing.

Again, thank you very much - that you took your time to reply means a lot to me. (Sorry, I'm not a native English speaker... much love from the middle of Europe! xo)

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your English is very very good! don't apologize!

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Sorry! :'D

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I mean, I think a lot of people? Like they don't want to die of COVID-19? And also, school is at home right now, so who is supposed to take care of your kids and also teach them? I think you are doing good. I don't think you have to work all the time unless it is for money?

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I quit my job in a pandemic, too. We exist! And we're going to be okay!

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Much love to you!!! We'll figure this shit out.

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Hi Jane - just to say I identified with so much in your question and it was nice to feel that solidarity. Good luck and also I totally get it, especially the job search disgust.

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Thank you. It feels so good to read that I'm not alone with this. Fingers crossed and good luck to you!!

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I haven't quit my job but good god do I want to. Good for you for knowing what you need.

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I can relate to waking up and feeling so anxious you can't breathe. Be gentle with yourself. Drink water, inhale and exhale slowly. It's going to be ok!

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Okay thanks so much for this space. Incredibly grateful to know I’m not alone here with so many of the emotions. A couple weeks ago, I told my mom flat out that I felt like a loser.

My question is... does anyone else get really angry when your parents give you advice, even if it’s relatively good advice? I’ve been looking for a job for a while now, since I graduated in December. And my dad saw an opportunity at the company he works for opening up and is pretty insistent on me pursuing it. I’ve also been interviewing for a job that I’m interested in, but when I told my parents about it they were concerned about it not paying enough. Both situations had in them reasonable things for me to consider, but I feel like, EXTREME rage toward any suggestion from them, like I want to do the opposite just for them suggesting something I should do with my life. I’m wondering if this is tied to being the youngest in my family? And maybe just shame for feeling like I haven’t gotten to take care of myself fully yet? Also, I think I’m not sure if I always trust their intentions. For some reason I’m always thinking “you want to control me!!” The emotions are truly visceral, I have to try my best to get away gracefully from the convo before I start yelling at them sometimes.

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I think it IS tied to being the youngest. You might be the people-pleaser of the family who never has space to be negative. So you've never been a real teenager and resisted them. You've always gone with the flow and remained cheerful. You have pent up rage about being put in a box. Possible? That was me... AT AGE 38. lol. Nightmare.

Whatever it is, you have to cultivate your compassion for them while also putting their opinions about what you should do in a box, too. This moment is YOU deciding what's right for YOU. This is where you learn to trust yourself. If you can put that into words, do that. Maybe in an email, as directed by the wise Isabel, below. You need a little breathing room right now.

And maybe you need to learn to say: "I feel angry in this moment, and I know it's not your fault, but please give me a little space." Difficulty level: HIGH. But practice it.

Remember: You're the one who has to DO THE GODDAMN JOB. Choose something you enjoy or could enjoy as you climbed the ladder, because it's very hard to succeed at a career you hate.

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When you said the thing about not being a teenager, I got a little sting in my eye. I think that’s very true. I was never oppositional. We had a chaotic household when I was young. It is VERY hard to bring up those negative feelings and not let them set everything on fire. Thank you for affirming that I am the only one who has to live my life. I will practice

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'I am the only one who has to live my life'. This is great, this really works for me.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Yes. I absolutely hate it when my parents give me advice, on anything really, but especially when it's job-related. My dad used to send me job ads (I have a few jobs! I am happy! But obv I am not doing something impressive enough / high earning enough for him), my mum often says 'why don't you do choral directing/journalism/insert-other-career-option-that-she-would-have-liked-to-pursue).

I'm an eldest child so I don't think it's because you're a youngest that this angers you so much.

I think it probably has to do with the parent/child relationship straining - if you're old enough to be applying for jobs (I'm 36!) you're clearly an adult, but having a parent give job advice feels infantilising. I feel the same anger when Mum whispers 'cover your mouth when you yawn!' or similar - um, I'm an adult, please don't say that to me.

While job advice from parents still angers me, I'm trying to practice more Ask Polly style compassion, both for myself and others.

