From Iceland — Ask Paola

Ask Paola

Ask Paola

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Published August 11, 2010

While I was sitting in a coffeehouse in downtown Reykjavík minding my own business I could not help but overhear a couple next to me arguing. It all seemed to start with the expression “take a chill pill.” I just want to clarify that I don’t go around coffee houses eavesdropping on people… OK, maybe if the conversation is interesting. Anyway, so then I started wondering what this expression really means, and why do we use it as a way to insult people?

Knowing that medications like anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and ADHD medicines are commonly prescribed today and that their use has increased considerably in the past decade, I wonder if the meaning of this expression has become more of a suggestion rather than an insult. This imaginary pill seems to be the recommended remedy of choice when we want to tell someone to just relax, chill out and stop worrying or stressing about something. I think maybe we should chill out in prescribing the chill pill and begin acknowledging people’s feelings and concerns. It might be time to go back and reinstate the more compassionate hippie expression “I hear ya, man.”

On this compassionate note I heard your questions and here are my answers.

I have been feeling down for some time, and my boyfriend suggested I started taking antidepressants. I am just wondering what are the side effects of antidepressants and if there are other options for me?
If you’re suffering from major depression, antidepressant medication may relieve some of your symptoms, but is not the only treatment for depression. Some of the typical side effects of antidepressants are nausea, insomnia, anxiety, decreased sex drive and dry mouth.

An alternative to antidepressants is psychotherapy, which has proven to be as effective as antidepressant medication. Therapy can help you overcome your sadness and teach you to recognise symptoms and prevent future relapses.
I suggest you meet with your family doctor and/or a therapist and tell them how you feel. Doing some research on the Internet about the pros and cons of antidepressant medication and therapy can also be helpful. Learning the facts about the different treatments and weighing the benefits against the risks can help you decide on what treatment is right for you.
And one more thing to think about… how do we know what real happiness is when we have never experienced real sadness?

I am really bothered these days by a crush I have on someone. I am doing the classic waiting by the phone and refreshing my e-mail inbox and seeing him visibly online and feeling completely frustrated at his lack of response to me. I feel adolescent and obsessed over this. I think what I am just wondering is what I can do to stop this kind of behaviour. I am an adult and I’d like to stop feeling like I am thirteen every time I begin to like a person.

I just want to start by saying that what you are describing is perfectly normal. We have all experienced some of what you are describing and it really does not have to do with age or maturity level; this type of behaviour is universal. Irrational crushes are so common that we have then for celebrities, older men/women, professors, our boss, etc.

You speak about obsessing about whether he is online and waiting for him to contact you; I would not worry about that, this is just part of the “crush behaviour.” A crush is one of our original human impulses; it is the need to be with someone who complements us and that we imagine ourselves happily spending the rest of our lives with. The feelings involved in the experience of having a crush are both exhilarating and uncomfortable and might even feel overwhelming, but don’t forget that what you are going through is a life affirming experience, a raison d’être and these are the sort of feelings that keep us alive. There are many people out there stuck in empty relationships that would love to experience what you are living right now. I suggest you embrace this experience, but if it starts taking control of your life please write again.

Why does it affect me so much what others think of me and how can I stop worrying about that sort of thing?

Humans are social beings and in many ways we depend on others approval and acceptance. We are part of a group and as a group we all have an effect on and are affected by others. To some extent, we all care about what others think of us and want others to like us. The important thing is where you stand on the scale; how much is this affecting your life? One thing is considering other people’s opinions and another thing is to be directed by those opinions. You might need to be more confident and trust your instincts, when you do so you can stop being afraid about making decisions that others might not approve off. “Dance as if nobody was watching”—this sentence might be old, but the meaning is as current as the economic crisis in Iceland. Once we stop worrying about what others think of us, we start living. So as a first experiment, the next time you go out dancing put on your purple shirt and your disco dancing shoes and move like there was no tomorrow.

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