Baggage Check Live: Still Kickin'

Sep 17, 2019

UPDATE: We are still kickin'! I've heard from a lot of you since the awful news of the demise of Express (and therefore the print column). For a moment, it might have looked like this chat was no more. However, there is hope for Baggage Check to continue-- and for now, since I work from home, then no one can kick me out of the building! Please send in your questions as always. I will be here on Tuesdays as usual, barring the arrival of a security team with an arrest warrant.

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. I am always glad to see you in the queue, but certainly never more than today.

For those of you who just read us online and don't know the history of Baggage Check, you may not know that less than 24 hours after our last chat, we got the sudden news that Express -- the print venue for the Baggage Check column, the paper that has run it every single week for fifteen years-- was announced to be no more. (Might I have jinxed things by mentioning last week about my streak of no missed columns in a decade and a half? Yikes.)

To say I am still stunned is an understatement.

However, if you are reading these words, it means my attempt to go rogue has succeeded and I have not yet been shut down by the authorities (three cheers for working from home and eluding capture!) In all seriousness, there appears to be some hope for Baggage Check to continue, but nothing is guaranteed.

Over the coming days and weeks of uncertainty, your being here means so much-- not just to me, but as a reminder to those decision-makers who need to see how many people care about this community and want to see it keep going. So, thank you. And keep tuning in; it all gets counted by those little green men in the computer, who (after years of thwarting me at every turn) may end up being the ones to save us after all.

Which brings me to the fact that I am lucky enough not to have to go rogue alone. The illustrious Rachel, whom I clearly don't deserve, has volunteered her time to be here producing today. Rachel, you are truly the best!

And-- get this-- next week if we are still kickin' we will have Susan Cain, a guest I booked shortly before the Express news came through. (Once again, the jinx is in.) Yes, as in THAT Susan Cain. So I hope more than anything that you will tune in for that too, and that you will bombard her with questions about introversion, personality traits, finding quiet and calm, pretend-extraversion, making it in the workplace, thinkers, small-talkers, parenting kids with personalities different than your own ... all that good stuff.

So. Here we are. No column to link to.

Sad. (Oof. That word has been kind of co-opted, huh? But I really am.)

But I trust we will have plenty to talk about otherwise.

So, let's begin.

I just wanted to add in my own two cents. I have absolutely loved joining you all for the past few months producing this chat as part of my responsibilities at Express. You all already know that Andrea is awesome, and it has been so great to work with her! 

The messages of support that we are seeing coming in today has been wonderful, and the outpouring of love on social media for Express as a whole has been so uplifting to see as well. Thank you all so much for making this chat such a great community. 

Registering one reader plea for the Post to pick up your column in the Lifestyle section! Let's start a movement people!!!!!!

Thank you!

Here's hoping your vote will count.... thankfully I don't think the electoral college is in play here.

They seem to want to bury you . . .

Hopefully not. But if so, fingers crossed you all can bring shovels!

If Baggage Check ends, I predict a stream of clients coming into your therapy office to manage feelings about it. I suspect this is all a ploy to drum up business!

haha!

If only.

You will probably get a lot of these, but I just wanted to say how bummed I am about Express. I am taking it on faith that they will keep your column going online. Still, today just didn’t feel the same on the Metro without Baggage Check to keep me company.

Thank you for this. A lot of you have reached out through my website as well-- with kindness I can't even begin to convey the depth of my appreciation for.

Express itself-- let's all raise a glass to it after sixteen years. It was a bright spot for innumerable DC commuters for years and years, and it was put together by some of the most talented people around. I know they will find new paths full of good things, but I think a lot of us are really feeling the loss of the paper itself.

As for Baggage Check, I hope you all will continue showing up and we can work something out online, at least.

So the column is not up and now I see your update. I'm so glad you are still doing the chat today but I'm not sure what's going on. I would assume most people are like myself and just read Baggage Check online, why can't they just keep things status quo?

A pretty great question, if you ask me!

So glad WaPo is at least continuing the chat, but hope they revive the column as well. I do notice that the Lifestyle page online has removed your box, but not the link at the top of the page. Waiting for life to go back to online normal.

You and me both, if wishes come true! Thanks.

And to be clear, we don't yet have the official go-ahead for the chat to continue. But the more that the audience hangs in there, the better argument we have.

Please have your producer post a link where we can protest the demise of the print column! and by 'print' - that includes your online column?! Because a new column was not posted on washingtopost.com this morning. Many of us count on your column during the morning commute. You've posted literally life-changing advice, how can they take that away? fingers crossed for a comeback!

Thanks so much. It really is helpful to hear all of these sentiments!

Yup, a new column was not posted, because for the first time in fifteen years, I did not turn one in.

Ouch. That is so strange to say.

I am so grateful that the love for Baggage Check is out there, and our biggest hope is that it is shared by the people who have the ability to get it off life support.

Thanks again.

I wish I had somewhere that I could send you all right now, but I'm not sure where would be best to direct your feedback. I will say that we are going to publish every single message of support in this chat, so it will be public for the powers that be to see.

Firstly: I love your advice and this column and if we need to storm the Bastille, er, Post office with polite requests, please let us know! I'll try to keep this succinct. Married 15 years, 2 kids (one is mine from a previous relationship), ages 20 and 9. My husband is a very intelligent, introverted man who has committed himself to a philosophy of life that insists that everything is meaningless. He freely admits to regular suicidal ideation, although is also very clear he wouldn't act. He refuses to go to therapy and/or try meds, and his reasons are vague. He's a great dad (all his emotional energy goes there), and he's a good partner in many ways. But I'm exhausted. I feel like I do all the emotional labor of giving him perspective, having hope (!), etc. He ain't gonna change. So my question is: how do I live well here? I love him. I love our life together in the day-to-day. But his worldview--and the way it shapes his mood/withdrawals/lack of communication--is exhausting me. How do I draw boundaries here in a way that helps me and doesn't hurt him? How do I stop being so 'spongy' and absorbing his mood and taking it personally? {Yes I'm in therapy...haven't found it very helpful on this topic though.}. Thanks!

