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Wellness Wednesday for September 6, 2023

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

Jump in the discussion.

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I have been thinking about the issue of obesity. I posit there are two kinds of obesity, the first being force-feeding obesity, in which someone overeats huge quantities of food (>6000 calories/day or more), possibly due to some emotional disturbance, and is able to override, temporality, the body's set point. Losing weight is also the easiest for such individuals because all they have to do is not eat as much and their weight rapidly returns to normal, but without the constant starvation of dieting because they are still eating a normal amount of food (3000 calories) which is in line with calculators.

The second type of obesity, which is worse, is what I call 'shit genetics' obesity, which means a slow metabolism. The second groups has a much slower metabolism than the first and in order to not be obese has to eat surprisingly small quantities of food, and become obese eating only average quantities of food, maybe only 2500-3000 calories/day (lower than predicted by calculators for height, age, gender, activity level, etc.). These people are screwed and need these GLP-1 class of drugs or else they will feel starving all day. These ppl will become overweight or obese in almost any environment, short of famine. Both forms of obesity are made worse by modernity, like hyper-palatable foods, but the second group is even worse off.

Context: I am now a bit overweight but used to weigh over 300 pounds.

someone overeats huge quantities of food (>6000 calories/day or more), possibly due to some emotional disturbance, and is able to override, temporality, the body's set point.

When I was obese, I would eat 4000-5000 calories a day without even thinking about it because it made me happy to feel full and my body was used to it. When I started cutting down, I was very crabby and irritated because I couldn't just drug myself with food all the time. Today I can eat a normal amount of calories most days without feeling urges to binge.

Losing weight is also the easiest for such individuals because all they have to do is not eat as much and their weight rapidly returns to normal, but without the constant starvation of dieting because they are still eating a normal amount of food

I felt like I was starving all the time, even when I just had to cut my calories down from 3000 to 2700 a day. Even just a 10 percent decrease in calories would drive me insane.

The second groups has a much slower metabolism than the first and in order to not be obese has to eat surprisingly small quantities of food, and become obese eating only average quantities of food, maybe only 2500-3000 calories/day

Well a 5'2 girl would probably be obese at 3000 calories a day. As a man of average height I'd still be overweight at 3000 calories a day so I aim for 2000 for a healthy weight (though I usually overshoot to like 2300 on average.)

Metabolism adjusts to your habits. If you weigh more or are more active, it's faster. If you weigh less or are less active, it's slower.

The second type [...] will become overweight or obese in almost any environment, short of famine.

As always, the question is: why not prior to the last ~50 years? Unless all the newly obese people of the last 50 years are the first type you mention, the lack of a significant number of obese people in past generations cries out for an explanation.

Bad genetics can explain the existence of a fixed proportion of the population being obese even in the 70s, 60s etc. As food became more palatable and due to sedentary lifestyles, more people in group one became obese, too. Even in the 80s and 70s a certain fraction of the population was obese , around 10-20%. Reading people's personal accounts on Hacker News and elsewhere lends credence to bad genetics, not willfully overeating, as an explanation for some obesity, such as men who consume far fewer calories than predicted by calculators but are still obese or way overweight (although as a caveat, people tend to underreport caloric intake). Metabolism varies greatly among individuals even controlling for factors like age, height, sex, lifestyles, etc. Like height, IQ, or any other trait that is normally distributed, it stands to reason there are individuals with the short end of that stick...

People forget how different modern food and entertainment are from the 70s. With no video games, 24x7 entertainment channels, YouTube, TikTok, other social media and porn you had to come up with other sorts of entertainment that at least stimulated you to leave your home ("go play with your friends and don't come back home until dinner", as genxers like to recall this). Less screen media consumption also meant less mindless snacking that doesn't satiate as well as mindful eating. Eating out and delivery were less common and featured far fewer cuisines, and both have portions that are too large, leading to overeating.

the issue is the food, but up to a point. some people have such lousy metabolisms ,and also due to age or other factors, they they need way fewer calories than predicted by calculators to not be overweight. instead of 2k/day for a medium-sized male, more like like 1300-1500. I dunno what percentage of the population is cursed like this, but given what I have read, it's probably not insignificant.

