Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

An Unconventional Approach to Surviving the Holidays If You’re Recently Single

Are you freshly divorced, separated or broken up? Does the sight of holiday decorations at the local drugstore, shopping mall, grocery store and every other surface from which people can drape twinkle lights make you groan inwardly at the thought of forced mirth? Has your ex-wife or girlfriend alienated your children from you? Are you feeling lonely, angry or depressed? Do you grit your teeth when well meaning friends and family tell you that you should be happy and count your blessings at this time of year?

If so, you’re not alone. Oftentimes the typical upbeat prescriptive advice professional caregivers and loved ones have to offer doesn’t help. In fact, it makes many people feel worse. Therefore, here’s some offbeat advice to help get you through the holiday season with a certain style, joie de cynicism and unabashed malcontent-ed-ness. Sometimes you have to “go through the dark” in order to “lighten up:”

  • Distract yourself and keep busy. Call, visit or e-mail friends who dislike and dread the holiday season as much as you do this year. Surround yourself with misanthropes who avoid dysfunctional family gatherings like Progressives avoid Tea Bagger rallies. Get together for martinis and carbohydrate-laden hors d’oeuvres. Don’t worry about the caloric damage now; you need to come up with New Year’s resolutions in a few weeks anyway—at least you’ll be prepared. [*Please note: If you actually are experiencing a bout of depression, please avoid alcohol and other known depressants as they will only exacerbate your feelings of sadness.]
  • Find non-traditional ways to pass the time during the holidays. Is your family too difficult to deal with? Begin an annual, multi-denominational holiday dinner party. Years ago when I was having a tough time, I started an annual “Very Gay Jewish International Christmas Dinner” for all of my local friends who were far away from their families or felt left out of the typical holiday cheer for whatever reason and who clearly appreciated my sense of humor. We became a family of choice and had a great time, albeit, the heavily spiked mulled cider didn’t hurt.
  • Self-care. Only do what’s good for you. Period. Does your family put the “fun” in “dysfunctional?” Don’t be guilted into attending family parties that will leave you feeling depressed and desperate. If they don’t understand your choice; too bad. You’re an adult. They have another 364 days in which to make you feel guilty about not attending the family festivities. They’ll just have to content themselves with that. Eventually, it will blow over. If not, that’s why Caller ID was invented.
  • Missing children. On a serious note, if you’re separated from your children for the first time this year, my heart goes out to you. I understand how painful it must be. The beauty of being non-traditional means that you can celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., any day of the year you choose—it doesn’t have to be the arbitrarily chosen calendar date. Plan to celebrate with your kids on another day. They’ll feel pretty lucky two have two holidays and a dad who loves them enough to put up a tree or light a menorah in January or April. If your ex is really vile and you don’t know when you’ll see your children next, buy them a gift anyway and save it for them. Even if it takes years, your children will be touched to know that you’ve always had them in your thoughts.
  • Dark humor heals. Watch your favorite dark comedies. Anything that helps you laugh at the absurdity of it all is perfect. Personal recommendations include: The War of the Roses, The Ref and Very Bad Things; preferably something with a body count at the end.
  • Subversive holiday cookies. Make a batch of anatomically correct gingerbread men or gingerbread women cookies and name them after your exes (Molasses Honey Ginger Cookies). If you’re not handy with the icing decorations, some well chosen candy (e.g., Tic-Tacs vs. Good-n-Plenties; mini-marshmallows vs. nonpareils) is just as effective, not to mention a time saver. After you’ve named and decorated the little lasses or lads, pour a frosty glass of ice cold milk and ENJOY. I think you’ll find this takes “comfort food” to a whole new level.
  • Holiday housekeeping. Weed your garden. Rid yourself of anyone or anything that is toxic, draining and unhealthy. Do so with neither remorse nor regret. There are those among us who are energy-joy vampires. They will suck you dry until nothing is left. If you can’t rid them from your life entirely, at the very least, minimize contact.
  • This too shall pass. Look to the future. Remember that in the grand scheme of things, this year is just another bump in the road. You will heal and get past this in time. Decide what you would like to be different in the year ahead and then pursue it with purpose and determination. Think of where you’d like to be this time next year and make it happen.

Sometimes what works for most people doesn’t work for everybody and that’s okay. March to the beat of your own rhythm section and don’t worry what others think. Smile and know you’re having fun (or not) while living life on your terms. Besides, the road less traveled is a hell of a lot more interesting.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.


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Photo credit:

Merry Christmas to you all by prakashdaniel on flickr.

5 Stages of Letting Go of a Relationship with an Emotionally Abusive Woman

still rainingMany of my readers have expressed how difficult it is for them to let go of their relationships with emotionally abusive, Borderline and/or Narcissistic Personality Disorder wives and girlfriends. Several men who were involved with these women refer to them as “monsters.” One man in particular (Run4TheHills) writes that he prays to get cancer everyday because his marriage is so bad. It goes to show how terrifying these women can be when the prospect of a terminal illness is more appealing than another 15 years of marriage or a cutthroat divorce process.

There seems to be two categories men with abusive exes fall into:

  1. Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty I am free at last! These men are able to recognize that their relationship wasn’t based on love, but upon control tactics (fear, shame, guilt), unmet emotional needs, dysfunctional dependency and projection. Once they work through any lingering trust issues and why they were attracted to this kind of woman, they’ll move on and be just fine.

2. Just can’t get enough of your “love,” babe. These men appear to have bought into the lies their exes told them, such as: “No one will ever love you as much as me.” “You’ll never find anyone as wonderful as me.” “You’re crazy if you think anyone else would want you.” “You don’t know how lucky you are that I put up with you.” “You owe me after I sacrificed everything for you.” They swallow these lies hook, line and sinker and pair them with a handful of good memories. The result is a powerful, distorted belief, which keeps them from moving on and makes it difficult to have a happy, healthy relationship with someone new.