They mean well. They love me and want me to be happy. They are old and retired and there is part of them that does want to relive their 30s through me. The world of paid work is out of reach for them now so they get excited thinking about what MY options are. It's really annoying but, in a way, it's sweet and understandable. Maybe I will be like that one day when my toddler son is an adult (although I hope I'll remember not to be!)

So I just smile and nod and try to let the advice flow over me and disappear. Normally it does.

However, if it is really angering you and is more persistent and constant, here is another option.

I recently had a situation where my parents both kept insinuating, on a regular basis, that we should buy a house. That they would 'help us' but that we really should, by now, own a house. We are in a particular situation which I won't go into, but basically, we don't want or need to buy a house just now. Also, buying a house would involve a large loan from my parents and the attached control over our lives that this would give them. Which I don't want. The constant commenting was really getting to me.

Being a non-confrontational family, I wrote them a long, polite, firm email. I pointed out the constant 'buy a house' narrative I had heard coming from them. I laid out our reasons for not wanting to buy a house just now. I laid out the differences between their lives in their 30s and ours. I said, politely, that if/when we want to buy a house 'we can discuss it as adults' but until then, we are happy, thanks.

SINCE THAT EMAIL THEY HAVE NEVER MENTIONED US BUYING A HOUSE AGAIN.

I'm sure they think and worry about it constantly, but they don't bring it up because I drew a boundary, and that's a win.

Hope some of this might help you!

Just know you're not alone in finding parental advice and interference incredibly angering.

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This is great advice. Here's my terrible parent-y advice: Ask them for some money free and clear (not a loan) for a downpayment and use it to buy a house! Owning a house is great.

Okay ignore that, and you do you. I just wouldn't be nearly as secure if I hadn't pulled the trigger in spite of big fears, right around your age, so I feel compelled to say so.

Love the advice to write long, polite, firm emails, though. Very helpful.

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Thanks so much— I love this email idea, and I think I’ll do something like that. I think texting is hard and sometimes phone calls are tough too! I think I will also in the future be confronted with them offering financial help for things like a loan, etc— I don’t see it going away. I’d like to start establishing ways of communicating boundaries now so that I don’t continue to feel like they’re trying to control me or run my life over. Thank you!

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BEEN THERE. I don't have advice, but extreme solidarity.

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Hey heather/polly! I’m not feeling like asking for help but I want you to know that your advice has helped me grow into an adult who knows what is hers and what she needs to ask for, even when she won’t get it, so she’ll know for sure to leave. I call you and a couple other people my stranger mentors and when you move on to writing something else I will just use your old columns to remind my of the stuff I need to hear. xoxoxo, Laura

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Thank you!!! xo

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

"Things feel pretty fucked," illustrated by that painting, is making me laugh in spite of things.

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People are just terrifying. I can't ask anyone for anything without feeling excrutiating shame, i have good friends (somehow) but give whatever they want from me and never ask for anything back. Naturally, the people closest to me just ask me for a lot because its either that or we have no meaningful relationship. I struggle to meet new people because it feels like i have nothing to say. I think I'm a good person with value and i see that most of the time when i'm on my own but put me with a bunch of people and it's like i don't exist.

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I want to give you a massive hug. It is ok, even healthy, to ask for help sometimes! It sounds like you're trying to take a lot on, and I sympathize with that very much and with your shame, but you deserve support just as much as your friends do. Maybe it would help to be very open with at least a few people about this--to say flat-out, I feel so ashamed saying this but I need help? I suspect you would get a lot of support in response to that, which might help you fight these habits moving forward. Also, remember that often people *like* feeling needed--so asking someone for help may actually do both of you some good.

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Thank you! I guess I spend too much time in my head trying to figure out what the right thing to do/say is and if I just asked for things I’d get used to it. I’ve lived with shame most of my life so even if it’s always there at least I can get more out of the friendships I have

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I'm going to take a wild guess that when you did ask for something as a kid, things went very badly? That's how it went for me and I feel the same. Dear god, I don't want to ask for help or else people will explode at me.

