Baggage Check Live: Small potatoes

Mar 26, 2019

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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Hi, all. How are you doing this week? It is so good to have you here.

This week, unfortunately, marks Zainab's last week with us as producer. (The image that just came to mind is the "Boo! Boooooo!!! Booooooooooo!!!!" scene from The Princess Bride.) I am simultaneously happy for her and her exciting new horizon, and also so very bummed she is moving on. But I can't thank her enough for having been with us since the beginning and having been so mind-bogglingly on top of things, week in and week out. So much goes on behind the scenes to keep these tubes and wires going-- and I am so lucky to have had her help (she happens to be a phenomenal person as well, so that was an added bonus!) Please join me in wishing her well! The also fabulous Rachel-- who has filled in here before-- will be stepping into her shoes starting next week.

So-- this week's Baggage Check. We've got a Mom who wants in-person visits for her birthdays, which aren't going over too well (and in which some people are getting a whiff of a whiff on my part!). And we've got a wife who just doesn't seem happy with... anything.

Whatcha got?

Thanks for the kind words, Andrea! I've loved producing and moderating this chat for the past 15 months. I'll be watching from afar. :) 

Hi Andrea--love your columns and chats! I have a problem that crops up now and again, mostly at work. I struggle when repeatedly presented with false narratives. For instance, I work with 2 folks making a lot of money (at least in terms of where I live), who are so out of their depth that it is mind-blowing. They are supposed to be leaders and strategic thinkers, but often spend their time making powerpoint slides and text corrections. While they are off doing admin stuff (at $225k/year natch), our organization floats adrift with no strategic direction or high-level activity. I can happily be in my own lower-level world, but sometimes their (grift?) choices really get to me. I am happy with my own salary and situation, but I do struggle with their narratives of them being so wise and insightful. I feel like I/we are being asked to collude with a narrative that's so patently untrue. I know this is my work to identify my triggers and manage them, but dangit the emperor has no clothes, the man is behind the green curtain, etc. etc. It's not my job, my interest, or my inclination to call anyone out---this is just about managing my own emotions. And no, probably no one on our board/above them will catch on..... sigh. thank you!

But hey, now I want 225k to make text corrections!

I can see where this would be really grating. But remember, to what extent you buy into this narrative is up to you. You certainly don't have to bow down to them as wise and insightful. Granted, you shouldn't do anything that will jeopardize your own position, but are there subtle ways that you can point out The Emperor's nakedness without it being a totally aggressive call-out? Making sure you get credit for what you do, for instance, and if it happens to highlight some discrepancies between the relative value of you as an employee versus them, so be it? My gut instinct says there's no reason why you would be the only person to notice the injustice of this, right? Is it really that no one else has caught on?

But yes-- in terms of managing your own feelings, be more specific in exactly when this is triggered for you, and how you can view it in the grand scheme of things and let it go through some stress-relief techniques (a breathing exercise, a visualization, a walk, a laugh with a coworker, some fresh air, a nice pot of tea, etc.)

How do I find the determination to stick things out when all I want to do is give up?! My son may not graduate from high school with his peers because of his anxiety. I am so tired of anxiety having such an impact on my husband (who had OCD) and sons. I see worries keeping my sons from making strides as emerging adults. I try to look for the silver lining such as this 17 year old is not into drugs or alcohol but today when he won’t get out of bed to go to school because of anxiety and depression I just want to shake him, instead I reminded him of his behavior plan for the day and said goodbye and went to work. He is on meds for depression and anxiety, sees a therapist and attends group therapy for his school refusal issues. We have a behavior plan to follow but really where is the light at the end of the tunnel?! Loving family members with mental health issues is so darn exhausting and hard. I do self-care stuff like doing things I enjoy like taking cooking classes, getting together with girlfriends, etc....but I know I have this fear that both my sons will live with me....forever!

No doubt, it must be quite exhausting. And the progress made, and the effects of what you do, aren't always immediately visible... which makes it hard to feel validated in any of it.

The light at the end of the tunnel comes from realizing that at some point, there are certain things you can't control. And you can (and should) do your very best and take your son and/or husband to appointments and be empathetic and remind of behavior plans... and yet. And yet, you are your own person, and they are theirs. It sounds like you are doing everything you can to take care of your son, and likely your husband as well.

So where are you in this?

Getting together with girlfriends-- wonderful, and so important. Cooking classes-- just what the advice columnist ordered. You know to talk the talk about self-care.

