Baggage Check Live: "Official Arbiter of Friendship Justice"

Jul 31, 2018

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior was online to take your comments about her advice column, Baggage Check, and any other questions you might have. These comments may appear in an upcoming column running in Express and online.

Want to read more? Read Baggage Check columns.

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Welcome, everyone.

What is on your mind today?

Today's column posed this: what do you do when your sister wants to share your health story with others on her podcast-- and you want none of it? And in L2, we meet someone who feels guilty now that they are escaping their terrible job. How will they tell their 'work spouse?' Can anyone relate?

Talk to me!



The letter writer says that both she and her sister have the same condition. Which says to me, the sister can leave her out of it and speak from her own experience exclusively!

A reasonable Plan B, for sure.

A while back I asked about what to do with my father in law coming by and me doing fertility treatments. For the record I was having IVF and that is a full day ordeal. Telling my father in law not to visit wasn't going to happen as it would have caused more stress/headache/questions and it wasn't worth it.

We told my father in law that I had to leave for an unexpected work trip and he didn't question since it's happened before. We also said that my DH couldn't get the full day off of work because of meetings. We ended up leaving the house in separate cars so not to suspect anything. I drove (separate) to a local hotel where I'd stay and could put the meds that needed to be kept cold there (if at home father in law would probably snoop). Went for the treatment and DH dropped me back at hotel. We did this because after the treatment you need to relax for a couple days and it was easier than dealing with the questions of why don't I feel good etc.

After 2 days I went home (fully relaxed) and lied about the work trip. DH didn't ask any questions but my father in law asked a little. I started to feel exhausted again and said with the travel, flights, hotels I might have picked up a bug and wanted to take it easy. Surprisingly my FIL didn't say anything. I still went to dinner and lunches with them I just made sure to go to bed early and take it easy. This worked out best for DH and I because we didn't want to deal with the questions and if my father in law saw refrigerated meds make him suspicious something was wrong.

Sadly the IVF was a fail.

I'm so sorry. We were all so happy to have heard the first part of this update the other week-- but the last sentence is a kick in the collective gut, I know.

Sending all kinds of vibes in whatever flavor is most useful.

I have the opposite side of this issue. I often make plans and if I mention them in conversation, I hear a lot of, "Why didn't you ask me? I would've gone/said yes/etc.". The reason I make plans to do things alone so much is that I got tired of always being the one throwing out ideas that no one ever took me up on. I realized that I enjoyed those events just as much without anyone else, and doing things alone does provide the flexibility I need with my busy schedule. These days, I do mention the activities that I'm doing, and invite others to join/buy a ticket on their own if they'd like to, but I've already secured mine. Life is too short to wait on those who don't really intend to join you.

I like this approach. And yeah, I wonder if half of these people love the idea in theory and feel a sense of FOMO when they hear about it, but wouldn't actually make the effort to take you up on it and make it happen if it were presented in advance.

I always say, the "date is already set, come if you want" approach is particularly useful for really big groups, too. Like having a standing date once a month that will happen no matter what, without nineteen emails' worth of planning, and any individual person can come to it or not, but it will keep going on its own. Taking hold of inertia and using it in your favor!

You’ve been warned that your sister blabs and yet you continue to feed her info. Just stop.

"Blab about me once, shame on you. Blab about me twice".... thanks.

My beautiful daughter is in a relationship with someone who guilts her into doing what he wants. She thinks he just wants her to be with him all the time. He has alienated her from me by telling her that he knows that I don't like him because he overheard a conversation we had on the phone. I did tell her that I felt like he has no goals. They live with his mother!!! He just got a real job about a month ago, long after that conversation. Last night, my husband and I were out together and invited THEM to come along. She came alone but wasn't there more than 10 min. before he was texting her about when she would be home. She gave him a time and he was "I guess I will just eat alone". She immediately got up and left. I told her I love her and to do what she needs to do, but I did throw in that I felt like he was just controlling her, subtle but still controlling. Am I wrong to give her my opinions? Am I going to alienate her further? I need suggestions.

