Baggage Check Live: "Things No One Told You About Parenting"

Oct 02, 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.

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Hi, all.

What. A. Week.

It's intense for a lot of you out there, and I hear it. We have a lot of different topics that have come into the chat today, and I'll try to address as many as I can, but I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge how much hurting there is in particular about what the Kavanaugh hearings are bringing up for people, especially those who are survivors of sexual assault.

I want to remind everyone of RAINN, a very solid resource for sexual assault survivors. It's handling the skyrocketing demand this week beautifully.

And for a more focused conversation on this topic, yesterday I was grateful to talk with Kojo Nnamdi, which you can find here. And I've put together some tools for coping here.

Oh, and today's column-- tiredness and anxiety! (Who can't relate?)

Let's begin.

(In response to last week's chat).

If you're reading from a script, not only practice aloud (as the previous chatter recommended) but also know how long your talk will take. I find that I speak English at 120 words per minute (2/second), but only 100 words/minute in my second language (in which I'm a bit halting).

Thanks for this!

It's also important to note that often in the real-life version of the talk people speak significantly faster off a script (or sometimes slower if it is extemporaneous) than when they practiced-- so it's good to try to get this as under control as possible (perhaps practicing in front of a friendly audience.)

We're a family from India. My daughter is in kindergarten. She was recently asked to draw a picture of herself. She used a peach crayon. I asked her what she thought her skin color is and she says that it's peach. How do I approach this with being sensitive to how she looks at herself?

I would love to hear from other chatters about this, because part of me thinks there's really nothing to approach-- at least not on this alone. If she drew herself with wings or with purple skin or with longer hair than she actually has (or with a unicorn horn!) would you be as concerned?

I get it, though. This issue can be fraught, and I'm not trying to make light of the bigger issue of cultural and ethnic identification and identity. But what color crayon would you have rather she used? And might it have been more of an artifact of what crayons were available, or what the kid next to her was doing, or how quickly she wanted to get through the project (sorry, my own parental experience talking there.)

Figure out what you're most concerned about-- her own cultural identity being whitewashed? Denial about who she is? Naivete about how she's different than others?-- I'm just throwing guesses out here-- and then ask yourself if this small piece of data is really enough for it to be a concern. If you're convinced it is, then why not open things up by sitting down together with her and drawing yourself while she draws herself, and seeing where that conversation takes you?

My boyfriend and I have been together almost a year. We are both very practical people in our mid-30s. I would like to initiate a conversation about what his views on marriage might be. He's a divorcee, and I'm a modern feminist; so, neither of us is looking to get married any time soon. But I would like to get a feel for what marriage means/looks like to both of us and if our views are compatible. How do I bring up this important topic without making him feel like I'm hinting that I want to get married soon (I absolutely do not)?

To be honest, I'm a little surprised that if you've been together a year that you don't have more of a feel of what his views on marriage are, especially given that he's probably talked a decent amount about his divorce (or has he?) You title your post "what does a healthy marriage look like to him" and I'm wondering-- hasn't he at least established what it does not? Has he not talked about the breakdown of his own, and how it fell short of his hopes and expectations? And, pray tell-- what were those hopes and expectations?

So, it does make me wonder-- are both of you avoiding the topic a bit? Have there been times where it seemed like it might come up and then he sort of shifted the topic? Have you shifted the topic?

Movies, TV shows, headlines, friends-- cheesy, sexist commercials about jewelry-- they all typically provide fodder for the topic of marriage and values and beliefs about commitment to come up organically. But I'm thinking that if that hasn't happened yet, then there is some sort of shenanigans going on here, whether it be innocent avoidance of a somewhat awkward topic (in which case, why so anxious?) or something more significant.

It's time to not be so timid, and stop worrying about what it may seem like you're "hinting" at when you're perfectly capable of explaining that you're absolutely not looking to get married soon. You're in your mid-30s, you're a practical person. What's wrong with "You know, we never talk about this much, but I do wonder sometimes what your views are on marriage, moving forward. I'll tell you that I absolutely don't want to get married anytime soon. But I also think we should have a feel for each other's values about this, and I've realized that it's a conversation that we've never really had."