But is it time for something more?

I do wonder if you've considered therapy for yourself. I know that sounds like a cop-out on my part, but realistically, the missing piece I see here is your ability to accept the limits of it all, and also to give yourself space to hurt and acknowledge how painful and scary it is-- but find meaning in that whole picture. Sometimes you don't need to keep looking for the "silver lining" in order to try to feel better. Sometimes it's about giving yourself the opportunity to lean in to the mess, with someone to help you make sense of it. And realize that it may still be a cloud, but it's a cloud you can own and find beauty in in its own right.

Hang in there.

I'm the woman in the wonderful relationship with the man with the horrible ex-wife. I just want to remind everyone that it's difficult to explain the complexities of a relationship or multiple relationships in an on-line advice column. And sometimes, the ex really is a terrible person. Everyone who deals with the kid understands this. I've seen emails calling me every name in the book. She has read texts that I have sent to the kid and responds not kindly. The kid doesn't need to convey anything to me. She does it herself. I feel like I need to say this because I know there are people out there dealing with the same thing. There's a reason why she's my partner's ex. Just needed to get that out there.

Of course. And I'm sorry it's so stark-- but it also gives you clarity of how important it is to continue to take the high road. Thanks for writing back.

I'm married, he's married. We both have crushes on each other. We don't see each other often, but after a recent work trip I can't get him out of my head. We've texted. How do we move forward?

You decide if you are willing to risk your marriage.

I mean, the answer is complicated and easy at the same time, no? If you value your marriage and do not want to run the risk of damaging or destroying it, then you stop before you even go further. You don't send any more texts, and you rejoice in the fact that you don't see each other often-- which makes taking a break and getting some space much easier. And then you do what you can to reconnect with your spouse, bring some novelty and spark back into the relationship, and ask the hard questions about whether there is something missing.

There may not be, of course-- it could be that this is novelty, this is excitement, this is the flattery of being wanted, this is sexual attraction-- and your marriage is very solid. In which case, even more reason to not damage it, right?

Now, if you're asking me how to move forward in terms of having a secret affair, I'm afraid that's not my negligee-carrying bag!

My partner and I changed our last names to a new one we chose together - we originally decided to take mine 15 years ago when we married. Since we learned that some couples choose a new last name, we liked the idea and made the change. We are really happy with our decision and all the name change processes for accounts and documents are done.

My elderly parents live far away, share our old last name, and are mostly estranged from us after years of a downward spiral of a relationship with us. Two years ago, they finally said out loud that my married partner of 15 years wasn't part of "the" family (only good for caring for their progeny, they said), clutched their pearls when my partner stood up to them, and said I was "betraying" the family by holding them accountable and asking for their sincere apologies for the awful things they've said to us.

I don't know what happened to the kind parents I remember from my young adulthood, but estrangement has been vastly better for my and my partner's health. It's a relief not to deal with their drama. They don't know about the name change yet, and honestly, I expect they will hear about it, but it won't be from us. But given their past manipulation and nasty comments, I'm already bracing for how to prepare for an emotional explosion. I don't need to be named after anyone in that family anymore. We are happy with our new name and it's not their business. How do I prepare for nasty people who know how to push my buttons when I've really enjoyed my peace?

You keep focusing on that peace.

Seriously, you visualize it, you list aspects of it, you meditate on it, you breathe through it, you develop mantras about it, you put the equivalent of mental post-it notes up in your brain about it. You've come so far already. I mean listen to yourself:

"vastly better for my and my partner's health"

"a relief"

"really enjoyed my peace"

"really happy with [our new name]"

You've already got the tools right in front of you. Yes, it will be ugly and will sting if they do hurtful, nasty things about your name. It could pick at old wounds.

But you have already done so much work at healing, that setback will be temporary. They will not take anything away from what you and your partner have built here. They will only be revealing more fully why it was so wise for you to move on from them.

This decision is yours and is reflective of a really solid, beautiful place that you have come to in your life. I think you should give yourself more credit about your ability to withstand some boat-rocking with these folks!


