Slice of Advice

Need some free advice? Visit S.J. Cairns’ ‘Slice of Advice’ and ask me anything, literally anything (relationships – romantic or other, everyday problems, life steps, self-care, career, next favourite show, even your new puppy’s name, ANYTHING!)

All opinions/responses can and will remain anonymous (names and specific details altered) and will be responded to privately before posting on my blog.

Disclaimer: All responses are my opinion and based on my 34 years of life, 10 years in social services, and any research involved depending on the question. Any research avenues will be shared.

Original Question:

I recently began a full-time job for the first time in a couple of years and almost immediately suffered from panic attacks, increased stress, and worsened depression. Before this full-time position, I worked on a contract by contract basis, so the regular paycheck was a big reason to jump on the work, but it feels like all my money now goes to shrink appointments and medications to try and level me out enough to deal with a job which I now can’t bear. My time away from work seems to be made up solely of dreading going back to work. I know many people don’t like their jobs, but this is seriously affecting my health and personal life. So, what should I do? Quit the regular paycheck as my friends suggest and return to contract work, or, as my shrink and members of my family advise, just figure out a way to keep on showing up for work.

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

You’ve connected the expectations of this new job to your mental health symptoms and have reached out to others before throwing in the towel, so my guess is you’re used to pushing yourself beyond your gut feelings in case you’re acting impulsively. This shows a self-awareness you should be proud of. My question would be what are the reasons your psychiatrist recommended you continue with the position? I’m certain they gave them and did so with the positive intentions.

My guess is they know you enough to know that this is an opportunity to work on skills such as grounding to build a resilience to change and coping you may lack. A concern of this is the depression which can easily shift into apathy. If you become numb and indifferent to the position, this is as bad as the depression itself because you’ve cut off the emotions needed, the ones your psychiatrist intended for you to work through. Any bouts of dissociation doesn’t solve mental health issues, it IS a mental health issue, so be sure to mention it to your psychiatrist ASAP in the case it does. The moment the apathy cuts out is a highly emotional one and they can speak to you about handling those feelings as they rush back.

You’re right, most people hate their jobs, so another question would be: Is it the pressures of a full-time job or the routine of showing up to the same place very day doing the same thing—which can be dreadful to someone used to a haphazard routine with some give—or is it the job itself causing the panic and depression?

If it’s the pressures, then you’re right to first try and work through this with your psychiatrist and identify where they stem from. If it’s the job itself, there’s got to be other full-time jobs out there you can explore while you’re getting through your current misadventure so you’re not missing out on a paycheck I’m assuming you need.

One thing I’m going to add is self-care. I know everyone makes it sound like it’s all scented candles and a hot bath, but it’s simpler than this and is tailored to you. Also, journaling or some type of record keeping of your days may be a good idea, so you can look back and see the progress or lack of instead of guessing if things are getting better or not. Recording your mood, something you enjoyed from your day, a scale of 1-10 on how much you hated it, or how much liked it to try and remain positive. It’s also something your psychiatrist might be keen on you doing so you’re taking some control of your healing.

Finding out the loopholes to our thriving through each day is a trait we all seek out when we know we’re in a position we cannot escape. You have control here. Weigh out your psychiatrist’s advice and do everything you can to make it work. If it’s not, go to them with a new plan—Yes, create your own—and see what they think of it BEFORE you execute it so they can judge if your plan was designed to avoid some issues you should be facing or if it’s truly a crap job you need to move on from.

You’ve got this.

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.

Original Question:

Sami-Jo, I have a friend I dated several months ago who I know didn’t experience a “lightning bolt” of attraction when we went out. But, I also know that I check just about every box, except maybe the “IS HE CHRIS HEMSWORTH?” box, on her partner checklist. There are times where I’ve been available to her or made her laugh where I get the feeling the thought crosses her brain that I might be worth a second shot, but it’s momentary and so I’ve never acted on it. So, my question is: I like her a lot, but should I even be wasting energy thinking about the opportunity of a second chance, or pursuing her, since I’d clearly be more of a compromise on her part?

Photo by Emma Frances Logan on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

You started off by calling this person a “friend”, so I’m interested to know if they began a friend or if you’ve been calling them a friend after the initial date. Does this make a difference? Hell yeah it does!

If you were friends first, then the person could be afraid of taking the next step and losing you to a failed romantic experiment. If they’ve become a friend after an initial date, then you may have been slid into the friend-zone (trendy term, yet accurate).

Either means you’re in a holding pattern. Relationship limbo is as sweat-inducing as breaking your back in a drunkin’ moment of thinking it’s smart to get down and limber beneath a mop handle for the sake of impressing the audience or entertaining them by falling and knocking the wind out of yourself. When love is on the line, no one wants to fall and fail, they want to skirt under that filthy mop handle and come out the other side with a heart full of future promises and frat-boy applause.

As with anyone over 25 years old, you don’t have time to waste on games and aren’t holding out for the greatest love since Ryan and Blake and sometimes a slow burn is worth the wait. What isn’t worth it, is being someone’s back-up plan. Don’t put yourself in the position of waiting for this person to decide you’re the one. You either are or you’re not. Life isn’t a long-running sitcom where the lead characters have a will-they-won’t-they romance where the audience knows they’re perfect for each other and the season ender highlights the long-anticipated kiss.

My advice would be to move on. If you want to be friends with this person, then retain causal contact and if a romantic relationship develops then great. Maybe once they see you take a step back they will re-evaluate how close they would prefer you and take steps to close the gap. Though I would also question why they’re waiting for you to step away to decide they suddenly want you in their life.

Relationship baggage can stop those from taking the jump into a good thing, this is understandable, but don’t let you’re understanding of their situation prevent them being held accountable for their actions.

Keep looking. Keep your options and heart open to others. Don’t allow yourself to be anyone’s compromise. You don’t have to look like Thor to be someone’s hero.

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.

Original Question:

I have chronic insomnia. Over the past eight years, I have tried every possible remedy, home-cooked or prescribed. After a visit to my doctor this week to follow up on my progress, or lack thereof, I asked her if she thought cannabis would be a realistic option. I have a friend who has had great success with it and figured it’s the one thing I haven’t tried yet and I’m at the point where I’ll fucking try anything. My wife was skeptical about it when I mentioned it to her and my 16-year-old daughter furrowed her brow when she found out. Even with legalized marijuana coming to Canada in a month, there’s still a stigma attached to it, not to mention the potential for troubles crossing the border into the U.S. My question is this: how open should I be with this, particularly with regards to my social media posts and discussions with co-workers? I’d love to reduce the stigma (I’m a firm supporter of the legalization of marijuana) and be transparent with respect to its benefits (assuming I see any) but living a public life as a writer and a private life as a corporate 9-5er has me hesitant to share too much.

Thanks,
Sleepless in Canada

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

Good for you for taking the step in asking your doctor! While cannabis use is becoming a more popular alternative to traditional pills, most doctors won’t broach the subject first. We are our best advocates and you found it in you to take control of your health. It’s a big deal.

My first instinct is to say “Fuck yeah! Tell the world!” but I understand not everyone understands how cannabis can alter someone’s life for the better, so you’re right to wait a tick and give it some serious thought. I can’t tell you what’s right for your life, but I think you would benefit from listing each area of your life and figure out realistic worst-case scenarios.

Could you lose your job? If so, would it be a legal dismissal? If your work doesn’t suffer, and you don’t appear under the influence, what’s the difference between your prescribed cannabis and a co-worker’s prescribed Ativan? I would find a copy of your works policy and procedures and see if there’s something in there first before speaking to them about it, but ultimately, it’s none of their business. Chances are they won’t know otherwise, so maybe wait and see if cannabis works for you first.

Genuine familial support is key in anyone’s life. You’ve taken the steps to see the doctor already, so you’ve made the decision this is worth trying. Everyone is skeptical of what they have no evidence of, so hopefully your trials with cannabis are successful and they see the difference firsthand. Depending on the 16-year-old, their experience with cannabis may be them or their classmates sneaking out back of the school and getting high with their friends before a boring Calculus class. You have the opportunity to show cannabis has a multitude of uses without ending up in binge-eating Cheetos as stigma dictates. What a great position to be in.

As with your doctor, you need to advocate for your needs in all aspects of your life. Weigh out the negative and positives and if they’re not catastrophic, go for it. And if they have the potential to be life-altering, maybe question why this is and how you can change that or if you care to. Lack of sleep dysregulates all parts of our lives. If you have a chance to create some routine and get to a point of restfulness, there’s nothing but positives.

With the countless testimonials of people who have benefited from cannabis, I wish you the greatest of luck with your insomnia.

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.

Original Question:

While I have to sort of laugh at myself for starting the advice question with “I have a friend” but:

I have a friend who is a fellow author. She asked me to read a work in progress ages ago and asked for constructive criticism. I gave her my thoughts. She recently self published the work and asked for reviews. I asked her if she had changed anything from last time. She said yes but from what I can see from my former notes as well as comparing the two files, there weren’t any changes. I had loads of notes and feel like I couldn’t give an honest review because it feels like she is expecting a friendly positive review…it’s not bad it’s just that I guess it’s really not my cup of tea. Do I write a review or do I simply shrug off the review by telling the friend/author that the book genre really isn’t my style (although it is)? If I write a review, should I be honest or should I give her what she wants? Thanks for the advice.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

When someone asks for our help and then doesn’t take it, it can be frustrating because you ask yourself why they bothered to ask in the first place. The problem in that thinking is that they didn’t promise to use every piece of your advice, they just asked you what you thought. Helping others out is noble, but expectations they’ll follow any advice needs to remain low. You don’t know that they didn’t take your constructive criticism to heart, all you know is that they didn’t use every change you suggested.

As an author, I know the value of reviews is sometimes in the amount of reviews you get and not necessarily the average they create. You can still make an honest review without making it scathing in any way. Telling them the genre isn’t your style would sound like a blatant lie if they know you at all and will only complicate the situation, so I would stay clear of that option.

Remember, the review is for other readers not the author. Readers want to know if the story is worth their time so pick out something about the book you enjoyed and highlight that—without spoilers—or a character or scene you think that readers would want to know about in order to make a decision about buying the book.

Next time someone asks you to go over their book and to give advice, ask yourself if you’re prepared for them to completely ignore your advice. If you are, then proceed and have fun.

Good luck. It’s no easy position to be in.

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.

Original Question:

I’ve been going back and forth about what to do with a book on suicide I’ve drafted over the past few months. It currently sits around 200 pages and includes everything from sex, abuse, and personal stories in between. I want to copyright it and provide it freely because there is such a huge industry revolving around life coaching and people who exploit those who are vulnerable.

I also implicitly state that I’m also hoping to create an audience for my writing. At the same time, I’m concerned I too will draw the wrong attention and it may just be perceived as airing my families dirty laundry. The bulk of the work I want attention for is my fantasy writing which I wanted to release at the same time. So if people wanted to support me they could purchase the fantasy work. I know there’s a lot to process here so thanks very much in advance!

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

Let’s tackle the first book. It sounds like a purge piece you hope others will identify with and help them through their own experiences. I love these because they reinforce the notion of everyone having family secrets or traumas and experiences they hide and making them public removes the stigma of feeling the need to hide them. Good for you for even flirting with the idea of putting it out there. Is it airing dirty laundry? Hells yeah it is, but it’s been stinking up the whole house for far too long. I say shake it out on the front porch and let the neighbours stare. Before you know it, they’ll have their own hanging from their porch swing and you’ll all be chatting about it over the sounds of sweeping the remanence of all the shame and embarrassment onto the front lawn.

Expect to encounter a neighbour or family member who will slam their doors on you or try dragging you back into the fog of seclusion, but persist, and understand that they too are allowed their embarrassment, but it doesn’t mean you have to squat in it with them. A range of emotions will hit you when you hand over the first copy to someone or post somewhere public. Feel what you need to but ensure some of that is pride for refusing to remain hidden.

Your story, your perspective, your voice.

You said you wanted to distribute it for free. There’re many ways to do this—make available on blog and all social media venues, donating to a library or organization who helps those with similar experiences in your book, talk about it on a local radio show, share with other bloggers, etc.—as long as you still plan to do everything you would for any other published works including getting a cover artist and editor to ensure the content is tight and readable. Which means it won’t be free for you, so be prepared to put out some cash without the expectation of a return, though it sounds like you’re okay with this.

Bridging the gap between a non-fiction novel and a fiction novel isn’t easy, though I do know someone who is in the process of doing this. They’re using their same name for both titles, but there was discussion on if they should use a pseudonym for one or the other. That’s a personal question you’ll need to mull over if you haven’t already.

They’re different genres with different audiences. The only thing they have in common is you, so using one to create an audience for the other is tricky. As you post things about your non-fiction novel, you can direct them back to your website where they will see that you write in multiple genres but treat them as the two different beasts they are as your marketing game will need to be on point and there’s lots of books out there that can help.

Check out Rachel Thompson’s book ’30-Day Book Marketing Challenge’ and her site in general. She’s an advocate for many things and the book helps with all genres.

Whatever you choose to do, ensure you take extra care of yourself and any raw feelings the non-fiction book may cause. Choose a pace that works for you and reach out if things become overwhelming.

Good luck!

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.

Original Question:

Hey Sami-Jo, here’s a question for your advice column. How do you help a family member who is becoming increasingly paranoid and anxious and clearly needs help, but refuses to believe they have a problem and need help? This person has stressed out his wife of many decades to the point where she’s ready to divorce him (although she has said that before). I suspect the answer is “you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help”, but I promised I’d try to help them figure it out. Based on the results of my googling, there may not be a solution, but if you want to tackle this one, go ahead. And thanks for listening, oh wise advice columnist.

Photo by Matthew Bennett on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

Helping anyone through a mental health crisis is difficult. Helping family is worse. Things tend to degrade into personal jabs and lashing out in ways meant to hurt the other because they have personal information to chuck at them. Having someone else without any stakes in the situation is always better, but difficult to get involved when the person in crisis won’t admit they need help.

Since the person in this case is a senior, it can be difficult to separate age and mental health related symptoms. You said the man has been stressing out his wife, but not for how long, my concern is this may be Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease in which case I would recommend the wife and/or other supports look into those resources to see if they have a way to become involved in a natural way to lessen the paranoia or feelings of collusion. A doctor or relevant medical professional can also do this.

If there’s been a change in medications, even ones for blood pressure or ones unrelated to any mental health specific, they could cause these issues as well. I also wonder if they get regular physicals where a doctor may be able to track any changes.

The previous threat to leave was not followed through with, so the husband may not believe them and categorizes it as empty threats. You’re right, you can’t help those who refuse help. Though, the issue here isn’t just the husband suffering mental health symptoms, but the wife who is suffering because of them as well.

They can try and broach the subject with the husband about getting help, with the addition of any added information they may get from a medical professions or resource like the Alzheimer’s Society or Schizophrenia resources if those are the symptoms they’re experiencing, but not to do so until they’re ready to take action with their own welfare.

If the paranoia and anxiousness is to the point they’re experience abuse because of it, then it would benefit for them to be able to stay with family or friends, but they would need to figure this out before broaching the conversation since it could result in further abuse or no change from the husband. Moving out doesn’t need to lead to a divorce but putting their safety and well-being first is sometimes a step towards a better outcome. Personal boundaries are important, and they can still be a source of support for their husband outside of the house.

If the wife doesn’t want to leave, this is also understandable. ‘For better or for worse’ is a vow many people will take to their graves. In this case, I would recommend they look into resources for themselves. One-on-one counselling with an abuse counsellor, support groups for family experiencing the same mental health symptoms as their loved one, or even crisis services through an over the phone organization to get her through the moment of crisis and help give perspective and clarity.

No matter if her husband wants to seek help she needs to help herself. The whole giving yourself oxygen first on a plummeting plane is the easiest analogy here. She needs help as much as he does, and she needs it first before she can help him.

I don’t know the city to look up resources, free or otherwise, but you can help her by doing a simple Google search, making a few calls, and/or attending preliminary appointments or support groups with her depending on how much you want to get involved.

I hope they work out a way to help their husband that includes helping themselves.

 

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.