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Hey there Heather and everyone else. I've never felt so low in my life and could do with any help and thoughts anyone might have. I'm almost 40 and my boyfriend (of a year or so – he is in his early 30s) broke up with me last week because he's not ready to have a baby, and so suddenly, I'm going it alone, I guess with an anonymous sperm bank donor. I knew it could go either way with him as he does want kids one day, just not yet – but we love each other. And I thought he'd say yes. I mean, who throws away a life partner?! (The only one either of us have ever found thus far, after years of fruitless searching in my case). He does, it turns out. I am so depressed. I live alone and was used to having him here, on my sofa, and I have to admit that life feels pretty pointless at the moment. Can anyone help? And yes, I definitely want a baby. Have investigated this enough to know that despite the situation I'll still go ahead and give a child all my love and the best possible life I can; that's not the issue, I've got that. Anyway – thank you!

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

i think it says a lot that you still want to go forward with having a baby despite the fact that you lost your partner. The fact that your mind is still made up is so affirming. It's clear that this man did not want a baby, but what is even more clear is that you do, and you will. I envy this type of certainty about wanting something that you have. You will be a great mother!

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This sounds so difficult. I'm sorry. It's so upsetting to feel like you have a good thing that has to end. I have to say, I love that you're sticking to your guns about the baby. I think that's smart. The people I've known who gave up what they wanted to stay with someone didn't fare that well over the long haul. You know yourself and you know you're doing what you believe will make you happy. I think you have to mourn but also try to live there, with that belief, as much as you can.

Someone just sent me this column I wrote advising someone to have a baby, and said that it helped her keep the faith while she was pregnant. Maybe it'll help you, too. Having a baby alone is obviously hard but I know more than one person who's done it and can't say enough about how glad they are that they did.

https://www.thecut.com/2018/01/ask-polly-should-i-have-a-baby.html

I know I'm annoying about this but if you can exercise, you should. Heartbreak and grief from any big loss are custom-made for exercise. Exercise gives you hope and also reminds you that your body wants to live and likes to eat and likes a lot of great things, actually. It's primitive but it does help. Hang in there. This crisis will bring you all kinds of good things that haven't revealed themselves yet. Try to keep your heart open in spite of everything.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thanks so much, Heather, and sorry for just diving in there and not even wishing you well with your recovery! I hope you're doing okay. Your Cut column on this is really fucking wonderful and slightly fleshes out my vague notion of what I might hopefully be getting in exchange for giving up the man I love, who is extremely useless and stuck right now, though he will want to be a parent one distant day, long after my fertility has turned to dust. I will try to live in both places, the hell of losing him for this and the glimpse of hope that you convey about what it really is to have a baby – thank you.

Also, I am exercising ferociously! And will try to believe in the good things that haven't yet revealed themselves. Thank you, thank you.

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So glad to help! I can tell by the way you're writing about this experience that you're going to be able to bend a bad situation and make it good for you. Not everyone has that weirdly capable, independent vision for themselves, so relish that. I am bad at so much of life but I'm good at picking myself up in a crisis and building from it, and milking every little bit of inspiration I can from it, too. Knowing that you're GOOD under pressure is such a gift, so notice that and feel proud of yourself, as much as you can. Moving from shame to pride has been maybe the most powerful thing I've done this year. Shame still exists, but pride dominates, and it's made me a million times stronger and also more satisfied, calmer, and more generous. But most of all, you're right not to wait around for him. You're going to honor your biggest desires. That's half of the fight! xo

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

thank you, everyone! weird how comments from strangers on the internet can really help...

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YEAH!!! I think one thing I've learned this year is that when you feel shitty and you don't really want to ask anyone for help, FIGHT THAT. So many of us who spend too much time online are either introverts or overthinkers or avoidants or all of the above, and we often need to remind ourselves that people thrive on human connection. It's a simple emotional food and it helps in ways we can't always explain. Sometimes now when I feel kind of meh I think "Should I call a friend?" That hasn't been my first urge under duress, historically, but I think of it more like hunger now. "Should I have a snack?" It's like you call a friend and you both magically eat.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thinking of you, E. I so admire your courage and commitment. You will be a wonderful mother, no matter how rocky the path is to get there.

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I don't think we'll ever be able to see clearly ito anyone else's head. It's always sad to see someone act unlike what we thought they would, but that's the way of the life, I guess? Your life is not pointless. You'll find a lot of happiness in the future, as fucking dark and sad today is. Sending you lots of love!

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I'm so sorry that you're going through this, and having to give up on the dream you had of having a baby with someone you thought would be your life partner. It sucks that he wasn't ready for kids, but it's also really good that you were both forthright about what you wanted and saw the wisdom in ending things before it got even harder. You should be proud of yourself for seeing so clearly the life you want, and being willing to own that. That just isn't an easy thing to do in our culture. And kids are the best...just the best. I hope that five years from now, you are able to look back at this time and be completely certain that everything was for the best.

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thank you, all of you. It's hard to see the bright side of this right now, so reading that my choice is affirming and courageous – and that I've chosen the life I want in the long run (however painful it feels now) – is truly doing me so much good.

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I’ve spent the past two days stuck in my head, and after some overwhelming feelings and journaling, with a little bit of crying, I’ve come to the realisation that I hate myself. You always try to avoid that thought. Like, “no, I don’t HATE myself, I’m exaggerating, I’m just feeling a little insecure.” Well, that’s not the case. There’s insecurity there, sure. But based on all the things I put myself through the past year, the things I let slide, I absolutely hate myself. This is both a scary and freeing thought. Freeing because, finally, I don’t have to lie to myself and pretend I don’t hate myself and try to see a friend that I can’t spend more than a few hours with to lift my mood. Scary because hating yourself means, at least in my case, that you don’t care about yourself. I spent my whole life working towards grades, red numbers scribbled on a page. With this pandemic I realised that I wasted all that time with my head in a book because it didn’t lead me anywhere, and everyone else who did not studying as hard as I did, are out living the life I spent so long working for. All that left me with was a bad case of perfectionism and impostor syndrome. Everything I thought of myself feels false and I feel horrible in every way and I know I’m spiralling but I genuinely don’t know if I care that I am. I have no motivation to do what I want to do, the things I love don’t bring me joy anymore, and I just feel bad about myself. It’s even worse because I’m just EIGHTEEN. I shouldn’t be feeling like this horribly so young, should I? I just don’t know how to keep pretending like I’m okay, because I sincerely don’t know how to pick myself up again. It feels too lonely and too scary and I don’t think I care enough to try anymore.

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I'm so sorry that you're feeling terrible. You need to see a therapist because talking about it will make it less lonely and scary. Can you ask a parent for help with that? Can you ask a friend to help? If not email me askpolly at protonmail and we'll figure it out. Just please keep in mind that where you are is the first step toward feeling more joy, feeling more free, understanding who you are, familiarizing yourself with what you want and need to survive, so many things. You haven't wasted any time yet. Working toward achievements you can't feel is a very, very common thing, sadly, and so many other people here will tell you that they've been through the exact same realization. Even though you feel like you'll never feel normal or good, this bad space your in will shift and you *will* feel like a completely different person. Have faith in that if you can. Reach out and ask for help. You don't have to pick yourself up. You can tell someone "I can't get up" and they'll tell you what to do next. It's all about starting where you are and accepting that we all find ourselves there repeatedly in life, and we all have to ask for assistance to get the fuck out of that spot. You're smart and you're already noticing what's helpful and freeing about seeing the truth. Throw in this message: "I'm not going to blame myself for this. This isn't my fault. All living beings deserve love and I'm one of them. I will work hard to accept who I am even when I feel angry at myself. I'm enough the way I am." Reach out to your parents and friends and be honest about where you are. Be clear. Don't pretend. Email me if you feel stuck. xo

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Thank you for your response. I've been reading your column for months now so I admire you a lot. I'm going to try to open up to my brother or a friend and see what happens from there. It's difficult for me to ask the closest people to me for help because I'm worried I'll get rejected, and it's embarrassing for me to show that the perfect image of me is less than that. I hope I don't get stuck but if, or perhaps //when//, I do, I will email you or try other ways. Thank you again, really, your words and the words of everyone else who commented made me feel less alone. <3

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I feel every word of this response because I’ve been there and sometimes I still am there. A couple decades beyond you. You’re so not alone.

It’s ok that you feel the way you do. It’s okay to want to feel different and to head toward different-feeling-ness like you’re on a mission.

We want to be noticed and loved but don’t want perfection to be the price of admission, and yet it feels that way, sometimes a lot.

Cheering for you writing your comments here, it’s a good step. Wishing you the courage to take the next one, and the next... every tiny step counts.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I can’t fashion a reply to all of your concerns but I can address one. Yes. You should feel this horrible at 18. Youth is hard. We lie and say it is easy but it is not. Experience with life, with others, and with your truest self is actual what makes life easier. But that is mostly unavailable in your youth. That will only develop in your life over the course of time. So. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. Be gentle with yourself.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

God, hearing that makes me feel so much better. Thank you for the reply, I will try to be better to myself.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

This happened to me when I was 25! and and the worst part of it was realizing just how much sooner I could have started fixing things, getting help etc if only I hadnt lied to myself! this is good, you are good! take this seriously and help yourself. You are not alone. you don’t have to be okay and you don’t have to keep a facade. from one overachieving perfectionist to the other just try to let yourself want the things you want, and pursue them without shame.

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Dude. I get it! But, it's important to recognize you've actually landed at a very evolved place for your age. At 18 I thought I liked myself just fine, turns out an eating disorder was covering up my EXTREME SELF LOATHING. Which then had to be uncovered and sifted through over the upcoming years. Most people hate themselves and don't know it, then proceed to project that hate outward onto others (see the orange menace for an extreme example). The good news is you're clear about what's going on, and the fact that it scares you is also good. It's totally shitty to be where you are right now, but I really think you'll move though this. Now, unsolicited advice: Please order the book 'There is Nothing Wrong With You' By Cheri Huber on amazon right this minute. It may seem somewhat cheesy to you, but it's so fucking good. Also, read Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. Every. Single. Day. <3

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thank you so much. I hope you have recovered from your eating disorder and are doing much better today than you have in those years. I love Wild Geese but perhaps I don't read it enough. Your reply genuinely means a lot to me. Wishing you love <3

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I'm chiming in from the overachievers' club, and I can tell you I wish I had figured out what you have figured out when I was 18. Friend, you are ahead of the curve. The world needs your voice. If it takes you some time to figure out what exactly you have to say, we'll wait.

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Hello. When I was 18, I felt the same way you did. I gave myself entirely to a relationship and became a shell of a human and I remember the day I realized I really really despised myself. And I had spent my whole life performing in academics to be loved by my parents. I tried to beat out every bit of “sinfulness” I thought I had to be good to God. It was hard. I realized I had pared away parts of myself to other people and a really mean God and when I looked in the mirror, I realized I did not know or care to know this disgusting and lost human who had really bad coping habits. Listen, developing compassion for yourself is hard. If you are an achiever, chances are you are a stranger to yourself and so it feels like starting from scratch. Also, the world has fallen apart at a time in your life where all the things you were promised for working so hard you don’t get to even experience fully. I imagine it all feels like a lie! I have struggled with that, since I graduated last year and only just got a job this week. There’s opportunity here though in the space where you finally are honest about your feelings and when the “this was supposed to happen this way” doesn’t happen. Something that was helpful for me moving through the realization of self loathing was this: I remembered that over the years, I have been a Good Idea to people. I was a Good Idea to my parents who decided to have me. I was a Good Idea to the people who raised me. I was a Good Idea to my teachers and mentors. I was a Good Idea to the people who have held open doors and given me second chances and just texted me to see how things were going. I was a Good Idea to the stranger who bought me coffee in the Starbucks line. And the person who discreetly told me my skirt was tucked up under my underwear so my ass was showing 🤦🏼‍♀️. You may not be able to conjure self regard right now, but it could be helpful to reflect on the ways the over the years, people have affirmed your Good Idea-ness— people who don’t even know you! Imagine that. There’s evidence. Believe the evidence, bask in the evidence for a little while. I think you’re a Good Idea. I wish you well on your journey

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I relate so much to what you said. Almost everything, honestly. 18 has been a confusing time when I thought it would be the best time of my life. I hope you are doing much better now than before, and if you're not, then I wish you love on your journey as well and a reminder that I think you're a Good Idea as well. Thank you for sharing and your love <3

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Chiming in to say 18 was fucking rough. 36 here and thinking a good strategy is knowing things always get rough and better and rough again. Just last night I had a bad bout of loneliness and found watching a couple episodes of the new season of Mandalorian soothing. Time reading is never time wasted either; books are with you. We're with you. <3

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Thank you for your message. It's comforting to know that 18 wasn't as magical for other people as I was always led to believe. Books are a comfort, you're right. Thank you again for the love. <3

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I hear you, Tala. Lonely and scary is where I’m at. I think you’re on the right path. Keep checking in with yourself, and have compassion. Sending you lots of love and light. ❤️❤️❤️

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Thank you for your message and your love. I am sending love and light right back to you, and hope you find your way through the dark. <3

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Of course! Thanks for reminding me of my 18 year old self. She didn't like herself but I can tell you I think she was an amazing person. Gosh, I wish I could tell her all the cool things she's going to do :D

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Oh, Tala. I wish I could show you how much time you have to be who you want, and to not just live your life for grades and for whatever it is you feel like you're *supposed* to do. I was so the same. I was a perfect straight-A student, high school valedictorian, cried when I got my first A- in college. Meanwhile, I didn't really make any close friends the way others did, and looking back I am so envious of my peers who were having fun and making meaningful connections while I just stuck it out with my high school boyfriend who I secretly hated (and who hated me back), and worried about my grades and career. I was in a long-term relationship but it was not a healthy one and ended in divorce at 26. But it's been five years now and I feel like a completely different person, and it's sometimes mind-blowing to think how fast things can change. You are so young, and you have all the opportunity in the world for discovering yourself and making connections with other people. I hope you seek help from a therapist, parents, or friends, because there is so much hope here and I think they could help you see it. Sending you lots of internet hugs!