What's so cursed about that? Back when I was on a weight-loss diet I had some 1500 cal days. With bulky vegetable sides I didn't even feel hungry.

yeah but 1500 average daily, not just some days. also it also shows we cannot just blame overeating. Trying to get men over the age of 40s to adopt 1500-2000 calorie/day diets to stop obesity seems like a no-go.

Trying to get men over the age of 40s to adopt 1500-2000 calorie/day diets to stop obesity seems like a no-go.

That's what semaglutide does, doesn't it? External willpower for those who have spent too much time cultivating stronger hunger drives to curb them themselves.

Reading people's personal accounts on Hacker News and elsewhere lends credence to the existence of bad genetics, such as men who consume far fewer calories predicted by calculators but still obese or overweight. Metabolism varies greatly among individuals even controlling for factors like age, height, sex, lifestyles, etc.

Anecdotal, and people are terrible at estimating their own consumption unless they're weighing everything they put in their mouth. The variation of metabolism is not completely insignificant, but not enough to explain the obesity crisis. An extremely cursed person in the 99th percentile might have to consume about 400kcal/day less than average (assuming 160kcal stddev) which does not explain the obesity crisis. Your run-of-the-mill unlucky person complaining of a "slow metabolism" has to consume the equivalent of two fewer apples a day.

The main way in which obesity is genetic is behavioral. People with a satiation reflex that does not activate as quickly, whose hunger is stronger or self-regulation is weaker, who are inclined to sedentary activities and don't walk as much. But these factors of genetic variation often reflect poorly on the character the obese person in question, so they prefer to focus on a supposedly unbelievably efficient metabolism.

Bad genetics can explain a fixed proportion of the population being obese even in the 70s, 60s etc.

A new environment can expose genetic variation that was invisible before. Vulnerability to drug addiction is also genetic, but there were no fentanyl addicts in the 60s or 70s.

the 99th percentile might have to consume about 400kcal/day less than average (assuming 160kcal stddev) which does not explain the obesity crisis

To explain the whole crisis requires more explanations. I think a lot of it can be explained by the undercounting of overweight/obese people decades ago. This is similar to autism and adhd, which saw a surge in incidence over the past few decades in part due to more people being diagnosed. Even Jack Dempsey in his later years appears obese. Would he have been counted in the 'official' stats? likely not.

This guy was one of the greatest athletes in the world at his prime yet still got noticeably fat. it shows how hard solving this problem truly is when even people who we can assume to be careful about their health and in good physical shape still get fat.

Anecdotal, and people are terrible at estimating their own consumption unless they're weighing everything they put in their mouth. The variation of metabolism is not completely insignificant, but not enough to explain the obesity crisis. An extremely cursed person in the 99th percentile might have to consume about 400kcal/day less than average (assuming 160kcal stddev)

that is true; ppl are bad at self-reporting. this agrees with other sources I read about with how the difference between a good vs bad metabolism is just a few hundred calories/day (assuming control for relevant factors), or about a candy bar, so bad metabolism is not a a valid excuse. The problem is, a small surplus over a long time period can add up to a lot of weight. Second, cutting back those extra 200 calories will incur some degree of metabolic adaptation, so the amount will need to be more than that.

I don't think undercounting can explain the prevalence in older media of fit people. Look at those old Victorian street scenes: everyone is good looking. The historical existence of this or that obese person shouldn't counter the overwhelming evidence that we've become a fat society.

Look at those old Victorian street scenes: everyone is good looking

Those Victorian street scenes are excluding a lot of ugliness already, though.

I don't think I'd want to paint (cameras were limited to exposure too long to capture someone walking down the street, so they had to be painted) the piles and streams of shit in the streets of a society [that hadn't yet implemented indoor plumbing and used horses for transport] if I didn't have to either, so naturally none of those scenes include it. If you have to put in effort to paint people you might as well make them decent-looking, so it's understandable there'd be, uh, fat erasure.

