*Please e-mail me with any personal problems you would like addressed in this column. All entries will remain anonymous.

I have a problem. I have a huge crush on this girl. I'm afraid that she won't like me or will say something negative. Even if I talk to her, I worry that I'll get nervous and do something stupid. I also think that she might like another boy better, but I might be wrong. Even so, I would just like to be friends with her, talk to her, go out on weekends, etc. I don't have the courage. People know me for my shy personality, and I think it will be hard for people to see the other me.

Dear Kind Soul-

It's certainly frustrating when you like someone but don't feel that you have the courage to approach him or her. Although you probably won't believe me, I know that deep down you have the courage to approach her; it's just a matter of taking baby steps. I'm not sure if you see your crush at school or at work or in the community, but wherever it is, I would first make a deal with yourself that you'll just say "hi" to her when you next see her. Nothing else is required; just a simple "hi" or "hey" (with a smile!). When you become comfortable with doing that, I would move up to asking her a simple question like "How are you?" or "What's up?" When you become comfortable with that, you can start asking her a few more questions. Unless she is a completely rude person, she will probably respond to your questions and engage in conversation. Even if she has a boyfriend, she can still talk to you and be your friend. If you get the sense from her body language and tone that she doesn't want to talk to you, please do not take it personally. In that case, it's her issue, and she's missing out on having a friend like you! One thing to remember: us humans tend to catastrophize a situation (e.g. we think we will do or say something stupid when talking to others). We tend to think of the worst possible outcome. Here's the thing: rarely do situations turn out as poorly as we think they will. Our minds love to play tricks on us. In all situations, we need to be our own best cheerleader and literally tell ourselves that "We got this!" In regard to your last statement that you think it will be hard for people to see the other you, I have two thoughts: (1.) people are so caught up in their own lives that they hardly focus on another person's changes and (2.) even if they did notice that you were more outgoing, I don't know why it would be hard for them? In fact, I think that they would be happy for you. :) I wish you the best; you got this!

Breathe and relax, 

Ty

 

*Please e-mail me with any personal problems you would like addressed in this column. All entries will remain anonymous.

All these therapists talk about helping me cope with anxiety and depression, but I don't even know what anxiety is! Please help me understand. 

Dear Kind Soul-

All these terms and conditions and diagnostic labels can get confusing. The simple answer is that anxiety is that "butterflies in your stomach" feeling. It's nervousness. It's that feeling you get right before you kiss your crush :) If you would like a more educational definition, I will introduce you to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (or the DSM-5 for short). The DSM-5 is the authority on the classification and diagnoses of mental disorders; it lists and describes everything from Pica to Gender Dysphoria. Within the DSM-5, anxiety is listed as the umbrella term for various anxiety-related disorders. Thus, some of the disorders listed under "Anxiety Disorders" include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. When we're talking about common anxiety, we're most likely talking about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). To copy straight from the DSM-5, here are the criteria for GAD:

A. Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).


B. The individual finds it difficult to control the worry.


C. The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms having been present for more days than not for the past 6 months):
Note: Only one item required in children.
1. Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge.
2. Being easily fatigued.
3. Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank.
4. Irritability.
5. Muscle tension.
6. Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep).

D. The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

E. The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).


F. The disturbance is not better explained by another medical disorder (e.g., anxiety or worry about having panic attacks in panic disorder, negative evaluation in social anxiety disorder [social phobia], contamination or other obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation from attachment figures in separation anxiety disorder, reminders of traumatic events in posttraumatic stress disorder, gaining weight in anorexia nervosa, physical complaints in somatic symptom disorder, perceived appearance flaws in body dysmorphic disorder, having a serious illness in illness anxiety disorder, or the content of delusional beliefs in schizophrenia or delusional disorder).

Phew! So there you go. Anxiety defined in a way that is pretty thorough. Take from it what you will, but if you feel as if you are struggling with anxiety to the point where it is impairing aspects of your life, please seek out a professional for help!

Breathe and relax.

Ty

*Please e-mail me with any personal problems you would like addressed in this column. All entries will remain anonymous.

I lost my spouse to cancer a year ago and I can't seem to stop grieving. People tell me that I should be moving on, but I just can't seem to do so. I miss him so much. Why can't I move on?

 

Dear Kind Soul-

First of all, there is nothing wrong with you with not being able to move on. Grief is a very individualized process, and it does not look the same for anyone. Some people are able to "move on" after a few months, some take years. Some never do. So much of the grieving process depends on your past experiences with loss, your support network (if any), the nature of the loss, and a host of other factors that I don't have room for here. Additionally, depending on your personal life story, your grief can turn into "complicated grief" which can take quite a long time to move through. I should say that in regard to life stressors, losing a spouse is top on the list (*barring any trauma which becomes a person's predominant stressor). I would ask, my dear, that you please be kind and gentle to yourself, for you certainly owe it to your soul. 

When talking about grief, it might be helpful to familiarize yourself with Kubler-Ross' Stages of Grief. The stages provide a framework to help a person understand what she might experience after losing a loved one. The stages are as follows: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You might not go through all of these stages, or you might not go through them in this order, but if you experience any of them, you can see that you are not alone. 

As you move through the grieving process, please surround yourself with supportive people, not people who are going to urge you to move on. You will move on when the time is right for you; only you will know that. 

Breathe and relax, 

Ty

 

 

*Please email me with any personal problems you would like addressed in this column. All entries will remain anonymous.

I've fallen hopelessly in love with some one so amazing and wonderful, that they are always on my mind. I am afraid to say or do anything openly, because fraternizing at this point in time, could muck up our professional relationship. My heart is breaking, and I don't know what to do.