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Man, this sounds a lot like me at 18. Which was 16 years ago for me. So here's some things I've learned since then.

It's ok to feel like you hate yourself. But! Feelings aren't facts. Feelings come and go. You may feel like you hate yourself now, but that may change. Zoom out and look at more factual things about yourself. Are you doing things that show that you don't hate yourself? Do you have a safe place to stay, are you feeding yourself, and are you taking care of yourself? Great. If you truly hated something/someone, you wouldn't even be able to muster that kind of effort to care. For me, at my worst, it was at least easier to act like I didn't hate myself and to act like I wanted to care for myself than it was to think or feel that way. I actually went on for years without having my actions reconciled with my thoughts or feelings. And that's ok. You've probably figured out that your relationship with others can be complicated and the same is true for your relationship with yourself. You don't always have to be your best friend and your brain does not always have to be benevolent in order for you to have a worthwhile relationship with yourself.

For a long time, I thought that I just suffered from long-term depression with occasional bouts of acute anxiety, but working with a therapist actually made me see that it was the other way around. I walked around for about 15 years not really understanding myself or what was necessarily going on in my own brain!! But part of getting to a better place for me was addressing my issues with perfectionism and imposter syndrome and how both of those were rooted in anxiety and shame for me. Like, if I couldn't do something perfectly, then clearly I wasn't an expert and/or I didn't deserve to be in certain spaces and/or any accolades I had gotten were clearly just because I had fooled people. Some of that comes from having anxiety about having the rug ripped out from underneath me and some of it comes from the highly judgmental and shameful culture in my family about being high performers. An SSRI to address the anxiety took care of like 75% of that for me (especially the spiraling thoughts--no really, my brain does not have the same train of thought that it used to, and that is the coolest thing to me), and the rest was dealt with in therapy. If you're in a place to pursue mental health care, I highly suggest it. Even if you think you don't need it or it won't be helpful, a therapist will guide you through some really interesting and introspective conversations about yourself, and 18 is a really good age for that.

Time spent reading isn't wasted. Period. I have a PhD, trust me. The ability to sit down and do some studying and reading is not a bad thing. It may take a while, but if you do carry on with your education, you will find a niche that supports how much you know, how you process information, and your willingness to learn more.

"I have no motivation to do what I want to do, the things I love don’t bring me joy anymore..." It is absolutely ok to give yourself permission to take a break on going after what you want to do. If the things you love no longer bring you joy, then maybe you don't love them anymore, and that's ok! You're allowed to change!

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This is a hard thing to go through! School pushes you to be really perfect, that's not on you. You grow up hearing how you have to get good grades and go to college and get more good grades and then get an abstract job where you still have to get good grades. Real-life is not like that and I found the process of adjusting to it really hard. Still do and I'm almost 30.

It's a system designed to make you hate yourself, so you should feel proud you noticed it so young. I bet it will help you in the future, even though it's hard right now. :)

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Jumping in to say I dealt with the same thing when I was in my early 20's! (I'm 36 now.) What you're going through is VERY normal and common... although you may feel alone in your experience now, I think it'll ultimately be a gift to start your process early. It gets sooo much better. In my mid 20's I dated a guy who was my current age, and I would always beg him to tell me how he just let things that destroyed me roll off his back, and he would just shrug and say it got easier for him as he got older. And it's true. You learn to hear and listen to your inner voice telling you how your really want to spend your life, how to feel your feelings and cope with the bad ones, to care less about the outer symbols of "perfection" and more about what you want to contribute to and take from the world. Sending you all the love, it just gets better from here.

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Tala, I’m so sorry to hear! I was miserable at 18, but maybe you don’t have to be? I second the advice to seek therapy and share the burden with people you love and trust, and I also wanted to share what has been freeing for me personally. I am still working on it to this day (I’m pushing 35) but I wish I had accepted earlier that it’s ok to have a weird path in life, to fuck up, not to be « productive » or achieved (according to society + peers). These days I spend most of my time doing what I like instead of working towards some abstract goal. I read, take walks with my dog, watch movies, see friends (outdoors these days!) make art etc. I spent most of my 20’s going to music shows, I used to feel guilty and like I was losing precious time but now I’m glad I did. I had a lot of fun. Have fun!

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Tala, others have said it, but I have to repeat- YES, 18 CAN FEEL TERRIBLE! That's not to say you shouldn't seek help and support to find the courage to keep going and find a slice of hope, but to affirm you are SOOOOO not alone. I definitely had a time of reckoning with self-worth around 18, and it was pretty scary. (I just turned 38 which I am now realizing means I was 18...20 years ago!?). For some of us, there can be something special and magical and charmed about those very early adult years, but no one I know would want to repeat them because of how tough the the tough times can be. I also think the hardest thing about having difficult emotions/difficult realizations for the first time is that you've never felt them before and it can be hard to envision surviving them. This isn't just an age thing- I had severe anxiety/insomnia for the first time a couple years ago and it was super scary, because I'd never felt that way before. But now I know I can get through something hard like that, and have an idea of what my coping skills are, so it's not as scary. (Huge shout out to people who deal with that regularly.) I also want to tell you that you still have so much of life ahead of you, which sounds condescending, but I tell myself that, too! Or, in the words of one of my favorite songwriters, Joe Pug, "As long as you're not finished, you can start all over again."

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Heather, your heart is so good it radiates through your columns and threads. Thank you for creating this space.

The world doesn't prepare you for how raw it is to be 20-25 years old, I am glad to do it only once. My mother took her life when I was thirteen years old and it's just this year I have begun to grieve in a way that feels more immediate than before. This tumultuous year marked ten years since she's been gone, a milestone that crept up on me. If there's anything I know stages of grief is misleading, it's more like cycles. I feel as if I was put in a centrifuge as a young girl and I've been spinning at varying speeds for the entirety of my life. My entire identity changed forever just as I was coming out of my girlhood. The concept of death doesn't scare me but not being able to give your love to someone who desperately needed it, does. The concept of death plays in my head almost every day, different people, different scenarios -- and this year there is so much death around us. There's not much to say from me here, just that I miss the thought of having a mom, and the thought of others losing their kindred spirit to this virus feels heavy on everyone. I don't spend my days angry at the world for not allowing me to have one more butterfly kiss from her, but more for making me a cup for others when I wish to be an ocean -- something I am slowly working on. I am just hoping to shout into the void that my heart is heavier today than most.

My mom lived in a different city than me, and five years ago I moved to that same city for university. I recently had to order her death certificate to do some paperwork, it's been a long time, and it's just a piece of paper. Reading that piece of paper felt like holding a piece of my own history. On her death certificate it says it was an accident, I thought it was purposeful? The address she lives at is on my commute to work? What is acute combined methadone, fluoexetine and amitriptyline intoxication? Did you know a dead person can cry? I didn't know... I just don't know. It all feels like I am spinning faster than usual here inside this lonely centrifuge.

The digital age and death isn't something I feel has been written enough about. In 2010 I was thirteen years old, I grew up with the rise of the internet and social media.

There is a real dissonance between death in the physical world and the eternal life of someone who existed online. On Facebook my mom is a real woman 36 years old, every year I get a notification of our friend anniversary. It feels cruel and at once comforting. There she is right trapped behind a screen, forever intangible. I'll be on the train in my Photos app & it'll look at a photo of me and ask 'Is this 'Mom?' or 'Share this with 'Mom'?. I am pulled out of my reality into one where I remember -- yes I do have a mother and I suppose now than I am twenty-three we look alike. It makes me want to shout from the rooftops - "I have a mom everyone! Remember! I do!". So I suppose this is me shouting from the rooftop.

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Thank you for sharing this. I'm so sorry about your mother. I know the kinds of feelings you're describing very well. With everything that's going on, these things get kicked up and don't leave that easily. It's good and healthy that you can feel what's here, even though it's hard. Every time you let these feelings in, you make more space for joy, too, even though it doesn't feel that way when it's happening. I appreciate your words and the time you took to express some very hard to express feelings. Please take care of yourself and be good to yourself and keep reach out to connect with the people around you. xoxoxo

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We hear you! I lost my dad just three years ago, and I'm older than you by a decade, but grief has turned out to be unimaginably complex and continuously unfolding in new ways. I also feel that impulse to say "look! I am a person who had a father once!", and yet somehow when I look back at old photos it's hard to imagine that child with that parent was actually me. And this lonely year, the kind of year when it would have meant more than ever to have your parent to turn to, has really etched things deeper.

(Also, if you need it, one space that's been really valuable to me has been a support group called The Dinner Party which is specifically for younger adults and organizes around specific identities like loss to suicide or addiction or as a child. Getting to not be the only one in the room who's been through it, especially with the stuff that most people are uncomfortable responding to, like suicide, is such a relief.)

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Wow! Thanks so much for sharing -- these kind of comments really do mean so much. It can be so lonely and people just simply cannot relate -- my heart is going out to you in all the ways. I will definitely look into that resource, thanks so much!

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

this was beautiful to read. I am sorry for your loss. You might enjoy the essay collection Feel Free by Zadie Smith - lots of similar themes

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Thank you, I love Zadie Smith, I will have to read that collection xx

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I’m so sorry about your mum. You are a beautiful writer. Your post made me cry feeling compassion for the hard bits of what you’re going through. I’m so sorry for the parts that are hard and sad. And I think it’s lovely that you’re able to feel comfort in some of them too. Thinking of you this evening x

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Thank you I appreciate that so much!

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My estranged biological father just died, and I found out via facebook messenger while eating a burrito. My nuclear family all has covid right now. My very, very beloved grandmother is dying of Parkinsons and I can tell she is uncomfortable and unhappy every day. I got 7 job rejections in the past three weeks. I have been living in many different places, often many different countries, for 3-6 months at a time to try to keep my international relationship afloat. My mother has been alienating my siblings while dumping all of the emotional fallout of that on me. I found out on Thanksgiving that my aunt secretly took my grandmother out of her nursing home for an indoors, unmasked Thanksgiving and I burst into tears of rage and helplessness.

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Ugh, I'm so sorry. it's too much. It sounds like you need to give yourself a lot of love and space and exert your boundaries and also reach out and connect with people who understand. It's a balance. There are times when you can give a lot and other times when you have to notice that you're not capable of staying present. I think your mother's emotional unloading is a little too much for you right now, and noticing that and checking in with yourself to make sure you're not ingesting more than you can handle from her is important.

I've been much more selfish this year than usual, and as a result I've also been more generous with more people than usual. I think my health crisis has given me a solid reason to take my own needs seriously for the first time, and somehow the more I respect my shifting moods, the more I find myself thinking, "Oh, I should call X and just see if she needs to talk."

You're in the bunker right now. Everything you need to survive is your right. Take your needs very seriously, and respect your feelings. Don't be ashamed when you have nothing to give. It's impossible to refuel if you're feeling guilty or resentful. You have to give yourself a blank slate - some time and space to consider what you need - no matter how dire everything around you is getting. You need to stay healthy and not let yourself be a sponge for everyone else's crises. xoox

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i'm so sorry, this is way too much to deal with right now. i think letting yourself have the tears of rage and helplessness and just being there with them is sometimes the only way - you are not alone in such feelings, and i wish you all the strength you need to get through this. as people have said to me lately, 'if you're going through hell, keep going'. it makes sense xx

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I'm so fucking sorry. Sometimes I don't get how the universe expects us to deal with life. How can this many things get thrown at a human all at once? For what it's worth- I get it. I'm just trying to remember I'm not god/goddess. I can't control what I can't control.

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Your words are perfect and I really appreciate them <3

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I’m so sorry. My estranged biological father died earlier this week and I too found out via Facebook Messenger, but while cooking dinner. It’s been fun seeing things like my cousins posting on Facebook about how he was a “beautiful” father (among other things) and saying they’re thinking of his wife and sons - no mention of me. In fact no relative has got in touch to say anything like “we know you didn’t have a current relationship with him but he’s still your father and I’m sorry for your loss”.

The part about your grandma ... I’m so, so sorry. Your aunt had no right.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

This feels really stupid but I just put wedding invitations in the mail and I have these fleeting but heavy fears about my family collaborating to end my relationship or ruin my life somehow. We've been engaged since January and every family member I've told aside from my brothers essentially had the same response 1. Is he Muslim? 2. If not, when will he convert?

He and I agree that he will not convert (I'm secular and atheist myself and don't want him to). But instead of laying a firm boundary when asked I deflect, change the subject, hang up, or ignore texts. I realize this is a form of avoidance but my family is intolerant both of my lifestyle and his existence, and I feel the odds of us maintaining a civil relationship, or any relationship at all, depends on keeping the door cracked a bit...at least enough for them to get to know him as a human, which I want! I want this to be an opportunity for growth for them! That's the love in me, in both of us.