How does that strike you?


Helllo Dr B - No question, I just wanted to let you know I love your column. I sent the following to the Washington Post today. "Dr Andrea has a live chat every Tuesday, It is not advertised on the front page as Hax's and many other's are. She is wonderful and you don't promote her enough. Further, her archive is hard to find, and her Baggage Check Live is hard to find. You don't know how lucky you are to have her! Make her easier to find and promote her more." I don't know if it will help, but I tried! Mary in Tucson

Now this is a day brightener! Thanks so much for your truly kind words.

And I promise that I have no relatives named Mary in Tucson!

I have 3 kids and they have varying levels of anxiety and different ways of responding to anxiety. Of course there's some normal "kids have big emotions" stuff but I am wondering how to tell what's a normal level of anxiety in elementary school aged kids vs. what should be a trigger to seek therapy. One of my kids has gotten worked up into something like a panic attack a couple of times - but was readily calmed out of it after a few minutes and was able to re-approach the situation without panic. I feel like having a panic attack at all as a child isn't normal, but she's the one of my kids which doesn't respond to stress the way that I or my husband does (the other two react similar to one parent or other) so maybe this is just her normal? Despite being in a major metro area, there is a dearth of family therapists (and some of the ones that exist don't seem to be into CBT/resiliency, which seems like what we should be seeking).

I'm sorry to hear about what you see as a dearth of family therapists around! I can't give personal recs here but I would definitely urge you to keep looking.

That said, I don't necessarily see a need just by virtue of what you've written here. I didn't see the panic attack of course, but the fact that she was able to be calmed out of it after only a few minutes seems to me to be a very positive sign. Our general rule of thumb in these situations is to think about the way it affects the child's life. Is it getting in the way at school, with friendships, with her self-esteem, with family life? And a big part of that question involves coping. A kid who totally loses their you-know-what a couple of times a week but it is very brief and they are able to have the tools to bring themselves out of it is-- in my opinion-- probably less in need of therapy than a chronically "blah" unhappy kid who never really loses control but also doesn't know how to help themselves ever feel good in general.

So, stop worrying less about what's normal-- especially from sibling to sibling-- and think instead of what is working and not working. Maybe the sweet spot before thinking more seriously about therapy is looking into some coping tools that your daughter can use herself (mindfulness, breathing techniques, muscle exercises, visualization, etc.)

My husband just informed me that he wants to separate and move out of the home we share with our two kids (elementary school) in the near future. We had been seeing a family therapist in individual sessions as well as as a couple and as a family. I realize that HIPAA prevented the therapist from sharing with me what my husband told her in individual sessions, but I can't help but feel a bit betrayed by her because my still-husband discussed and planned this separation for weeks (potentially months) in his individual sessions (all the while continuing couples sessions that were aimed at reconciliation) and then waited some more weeks to tell me about his decision. I really like the therapist and would like to continue seeing her, but I'm wondering if it's a good idea for me to do so if my still-husband does as well. What's your opinion on this kind of professional triangle?

I'm sorry. Honestly, this is why I can't get behind that kind of arrangement-- a true individual-therapy relationship with both members of the couple. I think it can make sense when it's a supplement to the marital counseling itself, but as a truly individual relationship it just seems fraught. After all, it's hard to prioritize each client's well-being equally when what one is doing may be totally counter to the progress of the other, and you have to sit on this information. And then to see the couple together for marital work that maybe the therapist knew was for naught..... hmm. It's definitely giving me a little bit of indigestion.

I must ask, how do you know your husband shared this with the therapist? Are we certain that that is accurate?

If you really want to continue seeing this therapist-- and I get it, relationships and history are important and it seems you've established a significant rapport with her, despite this issue-- then I think you have to be out in the open about how you're struggling with this, and how you'd need to know where the boundaries are going forward.