I'm sorry. Watching your adult child be in a worrisome relationship with a partner when there are limited things you can do about it is definitely a very tough road.

I do think you do realistically have to worry about alienating her further.... especially because if he is indeed controlling (and the signs certainly don't look good that he's not), he will eventually force a choice between him and you, and you don't want to give him additional ammo in that battle. So, I would lay off any direct and specific criticisms about him for now-- she knows how you feel.

Instead, be active in initiating contact. Show love. Strengthen her by reminding her all the ways she is a worthy person, all the potential she has as a human (regardless of whether she has a partner), and all the ways you love her. Encourage her to keep up her own interests and activities and friends outside of the relationship. Express concern, but in a "We love you and will always be here for you and want you to know your worth and that you are being valued" rather than a "He is bad for you" type of way.

You will find some additional information and resources at Please do keep us posted.

As anyone else watched their child go through this? I am sure some solidarity would be helpful.

I have multiple chronic illnesses. My life is challenging. But I am a human being in my own right, with flaws and faults, I'm not anyone's "inspiration." But so many people are so stuck on the idea of "positivity" that they feel I'm supposed to buck them up, somehow, and they want to mine my life for lessons about optimism and rainbows. I am sick to death of people who expect to derive some sort of emotional satisfaction from my suffering, and therefore people like LW1's sister drive me nuts.

Thanks.  I completely hear this, and I was hoping someone would bring up the "perfect inspirational sick person" (wasn't that even the name of a prior chat, Zainab?) idea because I do think it is a major problem.

That said, in this case, being that the podcasting sister has the same health challenge, it seems a little bit less likely that she is totally objectifying her and more likely that she is trying to fill up airtime. Fingers crossed.

Yes, there was a chat with that name! Here is the link.

I think that as it's her podcast and supposed to be from her perspective I prefer changing identifying details

I mean, we all must admit that if we're listening to a podcast about a health issue, at some point it's far more enlightening to hear multiple experiences rather than just one.

But that's where willing and consenting interview guests come in!

Somebody in the column comments pointed out that as they're sisters it could be past details that she might know from when they were growing up together.

Ah.... yes. I was there for a quick peek this morning but hadn't seen the newest comments, of which I understand there were quite a few.

Great point.

This happened to me recently, I was the left behind one, situation sounds very similar. What hurt the most for me wasn't the being left part (I was happy they found a new job) but that they didn't tell me they were even looking for a new job. I thought we were close enough to be able to talk to about that, and didn't understand why they wouldn't tell me they were looking. So be sensitive when you tell her, she'll probably feel hurt but maybe not in the way you think.

Yes, this makes total sense. That if the escape plan was a stealth operation, it stings even more. Thanks.

A few years ago I sent myself to CBT therapy for a "reboot"; it was helpful and insightful with setting some boundaries and letting me learn to process emotions. I'm a pretty classic type A, self-micromanager, feelings avoided. I don't like thinking about sadness, anger, and I'm not good at expressing these feelings or acknowledging them, but I've improved. But, I am pretty sure that this is normal now. I was a pretty moody kid, and somehow, the moods are back. Could be some meds, but at this point they're pretty stabilized and my doc doesn't believe so. This swing does affect my daily life, to the extent that it drives my partner crazy. And...It drives me crazy, too. When I really sit and reflect, do my meditation, and make time to build in enough exercise, the cause is me picking on little things, forgetting to take "me-time", friend time, or rely on others. This is worth a lot: Partner knows that I'm a type-a, somewhat neurotic, too hard on my self overachiever, and is supportive of both me working on this, and us working on communication.

The challenge: Bad habits, his/her tendency to be less emotional and/or bottle up things until later, my passive-aggressiveness has made communication tough, especially in a downswing. He/she is willing to work on change, and I think we are good at this for short periods of time. He/she isn't willing, though, to put up with the ups/downs. We've agreed to thinking through things before speaking by cooling off first, never entering an emotional conversation without an agreed upon agenda, immediately questioning things that sound passive aggressive, and talking, not typing. I'd love some greater insight or guidance - where do we go from here? Me, individually, and us together? What should me/we be looking to learn and how should we grow together? Thank you!

