Baggage Check Live: A rainbow of negative emotion

May 21, 2019

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior will be 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.

She’ll discuss her recent columns and answer any questions you may have about relationships, work, family, mental health and more.

Waiting for the chat to go live? Read Baggage Check columns.

Follow Dr. Andrea on Facebook here.

Hi, all! What's on your mind this week?

Rachel and I thought that last week's inaugural guest episode was wonderful — and it was thanks to you all and the warm welcome you gave Nora. What did you think? I know she really loved being here, and I can't wait to have more guests on. In fact, we have already booked someone for June 11th: Lori Gottlieb, therapist and author of "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone," which is taking the world by storm. So excited! 

So: this week's Baggage. What happens when your coworker seems to be obsessed with your boyfriend? And in L2, we've got someone who's watching her mother resist going to therapy for anxiety... all because of LW's domineering Dad.

Let's begin. What've you got?

Hi Dr Bonoir, My remaining parent's memory is failing. He drove aimlessly for hours and crashed his car- no one was injured. He has no recollection of this but acknowledges that sometimes he can't remember things. He asks the same question multiple times in a few minutes. I used to think he was forgetful (and annoying) when he did this 20 years ago, but now I wonder if his memory was failing even back then. My question is, Is there anything we can do to help him with this? I know the short term memory he lost is increasing but is there a way to slow it down? He can remember complex things like which road to take to get somewhere, or how molecules form, but can't remember where he put his checkbook, did he turn off the coffee maker, things like that. Thanks.

 This is really, really tough. Sad, scary, frustrating — it's like a negative emotion rainbow.

There is definitely some hope in getting accommodations in place to keep him safe and optimize his daily functioning, and also— potentially — to somewhat slow down the progression of this. But a lot of it depends on what exactly is going on. Alzheimer's gets the bulk of attention — and indeed is the most common form of dementia (now officially "Neurocognitive Disorder") — but there are many other potential causes as well, some perhaps more hopeful than Alzheimer's, some a bit "worse." Not to mention, no two people have general age-related declines in the same ways.

Bottom line — he needs solid, pragmatic medical expertise and support. This is truly a matter of life or death, and I don't think I'm exaggerating there given the car/driving issues. Can you get him in to see a neuropsychologist who is well-versed in neurocognitive and memory assessments? That will help create a game plan.

Hello Dr Bonior, Thanks for the chat. I have long struggled with anger issues. I live with my 2 young children, 12 and 10 years. I have learned to manage my relationship with them better, but I still have room to grow. I get easily angry when one of the kids makes a mistake or come home with a bad grade. I will scream at them then, later feel awful about it. My anger does not last very long and usually if I calm down and think even a minute, I’ll get over it. However, I’m an introvert and I’m horrible at starting a conversation. I get very defensive with even a little criticism. I stay quite and internalize things. If I can keep calm and think even for a minute, I won’t blow up. But I don’t know how to do that. The good thing is I can go weeks or even months without being angry, but once something sets me off, I just lose it and immediately regret it. I have a kind hear and care deeply about others feelings. It kills me to yell at my kids and upset them. I’m desperate for help. Any suggestions for me to get better?

There is a lot of reason to be optimistic here — especially since the anger passes after not too long a period, and you can go a long time without flare-ups. But what I see is a short-circuit in the actual triggering moment of frustration, an inability to remove yourself from the automatic fuse cycle of anger — which leads directly to acting out, rather than providing your brain with a different path to take instead. 

It's really a matter of doing some cognitive-behavioral work that helps you better identify your triggers. Right now, you have been conditioned to respond to your bodily anger cues (probably chest tightness and, jaw tension, increased heart rate, clenched fist) with yelling, to release that discomfort. And there are probably some dysfunctional automatic thoughts that go with that, all heightened by a sense of feeling out of control. And it's hard to step out of that in the moment without systematic practice. But it can definitely be done. A good CBT therapist who specializes in anger issues will help you substitute in other behaviors in that moment to get you on a different path than yelling, and to bring you more long-lasting relief. Mindfulness tools can help too. Please keep us posted.

My sister has an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. She takes extreme pleasure in knowing that we desperately want her in therapy and on medication and her proud refusal to do both. Although her violent tendancies have waned as she got older, her unpredictable mood swings, contradictory demands, and crying jags are still frequent. (She can charm any doctor or evaluator for the 5-10 minutes they spend with her.) The biggest lesson my sister taught me is you can't help people who don't want it. The reasons why are irrelevant. The status quo will remain until your mom or my sister decide to get help. You're not completely powerless though. You can decline, as I do, to engage in conversation that perpetuates anxiety. You can change the subject when she blames your dad for not getting help. You can remain watchful but distant. You can provide resources with no expectation they'll be utilized. You can resign yourself to not knowing the future, which is a lot more liberating than it sounds!