(In response to last week's chat.) 

Just what are children supposed to learn from presenting in class, other than fear? Do any elementary teachers give lessons in how to connect with an audience and how to be a good audience? Presentations in class are NOTHING like those in business. In business, your audience generally wants to hear what you have to say. You have information they want, and they want you to do well. In class, your audience wants to grade you, and they often want you to do less well than they. I had this revelation when a co-worker was giving her first ever professional presentation to a regional meeting, after being promoted out of an admin job. She was a basket case. Quiver in her voice as she worried she would be shown up as a failure who overreached. When I learned it was her first business presentation, I assured her how and why it would be different from high school and that people wanted to hear from HER. She blossomed on the dais when she realized I was right. I never have a sense that the learning objectives are clear. If the goal is to gain skill and confidence presenting, how is the activity designed to achieve it? If the goal is to make people feel inadequate, well...score! What would happen if people weren't required to present before they had a real audience and message? Is it reasonable to think we could skip the damage and repair?

Ah, I think that's my whole point, though-- why don't we use in-class presentation training as a way to learn overcoming fear, rather than just to reinforce fear? I think the approach should be different-- teaching kids to hone their presentation skills in a supportive and collaborative way, that gradually nudges them to step out of their comfort zone (and then provides POSITIVE reinforcement for doing so, not terror or ridicule.)

I think part of the problem here is that kids have a wide spectrum of abilities and interests and anxieties within this (as they do about everything!) There are going to be those who love it more than anything-- and grow up to be adults who seek it out professionally-- and then there are kids who would rather sit in a corner getting nonstop shots for eight hours rather than give a speech. I really think that the answer is not to just throw out everyone's chances to get better and more confident within this skill because of the kids who struggle-- I think we do everyone a disservice that way, including the kids who struggle. Because we know through the research that with the right support, those kids can overcome the challenge and gain an important new aspect of competence and confidence.

But, "Mary in Tucson" is an anagram of "Aunty Crimson." :)


Well, I do have twin Aunties: Crimson and Chartreuse!

I'm under doctor's orders to keep my stress levels way down (high risk pregnancy). However, all this stress management stuff feels like One More Thing to Manage, between the finding the energy to exercise and eat well and see doctors of it all, and the concerns about the impact on my baby if I fail at this. It doesn't help that my husband tells me to chill out...then reminds me a bajillion times about some errand he wants me to do. I feel pestered to death by both my health and my husband, and even blew up today because I knew I could not hear about my to-do list one more time without shrieking. (Which, weirdly, made me feel a lot better - is losing my patience a form of self-care?)

When losing your patience is a necessary communication tool-- showing your partner that he can't both tell you to calm down and then also add something to your mental clutter-- then yup, I'll get behind it as self-care.

Seriously, show husband this note. If you want to pretend someone else wrote it, fine-- say you can relate to it. (Hey, husband reading this! You'll never know if she actually did, and that's okay.)

I'm concerned about the "impact on my baby if I fail at this." Let me be clear-- I'm concerned about the fact that you actually worded it that way, not about the impact itself. Your stress level is not a pass/fail course. It's a spectrum. Some days will be better than others. And there are some benefits to stress in small amounts (inoculating you against the ups and downs of having the actual kid comes to mind.) You are clearly motivated to have good health habits and move the needle in the right direction, so why are you punishing yourself with such an all-or-none mindset?

Choose only the types of stress management that feel generally good and not like more mental clutter. That will vary by person, but it could be: yoga--out, brunch with friends who make me laugh-- in. Meditation app--out, podcast that makes me feel hopeful about humanity-- in.  Or the reverse. Seriously. Taking care of yourself psychologically certainly takes some effort, but it shouldn't cause further stress.

Choose some ways that Hubby can-- in the words I'm always jabbering to my kids-- be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And be clear about what you need. You are carrying this load and it absolutely needs to be shared, which of course you deserve. But if that's not enough, do it for the precedent that it helps establish for when you may need it even more, with a real life baby staring back at you who hasn't slept all night.