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I’m sorry to hear that. I find it weird I got a lot of things kids want just not emotionally at all and maybe not without being told I was bad. I told my grandparents once when I was 6 that I didn’t want pizza because they couldn’t afford it. I suppressed how bad my childhood was ( Frequently Abused) until I was at least 20 (30 now). I think a combination of internalising messages like ‘you are good because you are not screaming like the other kids’, my mother not being able to be seen/heard or valued and my father being abusive has led me to the problems I have now.

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You deserve to take up space sometimes. It's the hardest thing in the world to get in touch with our own needs and then put them out there to be seen by everyone. But it's your right as a human to have needs and have people in your life who consider it an honor to fill them for you.

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Just returned from neurologist appt. I’ve had a bad headache that started in an instant-like a pop went off in my head-during an intense and emotional argument with my husband 2 weeks ago. Living with this pain all day long for 14 days has been debilitating. Good news Doc doesn’t think it’s life threatening but ordered an MRI for peace of mind. Bad news is he suspects I’m depressed, stressed and feeling lost. Hmmm pandemic, Trump, menopause, last of my 4 children to graduate, pay cuts due to pandemic, money tight, college decisions...why would doc think depression? What do you recommend so I can chill the fuck out? Besides the monumental fight from 2 weeks ago, I’ve got a pretty great relationship with my husband of 28 years, great, kind kids and a roof over my head and food in the fridge. Jesus. I sound pathetic. Maybe I just answered my own question. Thanks for all you do. I love everything you write and how you think.

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I have a lot, too. You're not pathetic. Life is fucking hard right now. Empty nest and menopause together: BIG OUCH. Throw in pandemic and Trump. Shit, pandemic and Trump alone! It would be MADNESS if you didn't feel bad right now. This is what I suggest: Go to your husband and say "I need your help." Ask him to listen, or rub your back, or both. Tell him the raw feeling you're having that's not about him at all.

Two days ago, I said to my husband, "I don't want to do anything right now," (angrily, upset) and then he listed all of the shit I've been going through and told me how fucking hard it was and I burst into tears and he sat there with me while I cried. It felt good to just say: "Fuck. I'm doing all the right things butI feel BAD today." It also felt good to have him list all of my shitty hurdles from the past few months, because I just expect myself to *keep leaping over them* without a break or a pause.

You don't sound pathetic to me at all. When you *feel* pathetic, though, it helps to say so, out loud, and to say, clearly: I need a minute, can you spare a minute? Simply connecting helps. You'll find your way back to higher ground eventually. Be patient with where you are.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I’ve got almost 30 years of stress triggered migraines and they never stop being worrying and annoying. Especially when they last for weeks, then they’re also exhausting. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. There are meds they can give you to stop the headache. And things to prevent more. I’m with Lolly in thinking therapy might help, it’s helped me, even when it doesn’t make the headaches stop it’s good to have a safe space to say I hurt and it sucks and not be ok about it. Oh, and my migraines were pretty much controlled for a long time with a lowish dose of an antidepressant, I tried a few over the years because of issues with side effects. I’ve had to add in more over the years, because my brain is truly an asshole, but your neurologist should be able to prescribe at least that as a starting point. There’s a lot to be upset about now, don’t beat yourself up because your body is reacting to it. Good luck, I hope it goes away soon.

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

This is going to sound cliched, but have you thought about talking to a therapist? I know you said money is tight, but depression is real. It sneaked its insidious little claws into my life this summer. I didn't even realize what was going on. My life is pretty good relatively speaking. I just thought I was having more perimenopausal BS.

Fortunately, I've already got a therapist that I like and trust. And I'd had some money I'd been saving for travel that I decided could be budgeted for therapy. We've been doing appointments on Zoom a couple times a month. She's had some good ideas, and I've been getting some helpful insights into how this whole fucking pandemic is affecting me in my specific situation.

I'm the type of person who isn't so good at recognizing her own feelings and working with a therapist helps get this stuff out. So, now that I have a better sense of what I'm actually feeling, I can work to address some of these things. And the depression is lifting bit by bit.

Also, I hope your MRI comes out normal and that there isn't some other issue you're dealing with. Good luck!

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

You don't have to perform gratitude for something so basic as a roof over your head. You're allowed to want more for yourself

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Oh you poor thing :( Download "curable app" on android or iOS. It is incredible for getting rid of emotional pain.