This is so, so tough.

Depression comes in all different varieties-- from long-standing existential angst that can seem like minor background noise, to severe, debilitating hopelessness that ceases most day-to-day functioning.  At first, it seemed your husband's description veered toward the former, but when you mention his withdrawing, his lack of communication, and seemingly more overt ways that his moods affect your family life, that seems less like background noise.

I would also be remiss if I didn't point out that suicidal ideation, though common and certainly not always an imminent threat, is not something to dismiss just because someone claims that they won't act on it. The fact that it is regular for him ends an extra area of concern, and honestly, the most recent numbers about suicide, in terms of its growth in prevalence, are alarming.

All this points me to the fact that he needs help, and his choosing not to get it is a problem. I can imagine any number of concerns on his part-- from easily surmountable (the logistics, the expense, the time commitment, the awkwardness at first) to more deeply rooted (being scared of getting better, or doing more poorly than he lets on and not wanting to face that, or worrying that some really painful stuff that he has never faced will have to come up.)

I'm afraid that that seems more paramount than teaching you how to not be so spongy. Because we're not just talking about learning not to get upset about dirty socks on the floor. We're talking about your being worried about his fundamental emotional health.

If he absolutely won't get help, have you considered it for yourself to be able to have a forum to figure out the what-ifs if nothing changes?

My family has a history of clinical depression. For several years, I was on various anti-depressants myself, but about eight years ago, the Effexor I was taking stopped having much effect. With the blessing of the psychiatric nurse practitioner I was seeing, I did I trial run of no meds/Therapeutic Lifestyle Change. What can I say? It worked. I felt much better, I was clearer, my sex drive and ability to orgasm came back. I monitor myself with depression and anxiety inventories, I pay attention, or I had until recently. On a recent appointment with my primary care physician, the intake RN did a depression inventory and it was clear that I wasn't doing particularly well. Discussed with the doctor and decided to take a wait and see approach in advance of my next appointment in a couple of months. I happened to go to an event at my sister's house that evening and confided what had happened. Her immediate response was, "Are you going on medication?" When I said I was weighing it carefully, she got VERY offended. She has been on medication for decades, and took it very personally that I wasn't immediately signing up for it again. I am concerned about my sex life and I am concerned about weight gain - I have lost 70 pounds in the last few years and I'm not anxious to swim against the tide to keep it off or lose more. I'm wondering if my sister is right and that I'm being foolish.

I am sorry she had this response. But it's important to remember that this is your body, your mind, your choice. Period. It's not up to your sister, though I can imagine that she's got her own lens and feels personally affected (or judged) by your choice.

Because it certainly doesn't appear that you are dropping the ball on this. The wait and see approach seems very reasonable, provided that if you feel things deteriorate in the interim before your next appointment, you'll go in sooner. It sounds like you have worked hard to make a lot of positive changes in your life. You are moving in a good direction, even if there is a dip and you do need to revisit the possibility of medication. That would be nothing to be ashamed of, just as it's nothing to be ashamed of that you are hesitant to dive back in and want to make sure that would be truly warranted before doing so.

Being vigilant about taking care of yourself is optimal here, so keep those eyes open, and if you need to close your ears to tune out your sister, that's your right.

Please keep us posted!

I wrote in on Sept. 3, and I just want to thank you and the wonderful people who posted encouragement! Thanks to one poster, the phrase "Swiss Cheese Brain" has now entered my vocabulary. When I went home and told that to my husband, he almost shouted "That describes it perfectly! Why didn't we think of that?" I'm doing much better. I have a great support team, and I've given myself permission to just take the time I need to recover. Some days are harder than others, but I'm going to pull through and find my new normal. Thank you for all of your caring!

Bravo once again to all the chatters who were so supportive.

And bravo to you for facing this head-on. Your courage is paying off. I'm so glad you wrote in.

"Swiss Cheese Brain"-- I should lobby to get that into the official clinical lingo!

I feel like we need T-shirts. Like Save Ferris, ha ha! Hope someone is listening.

haha! Thank you.

(Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.)

I just wanted to say how happy I am that this chat will be continuing. Please let the forces that be know how much we all appreciate your wise words and thoughtful responses.

Thanks so much for this. But I must emphasize that we can't count our chickens-- nothing official has been declared yet. (I could even be accused of digitally trespassing at the moment.) But if people keep speaking up, I think our chances get even better.

It appears the columns are no longer appearing on the Advice page. I was afraid the Post had canceled!

Clearly, many of us share that same fear!

PLEASE tell me your column is being picked up somewhere! I've probably saved ten thousand of dollars in fees to therapists by simply reading your column and following your advice! Any chance you could republish your greatest hits in book form?

ha! Those are some expensive therapists. Thank you!

No official answers yet. But please keep tuning in. Though not directly related to the Baggage Check brand, there will indeed be a book from me in May-- Detox Your Thoughts, from Chronicle Book's new imprint, Prism. Hopefully we will all still be here to celebrate!

Hi, not sure you’re aware, but with the other changes going on, links to your chat/columns are no longer showing up in the “Advice” section. (Neither clicking the “Advice” topic under “Lifestyle” in the main menu or clicking “Advice” from another column shows your column/chats) I can only find Baggage Check by searching from the search box or clicking the “Live Chat” menu item.

Ouch!

Really? That stings.

We are clearly down, but we are not out!