As someone who once had to leave the classroom in the middle of a speech due to a panic attack (but went back in and finished it later), I still support having students do speeches and presentations from an early age. We all have to get up in front of groups at some point in our careers, and you can't learn how to do that overnight. I do wish that teachers would acknowledge that it's scary for a lot of kids and work with them on ways to get over that anxiety, but I don't think not having students practice public speaking is the answer. I'm a great public speaker, learned from all those terrifying presentations over the years in school (but I still hate doing it).

Thanks. I completely agree, and it is helpful to hear from someone who came out the other side.

This topic really does bring some strong opinions!

Aside from the anger I have at him from our divorce, which basically involve him treating my parents (who loved him like a son) and my niece (who knew him as her uncle from the time she was born) badly, I was recently thrown for a loop. Through friends of friends on facebook, I discovered that the daughter of his new wife had a baby recently. I saw a picture of him holding the baby and looking at him with such love in his face. You know, I'd forgotten how much I wanted to have kids, although not having any was a contributor to our divorce. He never wanted to "yet." We split in our early 40s and by that time I was putting that desire behind me. I've always joked that I wanted to marry a guy with kids so I can be a grandma. But that's what happened to him! He never really wanted the kids, but he married someone with three grown kids he didn't have to raise but who love him, and now he's "Grandpa." I started thinking about it and this has happened to several women friends - spending their reproductive years with a man who wants no kids but after they split, he ends up with a free family and loves it. And I realize, I have got to forgive him for my own sake, but I don't know how.

I am sorry. I, too, have seen the complicated feelings that can develop when an ex-partner suddenly becomes the person you always hoped they would be-- and it's a different partner altogether that gets to reap the benefits.

Part of this will just take time-- this threw you for a loop. It was a shock to the system that you didn't really have preparation for. So give yourself some time for these feelings to work out. And give yourself some space, too-- doing whatever you need to on Facebook to make sure that there isn't an onslaught of Happy Gramps pictures every day.

And I generally try to help people move past anger, but in this case your anger about his treatment of people in your life can be a positive reminder of the ways in which he was not good for you. The ways he had fundamental flaws that always would have applied, whether he's grandpa or not. The acceptance that your partnership was not meant to last, and would not have been in your best interest if it did. It's that acceptance that can ultimately lead to forgiveness and moving on.

And the more that you can cultivate some fulfillment on your own-- perhaps getting your own dose of baby-holding, or pet-cuddling, or humanity-helping-- the less bothered you'll be by whatever he's up to, and the less you'll perceive it as highlighting any deficiencies in your own life.

As a teacher and a researcher who has to present 20-minute papers at conferences, I strongly second the poster who recommended practicing aloud and timing yourself; record yourself if possible. When I am nervous, I tend to speak too fast and need to have someone tell me to slow down. My daughter used to do the "individual performance" category at National History Day competitions, in which she had to deliver a monologue that could not exceed 10 minutes. She had to keep rehearsing and timing herself down to the last day, since she would slow down as she became more comfortable with the material.

Yes! Another seconding.

Impressed with your daughter!

We have a hoarder in the family who is moving out of her long-time home. She resisted hiring any sort of professional moving services so that she could slowly decide what to take with her. After many months, her progress has stalled because she is unable to get into her basement but insists there are items down there she "needs". She cannot name anything specific and has not seen this stuff in decades. We are willing to pay for a hauling service to clear out the basement but will not and cannot do this work ourselves. She blames us for the fact that she cannot sell her old house yet because of her inability to access this unnamed stuff. Do you have any tips for dealing with this compassionately while not enabling her behavior? FWIW, she is medicated for anxiety and depression but does not go to therapy of any sort.

So, I want to be clear on this-- can she not get into her basement because it is inaccessible due to hoarding, or is it a different issue?