This is such a helpful perspective, though I'm truly sorry you had to arrive at it in the way you did. Ultimately, we can never force someone to get help if they don't want it. But we can certainly have a lot of autonomy in how we choose to handle their behaviors.

Thank you.

So, I have anxiety. I accept that. But I also have a great imagination. These two together make for some interesting scenarios played out in my head. For instance, my ex has a family history of a debilitating disease. I noticed a hand tremor the last time I saw the ex, and now I'm contemplating that in X years they will be diagnosed with that disease, and in Y years they will be housebound, and in Y-2 years they will ask to move into my house for the sake of our child, yadda yadda yadda. So ... do I have a duty to ex if dx'ed with this disease? and more importantly, any suggestions for getting off the anxiety train for things like this?


I love how you first asked for an answer about what to do if the catastrophizing ends up being valid-- if indeed you'd have to take care of him. And only THEN you asked for help about the catastrophizing!

Let me make clear, though: the tendency to catastrophize is the problem, and it is not solved by reassurance! (That's what makes it a problem.)

Seriously, I feel like reassuring you of the ins and outs of what would happen if your ex ended up asking to move into your home in a few years, all because you noticed his hand shaking once is asking me to hop on the anxiety train with you. (And yes, I understand there is a family history of this disease there and it's not totally out of the question that something could be wrong.... but still, you see how far you leaped there. That's not helping anything.)

You need some mindfulness tools that help you label the thoughts and disconnect them from your reality. They need to be acknowledged as anxiety voices, not reliable narrators, and you need to learn to make room for them and let them pass.

The fact that you have such a great imagination can work in your favor, actually. With some clients we see a lot of help in playing around with those pictures and stories — treating them as movies that your anxious voice is producing, and you can watch them and get popcorn and make room for them, but the key is to label them as movies. (And they are NOT documentaries.) They are thoughts and visuals and storylines that are no more valid than if I were to tell you to visualize a spaceship coming down onto your front porch in an hour (which, incidentally, I can't totally reassure you won't happen, either!)

The Detox Your Thoughts challenge I did for Buzzfeed can help with this. And I haven't put anything together to officially announce this yet, but now is as good of a time as any and it seems fitting to have you chatters be among the very first to know — I'm at work on a book version of this. "Detox Your Thoughts" will be released by Chronicle Books next Spring!

I just wanted to chime in with a giant CONGRATULATIONS for Dr. Andrea on her upcoming book!! I highly recommend the Buzzfeed newsletter, and I can't wait to read the book! 

Aw, thank you, Rachel! That means so much to me.

Once again I have gotten myself into a maniacal deadline. But I am really excited that I can finally have something tangible to offer in the "stop these *&%$ anxious voices from wrecking my life" arena!

When my grandfather started to decline from dementia but still wanted to drive himself places, my mom talked about wanting to "accidentally" crash his car and remove it as a possibility for transportation. You need to remove your parent's access to a car immediately. No one got hurt this time, but he is clearly no longer a safe driver and is putting others at risk.

I'm really concerned, too. I am hoping maybe this has already been taken care of but it bears confirming. Thank you.

Traditionally, a therapist is supposed to be a blank slate to a client, so the client can see him/her as whatever he/she needs the shrink to be. But therapists and clients live in the same world, and the shrink's life experiences and worldview have to have an impact on how he sees clients and their issues. As recently as the '60s, shrinks were treating women who weren't thrilled to be housewives and homemakers as sick. If I was in therapy, I don't think I would want or could have much of a connection with someone whose social/political views are radically different from mine. (In another chat a patient said she dropped her shrink when she learned that he was a fervent Trumpist.) A parent might feel that he can't be understood by somebody who doesn't have kids. Race and sexual orientation are central to anyone's identity. What do you think a client is entitled to know about a therapist, and, alternatively, how should the client respond if the shrink is sharing what seems like too much personal information?

This is such a great question, and honestly my views have evolved over time. Because, first things first-- we live in a different world today than we did just a decade or two ago. When I first started seeing clients, if they were to Google me, they'd get nuttin'. (What's this "Google" thing?) Now, they could probably find God knows what. And not even because I am an outlier with my media presence, but just because social media and life in general have changed how everyone is exposed online — even when we try not to be. And as we are all googling each other, it becomes stranger and stranger for a client to not have a sense of who their therapist "is." (Though to be clear I don't Google my clients.)