"good looking" is not the same as not being overweight or obese according to precise BMI measurements. I recall when i was dieting (still am) than when I took some photos of myself i didn't look overweight, no stomach bulge , yet I was technically in the overweight category . i was still somewhat flabby in the mid section but it was covered well. But you're right society has gotten fatter, even with undercounting. Some of it can probably also be explained by demographics such as increased Hispanic population.

Self-proclaimed calorie intake is generally unbelievable. People either lie quite deliberately, they are so confused that they might as well lie (1,000 calorie Starbucks coffees don’t count because they’re drinking, not food) or aren’t exactly measuring portions (eyeballs are much less precise than kitchen scales).

The idea of “slow metabolism” is evolutionarily improbable: consuming less energy, and thus less food is needed to do the same thing without any downsides would be a huge benefit for fitness. It is possible that they will make some compromises (e.g. perhaps less performance in normal times means survival in hunger). But there is a narrow window, because the famine disaster driving the adaptation can not occur too often (or everyone will have the same “slow metabolism” that will prove optimal), but not too rarely (or owners of “slow metabolism” are overtaken in good times). In addition, metabolism is very basic and crucial for life; as in reproduction, we should expect that the metabolism will be one of the most preserved parts of human biology and that there is limited functional variability. What we see in practice: with accurate calorie tracking and body composition estimates, BMR estimates are accurate within 10%.

The idea of “slow metabolism” is evolutionarily improbable:

That is like saying low IQs are improbable yet they exist .Why would it not be variable, like any other trait. There was an individual I read about who at 6'0 and 120 pounds his maintenance was 1900 calories/day, which he measured meticulously. This is astonishing given his very low body weight. By comparison, Ancel Keys' subjects had to diet to 1570/day to archive a similar weight loss, and some even lower than that (Keys was also meticulous about measuring calories). But it shows how variable it can be.

metabolism is very basic and crucial for life;

so is intelligence and physical strength, yet those also vary greatly among individuals even controlling for relevant factors. why do some guys who train bench 315 and other cannot do 225 despite equal training and other factors?

I'm obese and don't think I fall into either category. I just stress eat and currently prioritize my job above my health. All available willpower is spent on work and none seems to be left over to decide to eat a healthy alternative.

I've graduated to middle management and this week has been extremely stressful so far. People love to shit on middle managers, but good damn, do you feel helpless compared to a team lead or an engg mgr.

Don't get me wrong, having so many of your utterances become speech acts is cool. But when you are twice removed from your ICs, isolated from them by other managers that may or may not be well-versed in either management or subject matter, giving any firm commitments is scary. Scary, but necessary.

Don't be the Clueless, don't be the Clueless...

Don't be the Clueless, don't be the Clueless...

Hah, I see the Gervais Principle has stuck in your head too. One of those things that's hard to unsee.

How do you recover from being a NEET? I spent the last 5 years of my life as a NEET, staying at home just reading and browsing. The time I lost was not completely useless, as I learned French and Ancient Greek, and I worked out and read tremendously, but I have had basically no social relationships beyond my family in those 5 years. I got a useless degree from the British Open University, and am now doing a master degree at a physical university. I cannot relate to my peers at all, they are one or 2 years younger and seem much more socially experienced. I don't get them. I don't get what motivates them, and I don't enjoy what they enjoy. I will be 25 when I graduate. I hate the subject I am studying, and the job opportunities seem shit. The thought of working in an office seems dreadful to me. I just have no idea what to do. I have been thinking about enlisting, but I don't want to spend my time bored in a barrack. Nothing seems worthwhile, and I feel like I've ruined my life beyond repair. I've wasted the best years of youth, and have only the asinine grind to look forward to. I am completely alienated from society. Any help?

Make sure you're not doing these things just to please other people. Think hard about what YOU are getting out of what you're doing and if it's not making you happy then think of something else that will make you happy and do that instead. You should also try to see the positives in the things you're doing, for example I used to feel like the work I did was bad and it made no difference but then I started to realize that my work is actually making a positive impact on people and it can help them lead happier lives and it made me respect myself and my work and the people around me a lot more. If you are alienated from society try to reach out and just be kind to people and talk to people more and stop isolating yourself as much.

Selection bias. You only notice the socially refined peers, you won't see the ones who are failing out because they get nervous at the idea of making a phone call.