Dear Kind Soul-

Thank you for reaching out; it sounds like a complicated situation. As Steve Jobs stated, “Love is like a puzzle, hard to piece together, but beautiful when all the right pieces are put together.” I apologize for being so frank, but in this case, it doesn't sound like all the right pieces can be put together--at least at this point, as you say. I do applaud your self-awareness in regard to the possible detrimental effects of fraternizing. Some people never realize this and basically end up screwed (e.g. losing a license, a job etc). 

I guess my first question is whether you're even friends? If you're not even friends at this point, who's to say that this other person even wants to be friends with you or talk to you? I'm not trying to be harsh, just realistic. I can imagine the pain you would feel though if you learned that this other person had no interest in you whatsoever. 

Now if you are already friends with this person, you know that this person at least respects you and enjoys your company. There are a few options in this scenario: (1.) continue to foster the friendship, thinking that there may be hope for a relationship further down the road, (2.) force yourself to just keep it at a friendship, knowing that there's really no chance of your friendship ever turning into more or (3.) decrease your interaction with this person and move on, spending time with other loved ones and social supports. It's also easier to get your mind off of someone when you engage in other activities, so perhaps try a new hobby or activity.

I know it's cliched, but I truly believe that if it's meant to be, it will be. In this case, I am not so sure that it is meant to be, but only you will find that out. All my best with this crazy thing called love.

Breathe and relax, 

Ty

*Please email me with any personal problems you would like addressed in this column. All entries will remain anonymous.

Life is confusing. I love it, but I also feel like I can't win. What pharma do you advise to cure all that?

Dear Kind Soul-

To begin with, yes, life certainly is confusing.

I'm not a psychiatrist, so unfortunately I cannot recommend any pharma for you. Here's the good thing though: your question is actually more appropriate for therapy than for meds. You're question is a big one, so I can't answer it all in the space here, but I guess I would start by asking you why you feel like you can't win. What does that mean to you, exactly? The word "win." I'm pretty sure that my definition of "win" would be different to your definition of "win." 

Once you figure out what "winning" means to you, I would look at each component and see how you could improve or make progress in that area. For example, if you feel like you can't win in the relationship world, I would question why you think that is? If you feel that you don't know how to start a conversation with a person, ask a few of your outgoing buddies for some suggestions. If you feel that you never know a cool place to take a date, just look at coolcleveland.com. If you feel that you never know what to wear, just go to your favorite clothing store and ask a female employee for some suggestions. The take-away from this is to look at the various components and to break them down into bite-sized bits. 

Aside from the behavioral solution to your question, I would also look at your statement cognitively. Stating, "I also feel like I can't win" is a very black-and-white thought. In the land of therapy we call that a cognitive distortion; more specifically "All-or-nothing" thinking. I would suggest trying to reframe that statement with a more realistic, positive statement. Something like: "Okay, so the date didn't work out with Susie, but not all dates are going to go well. I've had plenty of dates and relationships that have worked out." Can you tell the difference between the two statements? One is a heck-of-a-lot nicer to your Self than the other. 

I'm glad that you say that you love life, though. Life is meant to be loved. If this short CBT answer doesn't work for you, there's always "42" (credit to Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). 

Breathe and relax, 

Ty

 

*Please email me with any personal problems you would like addressed in this column. All entries will remain anonymous.

My sister stole my favorite Beatles t-shirt. I just want to scream and hit her. What can I do to get it back?

Dear Kind Soul-

That is quite frustrating when someone steals something you love, isn't it? Here's the thing; you don't want to hit her and scream. I mean, I know you Want to, but I really wouldn't recommend it. Why? She won't give you back your shirt if you hit her and scream. 

First off, some background. Your desire to hit her and scream might be a result of your reptilian brain kicking into action. A reptilian brain? Yes, you actually have three brains, not one (but that's a post for another time). Your reptilian brain controls your body's vital functions, including your heart rate, breathing and body temperature. It's also in charge of your survival. When your reptilian brain is triggered-as it appears to have when your sister stole your shirt-your body's hardwired programming tells you to fight, flee or freeze. In this case, you wanted to fight.

What is important is for you to give your reptile brain some time to cool down. I would suggest engaging in another activity for at least an hour. After this time period, you might be ready to choose how to act in the situation rather than to react. When you are calmer, it is best to use an assertive statement with your sister. I might try something like, "I felt angry when you took my Beatles shirt because that is my favorite shirt and it has sentimental value for me. I want you to give it back to me, please." 

If that doesn't work, I would just go into her room when she's not around and take it!

Breathe and relax.

~Ty

 

I received a "C" on my paper and my mind is telling me that I suck. Help!

 

Dear Kind Soul-

Would it be safe to say that you struggle with perfectionism? If you are the type of individual who usually receives As on papers, I can understand why you would be upset about a C. It is okay to feel frustration or sadness or anger. Feel the feeling.

What is obviously disadvantageous is your mind telling you that you suck. As our thoughts are linked to our emotions and behaviors, I can imagine that if you continue to tell yourself this, you will feel increasingly depressed, and you may begin to isolate from others or become snappy. 

The quick solution to this problem is to reframe your thought that you suck. I'm not asking you to kid yourself and say "I love Cs!," but I am asking you to come up with a more positive, realistic statement. I'll let you in on a little secret: this is the basis of cognitive therapy. An example of a reframed thought may look like this: "Okay, so I got a C on this paper but this isn't usual and I can just learn from this paper how I can improve." 

Additionally, as I have the benefit of age, I can tell you that one "C" on a paper-or even three-is not going to prohibit you from getting into college, obtaining a career or finding the one to marry. It's all about the big picture, my dear. 

Breathe and relax,

~Ty