Back in Feb 2018, I wrote about the mountains that my wife and I have climbed together in our 40 years. We came into a valley where we were happy. But the morning mist burned off and we saw yet another mountain that we had to climb. We started up this mountain last summer, taking a step or two at a time. My wife would tire so we would rest. Half way up the mountain, she tired one last time. I came down the mountain by myself. Now, I am in a new valley. I do not like this valley at all. It is so barren, so quiet, so lifeless. But I know this is the valley that I will live in for a while. I looked back at my words from a year ago. I wrote “ …Sometimes there is no answer to a problem. Sometimes acceptance is the only answer. But somewhere there is another valley, maybe not as green and large but a valley you can find a life in.” I will find a life in this new valley.

I can't tell you how sorry I am to have read this.

My deepest condolences on the loss of your very loved, very loving wife.

I always love your perspective as you have continued to write in, and I know you have a particular strength of perspective that will help you through this. But I want to remind you that you don't have to go into the new valley truly alone, nor up the next mountain that way.

Grief and loss can be very well-served by being around people who get it, people who are in similar valleys of their own. Have you thought about seeking out a grief and loss group? Not because you're not already coping in a particularly admirable way-- but because there is further strength and beauty in these type of connections. Maybe just consider it.

My heart really goes out to you.

I know how unkind this is, but back in the era of mostly SAHMs, such women were viewed by other people (of all sexes and genders) as shrews, and the husband was an object of pity.

Yup-- I am glad that we have come far enough to recognize that unhappy folks at least deserve a chance at help!

You said you're a 4 hour plane ride away. Does your mother also expect you for major holidays? How many times a year do you visit? Full disclaimer: I am not a big birthday girl! But yes, if it is one annual visit for her birthday you should go. If it is the fifth trip of the year I'd give you a pass. True story: one woman at my work was so into her birthday that after she retired she came back 3 years running just so we could get cake and celebrate. Lord have mercy.

Oh, my goodness! That made me laugh.

Yeah, your thinking was along my same lines (though from a quick glimpse at the comments, we may be in the minority!) I got the feeling that Mom would settle for a once-a-year gathering on her birthday, and that wiggle room could be had other times of year, especially since LW didn't write that she was a generally demanding person. But our openness to that possibility seems to have ruffled some feathers!

Our first date was to see Bill Cosby in concert doing his classic stand-up routine, decades ago. It was such a warm fuzzy memory for us, seeing "America's Dad." Then came the scandals and trials, taking a bit of the glow off the memory. I realize it's small potatoes, but I still can't get over it, especially after all the media coverage of his shocking behavior going back to that time (and before).

No, I hear you.

I loved The Cosby Show growing up. I felt like I really knew that family, really loved them. And he was the heart and soul of the show. We felt like we knew him too-- and boy was that not the case! And as I've raised my own children I've bemoaned the fact that there really aren't shows like that anymore-- shows for kids and adults to watch together where the Dad isn't a dunce and the Mom isn't a narcissist and there can be laughter and honesty without snarkiness and manipulation. I would have been all set to queue up The Cosby Show and let my kids grow up with it as well.

And, well.... let's just say that has never occurred. It's a loss, for sure! And though it may be small potatoes, I really would have loved to have had those potatoes!

First, I LOVE that you referenced The Princess Bride in your intro...haven't had time to read the rest of the chat yet. But I wanted to say thank you, because reading this chat inspired me to pursue therapy...even when that meant calling around and waiting 3 months to see someone. It has been tremendously helpful so far, and we had a really eye-opening conversation (for me at least) just this morning. So thank you to you and all therapists for what you do! Off to go slay Sharon the Shame Dragon, and stop letting her hold me back!

I've got such a huge grin here!!

This is marvelous, truly. You have so much to be proud of, and I so appreciate your kindness writing in!


the false narrative wouldn't grate so much.

I dunno. To an extent, yes.

But I can think of an example of someone out there in the world who seems to be in a position they don't deserve, and it sure as heck gets on my last nerve-- and I like my own position just fine!

for anyone to accede to a demand that a four-hour plane ride for one weekday (which would end up being two or three weekdays) is reasonable for a demanding mom's birthday.

Nope, I don't think it's reasonable to have to accede to that demand.

I just think it's worth looking at the bigger picture, and it could be that it turns out that doing that once a year and not going at other times is a win-win for everybody. And makes it no longer feel like acceding to a demand at all.

Have you asked your wife how she'd like to solve what she perceives as the problem? "You say we don't have enough money. How do you propose we solve that?" It's 2019. Income isn't not just on the husband.

Good question.