If you want to relate to your peers then ask them what motivates them and talk about it, and maybe discuss/explore how it doesn't motivate you. You're not obliged to agree with them.

Finish out the master's degree while thoroughly researching which branch and role of the military suits your aims (air force seems like the comfiest option to my untrained eyes). Talk to currently serving members before you even consider talking to the recruitment office. Sign up, travel the country/world (avoid front line combat), learn marketable skills within a clear hierarchy and away from the general public (about as far from an office job as you can reasonably get), get a solid reference from doing something generally held in good esteem by society, make friends and contacts, save your pay, leave ~30 with a good CV and much improved prospects. Also women like a man in uniform. If you don't like it you're still only 30 and you've got a decent foundation to pivot on. Reading Ancient Greek is cool but it's a luxury pursuit.

If you don't like that then you could learn to code and try to land a WFH/remote job, and if you don't like that then you need to start looking for a lucrative niche or building a business from scratch. Otherwise it's the office life for you. I'm guessing you don't like sales, see academia as an up-hill dead end and aren't about to retrain as a doctor or hit the jackpot as a YouTuber or a Substack writer.

Forget about "the best years are gone". Concentrate on setting yourself straight in the medium term so that when you do figure it out in your "still pretty good, maybe on reflection arguably better years" you're able to pursue it and achieve it instead of being stuck even deeper in a hole. Remember that you will turn 30 whatever happens, so you might as well look forward to doing something worthwhile before you find yourself looking back and wondering what you could have done.

It's corny but is a good way of planning your actions, you just need to make sure your scope is appropriate. You have to keep a good balance of short term plans to stay motivated by steadily ticking them off otherwise it can feel like the end goal is too far away.

I will be 25 when I graduate.

that is not too bad. still got plenty of time to get things together. much better than being 35 in your situation, which is not all that uncommon

Try church, if you know ancient greek then Christian Orthodoxy should be a breeze.

Alternatively go on an app like meetup. Throw yourself at random groups until you find people/things you're interested in. It will be painful at first but there's no way to get social experience other than socializing.

What led to you isolating yourself?

As for the way out and relating to peers - I suggest looking for a good volunteering opportunity. People in those kinds of groups will be a lot more amenable to getting along with you, because you have similar interests and values in terms of what you volunteer to do. You'll get more of an in-group that you belong to in that setting.

You've said you're doing a Master's, so I presume you've just started term. It might be helpful to join 2-3 societies (including both something you've got experience in and something you've not done before). Although the sense of alienation will likely be there in the short term, in the medium term your shared interests should mean that you gradually bond- if you put in some effort and go to socials etc.

Another angle- look for people who are at a more similar stage in life to you or have a similar outlook. I think there's a bit of an illusion that everyone at that age is into similar activities- primarily drinking, clubbing, and posting on social media. There will however be a significant minority not into these things that are by nature more difficult to find. Often they converge in "nerdy" societies or optional additional classes - the difficulty being the attendant frequency in such societies of those whom you wouldn't want to be friends with in the first place. Another option is looking for your "graduate"-type student union, where there is a higher proportion of people who are older and therefore more likely to be relatable.

On the future- not much to say really! If you like money, I wouldn't knock an office job too much: regardless of degree or experience to date, you could do a law conversion course or go into accountancy or consultancy, all of which are established and potentially well-paying career paths which can be intellectually interesting on the day to day. I don't know what either of your degrees are in, so there may be further options. It's probably worth exploring what you want from a job, in terms of pay/hours/conditions/intellectual stimulation (possibly with your uni's careers advisors) and going from there.

Having said that, there's no real requirement to start work immediately after graduating. Indeed, a number of my peers were out of work for a year or so and then landed good jobs when they started actually applying. You could acquire capital over (say) 3 months and then either travel abroad or look for opportunities in your country for bed-and-board volunteering opportunities. These would have the virtue of not being office jobs (so you can see if you like it) and also immersing you in socialising with people who are not your kin. Hostels and small-scale farms spring to mind as typical opportunities of this kind.