Dr. Andrea- Although I'm thrilled that this chat may continue, I'm dreading tomorrow morning's metro commute when for the first time since I moved here 10 years ago, I won't have your column to read. I can't tell you have many times I opened the paper and read Baggage Check, and it immediately thought the column applied to my own life or the life of someone close to me. Then the first thing I'd do at work would be to forward your column to someone who I thought would benefit from your advice. Your advice probably made in different in thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people's lives, and I hope and pray its able to continue somehow.

This is quite a note. It means so much to me! Thank you.

Yeah, I haven't been on the Metro since the cancellation, and I'm sort of dreading when I eventually do. The paper itself was a fixture and was a bright spot in the commute for years and years for many people. I am grateful it was there for so long.

I really hope the column can continue in some form, too. Funnily enough, it ran in several other papers nationwide through the Bloomberg wire, and I am guessing they have no clue it's gone yet. So someone in, say, Sarasota is right now wondering what the heck is going on!

Back on the subject of your book - any tips on detoxing your relationship thoughts? Sometimes I worry or guess what the meaning is behind my someone's actions when it's actually really benign, like the person was hangry or distracted about something completely unrelated to our relationship. How do I identify and let go of those automatic thoughts and predictions, and focus on the present?

I was just working on this this week with someone in therapy.

The first thing to recognize here is that your lens is skewed toward what we call an "internal" attribution. It means you're not being objective or accurate when you make decisions or guesses about what to attribute the cause of things to. And specifically, you direct it internally-- at yourself. So you're biased in blaming yourself needlessly for things where you don't deserve blame.

(Interestingly enough, you probably fail to do this when we're talking about super-good things. You probably have no problem giving other people credit for those. So it further shows who much this bias is built to hurt you.)

So, first step-- recognize your flawed lens.

Then come up with a name for it so that you can detach from it, removing it from something that you view as truth. That's the way to fight it over time-- not by exhausting yourself battling it in the moment, but disempowering it by viewing it as (I know we've used this phrase here before) the heckler in your mental audience.

It's the difference between "She's mad at me. Oh, no. I bet that's why she did XYZ. Shoot! How do I make this better, oh no, oh no, ay yi yi...."

versus

"I'm having the thought that she's mad at me. I view things through this lens sometimes, and blame myself for things that aren't accurate. My Worry Lens makes me exaggerate minor things. It's okay, though, the Worry Lens can be there, but I don't have to look through it."

It takes practice-- calming your body in the moment with other mindfulness techniques can help too-- but it absolutely can help over time.

Sometimes when I'm working on a big project for work, usually something I really care about and want to do a good job on, I find myself procrastinating terribly. Like, having a sudden urge to color code my files, make extra coffee, research something irrelevant, etc. How to I tackle this and make big tasks more manageable?

Sounds like you may fall into the mode of procrastination that stems from procrastination. (Oops! I meant perfectionism. But I think my little Freudian slip there gets at the vicious cycle of inertia within his problem!)

You're scared of not doing an excellent job, and so that fear turns into avoidance. (And if it's really bad, you end up putting things off for so long that you don't really do a good job at all. But your ego is somewhat protected because you can blame the fact that you just didn't spend much time on it. You lost by forfeit, not by knockout.)

If that is what's going on here, then I wouldn't waste time on the usual tack of observing yourself in these moments to better identify your triggers. (You'd probably turn that into a jolly good time of procrastination!) I think you could dive right into the Five Minute Rule-- an oldie but a goodie that I've seen help a lot of people get out of the habit over time by building moment. (Never mind the clickbaity title and subtitle there; they weren't done by me. Sorry.)

My father died just over a year ago after a relatively quick illness and decline. My mom has managed well, all things being considered, building a supportive network of other widows, participating actively in a grief group, finding new volunteer opportunities, etc. Through these activities, she's reconnected long-distance with a man from her past. They text throughout the day and speak for hours each evening, even she's when visiting one of us, and will schedule evening activities around their phone calls. While I truly am grateful for the companionship, I remain uneasy. I cannot tell if I'm suspicious he's a gold-digger (absolutely no indications), if I have legitimate concerns about what I perceive to be her prioritizing communications with him over interactions with us adult children, or if I'm just still dealing with my own grief. Now, I find out he's coming to visit and wants to meet us. I can be a grown-up and be polite. But for the life of me, I have no idea what to say besides "what are your intentions with my mother," which seems childish. Help!

First, please give yourself some compassion here. You are going through so much-- the grief of your father's passing, the concern and protection of your mother, the surreal discomfort of watching someone potentially take on a role in your mother's life that you've never had to deal with before (and the sting of wondering if maybe you falling down on her priority list because of it, but then perhaps feeling guilty or selfish for not being grateful that she has companionship.) Add all this to the awkwardness of a meeting, and it's pretty much a swirling heap of unease.

Your only job here is to be respectful and keep open to the idea that this is potentially something very good for your Mom. So, "grown-up and polite" is pretty much perfect here. As for what to say, think of it as any situation where you're meeting someone who you might be getting to know over a longer period of time, and just let the conversation take its own turn. In an ideal world, you might ask questions to him to get to learn more about him (without them taking on the flavor of an inquisition), but if you don't feel up to that, then small talk or a superficial discussion of whatever this Fall's acorns mean about future snowfall is just fine.

So, I think you're putting too much pressure on yourself here. All aspects of this will take time-- clarity about what type of person he is and whether he's right for your Mom, your adjustment to the idea, your own grief, a new balance in your relationship with your Mom-- it's all okay for it not to be settled yet.

Just being there, and managing a smile, is enough.

 

Your sister overreacted wildly and very probably defensively. Do not give her reaction any weight at all in your eventual decision. It's between you & uyour doctor. If she'd said, "You shouldn't need insulin because I don't," You'd've dismissed that, right?

Good point.