Also this: https://vimeo.com/388604331

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Thank you kind stranger for these suggestions. I’ve done a deep dive into the Vimeo video, researching docs and books and I swear to god, I feel better. I have relief! Not 100% but I’m living again.

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Oh, so glad to hear it. This made my day :) I'm the blonde-ish person in the video :D

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I've been struggling to let go of a man I fell in love with 15 years ago (!!). I knew when I met him he'd be bad for me (charismatic, famous, avoidant, unavailable), but the connection was undeniable. I justified continuing to see him by the constraints of my own life: single mom to a teenage son, living in a town where I'd already worked my way through the short list of potential matches, the fun / thrill of dating someone who lived in (and took me to) sexier places. It helped that my family liked him: he was a lot like my dad — the charismatic alpha male thing. I see now that I was doing the same 'Look at me!' tap dance I'd done growing up, and while I've been determined to stop it, the need to be seen, to find my value in being the adoring mirror to a powerful man, still pulls me in. It's such a quick fix. I know I need to look elsewhere — to look for a quiet, undramatic love with a man in Dockers — but I can't bring myself to do so. How can I stop the shame cycle? Do I block Mr. Flame? That seems silly; we don't even talk much anymore. So why is my first thought every morning, 'Why doesn't he love me?' And why do I loathe myself because of that thought.

Signed,

A Moth Who Loves Too Much

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I also have never gotten over someone I met and fell in love with over 10 years ago, and I don't know how much my situation is the same or different, and if this will be helpful at all or not, but for myself I try to realize that still feeling attached to this person after all this time, it must be more an attachment to who I have made them to be in my mind than who they are. I think I can't let go because they symbolize to me something I'm still looking for, like a beacon of some sort. Maybe it's as simple as the way I felt with them: I felt like he really listened to me, remembered and put together the things I said and really saw me, in a way that surprised me because I hadn't experienced much of that before in my life. He made me feel in some way that I was enough, just the way I was, and it was deeply calming somehow. I think this person still stays with me because these are all things we need to look for in life, and some of it we have to learn to give to ourselves, some will come from friends, and hopefully from a romantic partner as well. But I think it's good to aim for whatever was so powerful about your experience with this person. I just try to separate it from thinking it's really this one physical person who if I just had another chance........ Like you, I can recognize things that would have eventually bothered me about the person, and it most likely would have never worked out practically. But I try not to feel the shame of thinking, like, "just get over it!" because I think it's ok if this person is just the embodiment of the type of connection I'm looking for, and a reminder to not settle for less or put up with someone who makes me feel unseen or somehow not enough.

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Thank you, Katherine. This is super helpful. I'm also going to read Guy Winch's 'How to Fix a Broken Heart.' I do think there's an addictive element coupled with recreating my family system.

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Off the top of my head: I've had obsessions like this because I couldn't find anyone better to replace the dude in my head. That's usually why it happens.

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Sep 9, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Dear Patron Saint Polly,

I love reading your advise so much, thanks for lending us your time and thoughts. You got me through one of my toughest breakups.

I'm struggling with a relationship where I've caught feelings for somebody who came on strong and sweet, but has started to dwindle. He's giving me some mixed signals (like saying he doesn't want a girlfriend right now but could see a relationship in the future). My anxiety isn't letting me walk away because my hope is too strong and I'm tunnel visioned into my feelings for this guy. Also, I just found out my dad is dying and all I want is the support of a partner, and I feel ashamed for craving that.

What would you do?

Yours truly,

A big fan

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"What would you do?" and "What should I do?" are two different answers. Here's what I did at your age: stayed with every single wishy washy boyfriend for exactly two years and then realized it was going nowhere and dumped them. Here's what I should've done: Given myself at most 8 months with a wishy washy guy, and also stated my interests and desires upfront instead of pretending I was chill. He's definitely telling you clearly that he isn't sure, and in my experience, let's say 8 times out of 10, that won't change. That said, sometimes things do change. Also, life is short, times are tough, you're going through something horrifically difficult (i'm sorry about your dad!), and arguably this is a moment when you just do whatever it takes to muddle through. Just try to piece through how you'll feel if he remains distant and how you're going to sort of roll with that. Consider redoubling your efforts to connect with friends, increasing your exercise level if possible, and taking up some activities that keep you focused when you're starting to despair. But above all, be gentle with yourself. It's hard to get this moment right! These are suboptimal conditions, to say the least! Give yourself what you need and try to be patient with whatever comes next. Your life won't be made or broken over one dude who's not in a place to commit - trust that. There are always more men. That's been my mantra for decades and I'm sticking to it. It's fine to cling sometimes, and it's also a very good idea to stoke your belief in abundance and your own appeal, even as the world fucks you up. xoxo

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Oh lord, maybe it should be comforting to see how Not Alone I am in this pain, but my heart is just continually breaking for myself and everyone else going through it right now. I'm 22 and just graduated from a shitty, directionless undergraduate program (which I'm 200k in the hole for), completed an incredibly intense coding bootcamp that pushed me to a breaking point with my mental and physical health (coding doesn't SEEM like it should be super physically strenuous, but my sciatica and carpal tunnel beg to differ), had a painful breakup with my best friend/roommate of 2 years, moved back into my mom's house until I get a job (god knows when)... and this amazing man, I'll call him K, supported me through this all. We met early 2019, de facto moved in together later 2019 (as one does with NYC rents) and "officially" moved in together in January. We had our fair share of relationship hurdles but our communication, vulnerability, and genuine desire for each other and for our relationship to work buoyed us through over a year of living together. Unfortunately, spending 20+ hours/day less than 2 feet away from each other as we both worked from home led to a breaking point... or did it? I've always been very queer and 80% women-leaning in my desired partner, and at some point in the relationship that became a huge problem... or did it? I'm having so much trouble parsing through everything I'm going through right now and that makes me sad. He felt/feels like family to me, and my brain keeps whispering "you need him you need him you need him" but something else inside of me is saying "no, you don't." I guess what I'm asking is, after reading many of your columns that advise people to stick things out, open their harts to their partners, see how things go... what does it mean that I just don't want to? I don't want to parse through this ambiguity anymore. I don't want to have to prioritize him like I have for the past year, like I would want to in a Real Adult Relationship. I don't want to see a future with him, I don't want to settle down at age 22, I don't want to give in to inertia. How can I know where the line lies between sabotaging my life by not giving something beautiful a fair chance to flourish and heeding my gut feelings, though they are murky and contradictory to the point that I feel like an unreliable narrator of my own life?

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This all seems like one big tangle in your brain (no judgment, that's how my feelings are 24/7) so it might be worth the effort to sit down and think about each thing individually. Maybe your feelings about your career are leaking into your feelings about the boyfriend. Or maybe you genuinely want out of this relationship. It kinda sounds like you do. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe you want to leave but the logistics of leaving him or just the sheer reality of it scares you. Lots could be going on. You are OK, though. You're doing well for a 22-year-old in a pandemic.

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thanks for the encouragement! I think the most brain-melting, ulcer-inducing part of all of this is that I've tried my darndest, with a therapist even, to parse this all but I just can't. It all bleeds together, all this loss at once. The confusion is so disturbing to me. I feel like I don't even know what's going on and I can't for the life of me understand my motivations or needs, which I'm usually pretty good at, even when I'm not acting on them.

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It's surprisingly hard to know what you want sometimes. It usually becomes clearer with time, in my experience.

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Lol @ me saying "I'll call him K", never referring to him by K again, and submitting this question without realizing how funny that looks

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I wonder what it would do to flip every sentence at the end of this from “I don’t want” to “I want.” It sounds like you are a person who isn’t used to heeding your gut feelings, but you know they’re there. My guess is they’re only murky and contradictory (we’re all contradictory!) because you don’t trust them yet. You’re 22! That’s OK. You’re doing great! You’re allowed to listen to yourself and it sounds like you are well on your way.

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I’m 30 going through a similar situation with a man I genuinely believe (believed?) was my soulmate. For me all I can do now is focus on myself and my (amazing) career and trust the fact that if we love each other then something will find a way.