I've gone on too long, so key takeaways: life does not end at 25; lots of people are only just entering their careers/ finding partners at 30+; push yourself to spend more time with other people and less time browsing and it will gradually become easier.

Around three weeks ago I wrote that I had started exercising at home. Since then I've done a session on 17 of 22 days. I'm happy with that.

I got a Kindle Paperwhite recently and I've been reading a lot more than I used to. Like 5-10 times more. It helps to not have to use a distraction-filled phone to read. It seems I'm far from a quick reader though. Amazon claimed that the average reader of the book I just finished spent 2h 40m on it. It's called When Breath Becomes Air and it's 225 pages. That's 1.4 pages per minute. That seems a little strange given it's not a book you should rush through. I spent 7-8 hours on it, including frequent reflecting. Great, great book. I suffered along with him while reading, my stomach tensing, twisting and turning at times.

And now I might check out some of the works referenced by the late author, who loved literature. The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. And Nabokov, perhaps. He wrote on the theme of how our own suffering can make us callous to the suffering of others. But which book of his should I read?

Does anyone have advice about how to restart your creativity or imagination? This is a strange question, I know.

When I was a bit younger, I was a very keen creative writer. I always carried a notebook with me, and usually within a couple of months I'd have filled it up with ideas and would need to get a new one. I always had some short story or longer project in progress, and if I finished or got stuck with one, it was never long before I had a new idea to work on. As I've aged into my mid-30s, and settled into a steady career and routine, I feel like this has slowed down immensely. Recently I realized that I'd carried the same notebook for over a year, and it still wasn't full. I try to fill my life with new stimuli, but somehow it is as though these don't want to congeal into new writing ideas. It's not so much a question of putting time into it exactly - I have time in which I can do things like this. But if I sit down and just try to force it, I end up getting bored, frustrated, and distracted, and walk away to do something else.

Is this a normal side effect of aging and life becoming more stable and boring? If this has happened to you, did you find any effective countermeasure?

Impro by Keith Johnstone is a great book on this subject. I think it is normal to get 'duller' with age. You may be inadvertently 'blocking' yourself, the watcher at the gates of the mind censoring ideas before they reach your awareness. Maybe you are trying hard to be original and come up with 'good' ideas, rather than perceiving what is already there. Maybe you are embarrassed by the contents of your imagination, and fear judgement from others or yourself. In any case I would recommend the book.

Psychedelics are the answer you're looking for friend.

Ahahaha there's definitely something to this. Several years ago, when I lived in a different town with my best friend, I bought some LSD from a strange Serbian guy I knew. Then I put it in the freezer and forgot about it.

I visited my friend this year, who still lives in the same apartment, and we remembered the LSD. We took it together and found it to still be very effective; and we had what we both consider to be the best time we'd had in many years. And indeed we had many great insights at that time.

Unfortunately I've lost touch with the Serbian, and I have not taken the time to find out where I can source additional psychedelics. Perhaps it would be worth putting in the effort.

To echo @CertainlyWorse, I restarted my creativity and writing by reading less web articles and the like and reading physical books as well as listening to audio books as I do chores, stuff around the house, etc. This has helped me to regain my inner monologue and motivated me to write more as well as be a better writer whether on here, in the 20 motte drafts on my laptop, and my work emails. I try as often as I can to lay in bed an hour before bedtime and read during that time, unwinding and unplugging.

I think it might help to try writing prompts. I know there’s a subreddit full of them, or perhaps websites with them. If you challenged yourself to spend ten-fifteen minutes a day trying to write something based on the prompts, it might do some good.

I have theories about ingesting too much information and too much screen time leading to a lack of independent thought and creativity. I'm currently looking into ways to strengthen creative areas in my mind and other brain centers that may have atrophied over years of the above.

The biggest core concept is allowing your mind to rest and avoiding overstimulation and concentration. Meditation is great for this kind of thing. You can't fill a cup that is already overflowing. Your mind can't generate new ideas when it is burdened with thoughts. I've also heard in adjacent spaces that boredom is a good catalyst for imagination and creativity. See how you go.

This feels true. I have noticed that when I am experiencing a subjective feeling of "being stressed out," I react by doing all sorts of mind-occupying or mind-killing activities; almost as though I am hiding from using my mind for anything.