That said, I still believe strongly that the bare minimum of self-disclosure is best. And then it just becomes a question of what helps the client and what doesn't. It should always help the client. Otherwise it is just about the therapist, and it taints the room, I think. So I really see it as a case-by-case basis.

I have definitely had situations where a general awareness of the fact that I am a Mom, for instance, lends another layer to the understanding a client feels when they are struggling with something parental. Or the fact that I too worry seriously about the erosion of rights for certain groups of people in this political landscape — I can't imagine actively trying to keep that out of the therapy room, for instance. But it also comes up gradually and organically. It's not like I'm like "Hey, let me give you some advice on weaning!" or "Wow, have you heard the latest news about this dystopian hellscape we find ourselves in?" It is always initiated by them and in response to them and should feel congruent and helpful. It should always help with connection, rather than jeopardizing the pureness of the experience for the client (even if not a perfect blank slate).

That's my guidepost!

My husband is almost 40 and has never really had anything bad happen to him. His parents fiercely loved him and even spoiled him, I'd argue. They rigorously defended him at school when needed. He has never known anyone who has died. He has never been dumped. He has never asked a woman out, and he doesn't have to due to his looks. He has gotten every job he has ever interviewed for except one. In school, he rarely got anything that was less than an A. As a child, he didn't just excel at sports but he was a champion in one of them. He grew up middle class, never worried about money, and has always had it thanks to his parents constant gifts and his six figure salary. Compared to me, we have nothing in common in those experiences to the point I had the exact opposite childhood. But my husband cannot understand why I don't get jobs or why I never made good grades or played varsity basketball. I never say it, but I think he's really coddled... Until now. A few years ago, he got a medical diagnosis. He won't die, but his quality of life is somewhat affected. As sympathetic as I try to be, it's hard. My husband really had no idea about life difficulties, and now he's emotionally crippled. He's angry (side effect of his meds), anxiety ridden, and refuses to see a doctor. He picks fights with me and I think enjoys picking on my flaws, especially when I get turned down for jobs. If we weren't married, I'd dump him, but we are and we have kids who he's wonderful to. It's me and my success that bug him, I think. I'm starting to not love him anymore, and I don't know how much help I should give someone who has never needed it and certainly doesn't want it but is paranoid I'll leave. I'm his wife, not his mother. What do I do?

Please, please, please, start planting the seeds to him that you would like to see a marriage therapist, and that if he refuses to, he is doing it at the cost of the health of your marriage. You are at a point where you are only in the marriage because of the obligation to your children (which — when push comes to shove — does not have to be considered a valid reason in perpetuity) and that is no way to live. He needs to have a reality check of the way that his mental health and behavior are affecting you.

He desperately needs help himself too, of course, but I am guessing he is not willing to get it right now. So start with the marriage counselor piece. He needs a reality check.

And if he won't go with you, go alone.

Please do keep us posted.

Just wanted to say I am SUPER excited about this special guest! She is awesome. You are awesome. Maximum awesomeness!

So, so kind! Thank you.

I am beyond excited as well!

Hi - so I've been exploring why I am hurt that some of my friends are "private." I've concluded (and need you to confirm that this might be true) that some people really don't want attention. For whatever reason maybe childhood treatment taught them that getting attention is a bad thing, and they are happiest without it. I always thought they were hiding something, so this is a relief to understand. I am the opposite, however. I WANT attention. I don't mind telling my story to my friends. I have a spouse that pays me lots of attention, and I like it. I'd like friends to do this same. This sounds selfish when I type it, but I want a few close friends who make me an honest priority, but it seems my friends are either private (so don't get my desire for attention) OR they have a ton of friends and I have share them too much. Hmmm, I think I am a monster once I spell it out: ME, ME, ME. Or is it okay to want a few really intimate friends? If so, how do I find like-minded people?

This was submitted early so I am not sure if you are out there at this moment, but what I want to know is exactly what you mean by "private." There are those who are not big sharers about themselves compared to their friends, but the emotional intimacy can still be there. And then there are those who have no interest in the emotional intimacy piece at all. And then there is the "attention" piece — which can be very different than emotional intimacy altogether.

Every time I formulate a way forward about this in my head, I get stuck on exactly what you mean in how they are not sharing, or being private — and what that means for intimacy.

So I would welcome some further specifics!