Okay, this sentence is making me itch:

"He/she isn't willing, though, to put up with the ups/downs."

What exactly does that mean? It sounds like you are working on things, and you have identified some contexts that make your behavior worse. I'm not following how your partner can automatically be like "Even Keel 4-Evah or Bust!" What's that about?

I could give you all kinds of advice on communicating better (though you have some good basics there) and also building in more self-care on a daily basis. But I'm a little bit worried that you're already in the red, and that there is no room for error. Especially since your partner "bottles things up" and is "less emotional." Are they actually capable of sticking with you through the struggle? You're working on it. Is that already not enough?

Hi Andrea. I've known this girl (I'll call her "Jane") since we were very young due to a similar disability. Over the years (from my perspective), I didn't feel like we were friends due to common interests or personalities, but rather stayed friends due to our common shared experience due to the disability. Through college, I realized that I just didn't really like her as a person. She constantly talked about herself and her problems. She would show up late, or not at all, not telling me that she wasn't going to arrive until I was already waiting for her. 

I then moved away from where I grew up, and I was ok with just letting the friendship fade away since I was at the point where I dreaded her asking if we wanted to hang out. I thought she felt the same way until January, where I received an email from her essentially breaking up. I respected that and didn't respond, since the email didn't really call for a response. I thought it was over until yesterday, where I got another email from her rehashing issues from our childhood where she thought I had "done her wrong" essentially and then saying she was willing to work on the friendship if I was.

Clearly I'm not willing to because I didn't even respond to her first email! This is the type of behavior she's exhibited throughout the years that brings me more stress and aggravation, where nothing she does is wrong and she is constantly the victim. On the other hand, I've discussed her behavior with other friends and it seems like her behavior could be a cry for help or a mental illness. I would prefer to not respond to her email but do you think that's the right thing to do?

There's no absolute right thing, so I won't pretend to be some Official Arbiter of Friendship Justice-- even if admittedly that's often what the column calls for.

In truth, I do think since you have as of yet not had one final, clear communique that says it's over, it's reasonable to do that. Something along the lines of "I wish you the best and I am sorry you are hurting, but I think that our lives have moved in different directions and I don't anticipate being able to pick up where we left off." It can be a one and done, and then you can move forward. At least no one could accuse you of ghosting that way, and you'd know in your heart that you weren't running the risk of just stringing her along ("Maybe she didn't see my email. Perhaps I should send a letter in the mail?")

There are plenty of people who would choose not to do that, though, and many would make the argument that since she is already coming at you with guns a-blazin', then she has no moral standing to expect a response, and worse, she might be even more confrontational if she gets one.

Up to you.

I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and it suddenly made my entire life make so much more sense - why I struggled with friendships as a kid, why I haven't been more successful, why I am not goal-oriented. I'm seeing a doc, trying meds, but I need so much more than that as I try to figure out how to more successfully live my life -- but I cannot afford an ADHD coach (at $125 or $150 an hour!), and with my biggest struggle being motivation, self-help books are of no use. Any suggestions?

Well, I've got to take issue with the fact that self-help books are no use with motivation whatsoever. Getting meta here, but isn't that just a symptom of your lack of motivation-- in this case, to search for answers and work on yourself?

Because you show a great amount of motivation to have seen a doc and gotten the evaluation. If you stop there, then you've done yourself a real disservice.

Let me begin this way-- why do you necessarily need an ADHD coach? What about a CBT therapist who specializes in helping adults with executive function issues... and may even be covered at least somewhat by insurance?

In the meantime, any chatters know of any self-help resources that maybe aren't in book form?

I think it's the right thing to do. She's demonstrated from the beginning that she's a very self-centered person, so it seems to me that she isn't "crying for help" and doesn't have a mental illness, she's just trying to get you back into her sphere so she can mistreat you some more. Don't fall for it.