Many great writers, C.S. Lewis to take one example, strongly recommended taking long walks often. I used to do this, and have drifted out of the habit. Maybe now that the weather is cooling off, I can get back into that; and with no headphones, in a familiar park.

I can add support to this. Daily meditation has definitely boosted my capacity for reflection and somewhat creative, independent thinking.

Start running a dungeons and dragons campaign(personally I recommend Pathfinder 2e or 1e), and take it seriously. Really delve into the setting (for this I recommend 2nd edition Planescape, but there are plenty of great ones out there) and think about making a fun and appealing campaign for your players.

I never lost my creativity but at the same time I was a gamemaster for over a decade.

I recently joined a D&D campaign as a player, and was invited to write a backstory. The act of doing that was my favorite creative thing I've done this year. Fantasy is not really my chosen genre, but it was very helpful to have that as an "assignment" to work on. I wonder if there are more ways I can take on "writing obligations."

I wonder if there are more ways I can take on "writing obligations."

There's an opportunity just a few threads down from here:

There are all sorts of roleplaying game systems and you don't have to play in fantasy. Cyberpunk 2077 is based on a tabletop game, and there are plenty of historical ones out there as well. You can also just do some creative writing, but I think having a group that gets together and enjoys what you're doing is a massive motivating factor.

A real tragedy about these dark rituals, is that unlike the nicer variety, when it's over I have no feeling of resolution.

Speaking as someone with more baggage (blah blah blah mom with Borderline Personality Disorder, child abuse, domestic violence, and dead pets; firearms aren't cool in domestic arguments and Hillbilly Elegy made me cry because it hit way too close to home) who has done his own version of the ritual (less often now) I am genuinely unsure as to how useful they were. Maybe they were and that's how I got through it (albeit terribly inefficiently; IMO I wasted an enormous amount of time crying into my river of Steel Reserve over this stuff), but early 30s me wonders if I could've had a better 20s by going straight to the professionals instead of doing it the self-reliant redneck way (i.e. never taking PTSD seriously until I was armchair-diagnosed by a veteran coworker who'd done a few tours in the sandbox).

That said, if the drunk and crying part wasn’t so productive I think that just typing it out (usually meant for reddit support groups, sometimes posted, usually not) is helpful. Maybe it’s the act of journaling or just banging away at the keyboard. Often, by the time I’m two-thirds finished or whatever I no longer feel the need to say whatever it was that I was going to say. This is better than getting drunk around people, going down a spiral of telling stories, freaking people out and then feeling like an asshole hunting for sympathy. Relating to the above, maybe I needed that sympathy at some point but now being able to shock/unsettle people is more embarrassing than anything and I know how uncomfortable I am when someone hits me with a traumatic event that I can’t relate to/one-up.

One thing I am convinced of is that resolution is to some extent impossible because I remain who I am and my mother remains who she is. There’s little point in entertaining counterfactuals of how much nicer my life would be if I hadn’t endured this or that/been made a little weird as a result. I am bound by something, be it honor/a wish to be the better person, guilt, fear, or whatever such that I will never cut my mother off unless she mortally threatens me. Sure, our relationship is mostly an unrewarding exercise of “What the Hell does she want/need now?” but I’m the oldest and only son, it’s my job to make sure she’s okay (and thank God that she’s a disabled veteran and thus mostly the VA’s problem), and I owe it to my siblings to shoulder most of the load of her bullshit now because I couldn’t defend them from her when I was a kid.

One note, as to the younger memories, I’d mostly rather not. I’ve been crushed to hear things from relatives, what they thought/felt about how my sister and I were treated when we were little. I’ve been crushed from the other end to hear things from my little sister, things I’d thought that I’d spared her from. I’ll leave it at this: I’m fairly confident that I developed speech aphasia as a two year old because I had the word “no” beaten out of me.

The final note: My father says that I should write a book about it all. I doubt that I’ll ever get around to that or that it would be worth reading, but I guess that in its own way a procession of comments nearing the character limit and half-finished ones on Google Docs is something like a book in itself.