Yes. First of all, IMMEDIATELY, confiscate his car keys. IMMEDIATELY. If he doesn't kill himself, he'll kill someone else, and you'll have to live with that. All the rest of Andrea's advice is spot on, but first, get those keys away from him.

Thank you. I certainly should have emphasized this more — but I like the way you did it!

Hi Dr. B, I have a question for you and the other chatters. I know we have a lot of folx in recovery here ... what advice do you have for supporting a sibling in recovery from substance abuse? No specific substance - a variety of substances over a period of about a decade. My understanding is that it's less about the substance than it is about sobriety, facing life and its complexities without numbing. Sibling is not seeing a therapist, and is not really open to the idea right now. I've spoken positively about my experience with therapy, and shared some CBT handouts from my own therapist. Right now my plan is to be supportive, let sibling know I'm proud and happy for them, and maintain regular contact through text (sibling's preferred method). Any other books, websites, podcasts, or just general word of wisdom would be appreciated. Thank you! And thank you for hosting this chat!

I like what you are doing so far, and I think that is probably going farther than you think in helping your sibling. Just being caring and open and empathetic — that is worth its weight in gold.

So, Sib is not seeing a therapist — but are they in a recovery program of some sort? How do they talk about it (or not) with you? Have you asked more directly to them what they think might be particularly helpful for you?

I would love some advice from the chatters on this, in terms of specific resources for siblings. Al-Anon is definitely worth a consideration for you — even though I know you're not asking how to help yourself with their addiction, per se, but rather how to be supportive of them — but it's all part of the same bigger picture.


I have sort of the opposite problem. My mother was very supportive when I suffered from depression as a teen and young adult, assuring that I always had access to psychiatrists and treatment. My father saw a psychiatrist, too, when he was having health issues and resulting depression. My dad has since passed away, and his death, plus having serious health issues of her own, has caused my mother to have a LOT of anxiety and (layman's diagnosis) apparent depression. But when I suggested that she talk to her doctor about maybe prescribing an antidepressant, or referring her to a psychiatrist or counselor, she started screaming and crying ("You think I'm crazy! I'm not crazy!"). So 1. my feelings are a bit hurt since she was, in effect, calling ME (and dad) crazy, and 2. I think she's suffering needlessly. I know she's a grown-up and I can't force her to get help, but should I just drop it at this point, or is there something else I can do?

I think it's worth at least an attempt or two to let her know how her comments/perspective are affecting you, if not for her sake, then for our sake — and the sake of the relationship. I know this isn't exactly what you're asking — you want to get her in therapy, not rehash your own feelings-- but it's all related and can be part of the same conversation, as I see it.

"Mom, I'm surprised you'd say that, and a little hurt, to be honest. Dad and I both have dealt with depression in our pasts and have been grateful to have gotten some help for it. I certainly don't think we're "crazy." And I always appreciated your supporting us in that. Can I ask why you won't support yourself in the same way?"

I dealt with a similar issue involving my own parent. My dad called the shots about his independence...until he had a "lost weekend" that resulted in a medical crisis. Thank God no one died. Absolutely, he should not be driving. If he lives alone, start looking for an assisted living situation that appeals to him. This will not get better. The goal is to keep him (and others) safe and give him a good quality of life.

Thank you.

And thank goodness that luck was on your Dad's side that weekend — I'm so glad to hear that.

If you don't want to be the bad guy, you can anonymously report your father as a dangerous driver, or you can talk to his physician. Some states, like California, require a doctor to report a patient who is no longer able to drive safely.

Good to know.

And to be clear, I wasn't certain that OP's parent still indeed has access to a car — but they might.

When keys and cars are involved, things get serious really quickly — and it pays to be as cautious as possible.