Could be. But after that initial equivalent of a cease-and-desist letter, then it might be easier to draw a hard line and not get sucked back in because OP knows that this "friend" has been warned off already.

"He/she is willing to work on change, and I think we are good at this for short periods of time." but "He/she isn't willing, though, to put up with the ups/downs." seems contradictory to me. Which is it?

Yes! My thoughts too.

I would cut 'where we left off'. She might think - oh well, we con reboot!!! Be absolutely clear that you are wish her well but do not want to be in touch. You do not have to accept responsibility for her mental health by remaining her friend.

Good point. Thanks!

Hi there! I'm struggling with changing some thought patterns. (for background: I'm in therapy for "the usual" (anxiety, depression, ADD) but am thinking I may need to change therapists, as I haven't been able to make much headway with this.) I have some patterns and habits that I'd like to learning how to think before I speak. I'm not good at saying to myself "how might what I'm about to say affect this person?" I just can't figure out how to trigger that question in myself before blurting out something that ends up being unintentionally hurtful. It's not like other improvements I've been able to make (e.g., setting an alarm so I remember to do something). Another example is automatic negative thoughts. Once they're there, I can counter them (sometimes successfully), but how does one make them less automatic?

I think for the first part, you've got to get a little more behavioral. Instead of training yourself to think a certain way in the heat of the moment, train yourself to DO a certain action that is incompatible with speaking too soon. And that in turn will remind you to think a certain way. A slow breath, a counting in your mind, a tapping of the foot, a sitting on your hands-- yeah, these all are behaviors that sometimes we want to go away if they are compulsive rituals, but in your case what I'd be after is enacting them as a simple behavioral marker that serves as a reminder. A cue. It's a little easier to have something more tangible like that rather than "I must remember to do such-and-such mentally!" when your mouth is already open and you are off to the races.

Now, for the automatic negative thoughts-- woohoo, this is my jam! And I would wager that you don't actually need to make them less automatic-- or at least that's not what the initial focus should be. The initial focus should be on accepting that they may be there, but stripping them of their power. I may be in danger of becoming a broken record on this, but it's the difference between fighting them tooth and nail (the "countering" you mention, which works sometimes but not always) versus viewing them as somewhat annoying background noise but that isn't true, has no credence, and doesn't reflect who you are as a person. Your thoughts are not you. Why dignify all of them with a defense? Then in time, they become less automatic because they become less "sticky." I know this is kind of abstract, but it's the backbone of mindfulness-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy... which there are a lot of self-help resources on, not to mention therapists (though to be clear I wouldn't advise you to leave yours without hearing more. Perhaps you can mention this direction as something you want to explore.) 

Good luck!

My husband and I have been married for about 10 years. There have been two major instances during our marriage where things didn't turn out the way it was expected, which left me with various forms of grief, self-doubt questioning the decisions I made, and feeling vulnerable and in need of support. Both times, my husband has blamed my "philosophy" prior to the things that happened for the outcome and/or my reaction to it, and claimed the philosophy failed. I feel like this comes awfully close to blaming the victim, and don't find this helpful or supportive at all. However, I also tend to have the stronger personality, and wonder if this is a sign that I didn't get enough "buy-in" from him for how to approach these events. Am I over-reacting to his response by feeling personally blamed (albeit indirectly) for an unexpected/bad outcome at a time when I am upset and need support? Thank you!

Well, I don't think it's particularly helpful to talk about whether you're "over-reacting" in terms of feelings.

You feel how you feel. And that's valid in its own right.

Now, how it affects your behavior-- that's where we need to think about the spectrum of helpful versus not-so-helpful reactions.

Not knowing the specifics of these events, it's rather hard for me to know how much "buy-in" was reasonable for you to solicit in the first place (did you handle something a certain way with one of your family members? Or did you, say, buy a boat?) Was it a decision that realistically should have been made as a team, and you steamrolled him a bit? And that is leading to his frustration and blame?

Or is he just being critical of something you chose to do, and pouring salt on the wound because he's not capable or willing to be a more supportive presence?

There's a pretty wide potential range here. My biggest question: how much have you shared with him your feelings, in the context of being vulnerable to him about your hurt? (Instead of in the context of the tug-of-war of what you "should" have done and who was "right?"

If you are out there, I'd love to hear more!

I agree with Dr. Andrea's advice. You don't HAVE to respond, but doing so respectfully is the obvious high-road here. She has been a crappy friend, you don't need to sink to that level. Leave this behind you knowing that you did the right thing according to your moral/friendship compass. On the other hand, if your compass is saying to leave it alone, then do that.


I think being seen as ghosting is often a more active, aggressive stance than people realize. It's not often my first choice when the one-final-communique can be done in a simple way.

Would audio books work for you? You'd get the content, but you wouldn't have to make yourself do the actual reading.

Great idea, as long as the mind-wandering isn't a particular challenge.


Dear Feeling Guilty, you are experiencing an advanced mini-case of Survivor’s Guilt. Quite honestly, your co-worker will probably be very happy for you to escape from one of the 9 Work Circles of Hell (apologies to Dante). For most people work is work and not life. Work is a means towards life and that fact is unfortunately too well expressed in your current position. She, for all you know, is already looking for a new job or maybe you can help her once you are in your new position. Now, let me tell you the full story, born of 5 decades in the work force. You may or may not continue a friendship with her. You may talk a couple times after you leave and then slow fade. Of some dozen places I have worked, I am in contact with only 1 person from my work life. Sure, I have some “friends” now that Facebook is around. What may be bringing you so close is the adversity of the current work place. People do move one and find new work spouses. But I will say, that one is a true friend that I can call any morning at 3 am, if I need to talk to someone. There is beauty in that!

It's true-- work spouse may have been hatching their own escape route for even longer.

People moving on and finding new work spouses? Say it ain't so!

We were turned down for any IEP or 404 Accommodations due to our middle school son's ADHD, and the first and only medicine we tried didn't work well for him and he's asked to try to go without it this year. I'm willing to let him have some autonomy over his own body and look into other options. Is there a specific type of therapist or counselor that I should look for to help him with executive functioning and planning skills? I do have access to an IEP at work, but I'm not even sure what to ask.

Yes. You need someone very behaviorally focused-- so CBT with the equivalent of a big, bold B-- who has a lot of experience not only working with people who need daily structure help due to ADHD, but also who is skilled with middle schoolers.

I would first try to get some names from your pediatrician and school guidance counselor and go from there. Good luck!


Hi, how can I deal with sad thoughts and distress about unhappy aspects of my grown children’s lives? They are in their 30s and have been financially independent since getting out of college, but with very stressful jobs. One struggled with alcoholism and is in recovery. They are great people and we have good relationships, but they always seem stressed and under pressure and not relaxed/enjoying life. They each live alone and even though both have decent social networks/dating lives I feel they may be burning out! I always try to be supportive but not too intrusive.

I know this is hard. "You're only as happy as your unhappiest child" is something that no doubt resonates with millions of parents, whether their "babies" are hours old or looking to join them in the nursing home.

Part of the work that you may need to do here is readjust the way you think of where they are supposed to be right now. Is it "okay" to be in your 30s and in a stressful job? Why, yes-- yes it is. Is it "okay" to learn some hard lessons through burnout? Why, yes-- yes it is. Yes, it would be wonderful if they had everything figured out, were perfectly content, and were lying in the extremely comfy beds that they had made. But that implies that there is someplace to "arrive." They are on a journey (I know, I know-- I can't stand that cliche either) and you can either choose to be along for it or detached from them during it. You have a great relationship with them-- and so it is a privilege to be privy to these things.

Worrying that they are not happy is just the price of admission for being along for the ride.

They are great people. They are working on themselves in certain ways; in other ways there may be insights they have yet to learn. So-- your job is to watch that unfold, knowing that their struggles may even make them MORE insightful in the long run.