I respect you for having the guts to go through some of these experiences, I know it's not easy. The most tragic part of our current society is that we don't have a good avenue for healing this sort of trauma. Therapy is an attempt, albeit hobbled by it's regulated and bureaucratic forms to the point of almost uselessness.

If you can, I'd recommend finding a religious tradition and community to immerse yourself in before opening that box. Religion is uncool nowadays, but it really is the best container for this sort of work. Religious traditions have been selected over centuries to be useful to people going through deep transformational experiences that can often feel paradoxical and too large to grasp with our rational mind.

At the very least, as you allude to by your discussion of 'demons' in this post, religious frameworks give you a shared language to discuss your experiences with others, without the fear of them calling you crazy.

I'm not a mental health professional and recommend that you seek professional help before attempting any of the below.

I come from a middle class background and 'good' parents that were not abusive. They raised children to adulthood that have done well out in the world. Their stewardship was not perfect and in some areas was neglectful, partially through a lack of knowledge and partially through a lack of attention.

In my 30's I went through some difficult events that led to several months of crashing in my parents basement for want of a better term. During that period I had days spent alone in my room when I was unstable, not in a dangerous sense, but more in the sense that my view of the world, my place in it, and myself was shaken and uncertain. Who was I, that these events had happened to me? Within this crisis was an opportunity that allowed me to challenge parts of my thinking and my interpretation of memories. I took 'the box' down of the shelf, dusted it off and opened it up.

I did a deep dive into what I found in there. It was a very scary experience. The overwhelming amount of emotions I felt led to low level catatonia (that felt like floating in a cold, black void) and emotional exhaustion followed by sleep. I had a few of these sessions and they were incredibly cathartic. I had confronted some of my worst fears from childhood and lanced some deep infected wounds. I undertook some self administered EMDR (the self administering of which is not recommended by any professional psychological organisation) which helped process these long buried emotions and attached memories.

All that said, many of those memories weren't that bad in hindsight. Childhood bullying/neglect and low grade PTSD type of stuff. And it still shut me down for a day when I opened the box up.

I guess if I had advice it would be:

  1. Opening the box can be a good thing
  2. It can be a scary experience, with emotional and psychological impacts that can shut you down
  3. EMDR was at least in my case very helpful for emotional processing of strong negative emotions attached to past memories
  4. Attempting any of the above should be done under professional supervision AND you should allow yourself time in isolation to recover in an emotionally safe environment where you have no responsibilities (such as being able to spend the day/weekend in your bedroom undisturbed)
  5. I am uncertain of the impact of the above on someone with a family history of schizophrenia and the risk of psychotic break. I have personally witnessed someone going through such a break and their subsequent convalescence as an inpatient at a mental health facility and it is no joke. Take all due care with yourself when exploring this stuff.

I only have a couple of things to add.

Memories don't have to be 'traumatic' to have a strong emotional charge or be something that you wish to avoid remembering. Breakups with a loved ex-partner are an example of this. The process of diving into those avoided memories is roughly the same whether traumatic or not.

Same as above, EMDR is a way to reduce the emotional charge on all sorts of memories, not just traumatic ones.

Which ever way you go about this, I wish you well. Processing old memories is a good path to personal growth and self-actualisation.

Does anybody know fun things to do in the DC area in the winter?

My family is planning to travel between Christmas and New Year's. One of our teenagers wants to spend the week going to museums. The other wants to stay in a cabin and hike in some snow. We'd like to split our time between these programs. Is there a practical way to do both, or a specific region a couple hours' drive from the city that I should look into? Which museums should we prioritize? Anything special going on that time of year?

Ideally we'll bring along our 130 lb dog, if we can find an Airbnb that will take him. How dog-friendly is DC these days?

I agree with @CanofWorms that you are unlikely to see snow. I live in the DC area, we get like one or two snows a year on average. On a crazy year we might get 5 or more snows. If you drive West or South you might hit some hiking areas that have perma snow in winter. I remember hiking at Old Rag and seeing snow at the top in late November.