Hoarding is a complex and serious problem that needs a systemic approach-- psychological, relational, logistical, even financial, and when you have a deadline like a move, the need for a multi-pronged approach becomes even more dire. Again, I'm not exactly sure why her progress stopped regarding the basement (or whether it was ever really "progress" in the first place) but it's very unrealistic for her to be able to tackle this in a functional way without some cognitive-behavioral support. Now, even CBT that is targeted to hoarding is not going to be an overnight fix, but as she makes this transition out of the house, the more support she can get, the better. That is a huge deal psychologically.

Is there an elder services group in your area? They see the fallout from hoarding a lot, and might be the best resource to attempt to organize some reinforcements.

I can so relate to the letter writer. I've struggled with fatigue for the past 25+ years. I went through a sleep study, saw all kinds of doctors, had tons of blood work, spent thousands of dollars and was told, "I guess you're just one of those people who needs a lot of sleep." I was at one point told that I "may" have chronic fatigue syndrome, but I didn't have some of the symptoms. Anyway, my advice to the LW is to just do what you can do, get whatever amount of sleep you need to be able to get through the day (I, too, have no idea what it feels like anymore to feel refreshed after a good night's sleep) and be honest with your friends about your energy level. If they're like mine, they'll understand.

Thanks for this. Though one the one hand it sounds quite frustrating, it seems like in some way you were able to create a resolution even with no official resolution.

Hello! Big fan of your column and these live chats! I've been dating someone amazing for about 6 months now and I'v never felt more connected or myself with anyone I've dated before. I want to tell him I'm in love with him, but I want to do it right. For some background, in a previous relationship I told the guy I was in love with him by accidentally just blurting it out on the phone and then in another relationship the guy told me 2 weeks into dating and I said it back because I didn't know what to do (obviously that didn't last long). I want to avoid anything like that and I don't want to say it too close to the upcoming holidays because that could come off as forced. Also, although I may be ready to tell him, how do we know when our partner is ready to hear it?

First, thanks for the kind words! And congrats on what sounds like a wonderful relationship. So then my next question becomes: after six months if you're feeling it and he is not, isn't that something you'd want to know?

I feel like I'm being dismissive here, and that's not my intent at all. But I feel like at this point, it's the underlying feeling that matters, not the exact method/timing of it. Because let's face it-- if you need an specific or perfect way to deliver the news in order for it to be received well, then  methinks it's not the method/timing that is the problem.

Six months sounds like plenty of time, to me, to realistically feel confident in these feelings and want to express them. Don't let your past situations throw you for a loop here. It could be that now you're both in a game of chicken wanting to say it but not wanting to be the first.... but that's just it; it's a game. The more layers of overthinking you put on this, the farther you are getting from the real thing that you both presumably seek: genuine emotional connection.

Chatters, what say you? How did you first say this to a partner? And when?

How do I help my 7th grade daughter know how to not feel left out when I struggle as an adult with the same feelings? I look back at many times in my life where I’ve inteoduced people and they end up closer friends than they are with me—either by circumstance, locale, or personality, or things in common I have found myself replaced and left out. My daughter said, I have lots of friends but no one chooses me first, I’m no one’s best friend. And truthfully, I too I want someone to choose me and to be the Lucy to my Ethel. So I’m struggling not to just tell her how lovely she is and hug her and brush by this—-because I’m not sure I have the answer. How do we make AND keep friendships? And how do we maneuver in larger groups without that type of friend present?

I am sorry. I think one item on the ever-long list of "Things No One Told You About Parenting" is how much stuff it would bring up from our own childhoods, for better or for worse.

First things first-- it's okay for her to not love that no one chooses her first. It's okay for her to not feel satisfied socially, so I am glad that you aren't going with the easy instinct of saying "You are amazing! No worries! Cheer up!" Because not only would that invalidate her feelings and make her not feel heard, but it would also deny her the opportunity to work on this, with your help, if she so chooses.

