28 votes

What's a question you're hesitant or afraid to ask?

It can be for any reason:

  • Perhaps the question leads toward some uncomfortable self-reflection (e.g. "Am I annoying?")
  • Perhaps the question might make you appear foolish or uneducated to some (e.g. "What is an IRA and why might I need one?")
  • Perhaps the question might be seen as offensive or in bad taste (I don't think we need an example here)
  • Perhaps the question itself is just outright uncomfortable due to its subject matter (e.g. "What is it like to get a colonoscopy?")
  • Perhaps there's another reason I haven't covered here

Whatever the reason, this thread is your chance to ask any questions you want to, regardless of how you'll be viewed. It's also a chance to have those questions answered, should anyone be willing to do so.

With this in mind, there are some pretty important ground rules:

As a question asker, do EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER to frame your question favorably and show sincerity. Walking in with a one sentence bombshell question that's guaranteed to stoke fires is likely to get you tagged for malice. Better to explain your thinking and why you have that question in the first place so that people can know you're coming from a genuine place. The more effort you put into your post, the more people are likely to respond with effort in kind.

As a question answerer, do EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER to apply the principle of charity. The whole point of this thread is to draw out uncomfortable questions, so do your best to answer them a way that acknowledges that discomfort rather than heightening it. Also remember that even if the person asking the question isn't doing so in the best way, there are probably people in the audience with the same or similar questions. Write your responses with them in mind too.

As readers, do EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER to both vote on comments you feel are good contributions as well as flag any comments you feel are malicious or in bad faith.

I think we've got a lot of great people on the site, and I know there are probably a ton of uncomfortable questions lurking out there. I think this is a good chance for us to get some of them out into the open so that they can be addressed in thoughtful and illuminating ways.

31 comments

  1. [7]
    VoidOutput
    Link
    There was a group of friends that I had. Some of them I met some time ago, some more recently and overall I considered them to be the first true friends I ever had. During university, over the...

    There was a group of friends that I had. Some of them I met some time ago, some more recently and overall I considered them to be the first true friends I ever had. During university, over the course of a year, I fell into my roughest depression to date. According to some concerned classmates, I was visibly drained. Some of my friends were in my class, so I thought that maybe some of them would pick up on the cues of depression and maybe offer to help, cause I sure as shit could not do anything more than go through the motions of life at that time.

    But none of them tried. As I became distant, they did too. They stopped inviting me to lunch, parties, and so on. I was very resentful, and felt betrayed. When I eventually got better, I stopped trying to stay friends. With those that were in my class at least, as, in my eyes, they knew but did not act.

    Thing is, of course, maybe all of this would have been resolved had I clearly communicated to them what I was going through, I'll give you that. It honestly seemed like an impossible task at the time. To this day I've only told one close friend that I had been going through that.

    The other thing is that I also had a depressive friend. The short version is that he tried to ask his crush for a date and got rejected, which he took very harshly. I feel partly to blame as I encouraged him to try. But his depression lasted 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years and all we could talk about was this. Which would invariably turn to tears. It broke my heart and at the same time I did not know what to do. I felt really bad not knowing how to help him. Over time, it felt more like an emotional drain than a friendship (I was going through the aforementioned depression at the time) so I slowly stopped initiating conversation. I tried to rationalize this stance in my mind after reading an article saying it was not your duty to support others in depression at your detriment.

    So my question is, in that scenario, am I applying different standards to my behavior and that of others? I feel like maybe those older friends could have been going through a tough time without me knowing or even trying to know and I did not help either, or maybe they felt the same way about not wanting my depression to drain their energy. At the same time how can I complain of being abandoned in a rough time when I literally did that to one of my friends?

    Don't hesitate to criticize, please. I'm afraid that people take too much sympathy in my past plight and don't want to upset me.

    14 votes
    1. [2]
      patience_limited
      Link Parent
      This is an incredibly difficult question. I've been through this a couple of times myself, and the important thing I've learned is that depression means you are not an objective observer of your...

      This is an incredibly difficult question. I've been through this a couple of times myself, and the important thing I've learned is that depression means you are not an objective observer of your own behavior.

      Given ordinary people's baseline levels of self-absorption, innate social behavioral programming, and desire to seek pleasure/avoid pain, it's not surprising that they tend to stay away from someone who's manifesting sickness behaviors.

      I can't speak for you, but when I was in better shape and actually asked friends about what they thought was going through my head, the responses I got were variations on, "Really? I didn't know", or "It just seemed like you were tired/irritated and didn't want to be bothered". I thought I'd said, in so many words, "I'm really depressed and thinking all the time about dying", but apparently hadn't said it aloud to anyone, and was successful enough at going through the motions of life that I didn't invite closer attention.

      I don't think there's much a non-professional can say to someone, even if they've admitted they're depressed, that will be effective in piercing the shroud of distorted thinking. It was very easy for me to bend caring statements and good will into thoughts like, "I'm just being a burden to this kind person who deserves better". Eventually, it really does become a burden to feel that nothing you say or do has any effect on the depressed person's thoughts and behavior - even professional therapists get depressed and burned out themselves. But we don't reasonably expect talking to cure cancer or other purely physiological diseases. There's little question that ongoing depression is rooted in physiological dysfunction, whatever initiated the process, and however much distorted thoughts become self-reinforcing.

      At the end of the day, about all you can effectively do is make non-judgmental statements or open-ended offers of help, e.g. "It seems like you're not feeling well, and I'll be happy to go with you to the doctor".

      I don't think it's reasonable to punish yourself for being ill, or not knowing how to rescue others from their own disorders. Worry about whether you've applied different standards to your own or others' behavior in this context isn't abnormal thinking, but it's essentially an unresolvable question which invites self-punishment.

      I hope this gives you some surcease and a more easeful way of thinking about this conundrum.

      9 votes
      1. VoidOutput
        Link Parent
        Thank you for this thoughtful answer. I'd like to add something for people reading the thread, another approach that worked for me. Of course this is heavily anecdotal: Some other friends I had...

        Thank you for this thoughtful answer.

        I'd like to add something for people reading the thread, another approach that worked for me. Of course this is heavily anecdotal:

        Some other friends I had made along the way tried very hard to make me do all sorts of activities with them. It made me go out instead of staying indoors alone, and provided plenty of nice moments. I got happy memories and it helped me see some positive aspects to my life.

        2 votes
    2. [2]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      I like patience_limited's advice, but in addition I'll just point out that the situations don't seem all that similar? In one case, "all we could talk about was this" and it came naturally because...

      I like patience_limited's advice, but in addition I'll just point out that the situations don't seem all that similar? In one case, "all we could talk about was this" and it came naturally because you knew what was going on already. It sounds like you did talk to them a lot, and although they didn't recover, you can give yourself credit for trying. That's pretty different from deciding whether to start a difficult conversation in the first place.

      Even if they were equivalent, it's not your job to maintain consistent standards. Nobody knows how that would work anyway. Everyone differs in how much help they need and how much they're able to help.

      Another question might be: is there a different way to help? Helping a friend find a therapist, perhaps? With some friends that might work better than asking them to essentially be your therapist.

      5 votes
      1. VoidOutput
        Link Parent
        That's what I wanted for him. But he categorically did not want to see one, for admittedly good reasons. However, it left me without anything to try except going out with him and talking basically.

        is there a different way to help? Helping a friend find a therapist, perhaps?

        That's what I wanted for him. But he categorically did not want to see one, for admittedly good reasons. However, it left me without anything to try except going out with him and talking basically.

        2 votes
    3. [2]
      envy
      Link Parent
      How long had you known these friends for, prior to your depressive episodes?

      How long had you known these friends for, prior to your depressive episodes?

      1 vote
  2. [8]
    Grawlix
    Link
    Okay! There's one that's been kind of on my mind every now and again, and I'm not quite sure how to phrase it in a web searchable form. When referring to a trans person from a period of their life...

    Okay! There's one that's been kind of on my mind every now and again, and I'm not quite sure how to phrase it in a web searchable form.

    When referring to a trans person from a period of their life before they transitioned, do you use their current pronouns, or the pronouns they used at the time?

    My assumption would be to use their current pronouns when referring to their past selves. I mean, if I'm supposed to use their past pronouns and use their current pronouns, I just got a detail wrong about someone else's experience; if I go the other way and use their past pronouns when I'm supposed to use their current pronouns, then it feels like I'd be deadnaming.

    I don't know any trans people personally who I could ask, and if I did, it's obviously not the kind of question I would feel comfortable asking right off the bat.

    What got me thinking about it was Jennell Jaquays, a foundational game designer at TSR, renowned for her brilliant dungeon designs for D&D modules. She is a trans woman, but transitioned after most of her career, so when talking about that era of TSR, when she went by Paul, I'm not sure whether to refer to her as she would prefer now, or as she was referred to at that time.

    What makes me hesitant to ask is that I know it's a sensitive issue, and deadnaming, while it can be accidental, is often used deliberately to be hurtful, so I feel like maybe even considering not using their current pronouns might be ignorant and inconsiderate. Again, I'm going to assume use of current pronouns for that very reason.

    11 votes
    1. [6]
      Thrabalen
      Link Parent
      Think of it this way. You have a friend named Susan. In 2015, she changes her name to Julia. Do you say "Back in 2013 Julia did X" or "Susan did X"? Same basic principle. :)

      Think of it this way. You have a friend named Susan. In 2015, she changes her name to Julia. Do you say "Back in 2013 Julia did X" or "Susan did X"?

      Same basic principle. :)

      11 votes
      1. [4]
        pseudolobster
        Link Parent
        I'm not sure this clears things up. I'd probably say "Susan" out of habit, but I'm worried they might take offence. It's a touchy subject that's understandably very personal for a lot of people. I...

        I'm not sure this clears things up. I'd probably say "Susan" out of habit, but I'm worried they might take offence.

        It's a touchy subject that's understandably very personal for a lot of people. I think the best thing to do is ask them what they prefer. Some might not care, but others may have strong opinions about the issue.

        6 votes
        1. [3]
          Thrabalen
          Link Parent
          The thing is, if she's Julia now, then that's who she is. Susan isn't really who she was, it's what she was called before. A person's current identity is retroactive, in the sense that when you...

          The thing is, if she's Julia now, then that's who she is. Susan isn't really who she was, it's what she was called before. A person's current identity is retroactive, in the sense that when you talk about someone's past, it's always from the perspective of the past of the person who is, as opposed to the present of the person who was.

          3 votes
          1. [2]
            pseudolobster
            Link Parent
            Yeah, I get that. I'm just saying I as a person will not be able to make accommodations for this. I'll tell myself to say "Julia" over and over, but if I've known this person as "Susan" for ten...

            Yeah, I get that. I'm just saying I as a person will not be able to make accommodations for this. I'll tell myself to say "Julia" over and over, but if I've known this person as "Susan" for ten years, a "Susan" will probably pop out when I'm not paying attention.

            In my experience, some post transition people will still be more or less okay with being addressed by their "dead name" after transition. For others, it's really a huge problem, and hearing their old name in any context is a really big problem for them. As a cis dude, I can't pretend to know what transitioning is like, but I can be as supportive as possible. It's just a matter of reconditioning my own thought processes to try and address them correctly. It's a big conscious effort to get it right, so it helps knowing how forgiving they are for your mistakes.

            I've lived with a couple trans people, worked with a couple others. Basically in my experience there's been no consistency. Everyone is different, has different hopes and expectations for the process of transitioning. All I can do is try to be as supportive as possible. Please forgive me if I get your pronouns wrong. If I've been addressing you a certain way for a decade, it's going to take some time for me to change my habits is all.

            2 votes
            1. markh
              Link Parent
              Like most things in life, be caring, be genuine, be compassionate, and try your best, and you’ll probably be okay. Your trans friends will appreciate it, too.

              Yeah, I get that. I'm just saying I as a person will not be able to make accommodations for this. I'll tell myself to say "Julia" over and over, but if I've known this person as "Susan" for ten years, a "Susan" will probably pop out when I'm not paying attention.

              Like most things in life, be caring, be genuine, be compassionate, and try your best, and you’ll probably be okay. Your trans friends will appreciate it, too.

              9 votes
      2. Grawlix
        Link Parent
        Got it, thanks! :D Now that I think about it, I think I was just overthinking grammatical tenses, too. When we say Julia did something in the past, the subject of the sentence is Julia, who we are...

        Got it, thanks! :D

        Now that I think about it, I think I was just overthinking grammatical tenses, too. When we say Julia did something in the past, the subject of the sentence is Julia, who we are recognizing now, but the action is in the past. We're not pretending it is the past for the purposes of the sentence.

        ...I think. :p

        2 votes
    2. moonbathers
      Link Parent
      I think it really depends on the person. For people you don't know, unfortunately I don't have an answer. Maybe use they? Now that I type this out that's what I'd prefer for myself.

      I think it really depends on the person. For people you don't know, unfortunately I don't have an answer. Maybe use they? Now that I type this out that's what I'd prefer for myself.

      3 votes
  3. [5]
    zara
    Link
    "How did you find the strength to soldier on in the toughest time of your life?" My mother's condition has worsened significantly and if I'm being honest, I don't see her living past a few months.

    "How did you find the strength to soldier on in the toughest time of your life?"

    My mother's condition has worsened significantly and if I'm being honest, I don't see her living past a few months.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      cancycou
      Link Parent
      I'm truly sorry to hear that. I personally lost my father to cancer a few years ago. This might not be about soldiering on, but for us, after a certain amount of time, we accepted the reality and...

      I'm truly sorry to hear that.

      I personally lost my father to cancer a few years ago.

      This might not be about soldiering on, but for us, after a certain amount of time, we accepted the reality and became willing to let him go rather than prolong his suffering.

      When he finally passed, it truly sucked, but it kinda helped to focus on the living (my mom, my sister)

      Please don't forget to take care of yourself as well. All I can say is that time will make the pain duller over time.

      Here's a reddit comment that I save on my phone and still read from time to time:

      Alright, here goes. I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not. I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents.

      I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don't want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can't see.

      As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

      In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

      Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

      Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

      10 votes
      1. zara
        Link Parent
        I remember reading that reddit comment way back when. I agree, it's a good comment.

        I remember reading that reddit comment way back when. I agree, it's a good comment.

        3 votes
    2. [2]
      thejumpingbulldog
      Link Parent
      I'm sorry to hear that man. I hope you're doing okay, and I hope it gets better for you and your mom.

      I'm sorry to hear that man. I hope you're doing okay, and I hope it gets better for you and your mom.

      4 votes
  4. [5]
    retiredrugger
    Link
    Is it too early to plan my funeral? I'm a 22 year old male and I have no serious mental illnesses, but back in July I got in a gnarly car accident; completely totaled the vehicle. There was...

    Is it too early to plan my funeral? I'm a 22 year old male and I have no serious mental illnesses, but back in July I got in a gnarly car accident; completely totaled the vehicle. There was nothing wrong with my driving. I wasn't on the phone, I had two hands on the wheel, and I was completely focused on the road. She drifted straight over the lane with about 10 yards in front of me and there was no opportunity for evasive action. She hit the door just behind me and completely ripped it off the body of the car; had she been six inches over she would've nailed me. Since then I've had a deeper recognition that whether I live or die isn't really up to me, and so lately I've been thinking of setting up some stuff in case I ever die in a freak car accident. I want to write contingency letters for certain people in case something like that ever happens so I guess I should ask, where do I start?

    9 votes
    1. vektor
      Link Parent
      My answer would be: No. Right after what is essentially a near-death experience (and half a year is right after), you're allowed to feel what you feel. Settings the legal matters straight for your...

      My answer would be: No. Right after what is essentially a near-death experience (and half a year is right after), you're allowed to feel what you feel. Settings the legal matters straight for your own death is probably reasonable practice at any adult age, things like who gets to make medical decisions if you're incapacitated, who is to inherit your stuff, etc. These two things should be a no-brainer once you have kids (or other dependants) anyway and aren't a bad idea generally. But the more emotional aspects... I would say feel free to handle them as you see fit. Or don't; I'd say your current mental state will pass eventually - maybe writing some letters will help, or it won't.

      But if you do, I'd write them, put them in envelopes, label it all as contingency letters and put them away with your vital documents - because that's the place others would be most likely to find them I think, due to the paperwork that dying generates.

      8 votes
    2. insegnamante
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I've recently made the transition into working as an estate planning lawyer and one thing I've come to realize is that just about everybody over the age of 18 (and many below that age) should have...

      I've recently made the transition into working as an estate planning lawyer and one thing I've come to realize is that just about everybody over the age of 18 (and many below that age) should have some kind of plan in place in case something happens to them. Most of us don't realize it until we're much older than you are, you just happen to have had an experience that makes you realize that it's important to take care of right now. Do it. Make sure that there's a plan in place. At 22 you don't have much in the way of financial assets but you do have other "assets". Write those letters. Plan your funeral. If you think you're going to live the rest of your life where you are, go buy a funeral plot (way, way cheaper when you're young than when you're old). Make sure someone knows where your important papers are. Make sure your important papers include a Power of Attorney giving someone the right to close any accounts in your name, access online accounts (a password manager is so useful here), notify important people. Write your own eulogy or obit. You might be surprised at just how motivating doing some of these things can be. If your life is exactly on course you'll see that. If it's not, you might find motivation to get it on course. This is a really empowering activity, contrary to popular opinion.
      Edit: You should also get a Medical Power of Attorney, which will give someone the right to make medical decision for you and request copies of previous medical records.

      4 votes
    3. [2]
      envy
      Link Parent
      Why not tell them now?

      contingency letters for certain people in case something like that ever happens

      Why not tell them now?

      2 votes
      1. retiredrugger
        Link Parent
        I want them to have a physical letter they can always read. Something they can tuck away for a rainy day if they're ever feeling sad, or want to read something I would've told them. Memories fade...

        I want them to have a physical letter they can always read. Something they can tuck away for a rainy day if they're ever feeling sad, or want to read something I would've told them. Memories fade away with time, but written word survives as long as it's in their possession.

        2 votes
  5. [6]
    thejumpingbulldog
    Link
    If I'm unrealistic or foolish to want to be a generalist over being a specialist in general professional life? I definitely feel quixotic at times when everyone around me is perfectly happy in...

    If I'm unrealistic or foolish to want to be a generalist over being a specialist in general professional life? I definitely feel quixotic at times when everyone around me is perfectly happy in their studies, yet I feel unfulfilled. I hate the idea of being stuck in one track of a career for my entire adult life, but I feel like there really is no way out.

    8 votes
    1. [4]
      ibis
      Link Parent
      I'm not sure if you already saw it or not, but there was a post here not that long ago on this exact topic: https://tildes.net/~talk/itm/what_do_you_want_to_do_be_when_you_grow_up Check out the...

      I'm not sure if you already saw it or not, but there was a post here not that long ago on this exact topic: https://tildes.net/~talk/itm/what_do_you_want_to_do_be_when_you_grow_up

      Check out the linked ted talk if you hadn't already: https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling

      7 votes
      1. [3]
        thejumpingbulldog
        Link Parent
        Thank you. I've seen both and I agree that I am that way, but I still feel like I'm in an impossible battle. I don't necessarily think there is a major in the world that would fit me, and I'm...

        Thank you. I've seen both and I agree that I am that way, but I still feel like I'm in an impossible battle. I don't necessarily think there is a major in the world that would fit me, and I'm quite scared that there is nothing I can do to get a career that isn't for specialized folk, especially in my current STEM major. And the careers I'm interested in seem to hire very few or are very hard to break into.

        Hopefully this didn't put you down, I really appreciate the post and what you linked. It's more that I have this knowledge and understanding of myself, yet don't know what to do with it, or how to do what I want to do with it.

        There's no seems to be no easy path, and as much as I want to follow it I don't necessarily like it's chances of getting me where I want to eventually go, and so I'm faced with a choice of studying what interests me now and almost putting together my own education in a way that would make me highly generalized, but potentially unfit for hire anywhere and everywhere outside of a Starbucks, or specializing by staying in my current major, hating it, and hoping to maneuver my way to getting something better that more aligns with my goals in life. I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place and there really doesn't seem to be any preferable way out.

        Thanks regardless.

        6 votes
        1. [2]
          Parliament
          Link Parent
          What are they?

          my goals in life.

          What are they?

          3 votes
          1. thejumpingbulldog
            Link Parent
            Honestly, I'd say they are all tied around this idea of being a renaissance man, and being able to develop, succeed, and growth myself through multiple fields and disciplines. To do the things...

            Honestly, I'd say they are all tied around this idea of being a renaissance man, and being able to develop, succeed, and growth myself through multiple fields and disciplines. To do the things that I dreamed about when I was a kid, and really see how far I can go in achieving them. The more realistic side to that I trying to be a bridge between different disciplines and fields to solve complex problems that involve the experience of multiple fields.

            1 vote
    2. skybrian
      Link Parent
      Maybe a better way to think about it is that a generalist can and probably should have some specialized skills? You can learn useful stuff and do something else with it later. There is a sense in...

      Maybe a better way to think about it is that a generalist can and probably should have some specialized skills? You can learn useful stuff and do something else with it later.

      There is a sense in which the decisions you make now will lead you down a certain path, but on the other hand, your major or first job isn't destiny. People can and do change careers. Having unusual but helpful background for your job can help you stand out.

      5 votes