The fears in me tell me I'm opening myself to painful rejection at best and a lifetime of intrusion and perhaps violence? I don't really know what lies ahead. I'm in a support group for others from Muslim families to navigate this but no one has concrete answers. Some people are just cut off or disowned, others are harassed and need to get restraining orders, and other cases are worse. I guess my question is this: are we naive to want to merge these worlds? Is this a futile attempt? Are we just opening ourselves up to pain and danger? I want to believe the best choice is to give my family the chance to rise out of their bigotry and bias but I'm also afraid. What do you think?

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I don't know the best path here, but I agree with Tina that you have to protect yourself and be true to who you are at the same time. If I were in your situation, I think I'd look for therapist who understands the very specific cultural pressures here, *and* I would start to try to draw some clear boundaries with your family. "Leaving the door cracked a bit" seems to require lying to them, or pretending he will convert? Seems like you'll end up making a bigger mess and also you'll give them the impression that you're more malleable on these things than you actually are. I guess I'd want to make my position clear ahead of time, so that this stuff doesn't drag on forever. You ask if it's naive to try to merge worlds but you're also saying that you're secular -- that makes me feel like you need a lot of one on one time with a therapist to sort through various choices and outcomes. This is a huge decision and you need more input. I'm sorry I can't help more, but I think you owe it to yourself to really get granular and dive straight into the center of this in order to map out a clear path forward. You've got to think through how this could go on many fronts. I'm sorry it's so hard! It shouldn't be like this. If anyone else has experience here or suggestions, please chime in!

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It's really helpful to read this. I struggle with people-pleasing and keeping the peace (shocker!) because of an upbringing that largely discouraged independent thought and self-direction. You're right that I shouldn't leave it ambiguous if I know where I stand...I think I'm trying to hold onto an idea of a happy family by behaving that way. I don't want to lose these bonds even though they are with people who misunderstand and judge me sometimes. I don't want to lose the nonreligious bits of my culture. In the moments we can connect over language or food or politics or anything else, it feels like it's worth pretending. But I realize there is a psychological cost and it will almost certainly be more painful down the line as my parents age, or if we have children. This double-life is not something I would want to subject them to. Thank you for listening, it really helps. <3

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I see parallels here to my experience coming out as queer. I get wanting to give people you love a chance to grow and be better. That speaks to your character and integrity. I think that’s the right choice in many cases, and for me, many people rose to the occasion. But if you fear violence, then your priority should be protecting yourself. Do that any way you feel necessary, including by lying. I think ultimately you’ll need to choose between him and your family. I say choose the one that will allow you to live who you are. Don’t avoid others’ rejection by rejecting yourself. Otherwise, you’ll be repeating this scenario endlessly.

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"choose the one that will allow you to live who you are" This is so important. And I know that is my partner. I think I'm trying to negotiate with myself because of the possibility of losing my connection to a culture I already feel disconnected from (Egyptian/Arabic culture) I only speak Arabic with family, only my mom and grandmother cook the dishes of my childhood and so on. I guess I'm greedy. I want both and it's making me run in circles.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thanks Heather, I live for your columns and emails. You have such a gift, and you have found your dharma for this lifetime. Thank you for taking it by the horns and sharing it.

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Oh, these threads what a gift! Having just been ghosted by the guy I'd been dating for 2 months who lives 4 streets away I was feeling awful. I thought I saw him this morning and had panic attack in the parking lot. I felt so sad and discarded. Then I come here and see so many of us hurt and I think oh you lovely people! I want to help you feel better, we all care enough to share and be vulnerable. Thank you Heather for always having the best advice and opening up this space for us.

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Echoing this sentiment- we’re all hurting but the vulnerability from everyone is so affirming. Love to you GL- you’re not discarded, you are enough❤️

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Hoping for a swift recovery for you, Heather!

I think as I look toward winter, I'm trying to get back to taking things a day at a time, the way I tried (but mostly failed) to do in early summer. I get pretty intense seasonal affective stuff every year, and I'm so deeply not looking forward to navigating it this winter. In theory I want to be proactive about it, but I'm worried I won't have the motivation. Lately I've noticed myself trying to connect with someone, anyone online whether I know them or not, because boy has this introvert hit her limit in terms of how long she can go without human connection...it's like, you don't really know how bad you need it until you get a taste of it, and then you want the whole damn buffet, you know? While living in the day to day I'm also paradoxically trying to look ahead to when All This is over and we have something resembling normalcy again and how absolutely freaking GLORIOUS it's gonna feel every time we freely get together with a group of friends, no matter how many there are or how close we're standing to them. Big group events are going to be positively euphoric. Whenever things feel bleak again, that kind of stuff is what I want in my brain.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

A few years ago I was in a long term, on again off again, toxic relationship. I thought I processed most of my feelings and learned my lessons but I haven't. Having just binged watched the latest season of The Crown, I am staggering at all of the parallels between me/my ex and Diana/Charles - the vast age difference (I was 22, he was 32), the eating disorder (I also struggled with bulimia), the ways in which he ignored and resented her, the tiny fleeting moments of joy that gave the relationship hollow promise, the way in which she was blamed for her "crazy behavior" as though she acted in a vacuum. All these new memories of his abuse come racing back into my brain with such absurd clarity that sometimes I shout "Shit!!!" out loud in my apartment and my current, wonderful boyfriend is like "??? You good???" It's been 2 years but I obviously carry so much anger. Towards the end of my relationship, my ex loved to call me "abusive" but I really feel like I wasn't, I was having a proportional bewildered and hurt reaction to the extent of his disregard and utter contempt for me: another parallel, if you've seen the penultimate and final episodes. Beyond all of this, I know I do have longstanding anger and jealousy (unworthiness and fear in relationships) issues rooted in my childhood from watching my parents interact. I am 29 and I just now realized that my mother (despite, ironically, literally having the face and figure of a bikini model) DEEPLY resents beautiful/well-dressed women and finds them shallow and ignorant, and has passed that attitude onto me. I know my experience is not unique and I would love to hear how others have fully processed their experiences and allowed themselves to feel actual happiness. I have been in therapy mostly regularly for 4 years but the things I've just described are shockingly new personal revelations for me and I'm reeling.

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Bullies often call other people bullies. It's intense to process this kind of revelation, and to add it into your family system and how you functioned there, how you were treated, what needs you served, how you were denied what you needed, etc. I think you get to the happiness part (and feel it!) once you face down your shame and also move away from thinking and encourage yourself to FEEL your way through this stuff. There's a lot of mourning that needs to happen. You have to feel angry, too. You have to do all of that without blaming yourself for it. And once you've done a ton of that, you'll feel a kind of lightness move into your life. But it's all about leading with feelings instead of thoughts, and giving yourself love and acceptance instead of shame. Sounds like your wonderful boyfriend is a first step toward stability that made all of this processing possible. That's how some of my most intense realizations worked, too -- my husband was there for me, so I had all of this space and time to sift through my sadness and rage. The more you encourage that process in yourself and embrace it and applaud it and sit with it and stay patient with the endless surprises and new reasons to grieve along the way, the more likely it becomes that you slip into a new state of being without even noticing it at first: a state that's open to all feelings, including sadness and rage and joy, without fearing that it will crush you to let them in. That's when life becomes more colorful and happiness starts to feel like more than an abstract concept. I know you'll get there. Keep the faith! Reckoning is slow but it works. Trust yourself and be good to yourself along the way. xo

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Wishing you good health and all the support you need, Heather. I don’t know if you’ll read this, but I started reading your column religiously during long depressive episodes in college, and I saved and memorized quotes that were especially powerful to me at the time. For someone with violent and neglectful parents who didn’t give two shits about teaching me how to be a person, your guidance was just like medicine, so thank you.

In fact, I have been trying to separate myself from my family these past 2-3 years, and it has been so. damn. hard. I thought that if I tried saving relationships that weren’t quite as bad as all the abusive treatment I’d had to endure from my parents, I wouldn’t seem as petty and “irrational” to others and would still have a chance at a family. Well, that didn’t work out, because staying in relationships with people who weren’t exactly abusing me but were also too cowardly to stand up for me or validate my experiences was somehow worse. I constantly felt confused, humiliated and numb, and being stuck in that place stopped me from ever moving on.

Last week I told my sibling, who is a total enabler and still lives for my parents’ approval, that I need a break from him and his family, even though making that decision felt like my heart would literally rupture from the pain. I’ve never felt this alone. It’s both freeing and terrifying.

I spend all days alone, working from home and occasionally texting my only friend. I barely speak to anybody most days, and I cry a lot. Mostly, though, I keep waiting for my family to come up with some way to fuck with me again, like they always did in the past. Being constantly on guard is the hardest thing, so exhausting and mostly pointless. I wish I could take a break from that as well.

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Wow this sounds very very very hard. Do you have a therapist? This seems like a transitional time when you might need one. Figuring out how to exert boundaries without being on guard all the time is one challenge. Another is feeling your way through how much contact you can tolerate and what kind of contact works and basically what will work best for you *overall.* You're going to be a hypersensitive, vulnerable state and you'll want a sense of how to take good care of yourself and you'll also want to find new sources of support moving forward. The Small Bow has a recovery Zoom meeting on Wednesdays, I think, that I believe sometimes explores abusive family situations. I would consider trying to research Zoom group therapy sessions that are free or affordable, as a means of listening to the stories of people with similar backgrounds and hearing how they navigated those challenges. Mostly you need some windows into how corrosive it can be to seek approval from an abuser, how that energy tends to pervade people's lives, but also the ways that certain artists and writers have taken that energy and used it to build or create something that brought them joy and deep satisfaction.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

"Being constantly on guard is the hardest thing, so exhausting and mostly pointless. I wish I could take a break from that as well" -- yes, yes, yes. From another survivor of an abusive family and less openly abusive but not good relationships, I hear you. I empathize. I wish you the best.

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Thanks for making this thread, Heather. <3 I'm starting to realize that I have this tendency to just keep chugging along without really thinking about how I am actually doing, and then I end up being mystified at all of the physiological responses my body has to all the stress and anxiety I'm carrying around. Then when I sit back and think about it, it's like, wow, okay, I actually have a lot of stressful shit in my life.

My daughter has a rare genetic disorder that requires expensive specialty medical foods to treat and prevent intellectual disability. Unfortunately since it's so rare, most insurance policies aren't really written with her needs in mind, and coverage is very difficult to obtain. When I started my job a year and a half ago, coverage was denied but I got an insurance advocate/specialist involved and we got it approved, or so we thought. I've been ordering her medical foods every month and just found out about a month ago that apparently even though they said it was approved, they actually won't cover it because it's a "plan exclusion", and the claims have been getting denied (but they never informed me of this until a year and a half into it). I've spent probably twenty or thirty hours on the phone with insurance in the last few weeks to try to fight this but they keep saying no. There are about $40K in unpaid bills for her foods, and if I lose this battle they will come after me for it. I'm trying about a million things but I am seriously so stressed out about this that I have nightmares about it, and I struggle sleeping through the night. I'm always waking up thinking about it, and my mind just turns this stuff over and over and I can't fall back asleep.

My husband re-tore his ACL for the third time recently and needs to have repair surgery again, which he has scheduled for a few days before Christmas. I am stressed about this because of 1. the expense, 2. COVID! I hate the idea of him going into a hospital and being in confined spaces with a bunch of doctors and medical staff, when the virus is so out of control right now. 3. I have this deep fear that he will somehow die in surgery because of the anesthesia, even though he's been through this before and is perfectly healthy. I swear it's like my brain is already behind the scenes planning to have to survive without him. With that said, I completely understand that this is hampering his ability to walk and live his life (he's normally very active), so I don't want to push him to wait when this is something he really needs.

He's also in college at the moment (at my urging...he was happy in his career but we moved because I hated where we lived, and the job he had isn't really a possibility in our new location, so back to school he went). He's doing amazing - he works so hard and studies all the time, all while also being an amazing dad to our toddler and not letting me carry the burden of childcare responsibilities. But...tuition is expensive, and my job is currently supporting our family. But I work in an industry that is ultimately dependent on fossil fuels, which I feel morally icky about, plus the industry is in decline so we aren't getting raises or bonuses and I also have this fear of them downsizing or laying people off. I don't think I'd get laid off because my role is pretty critical, but I am afraid of them cutting benefits. So I am utterly dependent on a job in a dying industry, that I kind of hate because of its contribution to climate change, but I can't exactly leave because my family is relying on me to carry us through this time until my husband graduates and re-establishes his career.

Also because of COVID, we have been keeping our daughter home from day care and it is nearly impossible for me to work from home and him to do his schooling from home, while she is here. I feel like I never actually *do* my job, and the stress doesn't make it any easier to focus on what I should be doing.

I am just at the point where I frequently get these feelings of intense dread, a tingling feeling in my arms/shoulders/neck, lightheadedness/tunnel vision. I often can't finish thoughts or sentences, I start saying something and then I just trail off and forget I was even talking. I think that's probably pretty normal given how much I have on my mind but I don't really see any way out. I kind of want to find a therapist so I can maybe get some Xanax or something to help me at least feel less physically on edge/in danger all the time, but the thought of trying to find someone is just one more task that I don't feel I have the mental bandwidth for.