I’m sorry if I implied I was the only one who noticed their ineptitude. Most if us know, I am just struggling with putting on the same happy face my colleagues have mastered. I blame it on being from the DMV and living in the Midwest. Midwest Nice is good at “well yes the man might be behind the green curtain, but I am sure he’s trying his best!”

hahah! Gotcha.

Could it be that hanging out more with these colleagues and blowing off some steam would help? Would a happy hour help rub a little of the Midwest Nice off, and instead bring a nice East-Coast-style round of kvetching and bonding over it?

"Sure mom, should I skip Xmas or Thanksgiving so I can come?"


I recently moved back to an area where I lived for twenty years before my career took me all over the U.S. I had two very close friends all those years ago and have reconnected. We stayed in touch during the years but mostly by email and a few phone calls.

Although I am glad to have some “built in” friendships after coming back to reside here, I’ve found these friendships exhausting and taxing. One has several health problems and long standing marriage issues. When we get together, that seems to be all she talks about. I always listen for a while, don’t give advice and then try changing the subject, but it’s always back to where it started. I’ve begun to limit my time with her and she questions me as to why I am not spending more time with her. I’m usually pretty vague in that I’m very involved in my community, volunteering and new friends./groups.

The other friend has moved into the multiple conspiracy theories and extremely way out there beliefs. I generally just listen, but have asked if she could point me to the facts so I could research, but she generally says the facts are there and I will see them once we pass to the other side.

I really would prefer to not have either of these two in my life, but feel guilty when one is in such poor health and I’m her only friend and the other has routinely told me if it weren’t for me, she would not have any social outing. In both cases, we have known each other for over 35 years. Long ago, these were good friendships. It seems that there really isn’t any commonality as we are very different people now. I don’t know how to extricate myself without causing hurt. Just keep being really busy and not being available? That’s exhausting too.

Okay, let's take these on at a time!

Married friend-- she asks why you don't want to hang out as much anymore. You can either continue your slow fade, or you can give her some feedback that you sometimes find it tough to see how much she's struggling when it doesn't seem like you can help her. (You can also tell her that the friendship starts to feel a little one-sided, if that's the case.) I know, I know-- what an awkward conversation to have, and it's completely optional, but there may come a point where it's the kinder, clearer thing to do than just continue trying to extract yourself from this. And in that conversation-- or at least perhaps even in absence of it-- you can gently ask if she has ever considered talking to a professional about these things. Your job is to treat her with respect and if you are going to extract yourself from the friendship (which would be totally understandable) to do it with kindness. But your job is not to be her therapist, or get sucked in to a relationship that chronically makes you miserable.

Now, with the Conspiracy Theory person-- could there be some more significant psychiatric issues going on, or the onset of dementia? With this one, I would also recommend finding a way to encourage them to seek further support.

At the end of the day, though, you have the right to live your own life and not be worn down by others over and over again. I just hope you can plant the seed for them to get the help they need.

I'm the OP from 3 weeks ago (and last November) who had something happen that caused me to unexpectedly stop attending church, after which I discovered that no one from church cared enough even to send a text checking on me. I asked two people from church point blank what I did wrong, and neither would tell me. I currently lack the courage to do as you suggested and ask the leader of the church, but maybe some day I'll find the courage for that.

Meanwhile, I think the commenter who said I might be picking the wrong churches (similar to picking the wrong romantic partners) may be onto something, and I'm going to do some research into types of congregations. Thank you both for the feedback. Thank you also to the people who left helpful comments after the chat, especially the two people who described their own experiences with being abandoned by churches. I'm aghast that other people have gone through this experience, but it is reassuring to learn that I'm not alone in having been treated this way. Finally, to the person who said that relationships are a two-way street, please know that I show an active interest in the lives of other people. Although not a social butterfly, I have good, two-way relationships with a number of people. It is only in the context of faith communities that things to horribly wrong for me.

Thanks for this update. I am so glad that there may be a path forward in looking at other denominations.

And I agree-- as awful as it is that others have had this experience, it can be so helpful to hear that you are anything but alone.

Please do keep us posted.

Maybe it was just me, but I also detected a whiff of judgment over making a big deal out of birthdays in general, and maybe the ridiculousness of a 77-year-old making a big deal in particular. It's fine for someone to love their birthday, make big plans for it, ask people to spend it with them--and it's also fine to agree to what you can and say no to what you can't. But judging (if that's what's happening) someone for approaching another year older with joy and celebration? We could all use more joy and celebration.