So, first step-- really listen. Empathize (something your past can use for good, rather than for evil.) Then dig deeper. Are there particular friends that she would want to choose her first? How has she tried to make friends in the past, and what has worked and what hasn't? What does being and having a close friend mean? What parts of socializing or opening up to someone feel like a struggle-- the options are endless here, from comparison/envy to finding common interests to dealing with annoyances in someone's personality to social anxiety-- and what strengths does she feel she brings?

The more you can listen, the more you can have some insight into what's particularly going on. And I would say, as much as you want a Lucy, please be careful about viewing that as the only shape of a healthy social life. The BFF model has some severe limitations at times, and it's rare that everyone always feels satisfied with the way their friendships are going-- especially in the Social Stress Sundae known as middle school! So, the more you can listen to exactly what she thinks she wants and needs, the more directly you can work with her to set some goals to try to improve things in the ways that she wants.

Hmmm. I call not-quite-honest with yourself on wanting to discuss and analyze potential marriage, while declaring that you, "absolutely do not, " want marriage. I absolutely do not want a mini-van, so it absolutely never crosses my mind to bring one up.

I see where you're coming from, but she did say she didn't want marriage soon.

I don't think she's ruling out the idea that she wants it someday.


Have you had your blood checked? It might be a thyroid issue. Same thing happened to me , and I found out I had an underactive thyroid, which causes feelings of fatigue, sluggishness, weight gain, etc. But now that I take my daily pills, I am great!

Yes! Thyroid issues seem to be among the most common explanations for these types of symptoms. Here's hoping OP gets that blood panel done sooner rather than later.

My husband of 30 years is a self acknowledged slob. During the work week he leaves clothes everywhere, but come the weekend, he cleans it all up and helps with housework, also does the dishes every night. I never bug him, but the other night as we were heading to bed he walked by a chair in the living room with clothes all over it, so I said casually "Hey honey, you want to grab that stuff since you're heading for the bed room?" What ensued was nuts. He said "Are you kidding me?" Said he was going to wear this tomorrow, needed that for later etc. so I said oh no problem, never mind. But he proceeded to grab the clothes, threw them in the bedroom, then wouldn't come to bed and when I asked if he was mad "Nope", said sarcastically he'd had no idea how much this bothered me. Whenever I said it really didn't, not a big deal, he repeated "No idea it bothered you, should have told me",cold shoulder in the morning, went around picking up all his other piles. I pressed for communication and he repeated same "No idea, etc., yelled he was done talking. I got upset and insisted we talk, accused me of talking AT him, treating him like a child, said it was his f-ing house, said I could have asked in a joking way instead of sounding annoyed (I didn't!) then said after everything he does for me (listed them) I could have picked it up myself, sneering and sarcastic and really angry. Please help me understand him, my part as well. Still very disturbed.

Alright, this is not an issue of Slobbiness-- at least not in this particular incident as I see it.

This is about what I feel very comfortable saying is a pretty significant overreaction on his part. He yelled, he cursed, he disturbed you with his sarcasm and significant anger. He gave you the cold shoulder.

Umm.....all because you asked him to grab some stuff, while calling him honey.

Look, I get that I am only hearing one side of the story here, and it's likely that for him that was the straw that broke the camel's back-- he maybe feels scrutinized or nitpicked or condescended to about this messiness, and it's been building for quite some time.

But his behavior simply wasn't a functional way to communicate and problem-solve. So start there.

"I seem to have touched a nerve. I am trying to understand here, but I am also hurt at the way you yelled at me when I was trying to communicate about this issue. If this has been bothering you, I want to hear about it and we need to figure out how to talk about this in a way that helps both of us, and that is respectful to both of us as well."

His reaction to this-- what I think of as a 100 percent reasonable request-- will tell you a lot.