I had an intestinal surgery that went wrong, resulting in an emergency surgery with an ostomy that was reversed in a third surgery. 3 surgeries in 4 months. Major damage from the botched surgery. I'm on a lot of pain medication that doesn't work well. I lost 37 lbs, all muscle mass is gone, and am very weak. I am struggling to work part time 2 months after last surgery due to pain and exhaustion. I live by myself but had two cats, I lost a week before my first surgery, he had cancer and the vet didn't quite kill him aspirating it, I learned after that there was no reason to have done it, the tumor was inoperable. I had to finish the job she did on him when he could have lived as much as a year with no treatment. I was able to deal with grief better than now because I still had My best friend cat. But he was diagnosed with jaw cancer immediately after my last surgery in Feb. It was untreatable and I had to kill him a few weeks ago, I was torturing him keeping him alive as long as I did. I am grieving and sick, I don't get much joy, even hummingbirds don't bring me the same happiness now. I have to work and it's difficult, though I like my job, I need to eat and have no appetite. I am depressed. I can't get another cat nor foster one yet, it would only wound me with thoughts of my best cat and my other cat, they never left my side. Every night I'd say 'bed time for bonzo' and down they ran to settle in. I think a dog would be OK, but can't foster a dog because I haven't the strength to take care of it. I have never dealt with death well, and often blame myself for what I did or didn't do. In this case I had to decide to kill both my cats. I'm not against therapy but I don't see how that's going to 'fix' it, though I'm going to get an appt soon. I have no physical contact with any loving being now, other than an occasional hug when I see a friend or neighbor. I have no energy to get out more often, my taxes aren't done, simple tasks are a heavy lift, I stay in bed too much. I miss my cats so much I wake in the night thinking I heard them or felt them in the bed. I see or hear best cat out of the corner of my eye during the day. I know some of this is the drugs I'm on, but It's becoming unbearable. I need some help to feel like there is something worth breathing for, I can't seem to find a reason right now.

I am really glad that you are getting an appointment soon. It is not that there is something wrong with you. It is that you have been through a lot, and you are in the throes of depression.

But there is help.

When you are in the thick of it, it's hard to see that help can work, or what it can look like. And no two people's depression is alike, nor their treatment — but there are many, many, many different ways that treatment can help. Changing thought patterns. Activating your behavior. Processing your feelings of loss. Gaining insight into your relationships. Considering biological factors and the potential role of medication. And most importantly — creating a plan of small goals and getting you some accountability.

You are not alone in this. This came in over the week so perhaps by now you even have scheduled the appointment?

I would love an update.

My son recently got married. When I talk about both families getting together, I always wonder if there's a word for your child's spouse's parents. I've used co-inlaws a few times but no one knows what I mean. Id there isn't a word, there should be.

Great question!!


I had a good therapist, but I found it weird that she never let a single thing slip about herself: neither her personal status, her origins, nothing. I found out she was a mom when she had to cancel once because her child was ill. Never found out how old her child was ... nothing. My husband and I went to a couples therapist. Different experience entirely. The therapist occasionally mentioned her own situation. Nothing profound, maybe that she just had her bathroom remodeled. Stuff like that. I felt much more comfortable with that level of reveal. Just my 2 cents.


I think at some point the slate can be so blank that it takes something away from the humanity in the room.

Interestingly enough, I bet Lori would have a ton to say about this in a couple of weeks, given her book and the response it's getting!

Seeing a therapist who is my polar opposite has been a non-event. He is not at all who I would have sought out for therapy. I never would have chosen a man, for starters. He's also a pastoral leader in a conservative religion and it's obvious we have differing political views. But he came highly so highly recommended and he's been such a gift. Much of what I know about him happened after we had been working together for some time, and I admit I was a little bit disappointed that he wasn't more like me. But I'm so glad I looked past those things. He encourages candor in our sessions and recognizes how hard it is to be in therapy. He does so much to help me. So don't discount a therapist who isn't your ideal. My guess is a skilled provider will be able to see past any differences you have in order to get you where you want to be in a healthy way.

I think this is just beautiful! Thanks.

Based on what OP said about CBT, I assume OP is still seeing a therapist? I hope so! OP, keep seeing a therapist. Addiction is a *family* disease and you're going to need support too as your sib navigates recovery. Be prepared for major ups and major downs — when your sib is no longer self-medicating, they are going to be confronted with the reasons why the self-medicated in the first place. If your sib continues to refuse therapy on their own, see if you can talk him/her into doing a family session with your therapist. Also, as they say in the biz, it's one day at a time.

Great advice. Much appreciated!

I am sure there are great and effective practitioners out there, but I went that route when I noticed my dad's memory getting uncomfortably forgetful. We had a driving evaluation (he passed - he said with flying colors, the examiner said barely). We also had a neurocognitive assessment, but despite my telling the examiner the things he was telling her (he owned a place at the beach, for example) were not true (it belonged to my husband), she did not give us any support for trying to take his keys away. Just be prepared and cross your fingers,

Ugh, I am sure that was really frustrating.

I am hopeful that in OP's case, the car accident (and not remembering it!) provides a lot more solid justification for the removing-driving-privileges issue.

Some places also have senior services support that can provide some resources for having these kinds of conversations, and perhaps help find practitioners that are more in tune with the challenges of this stage of life.