Honestly after typing all this, I mostly just want to cry and take a nap. Life is hard. :(

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All of this sounds enormously stressful, and I'm sorry that you're suffering so much! As a writer, I've been through stages where I took on enormous piles of debt and it kept me up at night, and once I woke up, I'd think of all of the other bad things in non-productive ways, and I'd also decide I was dying of something, etc. etc. I think the ACL surgery part of this picture is an outcropping of that. It depends on where you are, of course, but my experience has been that if you're having an elective surgery (all kinds of life-threatening and necessary procedures are classified as elective right now, let me add), your COVID exposure in a hospital isn't that high. He'll be in a sterile environment with good air circulation surrounded by people in masks, which is more than you can say for most trips to the grocery store right now. The fact that you're planning to survive life after he dies from his surgery is so relatable to me, actually, but it's also further proof that you're not thinking straight because you're under too much stress.

My personal advice, if you can manage it, is to figure out a way to exercise before you start taking Xanax. I took painkillers earlier this week and even though I cut my pills up and took trace amounts (the strength of the shit they give you is insane to me), there's always some kind of a physical price to pay for any steady ingestion of drugs. The first few days are good and then it's like you're scraping yourself off the floor just to exist. I'm not saying don't take Xanax -- five other people are going to bust in and tell you that you need it. I'm saying be careful and if you can exercise more, do that first. Part of what got me out of that hellish sleepless period of my life was doing P90X3 at home while my kids were napping or hanging out with my husband. This depends on your circumstances and your physical state of course. I just worry about the amount of stress you have, along with your lack of sleep, along with money issues, and then throw in a schedule IV drug and you could be playing with fire. This is not a moral concern, mind you, it's a very practical one.

Mostly what I see in your situation is a very very rough time that will for sure pass, you just don't know it yet. You can't feel it. So you have to write that down and you have to remind yourself not to catastrophize or try to solve problems in the middle of the night. Or ever? I had a rule that I wasn't allowed to "solve" our debt problem in my head all day, and I wasn't allowed to assume the worst outcome, and whenever a thought was scary, that was my cue to say to myself, "I am doing what's in front of me and trusting that we'll get through this."

All of this is very pushy advice simply because I've been through a similar stretch and I wish I could go back and tell myself YOU'LL ALL BE FINE. Toddlers and kid health issues and financial trouble and a job you don't love: all of that. Thoughts did not help. There wasn't a lot to solve. Steady pressure on the insurance company - can you appeal? Physical exertion. Meditation. You're in a dark tunnel but you'll come through it. This is one of those moments where less thinking and puzzling and more blind faith and physicality will shift your feelings and experiences and your whole life the most. That's my take, but regardless, hang in there and thanks for writing it down. You're going to make it. xoxo

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thank you so much, this is truly the most helpful kind of advice! I absolutely have the tendency to want to just keep thinking harder as if it will yield some new solution, when the real answer is to just make it through and actively do things to support my mental health along the way. I am a distance runner so I do already run three or so times a week, usually I have to get up at 4:30 or 5am to be able to go which is the hard part since I'm already so exhausted. But maybe I need to take my daughter in the running stroller at the end of my work day or something. Or do some strength training at the end of the day instead of scrolling the internet. I made a note in my phone with "I am doing what's in front of me and trusting that we'll get through this" and I am going to refer to it when I start catastrophizing! It is so very hard to see that things will be better someday, but honestly reading your words gave me at least a moment of believing that someday I'll get to feel free from all of this and it was glorious!

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Oh, you'll get through it! Around the time I was in hell, I used to drag my baby, toddler, and two dogs out to the Rose Bowl to run around the golf course there. It was a huge messy circus trying to do that, but that was also the reason it always made me feel better. Like LOOK I CAN MANAGE ALL OF THESE CRAZY BEASTS AT ONCE! It gave me pride in something physical and concrete. I wasn't that good at, say, shopping for groceries with the kids, but this was one thing I could do well. So yeah, more stuff like that and for sure strength training, and much much much less thinking. I'll guarantee you'll look back and say WHOA THAT WAS TOUGH a few years from now. You're on a good path.

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Oh my gosh, I love that you mentioned the golf course at the Rose Bowl - I've been there! We went to a concert a few years back and this was pre-baby, pre-move, pre-new job, pre-everything. We were working a lot but we were getting paid extra for it and it was just the two of us, so it was just such a stress-free time. That day hanging out at the golf course and going to a concert is the specific day I think back to as like, the least stressful and most blissful day of my life, the opposite of how I feel now. It's just so funny to imagine that this place holds my *carefree happy days* memory along with your *surviving hell by being superwoman running these kids and dogs around*, haha. Maybe there isn't such an untraversable gap between those two states of being. Thanks Polly. <3

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That sounds so heavy, Kelly. I think you're doing amazing just getting up every day and dealing with all the shit on your plate! I think you should throw yourself a fucking party for how incredibly well you're handling this! And that includes breaking down sometimes and waking up at three in the morning and not being able to sleep. You're there, you're showing up. I wish it weren't so hard. Your insurance struggles are rage-inducing. Just completely unfair, absolute evil. Have you tried opening up to your social circle about what's going on just in case someone can help? Maybe someone in a similar situation who found a way to make the insurance company be less evil? Even a go fund me if all other options fail? Maybe you could even go directly to the company that makes the specialty food and ask for a compassionate discount? It sounds to me that you're very alone...your husband is there, but you seem to be the one bearing the burden of the insurance disaster, plus you'll be his caretaker after the surgery. That's so much. I know we're all isolated because of Covid, but if there ever was a time to reach out to anyone you think you can feel safe opening your heart to, this is it. Ask for help! I know you'll pay it forward when you're better able to. I hope you find the time to cry and take a nap and really recharge, too. All the virtual hugs from this internet stranger.

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Agree that maybe your husband or a friend could be asked to take over the insurance question and see if there's another path forward! It seems like you're used to taking on everything, Kelly (been there, too) and you need to delegate right now in order to get through this shit storm.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Alaya, thank you! The virtual hugs and internet stranger support are seriously so helpful. It's just so nice to have a boost and know there are people out there who listened and empathized. I have gotten some help on the insurance issues from a woman who is the president of the main nonprofit association supporting my daughter's condition, and I am also getting help from a medical billing specialist who runs a nonprofit company that helps navigate these kinds of problems. Even with that, it still seems like getting this to work is a long shot. I feel really ridiculous and privileged saying this but my parents have offered to help me pay the bills if we exhaust all other options. I honestly haven't even let my mind go there or allowed myself to feel comforted by that fact, because I feel so guilty about having that safety net where others don't. And I also feel guilty about my parents having to spend some of their savings on something that should so obviously be covered as it's medically necessary. But maybe I need to stop shaming myself and just be grateful for what I have. And you're right, accepting help isn't the end of the story - it just puts me in a better place to be able to help others, and to fight and advocate so nobody else has to go through this. Thank you so much for your kind comment. <3

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I'm so sorry you're having to manage all of this. It is way too much, and the insurance issues around your daughter's medical food are horrifying. Have you found support groups of others in similar circumstances who might have insights on how to successfully navigate the insurance situation? I wish I had answers for this. I hope I can ease your fears around your husband's surgery and anesthesia though. One of my dear friends is an anesthesiology nurse, and listening to her (on video chat) talk about her work and also her hospitals safety protocols since the pandemic started have really eased my own fears around anesthesia and also having to be in medical environments during the pandemic. They do SO much to insure that regular medical procedures/staff/etc are protected from Covid. Also, I give you permission to let go of your moral ick around the industry you work in. You are supporting your family in a hard time and that's the priority for now. You can make a shift when your husband has finished school - or just when opportunity presents itself. You don't need to carry this burden along with everything else!

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It's funny, just hearing a stranger on the internet say that it's okay to let go of the moral issues around my job because it's what I have to do right now is honestly really helpful. I mean, I have certainly tried to convince myself of this before, and my husband has said it, but why does it feel more valid coming from someone else? Haha. Human psychology is interesting. I guess it feels like an impartial jury or something, whereas my husband and I are obviously biased towards our own cause. Thank you for your story about your nurse anesthetist friend! I guess I have been specifically nervous because the orthopedic center that he will be having his surgery at recently had a COVID outbreak which was reported in our local paper (they just keep a running update on all known outbreaks in the county). But I'm sure if anything that has just caused them to be even more cautious. Thank you for your comment and your kindness! <3

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

It was my 37th birthday yesterday. My partner brought us home dinner from where she works after she got off early, and she kept asking me what I'd like to do after dinner. All sorts of indoor ideas. Each one felt like a weight being strapped to my body, and I felt this crushing feeling cover me. And that I couldn't even be happy when the best person was being so sweet to me was just another shitty thing I was doing.

We watched Die Hard (her choice, she'd never seen it!) and cuddled the entire time. It was great. The weight of my being trapped in life (physically and career-wise thanks to the pandemic) wasn't so bad. But as soon as it became clear she wanted to have sex and expectation entered back into things, I spiraled pretty damn bad. I guess it's depression... though I find it hard to believe that the despair over seeing half of people willingly making your state 3rd worst in the nation for a pandemic and so many easily duped by the most insane conspiracy theories is actually depression. Giving fully into despair is though.

We get one wild and precious life, thanks Mary Oliver, and while misfortune is usually like being struck by an arrow, I realize that I'm just taking that arrow and twisting or jamming it back in and out like it'll help somehow. It's funny, I hugged my therapist and ended therapy the day of the first US COVID-19 death. I said I think I've got this, I have a plan with grad school going on for a new career, a partner I can't wait to live with then marry (that prophecy at least is the only thing still going well) and I'm making the most of life. Woops.

Anyway, I don't want to keep wounding myself over and over again internally over things that I can't control. I'm a loyal and loving partner, friend, son, person. So tomorrow we're going to finish setting up my girlfriend's Etsy shop, I bought her a professional artist grade printer and both look into whether or not my insurance still pays for teletherapy visits. I think it'll be a pretty great day, but if it isn't, that's fine too.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Been dealing with in-law family drama and it's been a big emotional weight on both myself and my partner. My dad also just called me to tell me my estranged grandmother is in the hospital and he was pretty upset and started to cry on the phone, so I started to cry because I haven't heard him cry in years. It's been so weird. This week has just been weird.

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I'm so sorry for you and your grandmother and your dad! I hope everyone makes it through this okay. Thinking of you. xo

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Thank you for making a space, it's nice to have a place to just . . . talk? It's finals and my spouse is a teacher and so I don't see them much, even though they're right downstairs, and I spend a lot of time saying "It's fine, this is fine." But it's also true that I've leaned as hard as possible into Christmas already, I want all the lights, all the glitter, all the cookies and tea, build me a tiny house of gingerbread and pine boughs and strings of lights to shelter from the scrabbling cold darkness outside. So far it is working most days. I'm holding on.

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That is such a beautiful mental image! There is something so life-saving about Christmas-y things. We started decorating and doing holiday-ish stuff earlier than we ever have this year and I don't regret a moment of it. Give me all the twinkle lights and cheesy movies and treats, thanks v much!

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Yes, and I decided white Christmas lights count as fairy lights if the plastic wire coating thingy is white, which means I can leave them around all winter long

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I love it! I definitely subscribe to that logic as well. IMO there's no wrong time for Christmas lights :D

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

All this time spent at home and living by myself has caused me to be in my head quite a bit this year (as I'm sure it has for all of us, regardless of our living situations!). It also caused a pretty bad OCD flareup, although the bright side is that I was finally diagnosed with it after years of only suspecting it was something I suffered from.

Learning how to manage it has been a journey, and I've had to make a lot of changes in my life. I've had to more or less say goodbye to any media that feels too negative or anxiety-inducing (with some exceptions, of course). I've also been practicing meditating every day and I'm currently trying to re-learn mindfulness.

I feel such deep gratitude for the friends I've opened up to about it. I'm always so afraid of "burdening" other people with my struggles, but now I don't know how I would have managed if I hadn't reached out about how hard a time I've been having.

I'm relieved I now have a name for what I've been struggling with, and it's been so helpful to learn more about OCD and that I'm far from alone in my struggle with it. That's the silver lining I'm trying to hang on to, but of course, it's been very hard!

I know this year has been more about surviving than thriving, but I hope everyone is doing okay!

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Sounds like you're really on the right track with all of this, even though it's a huge blow to have to grapple with it. I don't have experience with OCD, but I've been through a similar reckoning with myself this year, thanks to a million and one things, and I've landed in a similar place of gratitude - often overwhelming. Noticing how I consume media, and when, and the times it feels okay, the times it feels shitty, etc., has been great for me, too. I'm much quicker to notice the shift from fun to less fun and make a behavioral change that protects me from myself on that front. I'm also having a good run of not riding myself for being perfectly productive all the time; these threads are a part of that, a way to just be: show up and give whatever I have to offer, take in where other people are. Same thing with my kids. I do a lot more sitting in the same room with them and just taking in what they're doing without either pushing a conversation or beating myself up for not getting back to work. Anyway, now I'm too chill, I'm just digressing! Best of luck with all of this and thanks for sharing it here.

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My grandma has Alzheimer’s and I keep having to remind her who I am. One of my aunts is doing chemo for stage 4 cancer and the other one just had a stroke. My best friend called to say that her mom has cancer too. My local friends are too worried about covid to see me for the moment. I’m a single parent, lucky enough to work from home, whose fifth grader’s school is all virtual this year. And did I mention I started grad school this semester? Two weeks until exams are over.