That's another reason I didn't want to immediately jump on the knee-jerk "BIRTHDAYS ARE STUPID AND ANYONE WHO WANTS OTHERS TO ACKNOWLEDGE THEM IS A SELFISH COW" train.

Um... sorry! But yes, I love your perspective.

Is that an example of therapy at work? If you can't change the situation, you change the way you look at it?

Well, certainly that can be a huge part of therapy.

But in this particular case, I was being even more literal-- that maybe LW would decide that indeed they preferred to visit once a year on birthdays, always same date, than also deal with XYZ trip that got in the way of other things or was expected to be more spontaneous. That LW would actually end up with a deal that worked better for them in the long haul-- not just that they would look at it differently.

I'm saddened by the news of three recent suicides by survivors of mass shootings -- the father of a Sandy Hook victim, and two former schoolmates of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS victims. Possibly PTSD in all three cases. Is there anything that those who are treating the survivors need to add to their skill sets to prevent these further tragedies. I feel as though the mass shooters killed these suicide victims as surely as they did the ones they shot.

These have really broken my heart as well.

The ripples effects of trauma and grief on the loved ones dead by gun violence are absolutely staggering. And in turn, the ripple effects of their own pain... as we are seeing this week.

Unfortunately, we can only speculate on any individual case and what kind of help was or was not being received. The truth is, the vast majority of people who die by suicide were not in psychiatric or psychological treatment at the time of their deaths. And I don't want to pretend to know what may have been happening in these cases.

In general, therapists dealing with those who are suffering from trauma or grief and loss should be particularly attuned to the risk factors of suicide. But suicide is also not completely predictable, as much as we would wish for it to be so. It can be more impulsive than people realize.

The best we can do now is to keep talking about it, to keep it out of the shadows, and make people more likely to share their vulnerabilities and keep trying to get help.

With that in mind, if any of you out there are struggling, or worried about a loved one who is struggling, please don't hesitate to start with this: 1-800-273-8255

Hi Dr. Andrea - Thank you so much for giving me the little boost of confidence I needed. I'm the Ducks In A Row writer from two weeks ago. A lot has happened. I've given notice at work, secured housing for my move, submitted my resume to several jobs, and broke the news to my spouse. He took it much, much better than I expected. It all seems to be working out, and I will be moving within the month. So, thank you so much!

Yeah, yeah, YEAHHHHHHH!!

So glad to hear this!!

I think it goes without saying (oops, why am I saying it then) to keep vigilant, though. As thrilled as I am that he is taking it so well, devote reasonable prep to the possibility that could change.

So happy for you, though! Thanks so much for writing.

I wrote in two weeks ago to console and commiserate with the OP whose wonderful husband has an awful ex-wife. OP, I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I can relate, as I often want to kick my husband's ex in the shins (or throw my dog's poop bags into her yard!). It can be so maddening to feel powerless to stop this awful person from doing awful things, especially knowing how it affects the kids. It feels so unjust. I have done a lot of work on my own to deal with my emotions about this situation, but therapy would probably help, too.

Last time I commented, I offered suggestions for how to see the situation in a different light that would make it easier to deal with, but sometimes it's just not that easy, so I just give myself permission to be angry and try not to let it consume me. What helps the most is just knowing that other people are going through something similar. I have read books and blogs written by step-mothers and therapists who work with blended families. It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one going through something like this. Hang in there OP. Do the best you can for your family, take care of yourself, and allow yourself to be angry sometimes. It's hard for people who aren't in blended families to understand the complexities of our situations, but those of us who do understand are pulling for you!

This is really lovely and so helpful. Thank you!

Where to start? I am in my 60s, a mother, grandmother, person with a lot of interests and activities, but also a lot of baggage. Very unhappy childhood, with a lot of emotional/some physical abuse. Lifetime spent trying to feel okay with myself and develop positive relationships with others. (Erratic results in this area.) I've lived with depression since college days, and have recently faced the monster of alcoholism successfully- one day at a time. All of my siblings are alcoholics.