Dr. Bonoir, Sorry, I meant to reply sooner! I work part-time and that includes Tuesdays so I can never respond during the chat. Yet, I've been meaning to reply for the past few weeks. I wanted to thank you for your very thoughtful and caring reply (replies) to my message and the other responses regarding misophonia. I feel you are a champion for many, including myself, and it helps me feel stronger. You and several other kind people gave me great things to consider. I'm grateful that my question garnered another reply by the person last week who obviously put a lot of thought into it (and I really appreciate what he/she said and where they were coming from in regards to my husband's point of view). I do believe that if I try to understand my husband's side of things he'll open up more. I am hopeful. As for the person who compared misophonia to not liking the color beige...well, it must be tough. Beige is everywhere. Also, I'm sorry to inform that person that I do not mind my own chewing noises for if I did I would surely not be around to type this message. I do, however, understand how hypocritical it may sound. And trust me, beige hater, this fact has been pointed out ad-nauseum. Again, thank you, Dr. Bonoir. Your empathy and compassion for people stands out. We are all fortunate that you freely give of your time to help us <3

And thank you for this kindness. I can't tell you how much I love this little community!

I wish you and your husband continued growth in understanding each other — and hope you'll keep us posted!

Wow. Do you hear how presumptuous and judgmental you sound? Like there has to be something wrong with people who like their privacy? This is a hot button for me because of all the management courses I had to take that were taught by extroverts who invariably insisted that introverts had to address the needs of extroverts but without giving any thought to reciprocity. If you are always this judgmental about your friends not being exactly like you, you need therapy for narcissism.

It's true that that was a huge leap, and a narrow-lensed one, at that. Your perspective is really helpful here.

I am hoping to hear from OP just to find out a little more about what they really mean, because there are a million different relationship dynamics I could see spurring that letter!

OP here. Thanks to everyone for their answers. We took his car keys away as soon as we found out what happened. We now take turns driving him where he needs to go. I have no problem being the bad guy about this. The problem we're facing is the forgetfulness about: Where did he leave his house keys? Did he leave the fridge door open for hours again? A lot of the food spoiled because he walked away and left the door open. Getting him to a professional is the next step, so thanks for the advice!

Yes, this was my hope as well. Thanks for the speedy update.

Absolutely, a professional will help you with the metaphorical road map of what you're dealing with here, and how to help him manage it on a daily basis.

Please do keep us posted.

My dad's family calls them the out-laws.


I feel like I've heard someone else say this once. Could either be brilliantly funny or hurtful, depending on the relationship!

Just wanted to chime in with something. The past two discussions have chatted a bit about hearing aids and I wanted to give a different perspective. I am 41. I started to lose my hearing around 8. It was never awful and I could get by with sitting in the front of the room, lip reading, asking people to speak up. About ten years ago, I gave in to peer pressure from family and others and get hearing aids. I hated them. Hated everything about them. They were the kind that went completely in my ears. They hurt. Everything was echoed. And no one understood why I wouldn't wear them. I was just told just wear them and you will get used to them. I wasn't ready. I now have an 8 year old and a 3 year old. The 8 year old told my youngest a year ago "don't worry mommy cannot hear well so you can get away with things." I made a consultation appointment that day and I have worn hearing aids ever since. They are a completely different style and I am now mentally ready for them. But it is still hard. I often feel like at 41 I am "broken" because I have them now. My point of all of this is it can be really hard for people to admit that they need to wear hearing aids. There is still a big stigma about them. Especially if you are younger and wear them. Just wanted to share and hope that helps.

Thank you. I feel for you — and it is through this post and the other discussions that I have realized just how substantial the physical discomfort of hearing aid adjustment can be. But I am glad for you that you were able to take this step (and hopefully can get some laughter out of how it happened.) You are not at all "broken." And I hope in time you can get some help with thinking that way!

Recovery and therapy are totally different things. Sometimes people in recovery need or want therapy, sometimes they don't. Addiction is a disease, and emotional difficulties or mental illness are a different kind of problem. The main thing that someone is recovery needs is recovery activity - meetings, meetings, meetings. This is more important than outside therapy, even though that may be useful in the future. Ask your sister, "How can I help your recovery?" and then do what she asks, if it is feasible and not onerous. My parents watched my baby every Monday at noon for 2 years so I could secretary a meeting. I would go to an Al-Anon meeting, but you can also visit different recovery websites, read about recovery from an addict's point of view, and learn about the model of recovery that your sister will be following. Just having this insight might be enough to connect you a little better to your sister and support her recovery, which are what I sense your goals are.