Everything feels overwhelming and it’s true, I have no idea how or what else besides overwhelm I feel. I need a nap all the time. And I’m thankful it isn’t any worse. Thanks for giving me a space to say it all out loud.

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Oof, I am so sorry. This is a lot. Thinking of you.

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Thank you for this! I'm really struggling and I already thought I was struggling. Yesterday my spouse told me he thinks he's addicted to porn (he spend 100s of dollars on it this month). In October around my birthday I found most of my family kept a visit between my brother and my parents (who live in different states) a secret "because of my anxiety." I'm so sad and angry and lost. I've told the one sister who I'm speaking to about my spouse and one friend who lives far away. I can't even easily research porn addiction because I get religious sites that say things like "porn is ALWAYS evil" which I don't believe and I don't even have a job to distract me. I just want to move forward but I don't know how how.

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Oh family stuff is so hard. Secrets kept in families, however “well-meaning” even more so. I’m so sorry.

I tried to see if The Stranger had anything re the porn addiction for you — I trust them to be cool (and non Jesusy!) about it, and my search threw up this mainstreamish review of the literature, if it’s helpful:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/was-i-actually-addicted-to-internet-pornography/276619/

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this means so much to me, thank you

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Oh god. Thank you. I'm currently navigating what is, for me, the worst possible thing that could possibly happen on planet earth. My very beloved cat is sick. She is everything to me and I have been denying her status as a mortal being for years, and now I have to look at the beyond horrifying fact that I will loose her. Maybe not right now. But it will happen. I can't stop playing out word-case-scenerios in my head. It's been a punishing week. I'm on the verge of being totally unable to cope, but have had to keep my wits about me to make the best decisions I can for her. Including switching from a dismissive vet to one who can talk me through every thing and who I can trust to really care for her. I'm stuck in a place right now of such extreme anxiety that I can barely move. I've had some very beautiful help come through, and some wonderful people enter my life as a result of this. But Jesus, life just requires ungodly amounts of bravery. I then get flooded with thinking about all the difficulty that everyone on the fucking planet is facing every single day and I just don't get how we're supposed to survive as humans with open hearts. It's just so much.

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I’ve been in a toxic living environment for about 3.5 years. It was mostly manageable pre-lockdown, but now that we’re home all the time, I spend the majority of the day hiding from my roommate who treats me poorly. Things reached a fever pitch this week, and I’m finally moving out at the end of December. I am beyond sad to leave such a wonderful home I’ve created the past couple of years, and am stressed that I might not be able to afford a safe, nurturing, affordable environment during this month. I live in LA and have a full time respectable job, yet the places I’m looking at are bleak. Trying to stick out the month and have hope for a better future, but this lockdown is making me a ball of nerves. Thank you for listening. We’ll get through this as we always have- together!

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This sounds so difficult! I had a terrible relationship with with housemates and when they left it was like a huge weight off of me and I could feel comfortable again. You sound smart and determined and so I'm sure you can make a beautiful home again.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Love you Heather! That’s all for me today. ❤️

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Also your tweets have had me rolling the past couple days. I don’t even know what half of them are talking about but I feel the sentiment HARD.

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Well the good news is that I've finally developed enough emotional awareness to recognize when stress is sneaking up on me, which it definitely started to do this week. The bad news is I'm still struggling to manage, especially in these circumstances.

I'm another service industry casualty, have been out of work since March (for the first time in my life) and unemployment hasn't been an option for over a month now, since I turned down a job offer that would have truly made me even more miserable than I already am. But now I'm finding that I just... don't want to get a job? I could easily live off savings and continue to be a lump on my couch all winter. I don't feel hopeful that I could even find work (useless liberal arts degree, uninspiring work history, the job market generally), and I'm scared to take any sort of "essential" job because while I'm not technically high-risk, my health history makes me think I'd be likely to end up in the hospital if I catch the virus. So I have my excuses. But the truth is, I haven't made a single effort to find something to do. I thought maybe I'd move across the country for a fresh start in the same city as some dear friends, but it seems too risky these days. I have no personal projects I want to dive into. I just want to putter and walk the dog and stay in my avoidant hole until spring. I'm not sure how to break this paralysis so I can quit flushing money down the toilet and start working again, and I'm ashamed of myself for not being more responsible and fighting harder to get motivated. I've always been a hustler, always cobbled together work and figured out how to make it happen. I thought this would be the year I broke away from that, got some stability. And now that it wasn't, I just want to lay down and give up for a while.

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Sometimes if you give yourself some time to give up, you naturally relocate your motivation. But it almost takes REALLY GIVING YOURSELF TIME. Like full-time time to do whatever you want.

I had a dry spell with work a few years ago, and I kind of kept WORKING MYSELF emotionally, guilting myself into getting more productive, and it had the odd effect of making me depressed and brattily resistant to... well, everyone and everything! I kept saying "I just need a break" even though I wasn't working! Which I think is telling. It means "I need a break from my shame and guilt and self-hating mind!"

I basically learned to embrace my brattiness and love my angry teenager and just sit with the whole picture, accepting that I was a wreck. And from there, I started to want to do things again. A few years later, I sort of taught my husband to do the same thing when he was feeling that same sense of paralysis and self-hatred. These days, we both ask ourselves and each other, "What do you want right now?" and "What do you feel like you need?" and "What dumb thing might help?" It's indulgent for us to talk this way, because we have both, historically, driven ourselves too hard mentally and emotionally. What we figured out is that we're both far more relaxed and productive when we constantly ask "how will i enjoy this day?" and "what do I feel like doing?"

So I say take some time, but use that time to get into a new emotional space about who you are and what you deserve. Your old stories about what a fuck up you are need to go, once and for all. Consider therapy, and ask for a discount since you're unemployed. Keep walking, keep talking to friends, and just focus on separating your truest, deepest, most embarrassing desires from the shame that keeps telling you that you don't deserve to want things. Open up and see what comes up. Maybe this is the most important time in your life, who knows? Maybe you're about to understand a lot more about how to finally feel whole and calm and joyful. Believe in that and you'll be very surprised at the magic that starts to unfold around you. No bullshit, it really does work. Love and strength to you. xoxo

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Oh, and notice how I posted a bunch of stuff on this page, then disappeared for FOUR DAYS? I was recovering from surgery and I got really overwhelmed by all of the despair here, and I could just feel that my body couldn't handle slogging through more posts. But I also felt guilty for not reading everything and posting more and helping and figuring out solutions to some of these problems! If I gave in to that guilt, I might've come back here, but with a warped, anxious energy that wouldn't help anyone. I might've made myself sick. I might've turned myself against this whole newsletter, like WHY DO I DO THIS, THIS IS TOO HARD!

Instead I listened to how I felt and I showed myself some respect. "You gave a few good answers here, you can come back later if you want, you can't possibly expect yourself to answer infinite questions while you're feeling worse and worse."

So many of us have trouble serving our own needs. We want to do what's "right" instead of what feels best for us. But it is exceedingly difficult to become a focused, motivated, happy person when you ignore your own needs. So start here: Figure out how to serve your needs for a change. It's a worthy pursuit.

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It was so generous of you to come back around and respond, thank you. I was just happy to have a sort of anonymous place to set my confusion down in public, where someone else might see it and nod. I hope you feel better soon and stay healthy, we are all so lucky to have your wisdom in the world!

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

It's the week before finals week and all my professors have apparently forgotten that their students have other classes, and even--horror of horrors--responsibilities outside of school! I've been through this before, and I know I'm going to be fine, but it's still triggering the bi-annual "what the hell am I doing here" crisis.

I'm 22 years old and going to community college on my mother's dime. Neither of those things are inherently bad or shameful, but it's hard not to be ashamed anyway. I was supposed to follow in her and my father's footsteps--straight A's, one of the fancier state schools, then on to grad school--but I almost flunked out of high school, tried and failed to attend community college in my hometown, and sort of drifted around aimlessly until about a year ago. I can't un-break her heart or reset her expectations, but I still feel the need to become someone she can be proud of. I feel like I owe her, not just for putting me through school, but for dealing with my horrid, volatile teenage self and my manipulative father at the same time.

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Hang in there and stay focused if you can, but above all don't beat yourself up for having been a confused kid. The world is packed full of confused kids and many of them spend their entire lifetimes never worrying about what they did to their mothers. You're ahead of the curve maturity-wise and it's time to stop feeling guilty about everything. At some point guilt is just an echo of your overall anxiety, with very little ties to reality. Your mind will say that you deserve to feel guilty, but you have to challenge that. You deserve to feel comfortable and good about yourself, even in this flawed moment. We all deserve that. It's very very hard to find joy in your life when your brain keeps telling you, over and over, that you don't remotely deserve joy. So decide that you deserve happiness, and more, and try to remind yourself of that whenever bad feelings and shame bubble up. Do what's in front of you, every day, and then reward yourself a little. Reach out and notice how much human connection makes things better. Don't just honor your mother, honor yourself. Your hard work needs to come from within. It can't be about pleasing someone else all the time. You have to learn to please yourself, and to take pride in how hard you work, after so many difficult twists in the road and bad, confusing times in your life. You're in a good place. Professors and institutions are often absurdly frustrating. Don't let that convince you that you're living the wrong life. Stay focused and put the big questions aside for now. Best of luck and please hang in there. xo

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I work at a university in the financial aid office. I've seen plenty of student come through our office carrying the burden of their parent's expectations and their money on the line. From what I've seen of students, you are probably in a better mindset at 22 than most of the younger ones. You spent some years floating around and ended up back in community college. Probably with more focus than before or at least a more level head. Community college is the perfect place to step back into higher education. People poo poo it like it's not real college but it is. I got my AA degree at one and you know what it's smart to do! (I later went on to get a Master's degree). It's cheaper and you get all your Gen Ed out of the way if you move on to a 4 year school. When I was advising students I loved to talk to the community college transfers. They knew what they were doing there. Many of the 18 year olds were there just because they "should" be and had no idea what they wanted to do. Maybe you don't either and it's fine. Just take it one semester at a time and move toward whatever courses you take that make you stay awake in class or you actually enjoy what you are learning. Your mom probably sees potential in you and hopes you focus on something you are good at. That's what I hope for my son. I see his gifts and hope he puts them to use. I think most moms want that for their children.

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Thank you for creating this thread! I have been unemployed since getting laid off for the first time in my life in May due to covid. I'm nearly 27, but I feel so much older and like I'm a complete failure. It's hard not to feel hopeless and worthless right now – I was good at my last job and it became a huge part of my identity, but there isn't really much work similar to what I did before. I'm trying to make a bit of a career pivot and rejection after rejection keeps coming in. I have just been isolating because I'm so embarrassed to keep telling my friends and family that I still can't get hired anywhere. I just feel like a loser, you know? The last rejection was the worst, as the role was an amazing creative opportunity and made it feel like this whole hellish year would have been worth it. I worked for a week straight on a presentation for senior executives and the eventual rejection hit really hard. I know this is filled with intense negative self-talk, and I want to be clear – some days feel better than others. But I still can't sleep at night thinking about how hard this has been and how quickly it feels like my life has fallen apart. Unemployment and the job hunt has felt like checking off tasks that mean nothing, sending off resumes and cover letters that you spend hours on just to have no one read. I just can't help but feel so ashamed about everything and like my identity and sense of self worth has been lost in this terrible year. Thanks for being a source of light, Polly <3

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Every time I've had an exploratory call with a career coach they always say the same thing: you need to treat the job hunt like a numbers game. Don't get attached to any single opportunity but do have standards for what kinds of offers you're willing to seriously consider. This is the opposite of my intuition when I job hunt -- I spend hours or days on a single application and then think about it constantly! It sounds like we have that in common. I have yet to try this emotionally detached strategy but thought I'd pass it on...Also, career coaches do help, if you can spare the funds! You feel like you have someone on your side in a very exhausting stretch of time. I'm rooting for you! <3

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I understand that feeling of feeling older, I'm 39 and feel like I managed to wish away so much of my life on that. My advice, pause, you have time. Enjoy every minute of being 26, none of this is as urgent as it may feel. Your self worth is not your work. Make a list of stuff you love, add to it daily. You can find me on IG and DM me ( @gembien) I will happily help you brainstorm work ideas, I've restarted more times than I can remember and would happily be a sounding board if it will help. Sending you love today.

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Your message was so kind it made me cry. Thank you <3

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Aww, I just recognize how you feel and have some distance. <3

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I am your same age and in a similar position, and although it's easier said than done I just wanted to share how freeing it is to treat applying to jobs like a game, like gambling or playing one of those dumb games on your phone that takes more luck than skill, with the understanding that you'll lose most of the time.

I have a big jobs/freelance pitches spreadsheet and I try to add a couple of entries to it a day, and the weird thing is that the more entries on the list, the more I feel like I've accomplished something just by applying and the less I feel invested in any one acceptance or rejection. Another surprisingly motivating non-acceptance goal I've heard people throw around is trying to get 100 rejections in a year. It's kind of freeing if you assume that just based on luck and other people your chance of getting accepted is like, I don't know, 5% if you're being really pessimistic? And if you apply to a hundred jobs then maybe you'll have five job offers to choose from, turn down, accept, negotiate, whatever. I still have days when rejections hit hard but it has really helped me!

