There is nothing shameful or gross about sex--but it is intimate. Just like there is nothing shameful or gross about mental illness--but again, it is intimate.

Ask the Bitches: “How Do I Protect My Own Mental Health While Still Helping Others?”

We’re going to cap off our series on mental health with a question from one of our Patreon donors! This question comes to us from Patron Zoë. And it is SO GOOD and SO IMPORTANT! I am thrilled that she allowed me to share my response.

Here’s Zoë’s question:

In a recent article, Kitty recommends peers as an alternative to therapy. Philosophically, I think it’s a great recommendation. US culture seems increasingly dependent on monetary fixes rather than social fixes.

Here’s my problem: as a friend of some people with severe mental hurdles who can’t afford/don’t want therapy, sometimes it’s just… too much.

I feel stuck. I want to love them and assuage their anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. But I also find myself hitting a wall where they aren’t getting well or coping any better than they did before I tried to help.

It’s not fair to expect someone to just suddenly overcome a mental health issue just because I talked them through one incident. It’s also not okay to treat a friendship as a transaction. (“One breakdown for you; one breakdown for me: that’s the deal!”) But it also starts to become a pretty huge emotional burden and an unbalanced relationship for a while. In my case, the friends most reliant on my care are on the internet, which means they have fairly unlimited access to me.

I don’t think it’s selfish to want to draw a line… but it feels selfish. And I don’t know what to do.

I really can’t understate what a powerful and difficult question this is. Whether your mental health seascape is placid or stormy, being a constant source of support for other people’s struggles takes tremendous psychic energy. Here are my suggestions on how to manage this incredibly tricky situation.

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When you live alone, no one will kick you out of bed for eating crackers.

Ask the Bitches: Why Are Painted Mason Jars the Internet’s Only Solution to My Tiny Apartment Woes?

In finance, Piggy and I are as the knuckle-dragging Australopithecus. We’re upright, we get the job done, don’t yell at us! But we’re the clumsiest possibly hominids. Our knowledge is erratically cobbled together from history books, finance podcasts, Kitty’s racist-yet-thrifty grandpa, and poorly-sourced socialist Facebook memes.

Thankfully, there are other areas where we are Homo neanderthalensis: graceful and erect, with powerful bodies and minds, superbly adapted to the cold, with cosmopolitan attitudes on interspecies breeding. Our knowledge in these areas is instinctual, virtuosic. And one of these areas is organizing small spaces.

Today we have a great reader question from our Tumblr on this very topic:

Hi! I love your blog and I find it really helpful!! I’m a mid-20s human in the SF Bay Area. I got a job and and was able to get an extra $15k in my salary (thanks to your advice!), and have now moved into my own little studio. My problem is this: Everything to help you “save space” on the web seems to actually be “how to move your entire kitchen into hand-painted mason jars”. Any advice on how to organize my space without buying useless storage buckets on Amazon?

Is… is this what I think it is? IS THIS PERMISSION TO GO ON MY BIG RANT ABOUT MASON JARS? Oh, thank the stars! (Jars?)

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The transition from struggling to thriving can be very jarring.

Ask the Bitches: I Know How to Struggle and Fight, but I Don’t Know How to Succeed

Oh, everyone, I have a great treat for you today. It’s a very interesting letter from one of our Patreon supporters!

If you don’t already know, anyone who makes a $5 donation to our Patreon account will get to ask us a question. Any question! And they may do so privately or publicly. This was a private question, but I asked our patron (whom I’ll call Hope) if I could share it with you. Because despite Hope’s rather specific situation, I think it speaks to a surprisingly universal experience.

I’m a single mom and have spent the last 7 out of my son’s 10 years of life struggling HARD. I’ve climbed my way up my professional ladder with no formal education or degree. I accrued $20K in debt during these hard years, but I have a plan to pay it off over the next two years, and overall my prospects are good.

My problem is this: I’ve always dreamed of putting away money for a down payment on a house my son can grow up in. But my son will be 12 by the time I’m ready to start saving. By the time I can afford a house, we’d have little time to enjoy it together. I can’t see myself being stuck with a house at 40 years old and my son gone off to school or whatever he ends up doing.

I know it sounds like this isn’t a problem, but I’m afraid that without a plan or goal, I’ll end up squandering anything I’m able to save once I get this paid off. I’m afraid of having money and not struggling and wasting money. I’m thinking of starting a college fund, a travel fund, I have no idea fund, but other than the small-scale budgeting I can do, I have no idea how money works. 

How can I “get riches” and be smart and not lose them for lack of a plan? is it too late to set my son up for success in other ways? Should I just be talking to an accountant? 

Any advice you could give would be great. I know how to struggle and fight, but I don’t know how to succeed.

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Our society is deeply invested in upholding a cultural myth that all mothers know instinctively how to nurture and love. They don't.

Ask the Bitches: I Was Guilted Into Caring for a Sick, Abusive Parent for Years. Now What?

We’ve been talking a lot recently about unequal circumstances. Some people, through no fault of their own, have a harder time achieving financial independence than others. This is why the “anyone can do it,” one-size-fits-all success narrative is harmful and exclusionary.

This question is a good example of one such set of circumstances. This came to us from an anonymous Tumblr follower.

“Bitches I need advice, I have never had a job because I was guilted into caring for an emotionaly abusive sick mother right out of high school. I am twenty three and have no idea what to go into now that I am free. I’m mostly afraid of going to school because I don’t have any money, but I have no idea what jobs I can get without an education! I don’t want to work in fast food and retail until I’m thirty, please tell me you can advise this poor bitch :(“

A poor bitch indeed. Oh, my sweet child of winter.

My poor child of winter.

You have opened the door to my heart, and also my memories. Because I, too, spent a precious chunk of my young adulthood doing the exact same thing.

I ask myself why I did it all the time. The only real answer is that there is immense social pressure on children to care for their ill parents—particularly daughters. Friends and family members I hadn’t spoken with in years (or ever) tracked me down. They got my phone number from my mother, or found me on social media, and twisted my arm until it broke. I was too young and inexperienced to tell them to fuck off.

I share these details because I want you to know that you are not alone, and you will never be alone. Abusive and toxic people are very good at turning illness to their advantage. Their greedy hearts are fed by the sympathy and attention, and they will manipulate the situation to get what they want from you.

And the people who were absent? Who enabled them? Looked the other way? They’re tumbling out of the woodwork like termites to volunteer you for the job they don’t want to perform themselves.

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