Despite the relentless abuse, rage episodes, mind games, projection, gaslighting and demoralization, these men believe they’re still in love with these women “on some level” and/or “will always love” them. They continuously remind themselves how bad the relationship was so they don’t fall into an illusory, sentimental nostalgia for their ex and get back together. This attitude is evidence of how emotionally abusive women brainwash or program their targets.

It takes time to grieve the loss of a significant relationship. No matter how awful your ex is, you still need to mourn the loss. This may be confusing because ending a relationship with an abuser should ultimately feel like an act of liberation, but for many, it’s also experienced as a loss. Not the loss of the “monster” she is in reality, but the loss of the ideal, fantasy image you constructed in your head and the relationship you wished you could’ve had with her. This fantasy image of the great sex and fleeting moments of sanity is not her true self; the abusive bully is her true self. The woman and the relationship you love and miss exist solely in the Land of If Only.

In other words, “if only she weren’t so crazy…” “If only she weren’t so cruel…” “If only she wasn’t such a liar…Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed the five stages of grief (On Death and Dying, 1969) to explain how people “deal with grief and tragedy, especially when diagnosed with a terminal illness or catastrophic loss.” You have to go through this process in order to get through it, let go and move on. The five stages include:

1. Denial. You were in denial when you were with her and you are in denial whenever you consider getting back together with her. When you catch yourself thinking, “She’s not that bad. She really does love me. I’m not perfect either . . .” you’re diving headlong into an ocean of denial. She is that bad. She doesn’t love you. She’s not capable of loving you or anyone else because deep down she loathes herself. She views you as an object to control and to bolster her false image. To BPD/NPD women, people are props to use in their distorted, twisted fantasy world in which they’re special, entitled, above reproach and not subject to the rules of civility and decency most of us abide by.

If you think you can help the NPD/BPD woman to see the truth about herself, the way she treats you and the relationship in order to get her to change; you’re also in denial. Even when this woman is hurling the most abusive bile at you, in her mind, she believes she’s being magnanimous for pointing out the error of your ways, so you can improve yourself and be the kind of man she “deserves.” In her mind, you should be grateful she takes time from her “busy” schedule to criticize, abuse and condescend to you.

2. Anger. This is a good stage. Hold onto it for awhile. It’s what keeps you from going back. Try not to get stuck here, however. Feel the anger and then let it go. This is when you’re aware of how badly she’s treated you. You’re angry with her for treating you the way she did and angry with yourself for putting up with it. It’s natural to feel anger when someone is deliberately cruel, dishonest or treats you unfairly. You had to stuff your anger when you were with her because expressing it would’ve led to more conflict and nastiness. You have a right to feel angry. Just express it in a productive manner (i.e., don’t hurt yourself or others), create boundaries for yourself and channel the energy into something healthy like sports, exercise or a project.

3. Bargaining. This stage has a little bit of denial mixed in with it. You deny the reality of the situation (or the severity of it) and make deals with yourself. For example, “She said she’s really sorry and that it’ll be different if we get back together. I’ll give her one more chance and if she starts acting crazy again, I’m out of there.” “Maybe if I’m a little more patient and am very careful and avoid pushing her buttons, it can work.” Or this old chestnut, “I’m just going to have sex with her, but not get emotionally involved.

You can’t bargain with someone to treat you well. Being treated with kindness, common decency, consideration, respect and acceptance should be a prerequisite for an intimate relationship; not something you’re rewarded with for meeting one of her unreasonable demands or if she’s trying to manipulate you into doing or buying something for her. Either she’s capable of a reciprocal relationship or she’s not. It doesn’t matter what you do or how nice, patient and understanding you are with her. She is what she is; a controlling, cruel, abusive, emotional predator and bully. You can’t appease a bully or persuade them to be nice to you. If you do, she’ll see you as weak and bulldoze you all the more.

4. Depression. This is when it sinks in there’s no going back to this woman and that the woman you loved never existed. You mourn the loss of time and the abuse you tolerated. You direct the anger at yourself and feel stupid for being with her and fear getting into another relationship, lest you become involved with another woman just like her.

Like the Anger stage, you don’t want to get stuck here either. Feeling sadness over this relationship is natural, but don’t let your experience with this woman distort how you view all relationships. Not all women are like her and, if you can feel the painful and difficult feelings that ending this relationship brings up, you’ll get through it.

5. Acceptance. While you’re not ok with what happened, you accept the reality of who this woman is and chalk it up to a learning experience. You’ve let go of the anger and sadness and are ready to move on in your life. You may always feel a little pang when you think of this woman, like when a combat veteran remembers some wartime atrocity, but it won’t control you anymore. Eventually, that little pang will turn into a “What was I thinking?” attitude when you remember this woman, followed quickly by murmuring to yourself, “nutjob.”

These five stages aren’t always a lock-step, linear process. You may bounce back between a few of the stages and cycle through them a few times before you reach acceptance. You can expedite grieving for and healing form this relationship if you:

  • Maintain a strict NO CONTACT policy.
  • Disabuse yourself of the notion that you can “be friends” with your ex (“being friends” translates to “not ready to let go”).
  • Understand why you were attracted to this woman and resolve these issues.
  • Focus on taking care of yourself, reconnecting with who you are and rediscovering what makes you happy.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to

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Photo credits:

  • Still raining by azli jamil on flickr.
  • Defense mechanism by Ray Fenwick on flickr.