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I am 28 and definitely have felt the same things you're feeling. My absolute most depressive episodes have been when I was out of work and couldn't get hired for months on end. It is SO HARD and scary and uncertain. you are not a failure by any means and even though you feel much older than you are (I have felt this too - even at 22 I felt like I was 65!) you have so much time in this world. I always have to remind myself of that when I am so hard on myself for not being "where I should be". Sending you a lot of love and comfort.

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Chiming in here in case I can help...

I'm a former recruiter who has a bit of an eye for "sprucing up" resumes and cover letters.

I would be happy to look over your resume and give you a few top-of-mind tips. You can send your resume to breezbuzz@gmail.com. I'll reply to you asap. You mentioned creative work—if you have a portfolio, include that too.

That offer is open to anyone unemployed and feeling down on their luck. It would be my pleasure to apply these skills in some useful way. I love learning about people and their skills.

I want to follow that up by emphasizing that the problem is not you. The problem is that practically no one knows how to hire. No one. I now write articles about it—the stats are staggering. I repeat: the problem isn't you.

I've been down the rabbit hole of the job search too, I know how demoralizing it can be. There's light at the end of the tunnel, my girl! Drop me a line :)

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

You are so right! There are some seriously strange rabbit holes I find myself in when I am at a wits end. There is no telling what you’ll be reading/watching, sometimes it’s not even something that interests me! Good luck in your recovery, I appreciate you rationalizing of the human experience that is highly relatable!!

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Dec 7, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thank you for creating this thread!

There have been ups and downs, and I am

worried about spending another winter isolated in nyc. My husband lost his job in march, he had started a business in parallel but hasn’t been puttinga ton of effort into it. I work from home 8-5 while he sits on the couch 90% of the day. I talked to him a few times about how I feel like he isn’t doing his part but nothing’s changed, and I don’t want to continually feel like a nag so I constantly go from trying not to care, to feeling frustrated. I know he is depressed but I feel so overwhelmed. My family isn’t in this country and by the time I am able to see them again (safely), it will have been 2 years. Trying to be optimistic and see the silver lining but I feel so tired today.

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This sounds hard! Be good to yourself and try not to tune into your husband too much. He'll figure out his relationship to what he needs more quickly if you're gentle with him and good to yourself, too. But don't be angry at yourself for feeling angry, too. Choose peaceful, good times to discuss with him what comes next. Try not to wait so long that the discussion is a heated one, but also, choose your moments. The kinder and more patient you are with yourself, the easier it'll be to be a good partner to your husband, who looks lazy but is probably experiencing a kind of slow, quiet crisis of confidence.

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Dec 6, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Get well soon. Understand that there are people who have followed your “wry sense of humor mixed with profound insight” since SUCK.COM.

These last few months your writing has helped me deal with the impotent rage that the pandemic has inspired in all of us.

Peace.

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Thank you for this nice note! I appreciate it a lot.

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Thanks Heather, and hi everybody <3 Lately I feel like I’m swimming in shame and loneliness. I’ve always dealt with this, but something about lockdown has really amplified it—I mean I can’t remember when I felt it in my body this way before. It’s horrible. It makes me want to crawl out of my body. I’ve started picking at my skin until it bleeds because that’s the only thing that calms me down (I do see a therapist and take medication). I feel stupid, unlovable, unremarkable. I started taking a philosophy class for fun in my spare time but it makes me feel like an idiot, it’s like my brain shuts off, and I get so preoccupied with trying to come up with something to say that I lose the thread of the conversation. The other day in class I felt so lost I wanted to cry, which is so embarrassing to admit. And when I finally mustered up the courage to say something, it was completely off topic, and my shame just magnified. Ugh, I still can’t think of it without cringing. At the same time, being in therapy and doing a lot of soul-searching (and being basically isolated for nine months) has helped me realize how much emotional (and physical) neglect I suffered as a child. I feel permanently broken by my parents’ inability to love me, I feel dissociative in friendships and my anxious/avoidant attachment style has made dating tough—I do go on dates but it never turns into anything serious, and now that I’m almost thirty I’m starting to feel hopeless. I want to believe that I don't need to be brilliant and beautiful and exceptional to have worth and deserve love, and I want to have hope that things will get better, but it's hard

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Hi there, boy do I get it. If this nightmare world had descended when I was much younger, I would be in a very similar state. I mean, look, Covid has created the most intense amplifier of shame and loneliness I've ever encountered. I am an absolute next-level world-class wrestler when it comes to shame, yet there is just so much baked-in intensity and weirdness about this time that I can feel good for weeks and then suddenly 'OH JESUS WHAT AM I?'

After reading the first part of your letter, I immediately though anxious/ avoidant and emotional neglect as a child, just due to the way small "mistakes" (see also: normal human choices you make!) tend to spiral out into a perception that you're a massively embarrassing scar on the face of the Earth. I just want you to trust me when I tell you that having a kind of paralysis, mind block, or emotional stutter is just a side effect of anxiety and has zero to do with intelligence. Likewise, once you learn to calm yourself and notice the triggers for this state, you'll feel more and more loose and free and brilliant.

"Almost thirty" sounds like "basically a teenager" to me, just so you know, so don't panic about how much time you have. You have loads of time to sort yourself out, figure out what you need to feel good, and learn how to really feel your connection to the people in your life. Right now it's all about learning to notice what works for you and what doesn't, and also learning to notice which people feel soothing to you and which people trigger your spiraling and anxiety. Meditating (i'm not saying I do it!) is also reported to help. And I will say the word "exercise" yet again in spite of how irritating and repetitive I am on that front. I've had to stop exercising for 3 week stretches due to my health stuff and everything slowly falls to pieces during that time and then, after exactly 2 weeks of working out, I AM WRITING THE WORD "JOY" OVER AND OVER EVERYWHERE. So try to experiment with physicality and see where you land, if you haven't already.

The central thing I would suggest you focus on is self-acceptance and also noticing who you are and what you love. Whatever the truest picture of who you is, that's what you want to see clearly, make more vivid, and enjoy more, even if that picture includes a lot of flaws that just don't seem to wash away through sheer force of will and scrubbing. You have to remember that you were simply WIRED to doubt yourself and rewiring yourself will take some time and patience. When you feel that bad anxious wiring problem buzz up into your consciousness, you need to refrain from blaming yourself. You have to watch and listen and wait, and not act. The more you calmly observe your strange anxious ways of trying to problem-solve or find love in the face of your loneliness, the more you'll be able to slow down and make gentler, more self-protective decisions instead of feeling locked up or acting on impulse.

For people like us who are anxious/avoidant it's really about tuning into patterns and addressing them as they come up. It's never a question of OH GOD I'M THE WORST. It's merely about shifting habits and consistently telling yourself that you're enough right now, the way you are, and you deserve to feel good. You aren't alone in this. Marvel at the strength of your shame and the faultiness of your wiring. Look how much you're up against! This is not your personal fault. This is your ancient history reenacting itself in your cells. The more you remind yourself of that, and show it to others, the more you'll start to bond with people (see below!) who are very similar to you. We're everywhere. Trust that and open your heart and let it in. You're going to be fine. xoxoxox!

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I teared up reading this, it was so kind. Thank you for responding, it was exactly what I needed to hear and I already feel so much lighter. And thanks to everyone else who responded too, it's nice to know there are so many big-hearted people out there. Sending you all love <3

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Hi Michelle, it's awesome that you are taking a philosophy class for fun. I will tell you, as a philosophy professor, that we always appreciate it when people contribute--it makes it more likely that other people contribute, and it clues us in to where students' heads are at. I don't know what sort of philosophy you're taking, but if you want to chat about something in ethics/political philosophy/religion, to make you feel comfortable in expressing your ideas in your class, I'd be happy to chat about your week's assignment with you.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Hey, I relate to everything you wrote. I don't know how to be helpful, it just sounds like we are the same flavor of broken, and I sincerely hope you can find a way through <3

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Hey, you said you were taking the class for fun, right? And it doesn't sound like it is fun for you right now. Can you stop? You can always pick it back up again when things are better for you. It is ok to admit that you don't have the mental bandwidth for something.

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Hi Polly-I had a miserable Thanksgiving. Maybe you could help put it in perspective. I'm a male, divorced 70 years old. I've been dating a widowed woman whose 66 for 4 months. I had Thanksgiving dinner at her house. Just the 2 of us. There was a Zoom meet up between us, her 93 year old father, her brother and his family, her 3 married children and their spouseIs. I was flattered to be asked to Thanksgiving and thought it indicated her growing affection for me. After the zoom and our dinner she kind of froze up and ushered me out very quickly and coldly. I called her the next night and asked her if she wanted to stop seeing me because it sure felt like it. She responded with: she wasn't happy, I wasn't fun, and she didn't love me. I guess I'm the proverbial old fool. Obviously she powerfully expressed her feelings, but I tried to make the case to myself that introducing me to her family was important to her but she'd gone too far out on a limb and freaked out. When I called her again I asked if she really wanted to end it, she gave me "no but I need some time off." Now I realize I dread seeing her and putting myself up for her scrutiny, Her insults were real "duh" and I can't see meeting her again even for coffee- we met on a dating sight. Polly, please help and old guy out with a few comforting words. I was a teenager in love and got my hopes dashed. Thank you

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Steve, this woman doesn't sound like she's very good at communicating openly with you. As you said, she also really seems to scrutinize your behavior and she has strong negative reactions out of the blue. That's not unusual, necessarily, but you're also a sensitive person and you feel hurt that you've been involved for so long and you never saw this kind of sharp turn coming.

I also want to guess that you dodged a bullet. Because it sounds like even she didn't see this coming? Or she held everything back until it was too late and she was already out. Either way, no. That's not a sustainable picture!

Maybe you like women who act a little superior and don't show you too much of themselves, though. Is that possible? Maybe you need to experiment with dating women who wear their feelings on their sleeves a tiny bit more. I feel like women who are extremely open about what they think and feel sometimes get a bad rap, but in your 60s and 70s, if you aren't giving it to people straight, chances are you don't know what the hell is going on inside you! You need someone who'll act like a teenager in love right back instead of pulling the carpet out from under you.

I've always been a tiny bit afraid of people who show themselves clearly, if I'm being honest. But my best relationships tend to develop with these people. Lately I'm much more open to a wider range of personalities, and I recommend it! Become more of a collector, if you can! Experiment a tiny bit in spending time with women who might not have traditionally been your type.

But above all, try to forgive your ex and take this moment as a glorious sign that you're capable of getting passionately lost in someone again. I love knowing that, don't you? It's the BEST. Feed that part of this picture and don't feel shame over it. It's something to take pride in. It says a lot about your ability to be present and connect with new people, and to support your own desires in life.

It takes work not to tell a sad story when someone rejects you out of the blue. But rejection is never personal. Even if your ex lists all the ways you disappointed her, that's on her. If you want a relationship with someone, you tell them what you want and need and like and hope for. She never did that. She wanted you to read her mind. That's okay but you don't happen to be clairvoyant.

Your superpower is staying open. So stay open and don't bask in shame. Forgive yourself and open your heart even wider. I'll bet there's a lot more love out there for you. xo

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Thanks Heather-It's true. I told her I loved her, and it was my surprise and my pleasure. I can savor that. I read you religiously and love your books.

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Thank you for reading! I hope I'm like you when I'm 70.

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And 80.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

I'm not Polly and I'm not sure if I have any comforting words, but I feel you, Steve! I'm sorry you had to go through this. It is so difficult when people send these deeply mixed signals. I'm always struck by how quickly I can turn feelings of rejection and romantic disappointment against myself- not only am I experiencing another person's rejection, but somehow, I'm being hard on MYSELF just for having feelings for someone and then feeling disappointed and hurt afterwards? Sorry for mixing up the verb tenses but you get the idea. I'm glad you were a teenager in love and I'm sorry you got your hopes dashed.

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Thanks Andrea-for your wisdom and clarity. Their rejection makes you reject yourself. Good luck to you

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Proverbial old fool or wise man with a lot of love to give? So sorry for the hurt feelings. They suck. Your light will keep on shining, though! ❤️❤️

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Thank you Katherine-I'd like to go with your 2nd more positive option

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Steve, I love that at your age you were still feeling like a teenager in love. That sounds so beautiful and open and makes me feel very hopeful. I'm sorry that it brought pain with it, but I hope that your heart can stay courageous and find another chance to shine.

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Hey thanks- Happy Holidays!

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My partner of 15 years and I are in the process of moving from a monogamous relationship to one of consensual/ethical non-monogamy and my fucking god it has been a journey. Since this conversation started a few months ago, he and I have both been living in what feels like a pressure cooker of growth that we can't turn off. It has been intense and exhausting and probably the best thing we've ever done for ourselves individually and for our relationship. Changing up the structure of a relationship in such a foundational way like this brings all kinds of attachment issues and personal insecurity to the surface; we realized we had relied on the fact that we are married as the base of our security in the relationship instead on the actual quality of our experience together. A lightbulb the size of the goddamn sun flashed on and it has transformed our relationship into the best version of itself it has yet been--we're able to be wildly honest and vulnerable and supportive of each other and of our experiences both together and individually in ways far deeper than we've probably ever imagined. And I don't mean to imply that our relationship was awful before; we both have overwhelming felt grateful for one another and for our closeness and the relationship we had created, but this still has taken us/is taking us to a different level.