I'm ready to rage quit my job - I believe in the mission of my organization but I cannot take the leadership apathy and incompetence any more. This has been weighing on me for months. I'm actively looking for jobs but I'm seriously considering just quitting now and not waiting til I have something else lined up. We can financially swing it but I feel like a brat if I just up and leave - I mean, talk about privilege! How can I stick it out just a little longer?

I would want to know more about the "brat" concept here-- I mean, are you meant to be miserable? Are you supposed to just hang around indefinitely in a dysfunctional environment?

That said, "quit your job without having another lined up" is not exactly tops on the list of sound life advice. You say you can financially swing it-- I would urge you to be super, super conservative in that assessment.

But when it comes to staying in a job because you think you "should" on principle, even though you are sacrificing your day-to-day emotional well-being in the process-- well, I can't get on board with that.

Just don't make your rage-quitting act itself something that goes viral.

You say he's a good dad - but his depression must have an effect on the kids. How are the two of you handling that?

I am curious about this, though it seems that it may be a case of him giving absolutely everything he has to his kids, and it being only OP that sees the brunt of the deflation otherwise.

LW, this jumped out at me: "2 kids (one is mine from a previous relationship), ages 20 and 9" There are kids in your family who are seeing your husband walk through life like this every single day. Even though he puts his emotional energy into their care, they are not isolated from his misery, apathy, nihilism the rest of the time. Is this what you want them to think of as a good way to live life? Is this the role model for "adulting" - goal setting, coping, enjoying life, sharing relationships - you want for them? Even though you're dealing with it, and trying to be less spongey, you should consider the burden it's putting on the 2 kids.

You put this really, really well and got at something I couldn't, exactly. Thank you.

My therapist has diagnosed me with postpartum PTSD after a somewhat traumatic birth experience. It wasn't as bad as it could have been and everyone came out of it ok, which I know I should be grateful for (and I am), but I just can't get over it. I am a very practical person who has spent a lot of time working on myself and trying to get better at handling my emotions, but this whole thing is completely foreign to me. I can't logic myself out of this. My son is 8 months old and I have touched my C-section scar only once, which resulted in an immediate intense reaction including crying and hyperventilating. Now, whenever I think about trying again, I just think, "Of course I can touch my scar. I'm being so silly about this whole thing. So, yes, it's fine. I can touch it. So I don't have to because I don't have to prove anything to anyone." It's the strangest thing, I can identify the layers of self delusion that are going on and yet... My therapist is great, but he hasn't been much help in really tackling this problem. And honestly, I don't know that I would even bother trying to deal with this except for the fact that I want to have a second child and am running out of time, so I would have to get pregnant in the next year. And the idea of getting pregnant again makes me want to go in a corner and just sob. So clearly, this is affecting my life. Sorry this is so long winded, but my ultimate question is, do you have any recommendations for someone like me? Should I try to find a different therapist? Are there books I should read? A certain kind of treatment that would be more effective? Thanks!

Please don't try to just motor through this, or minimize its importance in your life. You're struggling. That's real, and you deserve better support in getting through it.

I don't want to knock your therapist necessarily, but I'm a little unclear what the implications of the PTSD diagnosis are. Is he actually doing specific trauma-related work because of it, or is it just incidental and you are getting more general supportive therapy? Because the visceral reaction that you describe sounds intense enough to justify very specialized trauma-related therapy, not even general CBT. Insight alone won't get you out of this.

I would talk to him about whether this is something that he could provide (or recommend others to do so.) I know that's an awkward conversation, but if things aren't getting better, it's a completely necessary one.

If you do end up looking elsewhere, I would go whole-hog looking for a true trauma specialist. And talking to them carefully about what their techniques could be, and how they could address not only your own discomfort with that scar, but also any other symptoms you are having (flashbacks? shame? nightmares? emotional numbness? jumpiness?)

As far as the book idea, I continue to hear good things about the impact of The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk. It has been a while since I have read excerpts from it, but at the very least, it will help you understand the ways in which it's totally human that you can't "logic" your way out of this-- but that there is real help out there.

Please continue to keep us posted.

After years of treatment for depression my spouse's behavior started to become odd and unpleasant enough that I pressed for some diagnostic work and spouse is now on meds for Bipolar II. I have always felt, even though the treatment for depression worked sometimes, that I was married to two separate people - this is how extreme the behavioral changes are. But the fact is that after 5+ years of untreated bipolar behavior I have had it. I have no interest at all in intimacy and I am very afraid that if I do re-enter our relationship fully that I will find myself in a few years with all my boundaries trampled again, screaming at him to get to the psychiatrist. I have my own counselor and am also getting some help for co-dependency. Has anyone else on this chat dealt with this situation? A part of his illness of course is that he has no insight when ill, denies that there is a problem with his behavior. Once he is feeling better he blames everything on his illness and does only the bare minimum to stay well. I am waiting to see if these new meds bring any awareness or insight at all to him.

No doubt, this is very tough, and I am guessing you will get some support from other chatters here.

It reminds me very much of spouses who are trying to find a new path after a partner's addiction struggles-- it's hard to know what's real and what's not, how to find trust again, how to navigate the knowledge that the person you know and love can also be overtaken and do things they would never do otherwise. So, please know that your fears and hesitance are very understandable in the situation.

That doesn't mean they're insurmountable.

I know this will feel like an unsatisfying answer, but the truth is, this will take time. You have the added complication that you spent half a decade on this roller coaster-- probably absorbing all kinds of defenses and ways to cope during it-- before he got on a better path. So if you have walls up, they took a long time in building, and they were there for self-protection. Naturally, breaking down those walls isn't going to happen overnight.

It is great that you have your own counselor, and it sounds like it might involve specific work on some of the attachment patterns that you had that might have made things worse. That said, I really think that couples therapy could be pretty important here to help pave your way forward. It's one thing for you to process all this on your own. But I think ultimately he will need to hear and try to understand what it was like for you to be on the receiving end of the manic episodes all those years-- and deep-seated the fear is that it has built. It also seems very important to me that he has his own therapist too- I'm unclear if he's got that.

Would he be willing to go?

I can relate to this, though it did not involve my own parents. People who were parent-ish. I've seen this friend experience a strange reversion to junior high school behavior. I don't know if it's a way of processing grief, or relief at having been able to find happiness, but some of the behavior is incredibly over the top and irritating. But. I have figured out how to bite my tongue and to be as enthusiastic as I can muster. I remind myself that is partly due to her loss, and I'm not going to make things any better by losing my patience with her. I just tell myself I'm dealing with a tween in this very particular context.

Yes. You know, in the grand scheme of things, it sort of makes sense. The "betrayal" that it must feel like to see a parent potentially fall in love with someone else-- even if it is great for them, even if they of course deserve love after loss, even if it is ultimately better for the family as a whole-- can sting like anything. And so reverting back to some very (ahem!) rudimentary defenses would make sense, just from the fundamental burn of it-- and all that it seems to threaten about the old childhood security of having both parents as a team to count on.... seemingly forever.

My husband and I have been invited to an engagement party next month for the son of a dear friend of mine. I don't want to take him. My issue with taking him out is that he embarrasses me when we go out. He says things that he thinks are funny which are actually crude. And the party would be overwhelming to him, (small room with many people he doesn't know). I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I really want to go solo, to congratulate my friend, her husband, their son and meet the lovely young bride-to-be. What can I say to him that is truthful but not hurtful?

I think this depends on your dynamic, and whether you want to make this a larger issue. Honestly, it's hard for me to imagine how this wouldn't continue to crop up as a problem. So do you want this to be a one-off convo about this engagement party itself, or do you want to use it as an opportunity for him to get a better understanding of the ways that some of his behavior affect you?

You can guess which one I vote for.

I know you are afraid of hurting his feelings, and that's a good thing-- you care about your spouse's well-being! But in the long run, wouldn't he be better served by at least getting the opportunity to know the reason why you don't want him at something like this?

I'm thinking of something like "Joe, this is a little tricky to talk about, but I think it would be helpful if we had a conversation about it. When I think of going to Mike's engagement party, I find myself dreading the idea of you saying crude things, or getting overwhelmed by people you don't know. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but at times like this it makes me wonder if you realize how your behavior comes across. I would like to go to these things with you, but I also have to be honest that sometimes it feels easier if you're not along for the ride."

Then you pause, give your most empathetic look, perhaps secretly cross some fingers, and then listen to what he has to say.

Privilege? Really? That has nothing to do with anything here. You are under no obligation whatsoever to stay in a job. If you want to leave, then leave. But don't make it about "privilege" because it's not. You are not being noble by staying.

No nobility in staying in a dysfunctional workplace-- so true!

(Says the woman who may technically not even HAVE one of her workplaces anymore.)

Have wanted to do that, and one prong of my best unsolicited advice is to make it work for you.  It is easier to find a job when you have one, and if you can take advantage of personal days, offsite meetings, any staff development. Finally if you do leave, don't get caught up in "am I privileged" negativity. You are as worthwhile as anyone in the workforce.

Well said. Thanks.

In any ideal world she can get some emotional space from her job while stretching it out a little bit longer and landing somewhere else before actually having to quit.

My husband and I (I'm a woman) have been married for about five years. Before our marriage, our sex life was starting to wane a little bit but for basically the whole marriage it's been borderline nonexistent. My husband's had his testosterone checked and it's normal. Recently he told me that the period when we were dating was the most sexually active he's ever been, and that the last several years are more normal for him. He knows I am not ok with this and that I feel unattractive and worry that there's someone else, etc., and he's willing to try to work on it, but he's said that for ages and nothing really changes - and I don't want him to have sex he doesn't want. Is there any hope this will change if we seek counseling or anything, or do I need to decide whether I want to stay in a mostly sexless marriage that is great in every other way or move on?

This is tough, because sex-- or lack thereof-- is not an insignificant part of a marriage. And yet, it's so common for there to be discrepancies in needs and desires among a couple. Whether those discrepancies become true incompatibilities depends on several factors-- but one of them is no doubt, how big the gap is, and how distasteful/uncomfortable it is for either partner to edge their way toward meeting the other one in the middle.

So. What are you willing to sacrifice? Is there a middle ground between what he did when you were dating and what you do now?

Are there other ways of getting physical contact (whether just affectionate touch with him, or sexual satisfaction with you going solo), that could help assuage some of the dissatisfaction?

Also, I am curious how things really felt for him in that period of time when he was having more sex than ever. You say that doing much less is "normal" for him, but to what extent was he unhappy during that other period? Might part of this be the rut of inertia, where he doesn't feel like he wants to, but when he's in a groove of it happening more often, it actually feels satisfying to him?

There is definitely hope of this working out-- IF you both can be honest and vulnerable and willing to look at potential paths together. I do think that counseling could help on that score....even if it ultimately just gets you to the point of more clearly asking that final question.

This may not be the same, but I "color code my files" when faced with a project so I have a tactile task that takes minimal active brain cells. This gives me the means by which I can calm my mind and process my strategic plan. If I "jump" right in, I'm overwhelmed by the whirling dervish of tasks, goals, resources, or possible landmines. Once my files are coded and set aside, I can start blueprinting my plan on paper and my course of action seems to flow more organically.

Seems to me that someone is justifying their procrastination!

Kidding, kidding. I am glad that color-coding actually helps you clear your mind. Just goes to show that one person's necessary preparation and productivity-booster is another person's avoidance-induced time-filler!

The most recent one confused me: Did s/he mean that the newly widowed person was reverting to tweenhood? Or that the grieving child was reverting to tweenhood? In any case, my dad seemed to revert to tweenhood after my mom died. He was weaving all over the trying-to-find-a-girlfriend highway. Well, he found one, and he's happy as a clam. OTOH, she's not moving into a step-mom role for me, so I don't have to deal with that...

I did take it as the grieving child doing the reverting, though you are right, it was slightly unclear.

I imagine that must have been a little weird for you to see in your Dad, to say the least-- even if it's a reaction I've heard about many a time. I am glad that he is happy, and that it hasn't affected you too negatively.

The love here is so heartening... and I can't thank you enough. We are going to post some of the support that is coming in without comment, so I can make sure I am not abandoning the regular questions. Just know that it is very, very appreciated!

Baggage Check is an interesting and informative column and I look forward to the chat every week. Where/who do we send our notes of support to keep it going? Once I stumbled upon Baggage Check, prior to your being on Advice, I used to search for Express just so I could read your column.

We like her. We look forward to her chats all week. We want to keep seeing those chats. That is all!!!

I love your column and chat. It is timely, relevant, and really helpful. It's different than anything else out there. Plus, you're a psychologist, and I feel like the advice given is really professional yet done in a relatable way. If anyone is listening at Washington Post, can you please save Dr. Andrea's column and chat?

I think you add a really important voice to the advice columnist bench at WaPo. I hope they find a way to continue to make this work. I love Hax, but if someone had a serious problem I would send them to you for guidance.

I only recently came across your chat and started reading your columns. Please count me as another supporter - Your chat is an important forum for people with all kinds of questions and problems and your answers and the other chatters's opinions have opened up new ways of seeing situations for me. I hope there is a way to keep up the chats!

Message from Minnesota- there are 2 reasons I subscribe to WaPo online- Dr. Andrea Bonior and Carolyn Hax. Dr Bonior, you have been a LIFELINE for me over the past 2 years. I’ve been in therapy, tweaking meds, using all my energy to maintain a job and relationship while I felt like my brain was falling to pieces. This chat... well, I just can’t articulate how much comfort and growth you have facilitated WaPo is crazy if they don’t see what a brilliant asset they have in you!!!

I'm on the LW's side, but depending on how you phrased it, she could have inferred that you prioritized your sex life and weight higher than your mental health. Her 'being offended' could actually be 'being worried', right? It's not really fair to pull someone aside and confide in them (you initiated the conversation) if they aren't allowed to give an honest reaction.

I like the nuance and empathy here! Thanks.

First, add me to the myriad of chatters who would be so sad to see you go anywhere -- I'm a longtime reader. Second, apologies if you receive this twice; I can't remember if I submitted it earlier this week. For more than three years, I'd been telling my husband that I was ready to start a family -- that I was in my 30s, the clock was ticking, that I really wanted this, etc. He always brushed my concerns off, saying he needed more time to get used to the idea. He didn't come around until we entered intensive couples counseling last year to work through his concerns. Now, after eight months of trying and extensive fertility tests, it turns out I very likely won't be able to have children; I've apparently gone into early menopause. I'm devastated. I want my husband and I to be able to turn to each other during this sad time, but I'm so, so angry with him. I'm angry that he didn't take my "ticking-clock" warnings seriously, back when I still had a good shot at getting pregnant. I'm resentful that he's not nearly as upset about this as I am -- after all, he was fine with being childless to begin with. On my good days, I remind myself that he had no way of knowing my specific medical condition, and he -did- willingly try for eight months. But the rest of the time, I feel like I'm going to be angry with him for the rest of my life. How do I move past this?

Thank you so much for the kind words!

As for the issue at hand: I do think you need to take these feelings seriously. There is a chance they will fade on their own, but in all honesty I have seen situations like this where the resentment builds rather than fades. Because if you do end up not having children when you wanted them, that is something that you will continue to reckon with for a while.

What does he know of your feelings?

Might him really getting it-- like understanding the depths of your disappointment, even if he doesn't quite share it-- be helpful? What about him expressing regret for the fact that he dragged his feet, even if he didn't know at the time what implications it would have?

Right now it is starting to build a wall between you. It is not only making you angry but it is robbing you both of the opportunity for you to connect and get through this as a team. I know it's rather annoying to have couples therapy suggested, and maybe I do it with too much frequency-- but to me, that would be the first step in seeing if your anger (which is totally understandable and human) can be moved through with him, together, rather than letting it drive a further wedge between you two.

"My issue with taking him out is that he embarrasses me when we go out. He says things that he thinks are funny which are actually crude."

How do other people usually react to his behavior?

Great question!

"Once he is feeling better he blames everything on his illness and does only the bare minimum to stay well."

This is the deal-breaker, to me. If this happens again, after the new meds take effect, I'd call a lawyer and start packing.

Yes, that does seem very key. If even when he's well, he can't fully reckon with the scope of his condition, it's hard to imagine how they will ever truly be understanding each other and rebuilding trust and intimacy.

Thanks.

I meant the lovesick mother!

Ohh..... got it. Other poster was right! Thanks for the clarification.

Okay, well regression makes a lot of sense there too. We don't have to look farther than your average dating site to see that when some folks get back into the game after a decades-long absence, all the pimple-heavy antics of early dating can creep back in as well.

Not only is your print column gone, and there's no new online column - Dr Lori Gottlieb's "Dear Therapist" column was not updated online yesterday. What on earth is going on out there in advice realm? Seriously, some of us count on your columns! It's not simply the glimpse into the troubles of others; I found regular reading of your column and hers helps a person to think in more solution-oriented manner - learning to take that breath between action-and-reaction. Please say you'll be back online!

Thank you! I certainly hope so. The universe does feel topsy-turvy, though I can happily report that Lori is fine (as of this weekend, at least!). Not sure what’s going on with Dear Therapist this particular week but she and I have been in touch, processing this news, and she is her warm and steady self!

Another voice lending support to the Bring Back Baggage Check Express movement. What's up, WaPo? Are you looking to lose subscribers? Because you will.

Another lurker with a vote to please keep this valuable column and chat!

Another vote to keep the column and chat. Weighing in before the end of the chat today ....

...just discovered you last year, but Tuesdays are my favorite day of the week. You have no idea how helpful you've been. WaPo, if you're listening, keep Dr. Bonior. Next to the word "asset" in the dictionary is her picture.

The main reason I even maintain an electronic subscription is for the chats (predominantly, this one).

A long-time subscriber from Chicago adds her plea to the WaPo powers that be! Dr. Andrea's compassionate and professional voice have added so much to my enjoyment of your paper, and I know many, many folks feel the same. During the last few years, her column and live chats have helped me deal with the unexpected death of my beloved brother in law, my father's passing, job loss, along with the smaller but no less significant day-to-day mental health challenges that come along with being an American these days. Please add her to your Lifestyle team, or keep her going in some other spot... her voice is unique and NEEDED. Thank you so much!

When you have the excellent Hax? Their expertise, tone and approach are all different. There's room for both, and we need both. I read several political commentators each week, why wouldn't I want to read two excellent online chats about personal life?

Come on WaPo, get it together. Dr. Bonior is (one of, but I say the) freshest, most real, least cynical of your advice columnists. You should be expanding her footprint not reducing it, and certainly not in the crappy way it has been handled. harumpf!

If we applaud enough will your chat continue?

I never read the Express - I would always read your column at the start of the chat. I so hope they keep it in either a print or online format!

Love reading the column and live chat each week!

My friends have started dating each other and I need help navigating. Historically I’ve discussed romantic relationships and given dating advice to each but in this case feel it’s best to stay neutral as I have insights (and biases) about both of them. How do I do this?

I think it's a lot easier to stay "neutral" if by neutral you just mean "going to not share my opinions," rather than believing that you shouldn't actually have any.

The way I see it, you owe it to them to give them the freedom to see where this thing goes, without interference from others who bring their own lenses to the situation that might be too close for comfort.

So, I would practice just enjoying their company without the dating-advice part. If it comes up (or they solicit your opinion), you can say that you're so close to the situation having been both of their friends before, and you are still getting used to it, and you just want to take a step back and enjoy their company without weighing in on their relationship even as you were used to doing that in the past.

But don't feel like you're not allowed to have opinions on your own. You can, but it's up to them to be able to find this love (or make this mistake!) on their own volition.

Now I'm concerned (reading the other woman's letter about antidepressants impinging on sex life). Does Lexapro have that same effect? I'm starting a new relationship and don't want to mess it up....

I can't emphasize enough that a single medication can have vastly different effects on different people. So, please don't assume anything just from this. It is true that SSRIs (of which Lexapro is one) are occasionally associated with lower sex drive or impeded performance. But that is far from an across-the-board situation, and if it comes up for you, it can be talked about with your prescriber and likely counteracted. Please don't make any assumptions that could end up sabotaging your emotional health!

It also depends a lot on what you mean by "crude". That is so vague that it's essentially meaningless. Is his making potty humor? Offensive comments about women? Sex jokes? Sex jokes about you? Fart jokes? Also depends on the audience and how he is received. Are you the only one who is uncomfortable? Is he offending other people? Is he making jokes in inappropriate contexts? There are so many variables.

All excellent points!

I prefer my crudeness to be of the potty variety. Unfortunately, my Detox Your Thoughts editor does not. (First to go in the initial round of revisions-- my favorite joke in the whole book, which just happened to involve extreme anal itching.)

Why did OP marry him in the first place? Or is this a change in his behavior, worthy of medical evaluation?

Whether it's a change in behavior is an excellent question!

So sorry, LW. My husband has also struggled with depression. I don't know if this is an issue for your husband, but part of that depression is the feeling that he's not worth therapy. And I feel guilty for pointing out the ways that he's making our life more difficult and unhappy by not taking care of his depression, so I hold back saying anything. We finally started to go to marriage counseling and it helps to work this out with someone else in the room. Never been to any kind of therapy before, and I really didn't want to go, but finally we can start honestly dealing with the way this has affected all of our lives. I hope you can find a therapist for yourself and for the marriage too. You all deserve to be happier.

Thank you. You sound like such a kind person-- and you've probably provided a significant ray of hope to OP!

The "feeling that he's not worth therapy" is such a good potential point. I've seen that quite a bit, unfortunately.

I was going to say DC, but I know the audience is much bigger than that. Please, Washington Post? If you need convincing, just read these live chats! This is some intense stuff and she really helps. Dare I say the mental health of DC is a bit better because of her?

And I vote to save Dr. Bonior's column and chat.

Your columns and chats are a major reason I subscribe to the Post. My guess is that digital subscribers will be the future of the paper, and it is just bad business for them to remove popular content that attracted us to pay for this site. Bring back Baggage Check!

Can you start a Subreddit called baggageCheck? can you start your continue your forum on something like Facebook? or a forum centric site? there must be some out there...

Have never posted a question to a chat, but have to put in my 2 cents to the powers that be to continue (resume) posting Dr. Bonior's weekly column and the chat. Definitely the best in the Advice department!

My sole reason for a subscription to the post is the on-line community around the advice columns including Baggage Check. Yes since I have the subscription I also read interesting looking articles but I have other sources for hard news so if the columns like Baggage Check go away I'll cancel.

So glad I discovered your chat and column. WaPo, if you're listenting: Don't let her go! She's SUCH an asset. She has changed lives, dammit!

In a flash, Andrea has created a vibrant online community with her thoughtful and compassionate advice. It would be folly to cancel the chat as it has such a huge following - would love the columns back too.

contrary to the earlier commenter, I can still see a link to baggage check on the advice page!

I really hope the column can continue! Out of all the online chat advice-givers, I think Dr. Andrea is the best -- super-helpful answers and a fast typer!! (Tom Sietsema the food critic comes in 2nd :))

If you have a contact where we can send our support for continuation of the column (and chat) in the Post, please let us know.

I'm not from the DC area (hello from the other federal capital up north) so I didn't know the Baggage Check was distributed through the Express (didn't even know it existed). I was reading the column every Tuesday and I'm trying to read and participate in the chat when I can. Dr Bonior took some of my questions in the last years and was so, so, so much helpful. She needs to continue having a space to put her voice out there for all of us who can't or don't want to go to therapy. Please if you move out of the WaPo environment to go somewhere, let us know where to find you, we will follow you for sure.

Florida reader, I subscribe exclusively for the chats. Baggage check, Color of money, and Carolyn Hax. The first two have practical, life changing impact every single week.

I finally decided to purchase the online Washington Post subscription so I could read your column and chat!! I hope it continues.

THIS. I have objected for many years now the Post's using up at least half of the front page of Style to a huge color photo. More words, fewer pictures, please!

I agree with Dr. Andrea. I'm sorry if my question caused any mischief. There's a wide variance in people and in medication. Stick with your doctor and adjust until it works.

No mischief here!

I'm really glad you wrote in.

"...the smaller but no less significant day-to-day mental health challenges that come along with being an Earthling these days...

Ah, yes, good catch! Thank you.

I hope not but we will find the best municipal authorities golden shovels available, otherwise campaign vigorously.

And how lucky that makes me!

(Never before has the concept of a golden shovel meant so much to me.)

I didn't tell her about my concerns for my sex life or my weight. I just told her I was carefully considering my options. I'm sure she is worried. She said in a text later (with a really defensive tone) that there was no shame in taking medication, as if I had ever said there was. In fact, I was on meds for over ten years myself, and I would not have been able to function without them. They stopped working, I tried something else, I felt better. I didn't actually pull her aside, I just said it when she asked what was new.

Go it. Yup, she took it personally, looking at it through her own lens. It might be helpful to think of it as something that is indicative of her own pain and insecurity, rather than having anything to do with your own decisions.

But I do think you are handling it well.

Like the letter writer's husband, I resisted treatment for a long time. I was in therapy, but resisted medication for myriad reasons. It might counteract some of my other medications, I tried something years ago and it didn't work, didn't want to, etc., etc., etc. Then I listened to a podcast episode (Reply All, I think the ep was called What it Looks Like) that was about depression and I felt so seen and really recognized my particular brand of depression. What they were describing, the inability to see yourself as being happy, the notion that you were just made this way and were naturally lower than other people, was so spot on for me that I decided I needed to do something about it. I have now been on anti-depressants for two months and am feeling better than I have in probably nearly 20 years. My boss tells me how much better things are as does my sister. Someone on the phone just today told me how happy I sound. I wish OP's husband knew that there is a better out there. It seems so trite and cliche when you are in the thick of it, but it is out here, and we are waiting for him to see it too. I wish you all the best -- hoping he sees a light, even if it takes a while.

Oh, this makes me just so glad to read.

Thank you so much for this message of hope!

I have heard various episodes of Reply All, but interestingly enough, not the one you mention! I will absolutely be checking it out.

If you believe in your organization's mission, stay.  Make it your mission to correct the things you can. Accept that some things may not be done well, even poorly and wait out the bad times.  This is your opportunity to grow into a calm, thoughtful, cool person. The one whose perseverance made the difference. I learnt from one such person and am grateful for the lesson.

I see where you are coming from and think it is admirable! But I also think there is a point at which it is not our duty to fix a dysfunctional workplace (or beat ourselves up trying to become people who are able to rise above it.) OP does have the right to leave, and it may indeed even be better for their mental health. They may even feel like they can do more for the cause and more ultimate good by moving somewhere else within the field.

That said, it is really good that you were able to take a different tack and that it worked out so beautifully.

Thanks for writing.

I'm an online subscriber in Colorado and read Baggage Check regularly. I will reconsider my subscription if this forum is canceled!

Digital subscriber in New York who loves the chats and advice columns. I love Hax, and I love you and this column; I really like having your clinical insight to boost what Hax says. I think we all need a few more kind communities, and I think everyone who chats here and writes to you for advice generally wants to be a good version of themselves.

I had to switch to a car commute a number of years ago and was delighted that I could still read you online. I'm hoping that online saves the day!

I live far away but am a subscriber who knows that Dr. Bonior's Baggage Check is a valuable part of the advice team. Actually, I'd vote to dump Ask Amy in favor of it. Am writing because producer Rachel said she'd post messages of support. Fingers crossed!

Just wanted to chime in with another show of support for the Baggage Check column and chats. Hope you're paying attention, WaPo!

Procrastinator in Chief here - see, your 5 minute rule just saved my day. That and a hundred other nuggets of genius, helpful, practical advice over the years. You also know about Lexapro, and parental dating after widowhood, and infertility, and depressed spouses, and rage quitting, and on and on. The Washington Post has to keep you!!!!!!!!!!!! We need you!

Oh, man.

I really don't want to end this chat today. It makes me feel a little uneasy, to say the least. Perhaps we just keep going until I run out of food. (Expired cans of black beans for the win!)

Thanks so much for being here. Never have I meant those words more seriously. Things are uncertain for the time being, and I just need to lean into that-- something I can take my own advice for.

What I do know is that I am going to plan on absolutely being here next week, with Susan Cain, for goodness's sakes! So whether we are still rogue or not, please tune in.

To know that this little space on the Interwebs means so much to people.... well, let's just say it matters so, so much to me.

And I hope it matters to those who can save this space.

For now, be well, take good care, and thank you. Whatever updates I have, you will see them on Facebook as soon as I know them.

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.”
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