I have decided at this point in my life that I want to seek professional help with being more at peace with myself. I believe it will help with my depression, relationship with others, desire to drink. A few weeks ago I began seeing a licensed psychiatrist and I like her very much. She is a warm and caring person. I trusted her immediately. However- she believes very much that the ball is in my court in terms of driving discussions. I am a very shy, introverted person and don't speak to others even about my current problems. I am not sure that I accurately remember many things that happened when I was a child- which is what I believe is the root of my problems. I don't know how to play my role in therapy. Do I just go in, sit down, and start listing bad things that I think I remember? I am willing to work hard, but I thought that if I went to a psychiatrist he/she would have a plan of some sort to work through with me. I feel a bit lost, and a bit dumb that I am going someplace for help and can't seem to articulate myself better,

Please don't let yourself go down the path of feeling "dumb" about this!

I read your letter and I feel so much admiration. You sound like you have been leading a full and engaged life despite having a lot of things thrown at you (and your siblings!) from the very beginning. Bravo. Seriously. And now you have chosen a more significant way of getting help-- and your sobriety is also to be majorly commended.

This is going to sound meta, but you've got to talk to your psychiatrist about your discomfort with the way that discussions go. This can seriously be something that benefits you in the long run, not just by potentially getting the therapy experience to be a better fit, but also for you to assert your own needs. It could be that her personal style or theoretical orientation is a little too passive for you. It could be this is the temporary awkwardness of a lifetime of not talking about these things and now having to tell them to a stranger. It could be she views this as part of the treatment-- to help you find your own voice and clarify what you really want. It could be this is just a pattern that has developed and once she hears it's not working well for you, she'll adjust it and things will feel better.

You won't know until you bring it up. And I promise-- it may be awkward and weird, but it will be good for you.

That's completely different from insisting that all your loved ones spend money on plane tickets and use up their vacation time for your joy and celebration.

Nah, my understanding was OP was talking about the anti-birthday attitude in general, not the original LW.

Assisted suicide became legal in D.C. last year, and is also legal in several states. Have you had experience dealing with terminal illness -- or just old age and declining health -- and end-of-life issues?

I don't have a particular specialty in this, but I know that there are folks out there that do. I'm hoping that now that the laws are changing, some of the realities of the challenges of end-of-life issues will be discussed more openly, and there should be even more people able to help talk people through all of these issues-- I don't even mean the issue of assisted suicide. I think one thing that Americans haven't traditionally been particularly adept at handling is discussions about death and dying, and even finding ways to guide loved ones at the end of their lives and help them find meaning and openness and love in the process. We (understandably) have some hang-ups about it as a culture. I hope those begin to be addressed.

Dr. A. To answer your question, I am seeing a therapist. Had a great session with him yesterday. He already given me some advice that I have put into practice. I am not sure I am ready for a group. I am really not a "group" type person. But I will certainly continue with the individual efforts! As I say, I am in my new valley with my new life. There is no turning back for me!

So glad to hear you are getting help in that way, at least.

May you get some sunshine here and there as you start on this path!

The sister needs to be told to stop this. I couldn't get out of bed in the morning if every interaction with my mother involved thinking she could get hit by a bus any day and THEN I'D BE SORRY.

Yes, that is a good catch! Thanks!

I wrote in once about the difficulty of finding a therapist. So few take insurance, those that do don't return calls or aren't taking new clients, etc. I had finally decided to see someone who is an hour away (not super far but traffic...), doesn't take insurance and charges $225/hour. My insurance reimbursed me for about $60 of that. She was great but I couldn't keep it up anymore so I took a break. Well, I kept looking casually and recently found someone who takes my insurance, so I pay $25/visit and she is so close that I could almost walk there. I've only seen her a few times but she's been good so far. I realize that I am ridiculously lucky but my point is that such therapists do exist, so keep looking!

I so wish it wasn't so hard to find a therapist. I hate hearing how tough it is for folks to even connect with someone logistically-- it's just not right.

So glad the cards fell in the right way for you now, though!

Here's the thing - you're 'the strong one'. Sounds like everyone else in the family is struggling with their mental health. This is an impossible burden on you. Not only do you have to make sure you have time to recharge and care for yourself - you are living in a situation where your needs will always will be trumped because of the family member's struggle. My husband is bipolar and he's on a really, really good regime thank goodness. There's so much I love about him and aspects of his struggles have helped make him into the man I love. But it's tough to live with the fact that when push comes to shove, his emotional needs will always have to come first because I won't spiral down. You don't say this, but I think this aspect of your family set up is part of your exhaustion with the situation.

This is a really frank look at what may very well be an underlying dynamic for OP. Thanks so much for putting it out there-- and bravo to you and your husband for being such a team in this.