I'm at the stage right now where I'm feeling the best and most assured I have in a while, and looking back saying to myself, "Holy shit, that was horrific!" at how we both were basically sleepwalking in not only our relationship to each other but also in our relationships to ourselves and the unacknowledged (and so undealt-with) trauma and conditioning we had just unknowingly kept running in the background of our lives. I'm in therapy for me and we're in relationship therapy together. We are working toward, in our own small ways/world, loving the people in our lives in a non-possessive way, prioritizing the quality of our experiences by genuinely showing up, addressing our trauma and insecurities/securities and our socialization, committing to honest and transparent communication, diligently but kindly exploring the deep, dark corners of our interior worlds, supporting each other and the other people in our life in a way that emulates the closest thing to an unconditional love as we are able, and honoring the beauty and uniqueness in everyone's individual life and journey and story as full, autonomous human beings.

In the large urban park close to where I live, someone has written on one of the porta potties, "Covid-19 helped me dream." It has, and I'm feeling floored by it in the best kind of way.

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WHOA! This sounds really amazing! I don't even know where to begin. Writing a memoir about marriage pushed me off a kind of ledge around the meaning of commitment, monogamy, companionship, passion, ownership, connection, it goes on and on, and although I'm not really on as dramatic a path as it sounds like you are, I relate very strongly to the power of radical honesty in your life and how it makes everything you have with your spouse so much more vivid and satisfying. I've always thought my marriage was solid but it took a full year of dragging out my absolute worst ideas and urges and trying to accept them in spite of great self-loathing in order for me to be a better friend to myself AND become a much more generous and present partner to my husband. Like you, I didn't really understand how withdrawn we were at times until we threw everything onto the table and made space for ourselves.

Anyway, congratulations on landing here. It sounds very inspired and I wish you the best! xo

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Wow, this is amazing! This is the journey I want to take with my spouse, but the growth required is so scary and hard. What if we mess it up and lose what we have? But what if we can do it right if only we’re brave enough to try? Heather has counseled me on patience before, and I’m still working on that skill. Good luck to you and your spouse and your other partners. I’m rooting for y’all!

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AnonymousDec 4, 2020

I was already in the midst of a career upheaval at the beginning of this year and was laid off in March right after starting a brand new job. I have spent most of the year unemployed and the affect it's had on my mental health has been staggering. I have had some part time work and government assistance thankfully but the feelings of worthlessness and shame around my job and career are so deep and I hate that our society ties so much worth to what "you do". It just fucking sucks.

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Whew, I'm so sorry. Being unemployed can really induce a terrible feeling of dread and vertigo. I've been there and I do not function well there, so my heart goes out to you. The only thing that every helped me was structuring my time in the morning to include job search efforts and creative efforts, and then exercising in the afternoon and calling friends as much as possible. I resist schedules in general, but when you're unemployed, you sometimes need a kind of boot camp life just to survive, imho.

This sort of applies to pandemic life in general, at times. When you find yourself circling anxiously -- spending time online or in your head while loosely expecting to get something that 'helps' out of it, while feeling worse and worse -- it's important to notice and shift gears. That's something that's done a lot for me lately: tuning in to the earliest moment that my mind starts to turn on me.

The amount of self-management we all require right now is just staggering -- and that's not to mention the pragmatic horrors of just surviving, paying rent, and eating under these conditions. I'm very very sorry for the tough spot you're in and I hope things shift and feel better very soon. xo

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Thank you so much, I live alone, I'm so isolated right now and struggling so hard that I feel almost disconnected from reality. I'm also going to be unemployed soon and for the first time since graduating college I have no further plans after that. I really don't know what to do. I'm applying for jobs but there's just nothing out there right now.

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I'm so sorry. Can you take a little time to connect with people you care about before you have to start a whole new life? Sounds like you need more support right now and need someone to talk to about how you've been feeling.

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Last year I somehow clawed my way into an entry level desk job in a non-profit human services setting after years in the service industry. I just turned 33, and all of my superiors are considerably younger than me with advanced degrees and I couldn't even complete an associate's, which I have tried 5 (five) times. It's clear I won't move up the ladder without further education, but I'm too poor and tired and full of shame to even try again. God, the shame. I have tried to make peace with this and focus on the positive aspects of my life: I'm housed, well fed, and in a loving relationship with someone I'm going to marry if we can ever have weddings again.

But it feels like every single time I'm making progress with myself I experience another indignity at work that completely undoes me. One of many, many examples: My "office" is in the corner of what is essentially a warehouse type area tucked away behind the elevators, and it is now under construction for the next six weeks. They are knocking out two walls, 10 and 20 feet away from my desk. It's *unbelievably* loud, dusty, and also cold, as this is upstate NY and it's winter. I have been wearing wool socks and layers beneath my business casual, with a puffy coat and hat on top, all day every day. I have to take a hot shower when I get home. I bought noise cancelling headphones I could not afford, but I can't really wear them because I have to answer the phone and listen for clients knocking on the door. My concerns for my ability to actually do my job (and not feel like a piece of shit) are repeatedly dismissed by my supervisor. As were all previous concerns.

I would leave, but where would I go? Even without Covid and millions of other people looking for jobs, I have no skills, experience, or education. Maybe it won't feel so intense and I won't feel so pathetic when work isn't the only place I've been since March. But I don't know how to accept that this is all I will ever have.

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Dec 4, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

This is not all you will ever have. Your intelligence is clear; you write very well. I am not a therapist, but I am a professor, and if I can help somehow with your shame spiral re: education--I don't know what you might need, but I do know some things about navigating higher education--I would be happy to do so.

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I have been living alone for nine months now and rarely see other people, and all I can think about is my ex-boyfriend. I broke up with him about two years ago and I can't stop feeling guilty for ending the relationship, feeling angry at my past self for not realizing how good I had it, feeling ashamed that I'm not over him, feeling hopeless about the future, and more than anything else, feeling desperately and completely lonely. I used to pride myself on being so independent and certain about what I want, and it feels like all of that is gone, and instead I think about this man who was great in so many ways. Who was I to think he wasn't enough? So much shame.

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I understand this self-recrimination. I think it's natural that you're not over him, because you're not at peace with the decision you made or why you made it. I'm tempted to suggest that you read "Attached" because it sounds like you might be avoid and you might've struggled to feel your connection to your ex while you were in it, but now that you're out you're longing for him again. Once you understand the dynamics in play and how common they are, you'll be better able to accept how you are and forgive yourself for it. I love avoidant people! It's not a terrible way to be! You just have to know who you are and how you work so you can figure out how to strengthen connections to other people, let love into your life without feeling anxious or overly critical, and stop getting caught in little intellectual loops instead of grounding yourself in this moment, in this day, with the people who love you right now. I've done some work on that this year and at first it was harrrrrrrd - there are some Ask Mollys that bear testament to that, namely this one:

https://askmolly.substack.com/p/turn

I had to relearn self-acceptance along with acceptance of the moment. I had to slow down and let people be who they were. And I had to make peace with a world that felt frustratingly indifferent to me. I mean, the start of this path to feeling more present is just EXCRUCIATINGLY. I was all jacked up on escapist urges! It was like a coping strategy of mine during the early part of the pandemic. But it stopped working, plus, I knew I was fucking with myself and my ability to feel good and grounded.

I'm sure that your ex is great, but this moment is really about your development and your peace of mind. We all do things that feel wrong and bring us shame. I just keep making new mistakes every year, like clockwork! It's okay. This is your moment to learn how to connect in the present and live in reality, with other flawed, open-hearted people. xo

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Hey Jane, COVID-19 social isolation is not good for us, right? I think it makes sense to look back with regret and beat yourself up for lost connections during this time. But this is a strange period of our lives and the plus side is that you've realized (like we all have) how good and necessary and needed it feels to be connected to people, to have intimacy in your life. Doesn't mean this was the guy for you.

I'm also alone and entered the first lockdown recovering from an aborted ectopic pregnancy caused from a hook-up with my ex-boyfriend (after I'd ended the relationship then slept with him because I doubted my decision and felt guilty).

Then, lonely in my studio apartment, I hooked up with some other totally incompatible guy midsummer, maintained a distance relationship with him on Whatsapp, and finally ended that bizarre fantasy-thing. And even that I felt ashamed of. Who cuts people off during such an isolating time! So what if he was an asshole?

You're going to feel alone and sad and unsure if you're loved or wrong for ending a connection - but that's COVID! If it wasn't for this mess, you'd have more love all around you. I bet you did the right thing for you. The bar is low these days, too, so be careful out there! :)

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By the way, love the Emily Dickinson ;)

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This has been the worst year bar none. I have a 14 yr old daughter and a 20 year old very handicapped son. Facing foreclosure, homelessness, and Christmas is upon us. My daughter asked to put the tree up and I said "Why bother this year there won't be anything under it" As soon as it left my mouth I instantly regretted it. I know she's big and doesn't believe in Santa but I feel like such a failure as a parent. The 20 yr old actually asked for a PS5 and I just looked at him. I know his mentality is that of an 11/12 year old but, like, I can't buy that. I can barely pay the power bill!!! I don't know. I love them and feel like they deserve the world, not a deadbeat dad that split and hasn't paid child support in 7 years and a Mom who loves them but is failing them, hard as I try not to. Both my parents are passed and its a lonely scary feeling. When they died I knew I had nowhere to turn anymore. Things got to get better. I have to figure this out, for them, I don't care about myself, but they deserve a home without fear of losing it, and stress free. I don't think they actually realize the seriousness of it all. That at least is a small blessing. I also still have my faith in God.

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I'm so sorry for all that you're dealing with at this terrible time. Someone at our local elementary school just lost a spouse and is facing hard times and the community came together and raised money for them. Can you contact someone at your daughter's school and explain the situation but also ask for discretion? Is a GoFundMe possible? There's no reason why you shouldn't ask for help when you're in a tight spot. So many people are struggling at this moment, and so many others know that and want to help. I hope that regardless of what you do, you resist the urge to blame yourself, and you dare to reach out to others as much as you can. Email me for more thoughts askpolly at protonmail.com.

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This is hard, I am so sorry. The fact that your greatest concern is your kids proves to me you are not failing them. You obviously love them so much and that matters more than anything else. Hugs and strength x

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(Unless you’re not a hugger, in which case, a warm smile and strength)

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I can tell from your post you’re not asking for anyone’s support but I would be happy to provide what I can to help your family through the holidays. It won’t be much but I would be happy to share what I can if it would be helpful.

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Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, but, I can't do that. I know I'm not the only one with problems. I tell my kids that as bad as we may think we have it, there's someone else that has it worse. Your a very kind person. ❤

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Dec 5, 2020Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Of course. I am so sorry you're struggling. I will offer some words that may help you. I was raised by a single mother who was always trying to make ends meet. The Christmases before my father left were filled with lots of presents and company so the difference when it was one present and a sad little dinner was noticeable as a kid. However, looking back on those moments now I think of how strong my mother was and I am so grateful she was able to make the holidays special with what she had. It makes me love her even more. I hope this helps and sending you a lot of love. <3

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Loved a boy for a year, then he broke up with me two weeks ago. And he was SO heartbroken, like sobbing, and clearly didn't want to! I didn't want him to! But I was like, fuck, I guess we should probably break up! But I'm heartbroken and can't help but feel like, if we're both still in love and care about each other, why can't we make it work? Then he texted me a few times, and on our anniversary texted me a long paragraph about how he was thankful how I ~encouraged his dreams~ and how he was doing great and really following them! On our anniversary! Less than two weeks out! And when I was like, dude, we can't talk, he was SO apologetic. And was like I'm sorry I just still really care for you, blah blah, but I'll leave you in peace. To conclude: what the fuck! Why! There are reasons that I can think of but like, I was willing to make it work. He just cited that we were on different paths and it wouldn't be fair to either of us to go on--I would like to make clear that I have no fucking clue what path EITHER of us is on but okay! And yes all of this is kicking up my problems with like my father who died two years ago and all sorts of other things. Anyways, the only thing I'm looking forward to is my 21st in two months, which will also be disappointing because of COVID. Which is lame. All of this is fucking lame. I love him. Wish he saw what I saw in us. :/ also like this is embarrassing on so many levels and I know it reads crazy unaware of the Actual World and Actual Problems but my own little world is on fire in its own special way. God bless and keep ye.

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I'm sorry about all of this. Breakups that can't be explained and don't make sense are the worst, but it's also so common to just NEVER KNOW THE ANSWERS to these things. You suffer and you miss the person, but all your logic is going to do is make you crazy, because love isn't always perfectly logical, particularly when you're young. I had so many devastating breakups between the ages of 18 and 34, and my dad died when I was 25, so I know how it feels so well. The only thing I can tell you is that this is the sort of crisis that makes you a stronger, happier person when you're older. I don't think I'd be half as good at pulling myself out of the shit without those early breakdowns and that gigantic loss. That probably sounds stupid, in the face of such huge sadness, but it's still true. By the time I met my husband, I knew that I could get through almost anything -- and I don't think I would've been able to take the leap and get married without feeling that strong, because love was a huge threat and massive fear for me, even though I didn't know that consciously at the time. So even though this moment is shitty for you, practice stepping out of the circular, anxious need to "solve" the mystery of why it's happening and try to just feel your way through the day instead, as vulnerable and hard as that can be. When you retreat into anxious thoughts, it will slowly make you more gloomy and depressed. But when you welcome your sadness, you also welcome the weird optimism that sneaks in around the edges of that sadness. Look for it. Notice how the sky looks a little brighter when you're in pain. Let in the weight of this moment and let it guide you to a better understanding of who you are and what you really want from your life. Big love to you. xo

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I am a 22 year old unemployed recent graduate and it feels like I will never find a job. I have been applying to a lot but I feel like I must not be trying hard enough because all I get is rejections. I want to try harder but I am filled with fear, anger, sadness, and grief all the time it all feels so debilitating. I live with my parents who don't take it as seriously as I do so I live in constant fear that we are going to get the virus and when I try to tell them about how serious it all is they yell at me and tell me I need to get over it. I am so fortunate that no one I know has passed away from covid but yesterday I found out that one of my close friends has it so I'm scared for her. I have so much grief over all the things that were supposed to happen to me like having a real graduation ceremony and properly ending that chapter of my life. I feel like I spend all my days thinking about my life before this but I know I can't return to that. It's been 9 months but why does it still hurt so much? Why do I still cry everyday? Why can't I just get my life together? Before this I was so lost and unsure about my career goals and whatnot and I still am but now I feel like I will never figure it out and that I will just be left behind by the world. This has been the worst year of my life. This year has been so hard on all of us and it infuriates me that things have to be this way. Our government has basically left us to fend for ourselves and no one is doing anything about it. I also live in Los Angeles and things are getting so much worse but indoor malls remain open while everything else closes. Where the fuck is the sense in that???? I have so much anger inside of me it's like I'm constantly throwing an adult tantrum. I do everything I am supposed to do to regulate myself. I meditate, go on walks, journal, cook, read, listen to music, do yoga, exercise, go to virtual therapy but the pain doesn't go away. The rage doesn't go away either. I know it's not supposed to because it's a normal response to our fucked reality but I just feel like I've fallen and I'll never get back up. Thank you for opening this space for all of us to vent because we all need it. I hope there are some improvements next year.

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I was dumped at the beginning of this pandemic by my long-time partner whom I thought wanted to marry me. My kids and I had to relocate (twice). It's been seven months now, and I can't do all the normal things to recover from a break up. I feel alone times alone. Online dating is bleak and weird--we FaceTime and flirt about apocalypse plans. I met another man who seemed great and then rejected me for the same reasons--because I have kids, because I live in the suburbs and not the city. Anyway, I am lucky to have a job, and great kids, and good friends. But damn, it just feels lonely and tedious and I want it to be over. I exercise, go to therapy, write, read, and drink a little too much. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor died alone and I saw his body. He'd been in there for at least a week. Today, I have a wasp infestation in my bathroom. It just feels neverending bordering on comical. I try to allow myself space to feel sad and do less. Anyway, wishing you all well. I think everyone I know is struggling this year.

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I get what you are doing here. Hell, I've done it myself for nearly 54 years. No exaggeration. I often ponder if my entire purpose in this life is to save people from themselves, even at the loss of myself and my own hopes and dreams, needs and desires, right to love and security, and SUPPORT. So, what I am asking YOU is....

HOW YA DOIN'? (Eye lock here)

What do YOU need right now?

I can feel your isolation, independence and resilience (even if it is a bit shaky) in your post, but I also know personally what it is to go through life events (or in many cases just life itself) alone. Surgeries, pain, illness, depression, anxiety, holidays (well, for me anyway), parents, siblings, friends, etc etc etc... all the things others take for granted I have either never had or I have lost due to this resilience that seems to trigger a really ugly side of 'weaker(?)' or less resilient people. Gah! Trying to explain always sounds either whiney or soapboxy. There is no win when trying to describe this to people or empathize with them. Preachy, ice cold, self-righteous, etc etc, I have heard them all. I can tell you one thing though, they NEVER tell me I am wrong. They always tell me I AM WRONG IN MY RIGHTNESS (That me as this person is wrong) but they don't deny or rather acknowledge that I was correct about my insight. They're really pissed that I hit a spot that made them feel vulnerable I believe. Exposure, even to ones self, can feel really frightening. I know this personally as well because when I started to really see my Autism a few years ago (and granted I have autistic spawn) I felt suddenly so exposed and yet totally unseen all at once. I still do but at least now "I" make more sense to ME.

Anyway, I just want to be that person that reminds you to STOP when it feels too heavy to keep reading everyone else's baggage and to acknowledge your own value just being you without carrying everyone else on your back.

I'm doing this right now myself with my mom... long story-ish. More, lifetime purpose? Whatever it is, it never really ends so I am just trying to keep the chaos in check until the next lull.

There is a fine line between helpful/loving/caring/supportive and burdening. On both sides of the coin.

Too much of even what is perceived as good, is damaging. <<<< Remember that. No matter what society says, how much emphasis is put on it's value or lack thereof, the bottom line is that too much of anything, too much imbalance, good, bad or otherwise, will always cause tension and excessive tension creates weak spots and breaks, and breaks not tended to shatter and usually once you have shattered the ability to reconstruct 'in like,' won't be possible anyway. You will have to rebuild on what's left and that won't be what once was, which is REALLY REALLY HARD. Just sayin'....

And in case you're wondering HTH I was triggered to respond to this post, it was because reading all the comments literally was draining me emotionally. Reading you responding was so heavy. You are so supportive, which is beautiful and also self destructive. I just couldn't read them anymore. It felt like watching a person drown in others waters while they let the others stand on their shoulders above water, breathing. LOL

Please don't be angry people. My brain works oddly. I am proud of that but 98% of society seems to take it personally that I think different. It isn't personal. It's just HF Autism. <3

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Heather I am sorry to hear of your health struggles and am thankful for this thread where we can come together and support one another. It could not have come at a more perfect time for me.

I am struggling with taking on other's pain and grief- it is almost as if I put it on like a coat. I have had my share of difficult experiences throughout life which I believe have helped shape me into the empathetic, compassionate person that I am. For that I understand I feel things deeply. However, when I read the news and learn about a senseless death or act of crime, it is almost as if I become so wrapped up in what the victims or survivors are going through and how they must feel. I then start to mentally walk the path of how I could overcome a devastating loss if their situation were to happen to me. It gets to the point where I am gripped by fear, thinking that I would not have the strength to survive the same tragic ordeals that others have had to survive.

I understand that reading the news is not helping my mental health, but I also do not want to keep my head in the sand and not be aware of struggles that others are going through. I have already deleted a couple of apps that have recently sent me into a spiral, but I feel the bigger problem is learning how to have empathy for those who are suffering incredibly, but not to the extent where I am crippled for the rest of the day because I am so wrapped up in the horrific details of their suffering. In these current times, I want to be a member of my community that can face excruciating life events alongside one another, but mentally healthy enough to process the weight of it all.

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I am torn over J K Rowling. Which doesn't make sense because she doesn't know me/my opinions don't matter, I am nobody. But somehow I am disturbed.

Even more because I kind of understand what she is trying to portray/defend. But I also understand that an already crushed minority do not need a childhood idol to not support that their existence, that will be devastating. So I am on the mid-ground and wondering if it makes me a bigot asshole.

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I'm non-binary, loved HP as a child, and my feelings on Rowling are very complicated. I don't blame anyone else for not knowing how to feel either.

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I got laid off and I’m moving across the country in two weeks. There’s no more work for me here and it’s time to move on but I’m leaving my friends, my partner, my therapist. Now feels like a hunker down time and not a put yourself out there time. I’m scared about money and about moving, it’s just a lot

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This sounds extremely challenging. I'm sorry that you have to do this right now, what a mess. I would set up a schedule with your friends, your partner, and your therapist so you know you're going to talk to a few people a day. I'd also figure out a way to *virtually* hang out with people in your new location. Spend time online that's hyper local and rooted to business, groups, etc. in your new area. Maybe you've already been doing that? I'd take HUUUUUUGE advantage of the fact that everyone is locked up to reach out to people virtually BEFORE lockdown ends. See it as a lower stress way to kind of ONBOARD yourself (OH FUCK can't believe i used that term, I blame my one friend in management!) into (is that the right preposition?) local life. Even just perusing the little businesses in your new neighborhood virtually and forcing yourself to map out where you'll go to make connections and meet people once things go back to normal could help. Also exercise. I am a broken record. And sleep and read and take exceptional care of yourself. It's an adventure and I'll bet you'll love it eventually. You're being very brave. Tell yourself that every day and even when you feel like you've made a mistake, don't shame yourself for it. No one knows what to do next, EVER. You're learning and putting yourself out there, as you said, and that's good for you even now. Good luck!

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I keep returning to the idea that what I think of as maladaptive behavior in normal times, now has simply become adaptive behavior. Just doing anything to get through this hellish year. I've been running on denial and disassociation for months and months. At the beginning of the year, I had surgery (apparently, you don't actually need a gallbladder), and spent a couple of weeks recovering. I went straight from that to writing a book, which meant I confined myself to my chair day-in-day-out, while the pandemic started. I delivered my book, and two days later my father died from COVID. I spent the summer and fall burying myself in work to keep myself distracted, just going one day at a time, looking at the thing in front of me, unable to process anything else.

All throughout, I was acutely aware of this strange dislocation. Like I was aware of the trauma, and though I was unable to feel it most of the time, I knew that it was just building up to be dealt with at some undetermined future time. But hey, I was being So Productive! I was Making The Best Of A Bad Situation! That worked up until last month, when my capacity to keep working finally evaporated. But I still feel dislocated. Like none of this is real, or that sometime soon it will all be over and we'll be allowed to go back to the way it was, and my father with still be alive.

I mean, I KNOW that's not true. But it feels like my body is behaving as if it is. Perhaps it's just waiting until things feel safer before it allows me to collapse in a puddle of grief. It hasn't happened yet. I wonder sometimes if it ever will.

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Thank you so much, Heather! I truly appreciate this space. First and foremost, I am so sorry you've had to deal with multiple surgeries and health concerns this year ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE. Holy smokes. That is a lot to handle and I wish you health and strength in 2021! You deserve all the good things.

This post really resonates with me because I think this has been the week that my feelings have snuck up on me all at once. Here's what's going on in my life.

This spring—after sheltering-in-place by myself for about a month 1/2— I met a wonderful man at a Zoom-based event. We were both attracted to each other and started chatting over social media. We chatted for a couple of weeks, which led to phone calls and then Zoom dates. We met up for a socially distant walk in mid-May and fast forward to now, we're officially living together. The pandemic certainly expedited the pace of things! We are both very happy and insanely grateful that we met each other this year.

I've generally felt secure in this relationship until Sunday when we had an Oh Shit Moment. Throughout the course of normal conversation, it came up that one of his exes (he had previously told me some things about her) was 11 years younger than him. So, when he was 31 (he's in his mid 30’s now and we are the same age) she was 20. At the time, he was living with another woman who was closer to his age, so he had cheated on this partner to get with the 20 year old. He had already told me about the affair, but the age gap was new information.

Honestly, hearing about how young this girl was at the time made me very uneasy. My thought was why was he drawn to someone who had that much less life experience? Then my thought was, fuck what if he leaves me for someone much younger? And then, oh shit, does this signal something about his character that I should be wary of? Have I made a mistake by moving in with someone I've only met this year?

My partner and I have talked about this extensively this week. He's listened to my concerns and shared what it was like to be in the relationship with the young gal and why he was drawn to her and why they hit it off. They were together for a year 1/2 afterwards, so I know they had a genuine connection and he wasn't just chasing a hot piece of ass. Also, in the grand scheme of things, 31 is still pretty young.

I'm reassured by the fact that he did fess up to his ex (the one he was living with at the time) shortly after he cheated and told her that the infidelity was a sign that they weren't a good fit & should split. He also described all the guilt and anxiety he went through when all of this went down and his shame about the age gap. This ex (the one he cheated on) has since married & she and my partner are on cordial/friendly terms. So all in all, there are no lingering hard feelings.

I'm ready to move past this moment and I don’t want to judge my partner for his past, but I still have some lingering anxieties about getting left behind and broken up with. Especially because I have a history of dating dudes whose words and actions haven't always aligned. I'm scared time will prove that I’ve made another bad judgment call (I have made plenty of bad judgment calls). I do think my partner is a good one, but I’m scared that something’s going to happen and it won’t work out and I’m going to have to go through a breakup for the umpteenth time. The stakes feel high to me because I’m seeking a lifelong partnership & I hope he’s it. He and I are both on the same page about that.

I should also mention that I have an anxious attachment style. So thank you for providing me with a space to share my anxieties!

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I am going to see something you might not want to hear and that might not be popular. But I think is important to validate your instincts here because I share them, and with good reason. I was 23 when I met someone in his mid 30s, and I really wish he hadn't chosen me or let me fawn over him. The gap in experience was substantial and the power difference analogous. We stayed together for over 3 years so yes, we had stuff in common and I was not just a young hot piece of ass. We had a serious relationship and good memories. I knew his entire family extremely well and they adored me. HOWEVER. This does not absolve my ex of the fact that he basically chose someone who, RELATIVE TO HIM, barely left childhood to be his mate. At the time I told myself, I am an adult. Sure, I was in certain senses, but I belonged with someone much closer to my age. I am 29 now and it makes me feel GHASTLY to think of trying to seriously date someone 20,21,22.

Yes 31 is young, but it is not the same kind of young as 21. It's just simply not. That's not to say that NO relationship with an age difference can work. But 20 is a tender age. That said, I think a large gap when the younger party is in their 30s is a totally different thing.

Now in effort to not my project my unique experience onto your relationship, I would only ask yourself to be certain that your partner is expressing the appropriate amount of growth that makes YOU feel comfortable with his character and his morals. Dating a