I really appreciate this viewpoint, and I know it's helpful. Though it was unclear exactly where OP's sibling is in the recovery process and what modality they are using.

But I don't want to create a false line between addiction and other types of mental health struggles. I don't necessarily think they have to be a "different kind of problem." For many people, addiction is intricately connected to depression or anxiety or trauma or any number of other mental health issues. And they can be cause AND effect — of each other. I don't think there are categorical differences between them — and no two people are alike, so there's no one line down the middle as I see it.

In Yiddish the word is "machatunim," meaning "the parents of my child’s spouse.” I don't think there's an English word for it.

Ahh.... add that to my ever-growing list of things that there are great Yiddish terms for and nary a word in English!

(Hmm. Is there a Yiddish word for "nary"?)

I jokingly say, "in-laws once removed" or "twice removed" (e.g. the sibling of the spouse of my spouse's sibling). But maybe you have to grow up in a large extended family for people to understand those terms. ("Removed" is a vertical generational term; my use is horizontal.)


Enlist the help of a doctor: My father didn't want to stop driving, even once he had become demonstrably unsafe. I wrote a letter to his primary care doctor stating my concern, including *very specific examples* of how he had become lost, confused, etc. I noted that we would never allow my father to drive with young relatives in the car, and we were concerned for public safety. While a doctor can't share confidential info. with YOU, you can share info. w/him/her. The doctor subsequently got my father to stop driving.

This probably came in before the update that thankfully OP's parent is not able to access a car.

But I know it can be helpful to others. Thanks!

We had a similar crisis with my MIL. We had a word with her doctor, who then told her kindly, but firmly, at the quickly scheduled visit: "You can no longer drive." She respected the doctor and, although she was angry, she allowed us to sell her car. She went into assisted living shortly after that and always told people that her children took away her car. We were just grateful that nobody had gotten hurt and realised that we had dodged a bullet. We were also thankful that the doctor was willing to be the "bad guy." She would not have listened to her children.

Another data point. Thank you!

And let me just say, I can only imagine (as of now) how difficult it must be to be on the receiving end (or, rather, non-receiving end) of the driving privileges issue. What it spells for lack of autonomy and independence — let alone what it plays into in terms of thinking about aging and mortality — must be pretty emotionally difficult.

It's not easy on any side of it, I'm sure.

I just need a community right now to tell me it gets better. I'm doing all the "right" things (seeing my therapist weekly, going to acupuncture weekly, back on medication, staying active-ish by walking the dog and riding my bike to/from work, cooking/eating healthy, keeping a decent sleep schedule, etc) but I really, *REALLY* want to feel better now. Every day feels a tiny bit better and I keep reminding myself of that. But I miss myself and I want her back ASAP.

Tiny adds up. And it can add up more quickly than you realize.

We are here! There are lots of people on the path with you, and I hope we'll here from some of them there. Keep moving in all the ways you're doing. That is the investment you are giving yourself, and it will pay off. Sooner than you think.

I've heard this used, but only for ex-in-laws. E.g. "my daughter is spending time with my mother-out-law."

Ah.... to have it be an EX in-law makes a lot of sense.

Because otherwise you would just say "her mother-in-law."

But instead with this I get to picture some maternal figure out in the Wild West, lasso and pistol in hand. Mother Outlaw. So there's that!


Russian has words that distinguish between, say, the father-in-law of a woman and the father-in-law of a man, and even goes so far as to distinguish between the three types of sibling-in-law (husband's sibling, wife's sibling, sibling's wife, etc.) But they're passing out of use because it's so hard to remember that many terms.

Holy smokes!

I love how language changes.... and sometimes the reason is as mundane as "Meh.... too many words for that general idea already."

The Alzheimer's association website has tons of great resources for this poster. All free, all vetted, all amazing.

Oh, brilliant. Many thanks!!

I'm sorry, but is the OP saying she personally killed her cats? She really, really needs help asap if that is what happened.

Oh, dear. I hope not. That is not how I took it — I understood it to mean she had to put them down.

I'm really hopeful she's getting help no matter what.

You are struggling to work even part time. Has your gross income fallen below $1220 per month? If so, apply for Social Security disability using your first surgery as the onset date. You can apply on line at, or call to set up an appointment at 1 (800) 772-1213 to set up an appointment for them to call you or for you to go in to apply at your district office in person.

I can always count on chatters' expertise about things I don't know nearly enough about. Thank you!