They are in a process, and I'm betting they will figure it out. Hang in there.

I'm having the same trouble imaging this. If it's something like 'our wedding was ruined because of X' and that's all you focus on I have some sympathy with your husband. Your feelings are your feelings and of course allowed, but I think there comes a time to focus on the bigger picture: yes, I was disappointed X happened at our wedding but Y and Z were great and I'll never forget A! Also, what's it with such focus on the wedding itself - I'm forgetting that it's the marriage that's important. I wonder if this is the kind of thing he means?

This is a good question.

Is the "philosophy" that the husband has a problem with some sort of rumination on OP's part?


Hello! Question for you, friends and family have told me I'm not good at sharing/opening up. I'm not secretive; if asked, I tell all. I just don't initiate the sharing of information - usually personal information of what's going on in my life. It's a bit of a running joke. The thing is, it just don't occur to me to talk about those things and sometimes feel weird/uncomfortable talking about myself. But as I get older, and people are more spread out, I'm starting to think its hampering my ability to hold on to these close relationships as they require more direct communication/outreach/talking about yourself. Any advice/books/etc on how to be more open/sharing?

Off the top of my head, I don't have a book rec for this-- chatters?

But I think the more immediate issue is to tackle this on two fronts. First, emotionally-- what is "weird" about it for you? Can you identify your associations with it? Why it feels so uncomfortable? What thoughts do you have that may be dysfunctional or irrational, that you can work on identifying and diffusing in the moment?

Then, the behavioral piece-- what are some small conversational goals you can set for yourself, both macro ("This week I will reach out to someone I care about and tell them about my horrible boss and how that's stressing me out") and micro ("Now we are entering a conversation about elevators. I am going to bring up the story of how I used to have a fear of elevators the next moment there is an opening.")

On some level, it's not much different than any other habit you want to change. Think about what will make it easier on you to do, and set little goals-- along with rewards if you want-- to condition yourself to do it more often.

This is similar in some ways to the person earlier in the chat who needed the little reminder during conversations.

Good luck!

I was diagnosed with this myself about 2 years ago (man, the previous 28-ish years suddenly make SO MUCH SENSE). I agree that a therapist may be the better way to go. Honestly, I didn't even know ADHD coaches were a thing. I did a ton of reading when I was first diagnosed (mostly articles because I find self-help books way too dry to keep my interested). I don't have specific resources because what I've learned is that coping techniques are so, so personal. I use an app called Productive, and that helps some. Also a lot of cell phone alarms and sticky notes all over the house. And a husband who (gently, helpfully) reminds me to finish something. But be cautious about what you're reading--there's a LOT of info out there and it's not all helpful. Read everything with a very critical eye, and consider the source (e.g., is an article about how "cutting out dairy will help" posted by a blogger who gets paid by a non-dairy milk company? I've seen stuff like that on so many ADD-related articles, though not necessarily with milk.)

Really great points from someone who has traveled this road.

Thank you!

Interesting comment about those left behind. Here is the thing, The work spouse may inadvertently disclose that you are looking or someone may overhear. Secrets, like cream, find a way to rise to the top. If you work situation is that desperate that you need to escape, keep your mouth shut until you give your 2 week notice!

I'm guessing it depends on the closeness and trust with the work spouse!

I meant to put EAP at the end there! Thank you for your suggestion.

You are welcome!

I am a sucker for a big celebration. I love getting pampered, surprised and cherished on my birthday.So I did that for my husband for 5 years in a row. Learnt baking a cake, homemade chocolates, romantic and funny poems, surprise getaway etc. He doesn't like it. He wants me to basically ignore his birthday. He rarely makes an effort for mine. At most, he will do exactly what I did for his birthday 2 months ago. No planning goes into it and it is never a surprise. Last year, he sat and fumed all day for me giving him a bunch of presents and a poem to go with it. I have not planned anything for him this time (it is in a couple of weeks). Maybe a card and a store bought cake. And I am pretty sure he won't do anything special for my milestone birthday this year. Is this a wrong attitude to go with? I am basically following his request.

It's not wrong at all.

In fact, if both of you followed each other's requests, then you'd be pretty happy.

So, yes-- do what he wants. (Or more specifically, don't do what he doesn't want.)

But is it wishful thinking that I want that to be a springboard to a larger, more nuanced conversation about honoring each other's wishes on birthdays? How you've finally realized that it's not about what a birthday is supposed to be by Hallmark standards, but it's about making your partner feel special on that day? And how you can't help but want XYZ on your own birthday, and is there a way that you could both together to decide to make that happen?

Now, there is a nagging part of me shouting that a spouse who "fumes" because his partner gave him a romantic poem.... that doesn't sound so good. But I don't know how much you're asking for us to get into that.

I was in a similar situation where my work BFF left after some horrible management. She told me she was looking and I even helped her find a new job. I am still at the same place, but management has changed and things have gotten a lot better. I have a new work BFF, too!

A Hollywood ending! Thank you!

"Sis, you do know that telling people about my health issues violates HIPAA regulations, don't you? As in, it's illegal?" If Blabbergirl isn't willing to respect her sister's privacy from consideration and kindness, maybe a smack on the chops would wake her up to what she's actually doing. Sister or no sister, what she's doing is against the law.

Well, I don't really think it's actually illegal, as she didn't find out about them through medical records but presumably from the OP's mouth in conversation.

But my law degree came in a box of Honey Smacks, so I will defer to others!

RE question from last week about how to deal with fears being in Metro rail. I've also had some fears being underground, lights off, sparks flying from rails against wheels, the list goes on. My commute just wouldn't let me take Metro bus (almost 2 hours each way as opposed to less than an hour) so I went to therapist for help. Her recommendations were to divert my attention from the fears and give my active mind something else to think of. For me, counting backwards from 100 by 3x confounded my brain enough that I was spending my brain time trying to figure that out than being afraid. I also found listening to music/downloaded books, etc helpful. Hope the OP can get some help soon. Thanks!

Another potential technique!

Love when we can make a daisy chain of chat topics across the week. Thanks!

My closest friend is like this - and I tell you, it's a burden! I have to ask her 'anything happening this weekend'? I have to remember to *follow up*, especially with something important, like how that meeting went. Those who love you are interested in what's going on in your life. Make it easy for them!!

This should add to the motivation to work on the problem.

If it doesn't paralyze OP with guilt and shame first!

But it's an important point; thanks.

To the person who wrote in and felt left out that the 'spouse' had found a job in secret, please don't be offended. It's self-preservation. Think about it this way: if anyone had overheard that conversation or if you, completely by accident, mentioned it to the wrong person, it could have been devastating for your friend. It was probably difficult for this person not to mention it to you but I think it was the right thing for this person to do.

Great point.

This is an excellent point, and can possibly be useful to the sister. She should be a guest on the podcast, and use that time to vent about all the negative hardships of the illness - ALL of it. I hope there are plenty of positives in your life, of course, but use this time and your sister's forum to rant about all of it. Every time sis cuts in to put a positive spin on it, break back in (reclaim your time) to stay in the muck. That might make your sis back off from you completely on the topic of your illness. I sincerely hope you have more good days than bad.

A very kind note to be wrapping up on, thanks. Although of course if OP doesn't want to be a guest no matter what the reason, that's okay too.

Time has flown, as always.

First, a quick word-- a couple of you have written in today with very lengthy letters with specific identifying details about some controlling relationships. We can't post those, out of concern for safety. I am sorry that we could neither edit the letters in time nor give them the reflection they deserved-- but the answer is the same. Please, please, please check out for support within an abusive or controlling relationship. You need a safety plan, and you need one as soon as possible.

Thanks to everyone for being here. I am already looking forward to next week. In the meantime, see you on Facebook and in the comments.

Be well!

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Dr. Andrea Bonior
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist and the voice behind Baggage Check since its start in 2005. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and is the author of the Publisher's Weekly best-seller "Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World" and "The Friendship Fix.”
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