There was some conversation about basically ostracizing someone from a book club who was hogging and not in sync with the vibe. I think this was on Carolyn Hax. She made the same point and I want to underscore it. It depends on the person, situation how well you know them etc - but if you really care about the person, it's a kindness to say, gently, what's on your mind and see if it has any effect. If it doesn't, you can still do the fade - and it's better than the person wondering what went wrong. But then I'm an 'embrace the mess, let it all hang out' kind of gal!

Thanks. So true! Ever since The Friendship Fix came out in all its retina-burning pinkness, I have been a broken record-- the "slow fade" works only when it feels mutual and natural and is picked up on by the other party. Otherwise it's a missed opportunity to give helpful feedback, and/or ghosting.

But of course these conversations can be nausea-inducing....

Just wanted to chime in that I'm in your corner too! In our case I think it might be because we're a military family: you can't really guilt someone into visiting on an exact date if you're on an aircraft carrier. I'm not married yet, but it is nice to know that fighting over holidays isn't going to be an issue, considering how much heartburn I've seen it cause

It can cause heartburn, for sure.

I think every family needs to find a balance of what works for them.

It's funny how I've seen it the other way too-- people writing in that their spouse insisted on making a big deal of their birthday when they didn't really want anything done for it at all!

Sorry. AFL2L [acronymFinder list too long]

I can help out here! DMV= the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region.

Your response, and reading about these suicides following mass shootings reminds me so much of the poem The Diameter of the Bomb by Yehuda Amichai. It's one of those things that we read in 10th grade literature that sticks with me on a near daily basis.

Thank you. I don't know this poem, but I'm sure we can find it!

Mom's demands "have gotten ridiculous" and "she's guilt-tripping us" and "my sister says we should indulge her" and "it wouldn't be the first time I've been the bad daughter" indicate to me that pushback would be more than fair.

True. But remember, I'm not advising to not push back if that's what the situation needs, all things considered. I just want all things to be considered.

A have a issue, that maybe some people would kill for, but that sometimes causes me fatigue. My SO loves to say "I love you." They say it to me maybe ten times before I get out the door in the morning, ten times before we go to bed, and another ten or twenty times when we're home for the night. On the vast majority of days, I love to say it back to them, but at the worst of times, I find it exhausting. At the worst worst of times, I find myself resenting them for having to say it back so much when I'm just tired and don't feel like saying it that many times. I know it's their love language, words of affirmation, but how do I manage this without hurting their feelings? I love them deeply and always mean it when I say it, but it's those days when I feel like I'm constantly saying it that I worry that I'm saying it without feeling.

Okay, it may be their love language, but love languages don't need to be spoken ten times before you've even finished your coffee.

Please talk to you SO about this. Whether it's clueless or needy or quasi-controlling or a verbal tic, it sounds exhausting. You're resenting it. It's lost its meaning. It's becoming an unbalanced situation that lacks reciprocity.

I am sure you are worried about hurting them (and thinking, perhaps, that you have "no right to complain" since it's on the surface not something that is a typical complaint) but the relationship is hurting itself if you let this go on without saying anything. You can validate them "I know it's important to you, and I like and appreciate that you want to say it...." but also express how it's become to much, validating your own feelings "but it sometimes feels like too much for me, saying it as much as you expect me to."

I have a related situation with a friend with whom I have a valued history but very little current-day compatibility. She often wants to do weekends away, etc. I like seeing her for lunch when we both happen to be in our hometown a few times a year. I've ended up saying to the weekends but wish the friendship was more naturally fading from both sides over time...

Oh, no-- the missing word at the beginning of the last sentence is like a Rorschach. Saying "yes"? Saying "no"?

That seems a pretty big indicator of which direction this is going!

Overall I'm with you, My concern is that if she agrees going for her birthday and not the holidays they will still get guilt. 'Oh I was hoping you could still come anyway, sigh etc'. They can hold the boundary of course but given how the LW portrays her mother I think they have to be prepared for that.

Definitely a reasonable concern, and good things to think about. Thanks!

I am sad to see this chat end even more so than usual given our farewell to Zainab! But thank you so much for being here. I'll look forward to seeing you next week. In the meantime, I will see you in the comments, and on Facebook.

Take good care.

I'll miss this chat tremendously! Working on this every Tuesday has been the highlight of my week. I'm really proud of the community we've built here. And I am constantly in awe of Andrea's incredible advice and quick wits. You all will be in great hands with Rachel. Keep chatting!

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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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