I've worn hearing aids for about 5 years now (I'm 60) and am so grateful for the relief they gave me from my tinnitus caused by hearing loss. I never cared much about what they looked like, but really no one even knows unless I point them out. They truly improved my quality of life!

It is so nice to hear a success story!

The driver might not remember it, but it's equally possible that he's telling people he doesn't remember it, out of defensiveness. We had to start accompanying my father to his doctor appointments when we learned that he was telling his PCP that he didn't drink at all but leaving out the fact that he had only stopped drinking a year before after a lifetime as an alcoholic. The PCP said if he had known, he would have diagnosed Dad's case quite differently.

Interesting idea. Could be.

Louise Penny's wonderful character Armand Gamache: Here are four sentences you need to learn to say, and mean: I don't know. I need help. I'm sorry. I was wrong.

So true — and so hard for so many of us!

When my sister's brain tumor prevented her from being able to speak, we would read to her. It could be any thing from a magazine article to the next chapter in Harry Potter. She could indicate if we were picking up in the same place we had left off so I know she was hearing it. It gave us a shared experience where she didn't have to speak.

In reference to last week's letter about the TBI — I love this. Thank you!

I know that I’m very, very late to the party now, but I have my favorite quote, from a Dodie song: “There will be a day when you can say you’re okay, and mean it.” It’s my lock screen.

Thanks for this! Often in the thick of the worst moments, this feels hard to believe.

Hi Dr Bonior, Yes, you are right about recovery and therapy being somewhat intertwined. When people ask me about the role of what we call "outside help" I always say that there are three kinds of people in recovery: when some people give up their drug of choice, their insides mend themselves without any seeming effort. Then there are people who give up their drug of choice and their intractable personality problems dog them and everyone else in their lives until they die. And then there are people like me, who get sober, find they still have problems, and look for outside help in sobriety. It is a spectrum. I definitely see that my issues with anxiety and desire to escape led to escape from anxiety in substances. But not everyone has this experience.

Thank you. A spectrum indeed. And of course my inner rebel says that there's got to be more than three types! I am so glad that you have truly been able to get the help that you need.

I took the language of "I killed my cats" as a sign that OP is suffering very, very deeply from depression. This is the kind of language that I used when I was depressed. I lost all sense of "bad things happen and they are out of my control and they hurt a lot" and only understood, "I am hurting so badly that I cannot stand the thought that something is out of my control."

Yes. Definitely could be at play here.

My brother lived with my now-sister-in-law for many years. We called her our Outlaw . There is a term for your son's in-laws. It's......your son's in-laws.

ha! Yes.

But there's no term for the relative relationship between the two sets, without the child as mediator.

the chatter should have mentioned that if you have medical expenses (such as medication) that allow you to keep working, you can add those costs to the $1220 to determine if you are income eligible.

Thanks for this!

Take the keys, and the car. Both. Tell him you are doing so. Frequently. I saw a family that didn’t want to have the hard conversation, just took the keys quietly. Parent called the dealership to get new keys. They kept taking my grandmothers lighters. She lit her cigarettes on the stove. They disconnected the stove. She got out the repair manual to troubleshoot. Do not assume the decline will impact his resourcefulness!

Keys already taken in OP's case, but a helpful perspective overall.

I can see myself with the repair manual in a couple of decades.

Take the keys away immediately. He kills someone else, either you or he could potentially face a wrongful death suit from the victim's family.

Another way to drive home the point. Thanks.


Just wanted to add my two cents (as a licensed therapist). I work in an environment (prison) in which we are actively told NOT to self-disclose as a therapist. It can lead to a lot of issues (manipulation, danger ... just to name a few). I don't think it makes me any *less* of a therapist and I personally like to keep my life out of what I do. It makes it easier for me to treat my client, but that is just my thoughts. Sometimes I think about working not in corrections, and I don't know if I'd survive! I'm so used to not self-disclosing, it feels weird when I do in other areas of my life.

Yes! The decision always has to take the client variables into account, first and foremost. Thanks.

As always, our time together is too short!

Thanks so much for being here. I will look forward to seeing you here next week, and in the comments.

And I usually mention Facebook here, but I am now about to dip my toes into Instagram, after years of resistance. But apparently if I don't, then I am dooming my Detox Your Thoughts book into oblivion, putting a pox on my descendants, etc. I don't know. Perhaps I will just post a years' worth of pictures of Buster! In any case, see you there as well.

Take good care!

In This Chat
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.”
Recent Chats
  • Next: