Dear Papa Bear,
I keep thinking that everything I do isn’t good enough, whether it’s creating artwork or music, writing code or stories, or just generally doing anything that requires imagination. I get frustrated, angry, and tend to ragequit when my imagination just abandons ship as soon as i try to use it to do anything creative, usually resulting in either nothing or an unfinished product. This generally leads to me thinking about how I’m not good enough, among other self-criticism.
My question is this: How do I improve my imagination so that I can think that I’m worth more as a person?
Becquerel (aged 14)
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Unless you have aphantasia, a rare condition in which a person literally cannot picture things in their mind, then you have an imagination. But even if it were true that you have no creative imagination, you do not need to have one to be a worthwhile person, nor do you need to do anything artistic to live a fulfilling life. Many people contribute to society in other ways besides the arts. So, even if you don't have any talent in art, music, or literature (and I can't say whether or not this might be the case, having never read or seen anything you have created), it doesn't mean you do not have value.
That said, artists are always their own worst critics. Writers hate their writing, often throwing out their compositions. Artists burn their paintings. Musicians have tantrums and quit composing. It's all because they judge themselves too harshly. Sometimes it helps to hear other voices to give you feedback. I don't mean family or friends because if they say nice things you'll just think, "Well, they're being nice because they are family/friends." I mean joining an art group or writing group. If you're a musician looking for support, you can try some of the musician groups on Facebook listed here, or, if you want to get some fandom support, you might try Fuzznet, a furry music and support collective. If you're an artist, there are a lot of online groups you can join to chat and ask for feedback from other artists (an example would be FurReal at on Facebook), or just build a network of artist friends to chat with and talk about your progress. And same goes for writers groups, too, of course. Just do a little searching online and you will find lots of writing groups, both furry and not.
So, now that I have hopefully dismantled (or at least put a dent in) your notions that you A) have no imagination and B) are only a worthwhile person if you do, here are some tips on improving your creativity:
All of these things have something in common: turning off your inner critic. By allowing ideas to flow unhindered, you break down the damn that is holding back an entire reservoir of creativity.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
When I found your ad and checked your website I felt this strange comforting feeling just imagining a kind old bear (no offense if you aren't actually old) giving out advice to those who ask. That's why I'm writing this letter despite not knowing what to ask about. Well, it's more like I have so many things I could ask about that I don't know which! I guess I could ask about how to deal with failure or the lack of success. Sometimes I'll try new things or put all my effort into trying to achieve something and I just can't. I've heard plenty of people say that if you never quit and work hard you can achieve anything. It's hard to believe when the fruits of your labor show little to no results. So how do I keep myself from being disheartened?
* * *
Depending on your definition of "old," I'm 55, so I guess that if I'm not already there, I am getting close. I am currently working on my dissertation for my Ph.D. in Grumpy Old Bear. Soon, I will have to defend my paper in front of a committee of old codgers to get their approval to join their ranks. Wish me luck.
As for your goals and achievements, you are still young and growing as a person. Now is the time for you to explore your options and interests. Failures and dead-ends will be the norm, not the exception. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to succeed right out of the gate. You should do what you're doing right now: try a lot of different things and see what clicks with you.
Meanwhile, remember that everything you "fail" at, or, at least, don't get "measurable success" at is a learning experience. After you have an experience where you fail to achieve something or a project goes awry, take a step back and evaluate what happened, what you did wrong (and also anything you did right but just didn't pay off), and how you might fix it in the future.
The important thing is to find something you love to do, and then, whether or not you "succeed" at it is a matter of your point of view. Say your big dream is to be an artist, but you never end up making much money at it, so you find "regular" work and paint or draw on the side. If you love your art, and you love doing it, then you are still a success. Would you call Van Gogh a failure as an artist? He never sold a single painting when he was alive, but he loved painting. He was a success. If you are an artist but people say your art is bad even though you have tried and tried, but you love doing it, then you are a success because you have found something that makes you happy.
Heck, take this column. I don't make any money at it. It doesn't win any prizes. But I love doing it, so it is a success to me. Another even more profound example for me is my late husband, Jim. Toward the end of his career, he was laid off as a news director and spent his last years with me trying to succeed as an entertainment podcaster. You know what happened? He never made a dime, but he adored what he was doing. He loved recording interviews and editing soundtracks until the day he died. And he was loved. Oh, how he was loved! Now, THAT was a successful life.
Living life is not about achievement or money or recognition or fame. It's about being alive and experiencing life. Hey, that reminds me, that's kind of the message of Disney's recent movie Soul, which is about a piano teacher who wants to make it big but dies before doing so. He learns the very lesson I'm telling you right now: LIVE. This life is for you. Take time to enjoy the sensations, the friendships, the fun of it all, and stop worrying about being a success. If things happen for you and you become rich and famous, then great; if they don't but you had a nice ride, that's just as great.
Step back and ask yourself this: "What am I trying to achieve?" If it is fame or fortune, then reevaluate what you are doing. It isn't about "success" as defined by our capitalistic society. It's about loving life and finding something you love to do.
I hope that helps.
Big Bear Hugs,
It’s me again; hope you’re doing well. As of now I am a senior in high school, and after I graduate I’m moving from New Jersey to North Carolina for college. Now I do love NC. In fact I’m here right now as school is remote and I can still attend online. My parents are retiring in a beautiful home at St. James Plantation and have made many friends there which I get on with. I love the little town of Southport that’s nearby, and the cute little beaches and local restaurants and stores all about. I’m also quite looking forward to college, as I’ve visited several campuses already, and though I know I may still be virtual, I’m excited for the opportunity to grow and learn more about myself. My boyfriend is even going to be moving down here from Illinois too, and although we’ll still be a few hours away, it’s better than being states apart. All things considered, things are going good for the most part.
However, I can’t shake that feeling of sadness when I think of living here. I’ve lived in New Jersey all my life. It’s where I spent my childhood years and has shaped me so far as the person I am now. I love the pretty forests and rolling hills, I love the winding roads through the countryside, I love how the towns have such a rustic, nostalgic feel, and the comfort I experience from knowing them so well. I love the friends and memories I’ve made there, and I’m glad I had the childhood I did. I know I’m going to have to leave a lot of that and more behind, and I’m not sure how to cope with it. I’m not deeply depressed mind you, but the last time I moved was when I was 9, and it was only 45 minutes away. With how long you’ve been around, I think it’s safe to assumed you’ve moved at least a few times, as I know it’s a common experience. What should I do to help accept and (try to) heal these emotions?
Galaxy (age 17)
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Nice to hear from you again and thanks for the update. To answer your question, what you are experiencing is simply nostalgia for the past. Yes, I have moved a LOT. I was born in Boston and have moved nine times, living in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and California. So, I know something about moving.
The bad thing about moving a lot is that you never have a town or city you really feel is your home town. If someone asks me my home town, I say where I am now, and if they say, "No, where did you grow up?" I say "all over" because no place feels like home to me.
My first word of advice: Count yourself lucky that you grew up in a very stable environment, and the result is you will always feel like New Jersey is your true home. That's nice. That's really really nice. As you get a bit older, you will appreciate that more. And that treasure trove of memories of the two homes you lived in, your family, friends, schools, that is always a part of you, and that is beautiful because it sounds like you had a very good childhood (message to Galaxy's parents: Good job, you two!).
Now you are in North Carolina, and it appears you like that, which is super duper! You have a whole world to explore, new friends to meet, new experiences to take in, new things to learn. The thing about growing older is you have two choices in this regard: you can stay in your little home town all your life, grow old and die there; or you can go out into the world and have new experiences and meet new people, which will open your eyes a lot to different points of view and make you smarter, to boot. There is nothing wrong about being a homey all your life, but it has the very real danger of making one too colloquial and too set in their ways. My mother used to tell a story about her first time in Abilene, Texas, to meet my father's family. Now, my mom had already traveled quite a bit at this point, including Europe. She asked a few of the Abilene residents if they had traveled, too, and they replied invariably, "Why travel when we have everything we need here?" Well, sure, you have food and home and church and friends all there, but you don't know anything about people who are different from you, and that can make you very narrow-minded and inflexible to change, and this is not healthy. (And no, watching TV is not just as good as traveling). Do you know what stays in one place all its life? A vegetable. Animals move. Be an animal.
Cherish your past memories; stay in touch with the friends you can (most people lose touch, but that is up to you and them; you still have the memories); remember the lessons learned and use them as information that can help you with the new challenges you face today. Someday, you will leave North Carolina (but probably come back to see your parents) to get a job or marry or just explore, and then you can look back at North Carolina and your college days and appreciate and learn from them as well.
The solution to your problem is attitude. Do not look at your yearning for Jersey as something that has to be healed or accept. No. The fact you feel that way indicates you had a great past and you should always love it. You don't have to fix that because there is nothing wrong with it. There is nothing to "heal" from. You're not wounded. You're fine.
Go out and explore life! Yay for you! Time to get excited about the future and all it holds!
I was told to take a break from a server I really like because something pretty bad happened because of irrational choices I made when I was upset.
I need to ask … how can I stop feeling scared to keep trying to be a better person? Do you have any advice on how I can easily (???) improve myself and not make those mistakes again? I thought it would be simple, but I feel there may be a catch. The guy who runs the server is very sweet and he understands that I have trouble handling my emotions. He suggested that I take a break for as long as I need to. He also told me that if the server isn’t being good for my mental health, then I should leave for the benefit of my mental health. I just want to be better. But, I’m so unsure.
* * *
I find myself needing breaks, too, from social media such as Facebook. Such places are full of hate, trolls, and bad news that can depress and aggravate even the most sane and kind of us. So, taking a break is not a bad idea at all. Remember that these days, the media thrives on giving us bad, sensationalistic news because it boosts ratings and earns them more money. Consequently, the world looks like a horrible place when it really has both good and bad things going on.
As for improving oneself, I recently saw a neat video on this. It was about a European fellow who had all the signs of becoming a sociopath. He had no joy, no emotion, no empathy for others. If he kept on going that way, he probably would have entered a life of crime, even murder.
How did he escape? Well, unfortunately, it was NOT easy (hon, there is no such thing as easy when it comes to self-improvement, so don't even ask such a question), but it WAS doable.
What he did was take baby steps. Tiny little daily steps to slowly improve himself. He would go on walks, exercise, do small acts of kindness, meditate, enjoy a moment of beauty in nature, do something positive such as clean up his room or get a chore done. Any little, good step would help. Slowly, one percent at a time, bit by bit, his view of his world and himself began to change.
What he discovered, unbeknownst to himself because he had no psychology training, was his own form of behavior modification therapy. Instead of going directly to the brain for a magical cure that would change his way of thinking, he slowly, very slowly, changed his behavior. As his behavior reflected more and more a good attitude about life, eventually he began to HAVE that good attitude, and this, in tern, vastly improved his mental and emotional health to the point where he says his friends no longer recognize him.
This takes years. There is NO magic pill. No magical advice I can give you. You have to be dedicated to changing yourself and you have to be supremely patient with your progress. In a world where everyone expects instant gratification, this is against what most people would like to hear, but if you don't do something like this you will never change.
I'd like to know, how to I become the best student at school with the best possible grades?
* * *
As with anything else, if you want to be good at something, work hard at it. Study hard and you should get better grades as a result.
Hi, again, DayPaw,
You know, I apologize for giving you such a terse answer earlier. There's really more I should say on this subject, and it's this: Learning isn't about grades. Real learning is about finding something you're interested in and exploring it fully. Education systems--especially in America--are designed to produce good little factory workers, cubicle dwellers, and consumers. They are not designed to help you genuinely learn things you want to learn to pursue what interests YOU in life. You really don't get that opportunity until college, BUT! You will have a hard time getting into college if you have difficulty with one or more subjects in high school that subsequently brings down your GPA.
The school system--especially in the good ol' US of A--is made to train you to do things by rote learning, to respond to discipline (you must go to your class when the bell rings, leave when the bell rings, sit in your assigned seat, only speak when spoken to, etc.), and to become, basically, an automaton. You are also disparaged and made to feel like shit if you have problems with any one subject, whether that is science or English or even physical education.
So, again, to really answer your question, I should say this: discover first what interests you; if that means you need to go on to college, then you need to play the game to study hard, take the tests, get A's, and move on; but if you don't need a college degree (for example, you want to be a dancer or a painter or you are brilliant enough to invent something in your garage that makes you a millionaire--which actually happens with many of the millionaires we have in this world), then don't worry about it. Just do your time and, when not in school, focus on your passion.
Most of what I know about the world (indeed, most of what I do with my money-paying job) I learned AFTER I left school.
Good grades are there to please your parents and to get a better shot at college. They don't actually mean anything about you personally, and they certainly don't mean squat about your value as a human being.
Big Bear Hugs,
Hello Pappabear, how are you?
I am not sure how to begin. Every night for more than a year now I have thought of myself as "huskyboi" (https://www.furaffinity.net/view/26412955/
https://www.furaffinity.net/view/26598036/ [Papabear warning: vore content]) from the comic, needing saving and care as the fox gave, because my OCD was so strong I thought there was something more severe going on. And my thoughts can be very convincing. I cannot express in words what it was like only to wake up the next morning knowing logically my thoughts are not real. It was terrifying, and I felt hurt like huskyboi, though I have nothing physically wrong. After a year or so, my mental attitude improved. Now I do not see myself as a hurt husky, but the feeling of wanting care still remains. (right now, my OCD says I am being too negative to you and should make an effort to be more positive, but I know from countless nights of "I wish I should have emailed you").
Well, maybe I deserve this. At night a reoccurring thought (one of many) is that I am a bad, ungrateful person, and Dad would be happier without me. The idea that this OCD thought may be right. Though dad repeatedly tells me how proud he is of me and how much I am pushing for my goals in life (rocket science).
I am 22. I am old enough to know the world is not how we think it is when we are young. I am aware I have to haul my own weight to live, life is not always how we want it, and events that seem so extreme (emotional, physical) you would think can not be possible that make life not worth living are in fact normal. I am not in need of a rubber room just because I feel like it would help. I am not insane. I am in collage, with an intellectual capacity to shoot for a physics degree. (If I was loony, I would not be able to function as a student, be polite and kind to dad's girlfriend, etc.)
In other words, even though you can be doing the best you can and advancing to your goals for yourself, you will always have something bad going on in one way or another, and you just need to deal with it because "that is life." Should I just push that idea out of my head and get over it?
Please do not show any more empathy or compassion than need be, I do not want to act like a complainer (my OCD says I am by writing you).
So my question is: What is reality? I know you do not know me personally, but I cannot determine what to do. Why do I feel like I need to be in a position of receiving care where I can not escape if I wanted and will not be let out until I receive "care"? How do I just get over it and move on with life?
* * *
Before I write a full response to your letter, I have a question: You talk about your dad but not your mother. Do you still have Mom in your life? Are you being treated for OCD?
* * *
Dear Mr. Hile,
My parents are divorced, I was told in a family meeting in 2015, but the separation happened a year later, I live with Dad, while Mom is in another state (so not able to visit very much). I am currently taking medication for OCD and recently started a new psychologist last week, the reason I transferred from my old psychologist is because the old one was too far for regular trips. From what I seen with the new psychologist, he is a good fit.
PS: One other question: I have been having urges and thoughts about donating a large percentage of the money I have to the church; but when I try to carry out the idea I get a sense that I should not do so, and I should keep it. This in turn provides old thoughts of being greedy, and feelings of being a coward for not toughing out my doubt and fear of doing so. I have given large sums of money to the church in the past, this is not new, but it is the first I felt this torn between wanting to give, believing it is for the best, but having ocd thoughts of giving out of expecting something in return which means I am being selfish, and feelings of not doing what is smart.
Thank you for your time.
* * *
Okay, I'm going to address this church donation question first as it is separate from your earlier question. My belief about charity is that you should first make sure that you are okay yourself: financially, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Once that is established, only then should you consider being charitable. This is not selfish because you are no good to others if you are not okay yourself (and when I say okay, I don't mean swimming in luxuries, I just mean you are doing well with food, clothes, shelter, family relationships and so on). Next, it is only truly a gift of charity if you do not expect anything in return. Rich people who donate to charities often only do so for the tax benefits, not because they are truly generous, which makes it a sham and a swindle.
Give when you are able to give and do not expect anything in return because that is not a gift, it is a bribe or obligation. This is good policy and has nothing to do with OCD.
Back to your original issue.
I am glad you are getting treatment for your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Sorry about your parents' separation, though.
Your fantasies indicate that you feel you did not in the past (or in the present, as well) receive a very nurturing life. Vore fantasies are symbolic of a desire to return to the safety of the womb (symbolized by a stomach). You can easily observe in the comics you sent that the husky is feeling very safe and happy once inside his savior. So, in essence, you are feeling very insecure about life, an insecurity likely exacerbated by your parents' divorce. Even if you no longer feel as close a tie to Huskyboi as you once did, there is a lot of residual insecurity lingering within you.
It is unclear why you feel undeserving of a happy life, unless (speculating here a lot) you believe the divorce is somehow your fault? I would immediately say that is incorrect. And although you don't say anything about your mother, it sounds as if your father is very supportive and encouraging of you. You're very lucky to have that, so do not dismiss it lightly.
Bad things happen to good people. It doesn't mean you are bad or that it is pointless to try to live life because something inevitably bad will happen to you. I've had a lot of bad things happen to me over the years, but it doesn't mean I am a bad or undeserving person. Shit happens.
What you need to do is outgrow your insecurities. The way to do that is to complete your education, get a job, become self-sufficient and gain confidence over time that you can face challenges, accomplish tasks, and not only get by but thrive in the real world. Set goals for yourself (start small, take baby steps), beginning with ones you feel confident you can complete. Each task you finish successfully will boost your ego, your sense of self-worth. Gradually kick it up a notch, doing more challenging tasks with each step. Will you fail? Sometimes, sure, but that doesn't mean you stop trying.
You will also succeed. That's life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but losing is not defeat. It is a way to learn, which will give you ammunition the next time you try, increasing your chances of winning.
This will not happen overnight. It takes years. Just promise yourself you won't give up.
Work with your therapist on these issues, too, because the only way to treat OCD is through either medications, therapy, or some of both.
I am currently stuck in a situation I see no way out of.
I've been struggling with depression for several years now. I barely finished my studies and have no marketable talent - I can draw but the process is too slow and inconsistent to be reliable, especially with my mental issues.
I had to move to live with my family outside of my country of origin - in a village on small isolated island. My stepfather has a decent job here, but for me there are none, especially with my crippling social anxiety (avoidant personality disorder) and lack of knowledge of local language. I have nothing to go back to in my home country, nor the means to do so. Here I'm not a citizen, just a resident, which limits my options even further.
I'm losing what little friendships I've had in my life and despite many attempts I'm not able to meet anyone new. I'm gay, but aromantic, so I don't have much to offer when it comes to a relationship. I've only been in one in my life - long distance, which lasted for years, but made both of us miserable in the end - we broke up a year ago.
What little money I'm able to make I have been spending on a therapy. But it's been several months now and we did not progress one bit, I'm failing at the simplest tasks. And I'm afraid I just can't afford it any longer.
I keep hearing you can overcome depression, get out of it, but I've never actually seen anyone do it. And I'm just... losing last bits of hope I have. I don't see any way forward.
I don't know what to do anymore.
Anonymous (age 29)
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You definitely sound like a fish out of water. Based on what you have written, moving back to your homeland is not an option, and I am assuming you can't find any other friends or family back in your country of origin to move in with? So, I will answer you based on the assumption you are stuck where you are on this foreign island.
I am reminded of an old television show called Northern Exposure. It was about this young Jewish doctor who made a deal with a scholarship committee that if they paid his tuition he would then move to Alaska to a small town there and be their doctor. He is most definitely a fish out of water, and, although he likes many of the people, he can't adjust to their quirky, small-town, frontier-like attitudes. For years, he struggles, until one day, instead of ceaselessly wishing he could go home, he decides to embrace Alaska and actually enjoy where he is.
You must do the same. Don't speak the language? Well, I would say you have a strong reason to learn it. The best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in it, and what better way than to live among native speakers? Try to talk to locals. Begin with ordinary words and phrases and use them daily. Learn how to order lunch or ask for directions or simply say "hi" and "have a nice day." Study the local culture and history. Learn about where you are and embrace it. While you are doing that, start researching how to apply for citizenship and then take the steps necessary to become a citizen. Your father did it, and so can you.
Once you have adapted to your new home, it will be much easier for you to make friends and, hopefully, even enjoy where you are. The only alternative is to continue what you are doing, which is isolating yourself and feeling miserable.
What should I do about past mistakes?
Hello there, I'm a furry from the UK. Due to past experiences (which I'd rather not disclose), I ended up developing a very unhealthy coping mechanism that involved me posting controversial (think political) comments, with the intention of sowing hatred against myself. One of these incidents, involving a well-known furry, went too far, and I was evicted from at least one furmeet on the grounds of causing them unnecessary drama.
Since then, I've thrown all of my effort into a complete turnaround of who I am as a person, and I honestly like who I am now. I've accepted that some bridges must remain burned because of my past actions, however, I do still think about my mistakes on a daily basis, to the extent that it has affected my overall mental health. I've accepted that I'll likely have to live with that mistake hanging over me for the rest of my life, but it has also manifested into an innate paranoia that those who have 'let me back in' secretly despise me, and are waiting for an excuse to cut me out yet again, despite what they have said to me directly. I'm not sure what to do regarding these feelings, as I see people being 'cancelled' every day for mistakes I feel are far less egregious than my own. I'm at the point where I'm honestly just waiting to be 'cancelled' myself, and it's giving me no end of stress.
What should I do regarding my past mistakes and how to deal with them?
* * *
Everyone is guilty of some transgressions in their lives, and no one can “cast the first stone” as a result. In other words, we are not perfect, and that’s okay. I’ve certainly done some things that I regret and that have hurt people in the past. Since you do not detail exactly what you did, I will speak in generic terms here, which in its way is better as this letter could help others who read it more if they can see how it applies to a variety of cases. For that, I thank you for your important letter.
What you need to do is take the path towards forgiving yourself and getting on with your life, whether or not others forgive you, too. Remember, you can’t control how others will react, but you can control your own actions.
You have already taken the first important step, which is acknowledging that you did something wrong in the first place, so good for you on that point!
Second is to ask those you have harmed for forgiveness. Doing so must be absolutely sincere (people can tell when you’re not sincere, so don’t kid yourself), but you should be prepared for the fact that not everyone will forgive you. Hopefully they will, but you’ll have to accept that they sometimes won’t. It seems, too, from your letter that you are coming to terms with that, which is quite mature of you.
Third is to forgive yourself. You can’t move ahead if you don’t believe in yourself and that you can do better. If you’re always saying negative things about yourself (e.g. “I’m a bad person,” “I’m an idiot,” etc.) you will bury yourself in a deep hole from which you can’t climb out. When you feel negative thoughts enter your head, counteract them with positive statements like “I am a caring person who is trying to do better and to be more helpful to and appreciative of others.”
Fourth: learn from the past. Let’s face it, we can’t grow as people if we never make a mistake! Learn from those mistakes. For example, many people (including yours truly) have sent off angry emails (or social media posts) without thinking first only to regret them later. Before you shoot yourself in the foot, the lesson here is, take some time to cool off and really think about what was said and how you will respond. Then, go ahead and write that email, but save it in a draft first. Wait a day, then go back and re-read it. At that point, you might choose to edit it or maybe delete it entirely.
Fifth: Go out into the community again (yes, in person if you can) and try to make amends with others and be good to them. Three things can happen here: 1) you will find that you are forgiven a lot sooner than you expected to be; 2) you might not be accepted right away but, with time and work, you will regain your friends’ trust; or 3) some might never forgive you. All three of these have happened to me, and #3 can be sad, but at least you will have learned more about relationships and, in the future, be prepared and equipped to do better (I am a much better friend these days than I was as a kid and as a young adult).
Sixth: Gain empathy. Now that you know you’re not perfect and you need forgiveness, you should develop empathy for others so that when they transgress against you, you will know what this is like from their perspective and be able to forgive them should they seek that forgiveness.
Seventh: Realize that you are worthy of love and friendship. We are all beautiful in our emotional and psychological complexities. We have good and bad points. So give yourself a break and go buy yourself a nice ice cream treat.
I wrote you a weeks... month? I'm not sure, I'm bad with time. Anyways, I wanted to let you know that I got my fursuit (fullsuit) and I absolutely couldn't be happier with it, you're advice really helped me and I thank you for that.
Onto my actual question, well... its not easy to explain but I'll try to keep it short. I grew up in a very isolated household where my parents weren't around often, me and my two brothers pretty much learned to fend for ourselves growing up. Because of this experience I kind of forced myself to be strong and try to make everything ok because back then I couldn't afford to be soft. This unfortunately has followed me throughout life, I seem to be unable to show my true emotions. I know I'm sensitive and am often hurting, but for some reason I am completely unable to outwardly show it. I can't cry, I can't even tell people what's wrong, my instinctual response to when anyone asks me if something is wrong, is to say "nothing" and "I'm fine" or sometimes its just "Don't worry about me, I'm tough" and these are all lies. Ugh, this is already getting to long and I'm sorry for that. But there's a prime example, I feel like I'm not worth anyone's time, I'm not worth help. And this st ems from my childhood as well as other experiences I've had, because the few times I've actually opened up to people, they've left because they didn't want to deal with me. All these things have led me to just build a wall around myself and not let anyone see the real me, and because I've been doing it for the majority of my life, I'm not even sure what the "real me" is anymore. I've sought out therapy and medicine, neither worked so I stopped. At this point I'm just kind of forcing my way forward day by day pretending I'm fine when I'm not.
Sorry about the potentially unnecessary backstory. My question is this, how do I let people in? How do I open up to people who want to help me? I'm terrified of what will happen when I do, I'm terrified if I stop being what I am now, there isn't anything left. What do I do?
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I'm glad to hear my earlier response was helpful to you; thanks for telling me :-3
Yes, having a difficult childhood can certainly lead to the problems you're currently experiencing. As you say, you had to be tough to survive your travails, and now this toughness has become entrenched into your personality. Fortunately, I would not say you are suffering from an emotional or mental health issue because you do feel emotions (and I assume they are appropriate emotions); you just are unable to let them out. What we have here, then, is a habit issue. You have programmed yourself not to show emotions to other people and you can't figure out how to break this habit.
How do you break a bad habit?
One classic way to do so is to replace it with a good habit. I suggest you already have such a habit available to you now: fursuiting! When you feel the need to express yourself, do so in fursuit. Being in fursuit (and in character) allows you to reduce or eliminate feeling self-conscious about your emotions because you have a secure barrier around you, so to speak, to protect you from feeling judged. When people react to what you are doing, they are reacting to your fursona and not "you," you see. This is the same method that actors on stage use. Many actors are quite shy in person, but when they are in character on stage or in front of a camera, they have a tool for letting out their emotions.
And you don't always have to do this while wearing your fursuit. You can also do it while just being your fursona in, say, roleplaying games online. You might think this is "hiding," but what it really is, is a way for you to rehearse and exercise your emotions. Just like working a flabby body gives you stronger muscles, exercising your self-expression will improve it over time. By doing so under the protection of your fursona, you will get lots of solid practice on how to openly let out your feelings to others in a relatively safe and productive way.
Another method you can use in concert with the above is to practice expressing emotions in a private setting. While no one else is around, go into your bedroom or bathroom and practice all sorts of emotional outbursts: cry, scream in anger, laugh out loud, express passion, express anguish. It is important to do this out loud and not in your head. Talk to the mirror about what is frustrating you or bringing you happiness or sadness. You can also try doing this with a plush toy or other object. Talk to, say, a teddy bear and tell it you hate it, you love it, it's driving you crazy, whatever you're feeling inside. Let it all out.
Keep doing these things over and over and eventually you will become comfortable enough to wean yourself off the teddy bear and fursona and begin expressing yourself to others as yourself. Do this on your own schedule and don't push yourself and don't give yourself unrealistic expectations or deadlines. This could take weeks, months, even years to happen, but it will happen if you keep at it diligently.
I'm still new to the Furry Fandom and as an adult with autism I never really felt any social connection outside the Internet. After over 10 years of trying, I finally got out of Mom and Dad’s house, but it’s still not complete. The guy I know I am is still locked inside of me and is still being stopped from coming out by them forcing me to take whatever it is they what me to use, what jobs they what me to have, having everything I do monitored, and more. Not caring that this guy is his own man and that makes me feel unsafe. I need to get out; I lost almost all my friends; all my dreams have been killed by them. The only hope I still have is if I could one day wake up as 0% human and 100% something like raccoon. That's the short version. The full would be over 500 pages long.
Lance (age 35)
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Congratulations on moving out on your own and starting to take charge of your life. That is a major step and I hope it is working out for you.
Because I don’t know the degree of autism you are suffering or your health history, it is difficult for me to offer you advice on this subject. But you sound as though you are eager to take charge of your own destiny. I suggest you start by picking up the phone and talking to a professional in this area at an organization called Autism Speaks. You can find contact information here: https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/autism-response-team. Another group you can look into is Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) http://autisticadvocacy.org/about-asan/; here you can educate yourself as to what is being done politically to help those with autism assert their rights and independence. If you feel motivated to do so, you might even try volunteering there, which will definitely help you feel more empowered.
I realize you feel as if your parents and others are trying to control your life, but I’m sure that what they are trying to do is protect you and help you because they care about and love you. The best thing you can do is learn more about the organizations listed above, set goals for yourself as to what you wish to do with your life, and make sure that those goals and wishes are communicated to your parents and anyone else involved in your life.
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