Hi Dr. B, I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for getting over political anger. I'm not even going to try to be opaque or neutral here- I am angry that a large portion of people in our country elected a clearly unqualified and morally bankrupt president. It's like we were all at a baseball game and their team started losing, so they decided to burn down the stadium with everyone in it. I am angry about this- still, almost 2 years later. I'm generally a believer that anger is an emotion that flags something deeper- hurt, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, etc. I've often found that to be true in my life, and usually digging deeper past that initial flash of anger allows me to address whatever is behind it. But...that's not working now. Every day, every hour, it seems, brings fresh insults from this horrid administration. I'm involved in a number of organizations that work to counter some of the more damaging policies, but I still struggle with how to not be angry that we're even in this situation in the first place. I want to feel like I can say I'm an American, and know that involves a shared set of values and principles, and move forward in building a country we all love. But I just can't get over the feeling that if these voters would torch our democracy in this way, there is no path forward, because I just don't know what we share anymore- clearly not any traditional shared values like loving your neighbor. I know intellectually that I have to find a way to get over this, so I'd welcome any suggestions you have. Thank you!

I am sorry. Many, many people (ahem!) can relate all too well.

But I think there's a bit of a false dichotomy simmering under the surface here. Anger is okay. It's a feeling. It's a reaction. I am of the mind that what you do with it is what matters. Sure, some people are prone to anger all too quickly and easily, but that doesn't sound like what we're talking about here.

So, instead of being frustrated with having to be angry, why not think more specifically of the ways that you use it that feel empowering versus the ways that it feels corrosive? Sounds like you've gotten on the Take Action train already-- that's a start-- but why not question even deeper in the moment how anger is affecting you, and how you can choose to embrace its energy without its bile?

This is going to, of course, be different for different people. Some people use that physical activation to spur them to exercise. Some people make art. The negatives vary as well-- some people have to watch their blood pressure, or their pessimism, or their irritability, or their muscle tension, or their catastrophizing.

The next time you feel that angst, observe it, as carefully as you can. The thoughts you have. The sensations in your body. The mood that it puts you in. What it makes you approach versus avoid. How it can inspire versus how it can sabotage you.

You don't have to "get over this"-- in fact, that's kind of the whole point. You have to understand it enough to use it in a functional way, at least most of the time (and soothe it with some extra nourishment-- cheesecake after a massage, anyone?-- the other times.)

I submitted that to the chat a week or two ago. As an update, I talked to my husband about how I am in survival mode and if things don't happen on his timetable he needs to either let it go or do it himself. He still pesters me with emails from work about errands, but he does it a lot less. (When he's in work mode he is go-go-go, and I just write him back with a quick, "I'm your wife, not your secretary"). I've also said, "Nagging me about my stress does not reduce my stress!" which made both of us laugh. I also talked with my high risk OB about self-care. She agrees that I'm too hard on myself, and there's too much outside pressure. So I've set rules about no unsolicited advice or opinions, quiet time to rest every day, and that I should do things at my own speed.

This may be a first-- an update that comes at the same time as we are publishing your original question. Mea culpa on not getting to it for a couple of weeks!

But I am so glad that you have taken these steps yourself. As you saw today, talking with your husband about this dynamic and how it wasn't working seemed to be Priority Numero Uno. You are already ahead of the game, like the Overachiever that I slightly worried that you were!

"Nagging Me About My Stress Does Not Reduce My Stress!" needs to be made into a T-shirt. At the very least, I vote for it becoming a very frequent reminder/mantra within your marriage.

Thanks for writing in!

Our relative has mobility issues. She can't easily go up and down the stairs and she definitely cannot carrying anything up and down them. What she wants is for us to carry everything upstairs so she can go through it. This would take us weeks we don't have to devote to the process and her sorting is likely to take months based on how she dealt with the main floor. If her goal is really to sell her house - and she says it is - she just needs to let go of this remaining stuff and move on.


And she does need to move on. Remember, though, that by definition, Hoarding Disorder is a psychological condition that does not allow for rational or objective reasoning when it comes to these possessions. So as much as the path forward is obvious to many of us, to her it seems virtually impossible-- at least in terms of the just "letting go" of the stuff carte blanche.