One Caveat I'd add to what CanofWorms said: If it does snow, it can look magical, but logistics will be a nightmare. Most DC drivers are not accustomed to driving in snow, making the first snowfall of the season pretty dangerous to be out on the roads, with lots of accidents. Also the DC area is not equipped to handle heavy snowfall. They don't have enough plow trucks. Usually during really bad storms we just have to wait for some Northern city to lend us snow plows.

As I said above, I live in the DC area, but like most natives to a area, I basically never do the touristy things nearby. I generally avoid going into DC whenever possible (I live in northern virginia, but DC is like a 30 minute drive away in low traffic). We do sometimes go to National Harbor in Maryland which has good places to eat, and a cool Ferris wheel that can give you a view of DC and the Potomac. We have also been meaning to make a trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Udvar-Hazy Anex that @MollieTheMare mentioned.

Yeah, I was very surprised on the lack of snow when I moved to DC. We always got nasty 35 degree rains which is about the most awful weather there is.

I also enjoyed National Harbor, but mostly for the MGM casino.

Instead of banking on snow in the city, I'm looking at cabins three hours away in West Virginia. Perhaps one kid can have his wintry outdoors experience over by Monongahela National Forest. I was thinking we could do a few days there, then a few in the city. Old Rag might be a good option too, thank you!

Tons to do in DC in the winter. Some of my favorites:

-hike in Manassas National Park. Great spot to bring the dog and usually pretty empty. There’s a nice 5 mile loop if you’re into that sort of thing. About 45 minutes from DC.

-Theodore Roosevelt Island. Another hiking spot in the Potomac River, very close to DC. Small, but cool. Highly recommended.

-Mount Vernon. About a 30 minute drive south of DC, you can visit where George Washington lived and is buried.

-Shenandoah National Park. It’s about a two hour drive from DC, but an amazing hiking spot. There are some cabins up that way, but they might be closed in the winter.

-My personal favorite: Fords Theater. You can go see where Lincoln was shot, and it’s an incredible feeling to look into the viewing window knowing that a monumental piece of history happened right there.

-DC Mall. Just walk the mall. Or better yet, if the weather is ok, ride bicycles around. There are of tons of monuments and statues to see. It may be cold, but definitely worth spending a few hours here.

-Museums: all the national museums are free. My favorites are the Black History Museum and the Holocaust Museum. You’ll probably need to get tickets for both of these, so check out the websites before you go.

-DC is a very dog friendly city. There are regular human parks and dog parks everywhere. Arlington even more so.

I personally doubt you’ll see snow. It doesn’t really snow in DC anymore, and if it does, it’s mostly in January and February. You might get lucky with some snow, and if you do, the city becomes a magical place. Walking around the mall, looking at monuments covered in snow is awesome.

Hit me up if you have any other questions. There’s honestly so much to do in DC, I don’t think you’ll struggle to fill your days.

Thank you so much! This is plenty of detail, and just the sort of thing we're looking for.

If you have any interest in aviation, I highly recommend the Smithsonian Air and Space Udvar-Hazy Anex. It's the one out in the suburbs, but has a much larger collection than the one by the rest of the Smithsonians, including Space Shuttle Discovery, Enola Gay, and a SR-71. The one on the main Smithsonian campus does have the Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module, though it at least used to be hard to get a good look because they were always swarmed with people.

Thank you! My husband was particularly interested in aerospace museums. I'm glad to give him a suggestion that's a little off the beaten path and bigger.

For lesser known attractions:

I am not religious or Christian, but the new Basilica is absolutely gorgeous.

It is relatively under-visited and is derivative of Roman Basilica. But, if your family hasn't seen many Churches outside the US, then this one feels breathtaking. I have been to both the Duomo in Milan, and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. All 3 are different, but this one still holds up, especially on the inside. The organs and internal acoustics are incredible too.

There is also a pretty Mormon Tabernacle in the DC area.

Glad you like it! FYI that's a temple; tabernacles are for regular church meetings, whereas temples are much bigger, nicer, less common, and are strictly for ordinances.

Thought I might be using the wrong word.

Oh, wow, that is incredible. I'm a frequent complainer that They Don't Build Em Like They Usedta, so it's very gratifying to see that sometimes they do!

It's also fairly centrally located, so it shouldn't be hard to at least pass by.