Ask a therapist

Hi. I am feeling very negative and hopeless in life

Hi, Thanks for reaching out!  I'm sorry you are going through a tough time but am hopeful that you can get some things in place to help you into the right direction. Sometimes when there is a significant loss in life, particularly that of a parent, that type of grief can have a deep impact on all other aspects of life, including other interpersonal relationships.  The thing with grief as well, as a person navigates through the grieving process, there is no timetable, it isn't linear, and you can "revisit" a stage of the grief cycle at any point after a person's loss.  The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Some people never fully get to that acceptance point, and if they do, they don't stay there, and that's okay, but sometimes those people need some additional support as well.  Sometimes people fall into what is called complicated grief, which pretty much means that you are so impacted by the loss of your loved one that you have difficulty resuming other parts of your life.  This may be the case of finding difficulty seeing possibility or hope in your current or future relationships.  Feeling hopeless in any area of life is not something you want to be experiencing, particularly if you are feeling burdened by it or like you can't get out of it. Speaking to a therapist, either in person or virtually, maybe one that specializes in grief to start with, may really help you work through some issues you are experiencing with your grief and help you find ways to find hope in your future again.  They can also help you identify and prioritize what is important to you in a partner and why, and maybe help you get more of a sense of hope in that aspect as well.  It is important to address how you are feeling now, before you get into a deeper place of depression and it is harder to work out of.  Best of luck to you, and please feel free to reach out if you need anything more in the future!
Answered on 11/18/2022

I feel damaged when living with my family

Hi Revenant, Thank you for coming forward and asking this question.  It sounds like you have been navigating many issues within your family system.  Working through issues centered on trust, communication and relationships is not easy.  It sounds like you became cognizant of the issues you have been facing and decided to focus on variables within your control centered on self improvement.  There are multiple facets which make up our identity.  Tending to all facets can make us feel more fulfilled and can help us feel more balanced and correct an inbalance when one facet contains negative variables which feel overwhelming.  While you are a member of a family system, and it sounds like there are many difficulties within your specific family system, you are also an individual, friend, student, worker and partner to your girlfriend.  Investing time in yourself in the form of a physical fitness routine, investing in your social identity in the form of spending time with friends and getting a part time job after classes to invest in your future can help to facilitate a positve mental health outcome.  In life, we can divide things into two categories: the internal and the external.  Internal being things within our control and external being things outside of our control.  Focusing on things within our control can help us to feel empowered.  Worrying about external variables outside of our control is a waste of our time because we cannot effect them; they will occur whether we worry about them or not.  We suffer worrying about them while not being able to affect the outcome.  I hear the pain in your words as you share the personal and family hardships you have faced since you were a 12 year old boy.  As you stated, the feelings you describe of having this sense of being damaged is not a weakness.  Holding in those feelings and pushing them deep inside of you will not make them magically go away.  They will find their way out in an antisocial manner when they are suppressed.  Processing these emotions can be an effective way to move forward and make meaning of what has occurred.  An effective form of therapy research has shown to be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  You can be treated with this therapeutic modality by a licensed therapist who has experience in this treatment model.  I am a licensed therapist who is trained in this therapeutic modality and would be more than happy to assist you in any way I can.  Please let me know if you need anything else, I hope this response has helped.
(LCSW)
Answered on 11/18/2022

How to move on after I got back with my ex wife?

Hi there, I am glad that you reached out. It sounds like you and you partner have been through a lot. I don't know the full context of your situation including how long you have been together and other relevant history such as what happened that caused you to feel disrespected. Often times, when someone disrespects us, it can feel like a breach of trust because when we are in a relationship we trust that the other person has our best interests at heart. On the other hand, sometimes we can have trouble with taking things too personally and it can be difficult to communicate with us. I would make sure that you take a deep look at yourself and spend some time thinking and journaling about times in the past, all the way back to childhood, that we felt disrespected by someone else. It's important that when we ask someone in a relationship to take responsibility for their actions that we are making sure that we are also taking responsibility for ours. I would work to heal any last memories that bring up intense feelings for you, especially those memories in which you felt disrespected. Being disrespected can also make us feel out of control and out of power. I would work on ensuring that you feel deeply rooted and comfortable in your own personal power so that what others think and say doesn't become so impactful to us. I would then ask your partner to write down their top 5 priorities of things you want to change and/or fix in your relationship together. Then I would write down your top 5 priorities in your relationship that you want to change or improve. Then I would sit down together and agree to be open and vulnerable with each other and establish safety and trust by both committing to really hearing the other person's needs and talk about both your lists of top 5 priorities. Then you can see how you can each support each other. I would each focus on how you can best support each other and start from there. 
(MS, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 11/17/2022

How do I open myself up for a fulfilled single life?

Hi Tori! Thank you for reaching out and asking this valuable question on the topic of making improvements in your relationships. Welcome to the BetterHelp platform! I can tell that you have been looking for ideas on how to prepare for your next relationship as well as improve and build upon your current friendships. What are some of your relationship goals? I hope that my response to your question will assist you in making changes in your current and future relationships. Sometimes advice and guidance is all we need in order to take the next steps! I can tell that you have been feeling motivated for change based on what you had written in your question. It is a really good sign that you have been reaching out for support. Who else is in your support system? What institutions would you consider to be supportive for you? Are you familiar with the cycle of change? What are some things that you can realistically do as you prepare for change? Here is a link to more information on the cycle of change: https://ououd.casn.ca/media/documents/the-cycle-of-change.pdf Also, here is a link to the circle of support work sheet in which you can continue to identify your natural supports: https://www.citn.org.uk/resources/circle-of-support/ In addition to reaching out for support and preparing to make change, I can see that you are trying to focus on your needs. Have you taken some time to focus on your feelings, as well? First and foremost, I recommend that you take some time to focus on recognizing your feelings and assessing how your emotions may have changed over time. I will share with you the link to the feelings wheel in order for you to practice feeling identification strategies: https://ytp.uoregon.edu/sites/ytp2.uoregon.edu/files/Feelings%20Wheel%20in%20PDF.pdf It appears that you have already begun the process of setting some really good goals for yourself! I realize that you would like to learn how to live a fulfilling, single life. That sounds really great! What are some of the things that would make life fulfilling for you? Perhaps you can make a list of your hobbies, talents and interests in order to have a better understanding on how to answer this question. What are some of your personality traits that you would consider to be your greatest strengths? Take some time to assess your own personal favorite qualities that you recognize within yourself. In addition, you mentioned in your question that you had moved to London for love. It sounds like that plan did not work out in the way that you initially expected it to. I realize that this experience could come with some feelings of disappointment or perhaps even feelings of devastation. Those are just some of my first thoughts. I am wondering if you are familiar with the four types of Greek love- stergo, phileo, agape and eros. I understand that you had moved to London searching for love and did not find the type of love you had anticipated. Perhaps you can still find love but maybe a love that comes in a different form!Below is the link to an article that explains the four types of Greek love for your review: https://annointing.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/love-types.pdf On another note, I understand that you were able to recognize some of warning signs of codependency in your last relationship. Have you noticed codependency signs in your past relationships, as well? Take some time to clarify some of the signs of codependency. I would like to encourage you to look into more information on the topic of codependency. Below are the titles of two books that you could read in order to explore more on this topic: "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie "Understanding and Treating Co dependnce" by James A. Kitchens Also, check out this web link for a quick synopsis about understanding co dependency: https://www.mhankyswoh.org/Uploads/files/pdfs/CoDependency-UnderstandTreat_20130813.pdf In responding to your question, I would be interested in hearing more about what you have been doing to live a fulfilling life so far. What can you do to take action in order to live a more fulfilling life? Would you be able to envision yourself feeling fulfilled in other ways? I recommend that you try to visualize your life feeling fulfilled. Would you be willing to prioritize yourself over other people? It sounds like you could benefit from self care skills. Essentially, from my perspective, self care skills mean practicing any activity that brings you joy and fosters a sense of self love. It is okay to be selfish. Not in a bad, rude and "no one matters but me" way but rather in an "I love you" (yourself) type of way! I hope that you can carve out twenty minutes or so in your day to practice self care. Here is a link to some more ideas for self care skills: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5c154cf9372b964a03cbccdb/t/5c488d65352f534aa63aa58a/1548258661324/100+Coping+Skills.pdf I recommend that you begin the process of journaling or creating art on a regular basis. Would you be willing to participate in creative writing or therapeutic drawing interventions? You could keep a daily journal as a means to record and keep track of your thoughts and feelings. At this time, I would like to recommend that you you begin attending individual counseling sessions on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It sounds like you could find meeting with a therapist one on one will be helpful for you overall. In individual therapy, you can have the chance to address your concerns with attachment. Ask your therapist about the attachment theory! You may also want to consider attending a group therapy session or a groupinar. The group therapy process has very unique benefits that you may find to be helpful for you! Lastly, I want to thank you again for your time asking this important question. Also, I want to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey on BetterHelp. I hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. Take good care and have a nice day!
(LMHC, ATR-P, MS, NCC)
Answered on 11/17/2022

I want a divorce but I don't know how to initiate it. What should I do?

I am so very sorry about your pain and distress pertaining to considering separation and divorce from your husband. It is indeed a weighty decision that results in challenges within associated emotions/ actions. I am glad to know that you have familial support via your mother and cousin.  It sounds like you are experiencing distress while weighing the potential changes to your relationship status such as the change in your housing;  your spouse's emotional health status; the potential change in your access to your shared family pet; and the potential change to your financial status.  All of your concerns are valid. However, if you decide to proceed with the separation/ divorce, it will be very important for you to be mindful of not assuming total responsibility for your spouse's emotional health status. You can not save him or yourself from the pain that is associated with the process. However, you can utilize current familial supports/ consider adding to your supports (individual therapy), and proceed towards maintaining a focus towards acknowledging, processing, and managing your own grief process. If you move forward with the separation/ divorce, it sounds as if you may have to compromise on your own timeline/ expectations. You may want to accept your mother's offer to live with her much sooner than you would like to. It does not sound like your spouse is willing to and/ or able to accept your decision to separate/ divorce, and that he continues to push emotional and physical boundaries. Plying you with gifts while failing to change any behaviors is a form of manipulation and an attempt to avoid the core issues. That is a form of power and control. It does not sound as if he will cease efforts to engage in intimacy with you. He likely feels hopeful that continuing to compliment you may distract you from your desire to see substantial change within the relationship.  I empathize with you, and I encourage you to give yourself a great deal of grace at this difficult time in your journey. I hope that you will experience increasing peace and clarity as you navigate this time in your life. Kind regards, Erica
(JD, LMSW, CCTP)
Answered on 11/17/2022

How can I keep my calm when under pressure?

How to keep calm under pressure? Keeping calm under pressure is challenging. Managing your emotions and regulating how you feel when something happens takes time. Emotional regulation is essential to help you to become more "responsive" than "reactive." You can learn emotional distress tolerance skills by learning what your triggers are and recognizing your emotions. Distress tolerance is your ability to manage emotional distress using strategies to help you cope with emotional discomfort without making the situation worse. You can recognize when your ability to manage distress is low when you are overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed. Emotional dysregulation can lead to emotional outbursts and trigger negative emotions impacting your moods and interactions with others. It can be challenging to feel like you have no control over your emotions and continuously find yourself stuck in patterns and behaviors you don't like. Emotional regulation is a distress tolerance skill that involves taking the time to acknowledge how you feel, noticing the triggers that impact you the most, and choosing how you will respond to how these triggers impact you.It can be challenging to communicate and express how you feel if you are not mindful of how you feel, self-aware of what you need, or even able to address your needs. Your emotions are alarming you with what your needs are and how to cope with the emotions that you need. For example, if you feel insecure, your emotions tell you that you need to feel valued and fulfilled in a specific area to feel more secure and confident. To better understand why you are more emotionally reactive, try to explore and understand the contributing factors impacting you the most. Notice your triggers. Ask yourself are your triggers internal triggers (thoughts, feelings, assumptions, expectations; or external triggers (people, places, situations, experiences), which are all experiences that impact your emotions. Focus on your body cues, behaviors that let you know when your emotions are escalating. For example, are you staring at a spot on the wall? Is your leg shaking? Do you feel hot? Is your heart beating faster? Do you feel queasy or dizzy?Do the opposite of how you feel. In situations where you find yourself being more reactive than responsive, what do you do when you feel emotionally triggered? How do you react? Journaling, discussing your triggers, and reflecting on your experiences can help you better understand your feelings.Deep breathing is another way to pause and regulate your feelings before responding. Try “Boxed Breathing,” in which you’ll breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and so on until you feel grounded. You can also tighten your muscles and release them while breathing, focusing on the breath, and practicing mindfulness all the way through.You will learn that your emotions are essential and that validating them and choosing how to respond to them takes practice. Going to therapy to learn how to manage your anger and how to regulate your emotions is also helpful. There are also many self-help resources that you can explore on emotional regulation, anger management, and distress tolerance skills. You have already made a positive step toward improving your emotional well-being. Good luck, and I wish you the best.
(MA, LMHC)
Answered on 11/17/2022

What is wrong with me?

Thank you so much for sharing your honest feelings and questions. That is a hard place to be in, when you don't feel really all the way present in the world or your own life. I also think you're not alone in feeling this way, as many are feeling disconnected emotionally and socially following the pandemic.  Let's start with some techniques that can help you turn off autopilot and feel more involved in your own life. Grounding techniques can be very helpful here to bring awareness to your body and your environment. Deep breathing is one of these grounding techniques. You can try simply taking deep breaths, or you can try square breathing where you inhale for a given amount of time (i.e. four seconds), hold it for the same amount of time, exhale for the same amount of time, and hold that for the same amount of time, forcing your breathing to be slower and more controlled. You can also try the "5-4-3-2-1 technique," in which you will identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Strive to notice small details that your mind would usually tune out, such as distant sounds, or the texture of an ordinary object. Another idea to go along with this is being intentional about the activities you choose to engage in and making sure you do something fun or exciting for yourself each week. This can be anything from getting your favorite coffee to going on walks outside, as long as it evokes that positive emotion for you. You also brought up the challenge of connecting with people and making friends. This can be an intimidating thing, especially in adulthood, when it feels like there are fewer opportunities to spend time with new people. When you feel up to it, busting out of your comfort zone might help you interact with new people, which could be potential new friends. Think about activities you’ve always wanted to try but never have. It could be as simple as taking your dog to a new coffee shop every weekend or maybe you finally try going to that book club that your cousin is in. You could also just spark up a conversation with the people you regularly cross paths with at work, the gym, the library, or wherever. If you feel more comfortable starting connections online, there are now several different social platforms where you can joins groups related to your interests. For example, if you like cycling, join a cycling Facebook group or follow a cycling TikTok page. You could also use social media as a jumping-off point for developing friendships with people you follow by replying to people’s stories if they post about activities you’re interested in, or leaving kind comments on their posts.
Answered on 11/16/2022

Why do I care so much that someone who adds no value to my life at all doesn't like me?

Human beings are generally social which often drives us to build and maintain relationships with others. We are taught to "treat others as you would like to be treated" and are taught interpersonal effectiveness skills as we grow up to assist us with building healthy relationships. Even though we "know" not everyone in life likes one another and sometimes someone can not like you for no apparent reason, it is a natural response to be bothered by it. If you feel generally liked by others, being unliked by someone with no explanation feels strange and uncomfortable. A way to cope and reduce feeling bothered would be to shift your focus from "why am I so bothered" to "I accept how they feel and realize it does not determine my day". The uncertainty of why they are behaving the way that they are may actually be the bothersome factor opposed to being bothered that they do not like you. Their behavior does not make sense to you so it presents itself as a problem to be solved. When you accept that it is not a problem to be solved since it is out of your control and a situation to accept and move forward in a way that makes you more comfortable the bothersome feeling will reduce. Taking inventory on if their behaviors actually impact your day or if it is your reaction to their behaviors that impacts your day is a great place to start. Using the rule of 5 when you notice that you are getting upset can help reduce the emotional charge. For the rule of 5 you would start by asking yourself: "Will this matter in 5 minutes? In 5 hours? In 5 days? In 5 weeks? In 5 Months? In 5 years?" As you go down the list you can better determine if your emotional charge matches how long the situation will actually impact you.  Reminding yourself that they are a colleague, who you only see at work which is a determined window of time limiting their influence over your life, is another way to keep the situation in perspective. Distress tolerance skills can be useful as well, especially with reducing the emotional charge from any tense interactions before going home so that you have boundaries with what is going on and it does not seep into other areas of your life. 
Answered on 11/16/2022

How do I cope with deteriorating friendships?

Hello, First, it sounds painful when you notice there is a lack of give and take in your friendships. It sounds like it creates a lot of hurt, pain, loneliness and resentment- I'm just assuming and correct me if I'm off on this. I'll give you a few ways to cope with all of this with a few set ways and clarification on some ideas. The first area I would focus on is what is forgiveness and what is not. I think forgiveness is often no longer holding onto the "poison" we may be drinking. It sounds like you're at a boundary breaking point with your friends over feeling betrayed for being there for them and that not being reciprocated- it's incredibly painful. I think often we have to understand that forgiveness doesn't mean they get to walk all over us. Forgiveness is seeing what they've done and see that as the truth and deciding how you want to participate. It's not forgetting, yet it's 'I have different boundaries with them unless things change.' It often also allows you to listen to yourself and nurture your own self and asking what you need vs. blaming or holding onto grudges, ill will, etc.- we all do that at times here.  To do this I'm breaking down these steps which can be stepping stones for your path to forgiveness Identity what you possibly want to forgive (this can be a way to cope with deterioriating relationship). I would write down something like, "Tom didn't text me back when I was at my lowest of lows." Next to each thing you may be trying to forgive is you put a number 0-5. 0 means I am not willing to forgive no matter what! to a 5 means I've let it go and maybe have some strong emotions and want to decide how I participate with this transgression that has happened. Next would be deciding what your commitment is to forgiving? Is it to start to connect to a relationship? Reminding yourself that forgiveness doesn't equal being walked on? Etc. There are a lot of health benefits and social/mental benefits to forgiving.  Now outside of forgiving. I might do a script for communicating my disappointment / asking for wants/needs from them. They might not know what they don't know. I usually use a script like this when expressing or saying no to something... Describe- I notice that... when I reached out for help I didn't hear a follow up Express- I feel disappointed by the response Assert- I  would like clarity if something was missed on my end? Reinforce- I've really enjoyed our relationship and don't want to sit in disappointment because you all are important to me, etc. The goal is to assert yourself clearly on this. It can be a very helpful tool and can be looked up online with DEAR MAN script. I hope this helps giving two ideas a start.  I wish you the best, Mitchell Daas, MA, LPCC
(MA, LPCC)
Answered on 11/16/2022

I can’t see my future. It makes me scared. And I just broke up with ex. It makes it much harder.

Hello Jina, Thank you for providing your question to the BetterHelp platform! First, I hope this response finds you well, settling in to New York and doing your best to be as kind to yourself as possible, especially as you adjust to all the changes you have recently made in your life. I know relocation is not easy and may be even harder for you, as you  have had unexpected setbacks, such as your breakup with your now ex-boyfriend, to contend with in between. Second, I want to give you confidence and assure you that, despite the language barrier, you did a wonderful job articulating yourself here, describing the situation at hand and the emotional consequences you are experiencing very well. I understood perfectly.  I will address your questions as they were written. My thoughts are as follows: 1. If you are wondering how you can arrange living in the US, specifically in NY with limited resources, it is first important that you examine the resources you have at present time. Do you have a driver license, birth certificate, a working visa, etc. In order to get a job, get benefits, help from the department of social services, or other entities that require citizenship or active visa status, you must hold these documents. If you have limited resources, NYS has a plethora of options, a simple google search or visit to your local department of social services can give you more options related to those who require assistance when they have a status as an immigrant. If you want to maintain here, you have got to get yourself aligned with resources and supports first and foremost before the weather really turns and the holidays begin. Things get complicated and take much longer during these times. 2. Depression in the context of a breakup is not uncommon. You have just lost a long-term relationship where you saw your life going one way and it went another. It can feel like grieving the loss of a dear loved one. These things take time and intention to heal. You can spend time going over whether it was your fault or their fault, whether you were right and they were wrong or vice versa, or you can decide to live your life with the current truths present and accounted for - they are that the relationship has ended and you must move forward, building new patterns where you love yourself and treat yourself the way you had hoped your partner would. You need to do your best to take care of yourself physically - take walk during safe times and get fresh air, eat well, pattern your behaviors in new ways that are not related to the old relationship so you can show your body and your mind that you are moving forward with confidence in spite of the heartache you are enduring. You can do it! 3. Self-love requires self-trust, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-reliance. Engage in behaviors that create the narrative that you will always show up for yourself, that you will protect yourself. Talk to yourself kindly as you navigate your new environment, be open to doing things that make you feel happy all on your own and savoring those moments. This is how we build self-love by saying we love ourself and then truly acting like it. You want self-love, give it! Everyday, every minute. I hope this is helpful to you. Please return to the BetterHelp platform should you have more questions. We love them and love to help. I am wishing you all the best of luck and light during these hard times. Rooting for you always!
(MSSW, LCSW, LICSW)
Answered on 11/16/2022

How do I put boundaries on my parents?

Hi there! Thanks for your question. I hope I can provide you with some things to think about and reflect on as you work to try to establish some boundaries with your parents.  -My first thought is that the process of growing into an adult but still being someone's child can be very difficult. As we grow into who we are as adults, sometimes that conflicts with who we were expected to be as children, especially when our parents still see us that way. As an adult, you can recognize that you wanted encouragement. You wanted to be able to express yourself emotionally and feel supported by them throughout. It can be disappointing to come to the realization that maybe they have not given you everything you hoped they would.  -My next thought is around wanting a relationship with them but knowing that they are still likely not going to give you what you need. I think there are some ways that you can address this. The first is that you can communicate what you want from them. "I am feeling a bit unsure about this thing going on in my life and I would love some encouragement that I am making the right choice." Sometimes sort of guiding them to what you want might help them better understand your needs. My other thought is, can you focus on having a relationship with them without getting encouragement and support from them? If you know that is not something that comes naturally to them, you can sort of focus your efforts on not expecting it from them. Maybe you can fill your life with other people who did possess this quality and that you can turn to as a support system.  -Establishing boundaries can be a sort of vague term. I do think it is a great idea for everyone to establish boundaries with each person in their life, whether it is family, friends, or a romantic partner. When it comes to creating boundaries, think about the actual, tangible behaviors that are occurring that do not feel good for you to accept. If they try to drop off food and you question their motives, you can politely decline or accept and if they do bring it up in the future, you can say something along the lines of "I assumed that was a thoughtful gesture, not one that needed to be reciprocated." I am sure there are other examples of behavioral patterns that they tend to have, so think about what those patterns look like now and how you would like them to change. I think that will help you come up with the action that needs to happen on your end to ensure a boundary does not get violated.  I hope you found this answer helpful. If not or if you are looking for a more individualized response, I always recommend seeking help from a mental health professional who can help guide you throughout the process. I wish you all the best in your journey. Take care! Cory Bedtke, LCSW
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 11/16/2022

How to cope with losing my wife and mom

I am very sorry that you are struggling with the loss of your wife and mom. That is a tremendous loss for you to have gone through and the way you're feeling would be expected after experiencing such life changing events. I am not sure of the circumstances of the loss of your wife and your mom and whether it happened recently or if you are still grieving these losses for quite a while now. Either way, there are specific stages of grief and loss that people go through and there isn't really a timeline on how quickly people go through the stages and sometimes they might get stuck on one particular stage. It sounds like you are in the depression or sadness stage. This stage usually comes after denial and anger. Some people start their stages of grief and loss with depression, especially is they knew the death was going to happen due to a prolonged illness. In these cases, people will actually go through the denial and anger phases while their loved one is still alive. Again, I am not sure of the circumstances of your losses and this might not apply to your situation. Usually the first year of the loss is the hardest because you experience all of the birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries without your loved one. These days that were once happy and enjoyable are now sad because your loved one isn't there to celebrate with you. This can leave a great void in your life as a result. You will also not have the same amount of enjoyment you once had with the things that made you happy in your life. You may find yourself longing to share your joy with your missing loved one but cannot which can be especially difficult. Being patient with yourself and acknowledging that the way you are feeling will not last forever but also knowing that you might not ever return to the level of happy you were before you lost your loved ones. It is important to get support from friends and other family members to help maximize the joy you feel in your life. If people offer to help or do things with you, take them up on it even if you don't feel like it at the moment. Most times you will end up feeling glad that you said yes to their offer. It is like not wanting to go to the gym but then feeling better after your workout. It is also important to look for new forms of happy that might not necessarily be associated with the memory of your loved one. This can help you to create new experiences that are unique to your life as it is now and not the way it was when your loved ones were here. Attending a grief support group might also be helpful, especially a loss of a spouse support group. These are great ways to connect with others who are experiencing the same feelings you are going through and often you can make new friends and sources of support and joy from these types of groups. Not sleeping well can make all of the symptoms you are experiencing worse so try to develop a healthy bedtime routine to get better quality sleep. This includes avoiding caffiene late in the day, minimizing your screen time a few hours before bed and refraining from watching depressing programs like the news or murder mysteries. These can stimulate your brain in a negative way and keep you from getting to sleep or being able to stay asleep. Talk to your doctor about getting a sleep aid if this situation doesn't resolve soon. Sleep is so important. Your lack of sleep might be due to not having adequate serotonin levels which can be depleted after prolonged periods of stress. Losing a spouse is actually one of the most stressful things to go through. You may want to talk to your doctor about medication to help restore your serotonin levels. This will also help with not feeling social, not enjoying your work and not feeling happy with your life.  I can't really comment to your feelings of doubt and conflict because I am not sure what these feelings are about but hopefully you can talk this through with your therapist. I am glad you are taking advantage of Better Help and getting the much needed support as you transition through this very difficult time in your life. Try to keep in mind that these feelings are temporary and it will get better but it will be difficult for a while. Let others help you if they offer and reach out for support if they haven't offered. Many times people are honored to help someone who is struggling and is so glad they were asked for support. I hope this helps to address your concerns and I hope things get better for you soon. Take care
(LCSW, CEDS, Mary, Beth, R, Blackwell)
Answered on 11/16/2022

How to forgive oneself for past mistakes or feeling like they should have done things differently

Hello, Thank you for submitting the question and reaching out. First, I want to address the standards. You have to ask yourself what are those standards you have set for yourself. I would recommend going back and looking at those standards to see where you see them now and how they fit in your life. Looking at how to forgive oneself.  Asking yourself what you need to forgive yourself for is the first step.  Different experiences from our past can potentially leave an impact on the way we perceive and behave today.  In response to things that we have experienced we then learn how to behave in ways that protect us from more pain.  However, you have to use the resources you have at hand. You have to make the most of them. First, if you are feeling guilty, try to understand and remember that you have done the best you can with what is available to you.  You will know when the time is right, and it sounds like you are ready to forgive yourself.  Time and growth will allow you a perspective you didn't have when you may have made the mistake.  However, knowing that you want to forgive yourself means that you may have learned a lesson.  While you are allowed to feel guilty and afraid.  Those feelings actually allow you to make aware of past mistakes. Moving forward you have to accept guilt as an emotion.  Every emotion means something to us.  The guilt can help you move forward and learn from what you may have made a mistake in.  Secondly,  you have to make sure you are healed from the mistake and allowing yourself to heal from that.  When you feel like you are able to forgive yourself, it is opening a wound up.  You have to allow this wound to heal. Also you have to be self compassionate towards yourself. You can do this by doing things for yourself.  Challenging negative thoughts, journaling about your emotions, past mistakes are also very healthy. Nurturing yourself through self care is important, doing things for yourself, giving yourself positive affirmations or words of encouragement.  You also have to remind yourself you are doing the best you can do. Asking for forgiveness may not be easy, but confronting the situation, working through it and taking care of yourself is extremely important to be successful in forgiving yourself fully.
Answered on 11/15/2022

When am I going to move on?

Hi! A pleasure to meet you! I am Lorena, LMFT (marriage and family therapist). Thanks for opening up to me and sharing some of your current struggles/ issues you are dealing with. I hear your words and your commitment to feeling better so hopefully this answer will help! It is pretty normal when we have a committed partner to devote ourself to them fully; without realizing that we need us more than anyone. It sounds like you were pretty committed to this person and the relationship you both had so you decided to invest yourself fully in him.. I can't imagine what being in the same city without him looks like. It probably reminds you about a lot of things and it is hard not to have him in your head a lot of the time. Plus, dedicating yourself to him and not opening up to other people! That's pretty normal, so we will process this together. You probably have changed as a person after that relationship so it is hard to picture yourself with people from before; it is not that you became a better or worst person, you just changed and transformed, probably your needs/ likes/ desires and hopes did as well! I wonder how can you meet new people. First exercise: write down some of your coping mechanisms, things that make you happy nowadays and let's think about meeting people in those situations; cooking classes, yoga, fitness centers, music classes, etc! Think about the person you are and want to continue being and invest yourself in that! I hear how you are scared of being vulnerable again and opening up to a new relationship! Makes a lot of sense, clearly you were in a committed relationship where you dedicated yourself to one person. Opening up your heart again and dating/ going out is equal to being vulnerable, which means putting your wall/ guard down and opening up and letting also the fear/ concern play a role. Yes, your heart may get broken again; but that is very normal and part of the relationship; it's actually a very normal part of dating. A pro of dating is not only making the relationship work out but also getting to know yourself with different people. Perhaps, different individuals teach you something about yourself that you did not know was there! The only way in which you can continue becoming the amazing person you are is by exposing. When you are secure of your needs as a person the way that a break up affects you will be very different; which means that it will hurt but you will understand it different as well!  Exercise 2: accountability mirror: stand in front of a mirror and everyday grab a sticky note and write something you like about yourself; paste it in the mirror and notes will be adding up! send me a picture if you can! Conclusion: So working together we would do a little bit of inner work where you can find that peace and acceptance with yourself; we would focus on being vulnerable, letting yourself understand fear and talking about your needs as a person. I always send a therapy worksheet before we meet so I will do that with you as well so I can have your goals and needs for the future. Let me know if you have any questions! Respectfully, Lorena Klahr, Licensed marriage and family therapist
(LMFT)
Answered on 11/15/2022

How do I commit myself in to a relationship?

Hello Lisa, Thank you for reaching out for your question. I will try my best to answer this as best as possible on the limited information.First of all, it is very hard to find good men these days.  Society has taken a modern turn and communication and steps to build a relationship don't seem to really exist.  People are wanting to "rush order" dating and relationships and they usually end up with someone who has a personality disorder or co-dependency issues, especially on a dating application where that platform is really attractive for someone who quickly wants their ego fed.With that said, if you are wanting to find someone of quality, I strongly recommend that you do things that you do and love and then someone who is also interested in the same things will find you there. For example, if you love to kayak, play tennis, etc. then gravitate to those type of activities.  In addition, volunteering for community service especially during the holidays is a nice way to help out.Lastly, when you do meet someone, the key is to take your time.  Take one step at a time and really get to know someone instead of rushing in a physical relationship.  This way, you can study their personality, see if they are a good fit and you have things in common, and develop a sense of trust.  It takes time to build trust and most people rush into things and then end up getting hurt.  It also might be good for you to seek professional counseling with a licensed therapist to see if you keep gravitating towards the same type of toxic guy. Perhaps, there is a pattern where you are drawn to more toxic men and this is why you continue to get hurt.  A licensed therapist can help you under why you are drawn to certain men and help you shift out of old patterns and perhaps help your "picker" find more trustworthy fellas.Hope this helps and I wish you the best on your journey of love.  Remember, do things that you love, learn to love yourself, and in return... you will attract love to you.
Answered on 11/15/2022

I struggle with procrastination which then leads to anxiety, depression. How do I deal with it?

Hello Nora! What a great question! Thank you for asking!  Procrastination is a problem for many people. You are definitely not alone. There are a number of theories about the causes of procrastination. Probably, the most likely answer is that it is the result of a number of things combined with each other. 1. We procrastinate doing a task when the task seem to be too big or overwhelming. For example, I am going to put off cleaning if I believe I have to clean the whole house in one day. My brain is going to say, "That is way too much for me to do. I don't even know where to start!" Then my brain is going to say, "Let's just not do anything!" What is the answer to this problem? Most likely, the answer is to break the task down into little manageable pieces. I might feel much better about cleaning one room than cleaning the whole house. I am more likely to see that one room is do-able. I might be more willing to get started if I realize that I am going to be done in a short period of time -- not the whole day. And one of the payoffs to breaking things down into bite-sized pieces is that a lot of times we will keep going once we start even if we had previously decided to do just one room. Many times, it is just getting going that is so difficult and once we start, we keep going. Energy begets energy as the saying goes. But even if we don't want to keep going after we do the one bite-sized piece, we still have accommplished that one piece.  2. Another theory suggests that we procrastinate on those things that we fear we might not complete satisfactorily. Sometimes we have our own unrealistic standards that we think we need to live up to. Sometimes, it is someone else's unrealistic standards. Either way, if we think we cannot meet those standards, then we might convince ourselves that it is better not to even get started or try to do the task rather than risk the feeling of not having done it "perfectly" (which of course is impossible). The answer to this problem is to really come to understand how we think about ourselves and others. We need to gain some awareness of our core beliefs or what I call our scripts and rules. Are the standards that we have set for ourselves -- or the standards that we believe others have set for us -- reasonable? Could anyone actually meet those standards? It is one thing to strive for excellence but another thing to strive for perfection. The latter is not possible but if we believe it is, then we might feel paralyzed by the fear of not meeting this unreasonable standard, and we might not even start the task. We have to be able to talk to ourselves with compassion and remind ourselves that no one is perfect and it is okay to do the best we can on this task or project. 3. Another theory suggests that we do not like to feel whatever feelings are connected to this project. Perhaps the project seems boring or frightening or anxiety-provoking. If we are not willing to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings that go along with this particular task, then we might put it off as long as possible. A homework assignment might sound boring and so we wait until the last minute because we don't want to feel bored. Maybe we need to create a presentation but the idea of the presentation raises our anxiety. Maybe we don't tolerate the feeling of anxiety very well and so we put off putting the presentation together because we don't want to feel anxious. The key to this particular problem is learning to identify and tolerate our feelings. Feelings are normal human reactions to situations. They might be uncomfortable but there is a reason for our feelings. They are like little messengers that are telling us something -- maybe a warning, a need for something, some kind of message. So, the key is to learn to listen to our feelings, understand what they are telling us, and increase our ability and willingness to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. If I can learn to tolerate the anxiety that goes along with creating a presentation, I am more likely to dive in (maybe break that presentation down into pieces that I do a little at a time) and get it done rather than putting it off. 4. Another theory suggests that we do not have very good time management skills. Perhaps we are not that great at planning and organizing. So, rather than setting aside a designated time to get the task done, we just don't even think about it until it is almost due and then we panic. So the answer to this dilemma is to keep a calendar that is big enough to write down when you are going to do certain things on certain days. So if I have a big project that is due in a week, I might break it down into four parts and designate a block of time to four separate days in the upcoming week. I will write that on my calendar so I don't forget. I also have to be willing to commit to doing what I wrote on the calendar. 5. Then there is the theory that we are just too distractable. We can't stay focused on one thing so it just doesn't get done. We are not really procrastinating. We are just not getting the task done. The key to solving this problem is going to use the tip from number 4 -- blocking off a period of time and writing it on the calendar -- plus another tip which is turning off all of the potential distractions when it comes time to work on the task. Put the phone in another room so we are not tempted to look at it. Turn off the television. Create a space that is quiet and is not going to be distracting. These are just a few ideas that might help you understand why you procrastinate and what to do about it. I have a library of handouts, podcasts, and YouTube videos that I like to share with people on specific topics and procrastination is definitely one of those topics. I hope you have found this information to be helpful! Judi
(MA, LMHP, LADC)
Answered on 11/15/2022

How do I cope with immense feelings of guilt and stress?

Dear Stacey, I am so glad that you are taking the step to ask about what to do with your present emotional and mental struggle.  It is humbling to ask for help and it is so important to do so! First of all, it seems like there are some deep emotions swirling around inside of you.  You had shared that you "shouldn't be having" some of these emotions.  One of the first things that we need to do, to help us move through our emotions is to be able to accept that our emotions are important and necessary.  You may not like them, but saying that you shouldn't have them is shaming yourself for being an emotional person.  You don't choose these emotions.  They are connected to something in your life that wants to and needs to be sat with and dealt with, with kindness.  So please seek to be kind to the fact that you have these emotions.  You are not wrong or bad or shouldn't have these emotions.   Secondly, emotions truly come and go.  Some emotions will linger if we are not willing to look at them, talk about them and deal with them.  But if we are willing to be honest about what is going on, emotions are like waves, they come and they go.  When we try to avoid the emotions that want to come, they can start to swirl around us.  And then we have to continue to seek to let them come and go in and through us.   Third, I want to help you, in this answer to your question guide you in some next steps.  It seems like you are struggling with some emotions and thoughts that are taking you over.  So we will talk about some steps you can take to seek to help yourself in this emotional state.   Now, obviously, I don't know all that is going on for you, so I do not have all the information and so I will be guiding you with some missing pieces to the puzzle.   When we look at how emotional processing works well, we have to acknowledge that we have feelings and that they are worthy of being heard, talked about, sat with, labeled and dealt with.  If we don't do that, we can't have movement through emotions.  So this step can be done with another person - this can be done with a friend, someone you feel safe and cared for and they will love you well in your emotions.  This step can be done with a mentor or guide or therapist.  It is most important that you have a safe place to share and that you are honest.  Seek to share all that you are feeling and all that you are experiencing.  Label your emotions.  Notice where you are feeling your emotions in your body. You can also do this step while journaling by yourself.  In this part of emotional processing, be honest, be kind to what emotions you are having, label the emotions and seek to be willing to look at all that is going on that might be bringing this emotion up.  Another part of emotional processing is to recognize what actions you are needing to take within the emotion.  So if you fear that your relationships aren't doing well because of something you have done, then it is time to have a heart to heart with your friend or family member and be honest about how you are feeling and why.  Then seek to hear their heart in this struggle.  You long to be there for your parents, but you know that this time in your life it is wise for you to take steps to be on your own, close to your sister and traveling.  I can see how you feel torn in that.  Do you want to move back by your parents so that you can help them?  Is that a healthy decision for you and for your future?  That is something to talk over with someone you trust that would be able to help you make a wise decision.   It seems like you are seeking to be strong and brave and strong for your boyfriend and his emotions.  When we do that, we are actually hiding parts of ourselves and feeling that we need to do that.  That does not bring about intimacy within in those relationships.  And I wonder if your boyfriend wants you to hide yourself from him? I would ask him that question and see what he has to say.  I also would love to have you sit with and talk with someone wise ... What are you scared of, if you are honest with your boyfriend while he is also anxious? I wonder too, if it would be wise to acknowledge and be kind to the fact that you may be experiencing very normal and human feelings with having moved away from your family that clearly likes your support, that you are feeling some emotions about being in a new place and having to navigate that.  It is also very emotional and can be a struggle to move forward with a significant other and move together.  Of course, that can feel weird to feel that way because you want to be with him and want the relationship.  But it is also uncomfortable to have to navigate how to deal with different emotions and wants and struggles.  This can be very emotional and also something you still want.  I hear about this often with people who move with their significant others.   Your body mind and soul are telling you that you need some support emotionally.  I encourage you to get that support either through counseling, mentorship or a safe loving friend.  You need to express what is going on and seek to then step into caring for your emotions on a regular basis.   Sometimes when our anxiety is high, it can also be tied to the fact that you have a lots of different emotions that you don't like to talk about and deal with.  So you may have just anxiety, but many times, my clients actually have lots of different emotions that may be harder to acknowledge - like disappointment that living in this new place isn't what I wanted, that living with my significant other is harder than I had hoped, uncomfortability that you left your parents and that they really want your support back at home.  I hope that you can express what you are going through in safe places as well as seek to be caring for the things in your life that you need.  Check in with the ways that you are or are not caring for yourself ... Are you moving your body in kind ways?Are you eating food that your body wants?Are you feeling loved and safe to be you?Are you being fulfilled spiritually? Seek to check in with a wholistic view of how you are doing as well.  I wish you the best of luck with moving forward with your emotions and your mind!Paula
Answered on 11/15/2022

Every time my boyfriend leaves I feel sad.