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I've been struggling with mourning my mother, who passed at the beginning of quarantine (not covid, just cardiac arrest) a few states away from me--I'd just started quarantining in NY with my girlfriend of a few months, who I'd been long distance with for most of the relationship, and she was incredible considering she hasn't lost a parent and that we'd had lots of issues while we'd been apart (mostly due to my fears around infidelity, I'd been cheated on in my last relationship). I was so inconsolable about not being able to see my mom off and about being an orphan now, and I wasn't always the nicest to my gf but we pulled through, of course not before a few fights that got me to snap out of my weird state of anger over what had happened. She stayed at mine for a few months and is now back at hers, and we're about to move in together next month when her lease is up, but I still feel depressed about the pandemic / my loss and I'm really afraid that I'm a drain on her--she's an optimist and she clearly cares for me still and says she's excited to move in together but I hate the idea that she's tired of me or finds how down I've been predictable, it scares me so much that she might think I'm permanently unlucky or broken.

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I'm so sorry about your mom. It's terrible that you couldn't be there - unspeakable - and it's so hard to mourn someone adequately under our current nightmarish circumstances. You have to expect and stand up for your own right to be very, very, very sad and depleted -- privately, and with your girlfriend. Your fights with your gf partially reflect your shame over having a lot of emotions and your fear of looking weak and pathetic to her. There's no such thing as permanently unlucky or broken. Push that out of your head and get your own back, here. You get to feel this now or later. Everything sucks and that makes this a not so bad time to really feel everything, as long as you're not falling under completely and rewriting your entire so that it only serves despair and darkness.

The year my dad died, I was in very bad physical shape and kind of a drunk, too. After he died, I spent two months in NC in my mother's house just pulling ivy out of her backyard. It had overtaken half of the yard. I was covered in bugs and bug bites and filth every single day. I brought a boom box (remember those?) outside and blasted it while I worked. Three Mile Pilot. Rage and despair. Then I'd take a bath and cry. On the days I didn't do hard labor, I walked and ran until I hit 10 miles, listening to music, and cried. I also called a few friends and would talk on the phone for a few hours at a time - those calls were pure joy because every other minute I was grieving.

Physical effort will pull you out of a dark hole. Connection to others will pull you out. Welcoming sadness also welcomes everything else. If you believe that sadness is weakness, your shame will make you depressed and you'll lash out at everyone around you. Let yourself be fragile. Talk to your girlfriend about this, and talk about how you'll both figure out how to make space for each other's needs. Start out of the gate in a considerate, caring place with each other and always keep an eye on that mutual care. You have to protect that. You can't let it slide into silence and contempt. Shame will take you there. That's why you have to deal with your shame around sadness, thoroughly and completely.

If you don't mourn now, you'll have a breakdown and mourn five or ten years from now. You don't get to skip this. Let this moment show you how to grieve and be vulnerable. There's nothing less unlucky than a person who knows how to let their grief in. Feeling sadness is a gift: you get to welcome the whole world in, through osmosis. Everything glows. Look for the joy here, and the intimacy, and the trust. Talk about it. Let it ALL in. xo

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Sep 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thank you so much for this! I emailed you in 2018 when you were at NYmag (signed "hiding in plain sight", from 7/13)...I'd just gotten out of the relationship where I'd been cheated on, I'd figured I'd never get into another one precisely because I'd realized that my biggest insecurity / the thing that most disqualified me from feeling real happiness was actually my mom's situation--she was unhoused the last few years of her life and that weighed on me tremendously. I feel like even back then I had a sense that being loved while facing what seemed (and eventually proved to be) inevitable for her was going to wreck me, and when her poor health caught up with her really quickly this year and left me even unable to say goodbye I was (and am) devastated and angry and weirded out that I have to pretend she wasn't homeless when she died because it's clear that's what she would've wanted. I didn't expect two years later to be with someone I love this much, but I do feel a lot of shame that my poor gf that can't possibly fathom what this year-long nightmare was like for me and now she's having to witness me be so sad--I know she's out of her depth and doesn't mean to be hurtful sometimes when she says a conversation is "heavy" or gets a little cynical because she feels bad for not being able to cheer me up, I try not to take it personally. As uneasy as it makes me you're right that I still have to face what I have to face, though, no matter who might want to eye the door if it takes too long.

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