I'm really hoping that some senior services organization can help give you some additional help and resources. I know how difficult this can be!

I also don't have anyone that I can claim as a best friend. I have a few friends and some are closer than others but no one that I can describe as my best friend and no one that considers me their best friend. It's hard to make friends as a child but even much harder as an adult. I'm an introvert and I find that often it takes too much energy to maintain a "best-friend" relationship. And I am OK with that.

Thanks. I am glad you are okay with it. I think there is no One Size Fits All in terms of what friendship should look like-- and I say that as someone who's looked at this issue for quite a while!

About four months into dating my now husband he said something particularly adorable so I looked at him with a goofy face and said with a bit of wonder 'you know, I think I'm falling in love with you'. He put his arm around me and said ahhh and it was all good. We said the very words to each other soon thereafter. I didn't want to frighten the horses but I thought it would give me an idea of where his feeling were.


Of course no one should be naming their children on a first date, but in general when some time has gone by and the feelings are genuine, it seems counterproductive to play games that involve hiding the feelings.

How do I trust my partner again knowing that my partner never did anything wrong, and it was just my anxiety taking over? He hasn't proved me wrong with his actions, but I still can't get myself to trust him?

Well, I think what's crucial here is the root of your trust issues. A past relationship? Self-esteem issues? Anxiety in general? Other people's opinions? His past behavior that maybe turned out okay but was not necessarily easy to deal with or respectful?

When you can figure out the real root of your anxieties, you can then begin the significant work of addressing them. For some people, this is pretty straightforward-- classic CBT-like techniques where they challenge their automatic negative thoughts and reason themselves out of them, reminding themselves of the lack of evidence for their worries. Other times, that's really not enough, and the thoughts themselves just keeping coming back for the fight, in which case some mindfulness techniques can help, labeling and visualizing the thoughts as an occasional itch that you will have but that does not have to be fought with, that will pass with time, that you can identify as your Anxious Voice and not take to heart, and instead can refocus in the moment on whatever it is you would rather be spending your time with (and the ways in which you value your relationship and don't want to corrode it with undue suspicion.)

Of course, a therapist can help with either or both of these approaches! As can generally taking care of yourself enough to keep your overall anxiety level down-- getting adequate sleep, exercise, time outdoors, social time with those who you enjoy, etc.

One modification I've seen (and even done!) for students with a lot of anxiety is to let them record their presentation and show the video to the class. It can be a good stepping stone and help develop technology skills at the same time (It's also way more work, which can be a motivation to take the easy route and just stand up there and do it after a few goes)

Yes! These are the types of stepping stones that can be helpful. Thanks.

Re: the poster w/the daughter who had to draw her skin color because she was Indian and she chose peach to draw her skin, I have a question: if you or your daughter were to draw a picture of your faith, what color or other shape of person would either of you choose? For example, because I'm Jewish, would somebody paint me as a white person with a long nose and wispy beard? That's the old image of a Jew drawn by Nazis during the 30s and 40s in Germany. Or would a poser draw picture of somebody who's dark complected, swarthy, Asian, etc.? The answer is both: white, Asian, black, Hispanic, Indian, etc. Same with Muslims: swarthy, Asian, white, black, etc.? Answer: all shades of the rainbow. My point is that school teachers have to recognize that caricatures of ethnic or religious groups are outdated and need to be updated to show this situation to the next generation of students.

I see what you mean, but I also think the question/concern is about the girl's representation of herself-- how she sees herself. It's not really the teacher's job to censor anything (or on the other hand to encourage any particular portrayal!) solely because it may or may not look a certain way, I would think. The little girl doesn't in that moment have to be representative of anything except herself, I'm thinking!

A lot of good questions today, for which I am grateful. I'm not nearly as grateful for the fact that it's time to end.

I will look forward to seeing you here next week-- and in the column comments (this is the issue we dare not speak of again, but it still seems people are having trouble accessing it-- harumph! Zainab is fighting the good fight!) in the meantime, and on Facebook

Take care.

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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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