Childhood rejection and abandonment issues can manifest in many ways during adulthood.  Sometimes in ways that we don't even notice.  Working with your therapist to identify specific events when you felt abandoned early on is a good place to begin.  Once you've got your target memories in place, you can begin to heal from these things.  You can begin reprocessing these events to file them more efficiently and effectively in your brain, thus creating new neuro-pathways to process current and future events in a healthier way.  You've taken the first step by identifying a troubling behavior and acknowledging its possible root cause.  The rest takes time, but self-awareness is a vital and fundamental piece of healing from trauma (and any other illness for that matter). It is important that you have a therapist who you feel comfortable with.  Someone who takes the time to get to know you as an individual. There are several modalities of treatment that therapists engage in to address childhood traumatic events.  Sometimes, the mere act of saying these things out loud can alleviate symptoms and take the power away from them.  There is almost always an element of traditional talk therapy regardless of which modality you choose.   Most therapists are trained well in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and will often ask you to identify faulty or distorted thinking patterns.  For example, when your boyfriend leaves, what is your automatic thought? (ie "He's never coming back", "I'm not good enough", or "something awful will happen to him").  They may challenge that thought or thinking pattern and ask you what evidence you have that those things are a possibility.  Solution-focused brief therapy interventions are often helpful and basically help you to identify all of the strengths you already possess from your past in order to get through difficult times now and in the future.  Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing therapy, if tolerated, basically simulates the Rapid Eye Movement period of your sleep cycle while you are awake in order to go through the memory, identify body sensations and emotions that come up while you are thinking about the memory, and typically results in alleviation in symptoms.  Of course these are very remedial and brief definitions and there are many more modalities that therapists use.  I strongly encourage you to research modalities of treatment that you are interested in.  Therapy is not a "one size fits all" sort of thing.  No matter what modality of treatment you choose, the therapist/client relationship has proven to be the most notable predictor of outcomes.  Your therapist should be open to you asking questions of them, be accepting and non-judgmental, and should meet you where you are at.  Addressing trauma history is not for the faint of heart.  It is hard emotional work and you will be exhausted on some therapy days. Make sure you prepare well by getting plenty of rest, taking time for self-care, and staying hydrated.  Best wishes on your journey!
(LPC, LAC)
Answered on 11/15/2022

Why are there moments where I feel like I'm not in control of my body?

We can have moments in our lives where we can feel like we are not in control of our bodies and minds.  And moments when we make decisions that are not right for us. This can leave us feeling disconnected to who we are and in turn may leave us feeling isolated, scared, and lonely.  We may have disconnected from our bodies or minds as the emotions or events feel like they are too much to manage, we may be feeling, low in mood, stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. We may have also disconnected from our own body or mind as we feel we need to put others before ourselves or feel a need to please them. When we feel disconnected, we may have lost touch with who we really are and begin to find that each day, week, month becomes almost like an auto pilot, we are plodding along or feeling like we are being dragged in a direction, but we may not even be sure that this is the right direction or know the direction at all. Before we realize it, we are already on our way in that direction and it may feel hard to gain control, think about the right direction and move forwards in the right way for us. When we come to therapy and begin to talk and think about our daily life, we begin to connect again with experiences that are real to us and be in the moment with experiencing them.  An example of this might be that we stop and think and make an active decision or spend time allowing a feeling that we may have denied before. When we are able to share how we feel and how we think this understanding can help us to feel more in control and things may begin to feel a little easier to manage and understand. It can also help us connect with others, feel less lonely and isolated. An example of connecting with others so we feel more in control might be to use assertive communication to share how we feel and what feels right for us, so that we have a choice.  
Answered on 11/15/2022

Why am I always the odd one out ..it's like no one cares about me, not even my family and relatives..

Hello Lewie, Thank you for reaching out with your statement.  I'm not really sure what you are trying to ask here, so I will do my best in trying to provide you some answers to your pressing situation.First, is this how you feel or is this reality?  Sometimes, when we think the worst about ourselves, it is not necessarily the truth.  As humans, we have a tendency to think negative self loathing comments when we don't feel good about ourselves, but that doesn't necessary mean that is what is happening.  It is just our negative perception, since we are thinking and feeling negatively.  However, if you feel this way, it may be good for you to talk to a licensed professional therapist to help you understand your family system and dynamics.  Yet, you had mentioned that you have more enemies, than friends.  If this truly is the case, then a therapist can also help you sort out why this is the case for you.  What type of behaviors do you do that set people off?  What kind of things do you say, to make people walk away from you?  Or, is this just your perception and not really reality?  A therapist can help you overcome these feelings or help navigate you into understanding people better and how you are relating to them.If you feel people are going against you all the time, then maybe you are acting or doing something to turn people off from you?  Can you recall times you said or did something and they reacted or responded by withdrawing?  Maybe you need to learn some positive ways to interact with others so they want to engage with you.  It may be good to sit with one of your friends or family members that you trust and ask for feedback to help you gain insight on how you can be a better person, friend, or family member.I hope this helps and I wish you nothing but the best on trying to resolve this within yourself and I hope you are able to gain insight into yourself and into your relationships with others.
Answered on 11/15/2022