Carolyn Hax Live: 'Subs can save a game, even coming in late off the bench.'

Mar 27, 2020

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax took your comments about her current advice column and questions about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

Waiting for the chat? Read from the archive:

Carolyn's recent columns

Carolyn's past chats

Glossary of frequently-used chat terms



Follow Carolyn Hax on Twitter (@CarolynHax) and Facebook.

Want answers now? Search past Carolyn Hax live chats and find answers to your questions even if she is offline by clicking here.

Hi everybody. I'll start with how I am today, which is exactly how Alexandra Petri was on Tuesday, via Twitter:

"ah yes another day that i am tremendously fortunate to get to spend at home in pajamas, incoherent with rage"

So, okay, let's go!

This is long, so sincere apologies in advance. Not sure if my story will add to the various perspectives out there, but I wanted to share and it feels good to type it all out. Last August, my husband and I moved to a small city where we could actually afford to buy a beautiful house near shops and restaurants. My job was nice enough to let me become a permanent teleworker.

Let me tell you, I HATED it at first. I really missed the structure of a work day, the interaction, even the 1 hour Metro commute where I could read and listen to podcasts. It was REALLY HARD, even though I was following the guidelines for "productive" teleworking. I was depressed, less interactive - generally an unhappy person.

I resolved in the New Year (cliche, I know), to start getting out in my new city more, and controlling the things that could make me happy. I joined a gym, got personal training, went to alumni events where I met someone who I hoped would become a friend and walking buddy, joined a gaming group. Having these outlets really helped.

And then, at the end of January, I broke my leg in an accident. All these plans I had were completely shot. I couldn't leave my house. My husband was very overwhelmed with caretaking and he had a bit of a meltdown too. It was truly horrible. I was depressed.

But I learned, I CANNOT keep those feelings inside. I had to allow myself room to be depressed, to be sad, to feel all these feelings. I am not really an extrovert, but I found being FORCED to social distance through this injury was very injurious to my mentality. My out-of-town friends really stepped up. But what really got me through it was allowing myself to be sad, to let my husband know how I was feeling, to not keep it inside. And, just when I started to gain mobility back (can walk with an aircast and one crutch now!), COVID-19 hits.

So, yes, it is frustrating that I was finally getting back on my feet. The weather was getting nicer. And yet something else is keeping me inside. But because I allowed myself the time and space to feel my feelings of sadness and isolation back when I first had my injury, I am finding that I am handling the COVID-19 distancing better (and I can at least take (slow) walks around the block).

So I don't know what I am really trying to say, but your feelings of frustration, fear, loneliness, are all VALID. Don't tell yourself differently. Allow yourself the time and space to feel those feelings. If it feels *too* overwhelming, reach out to anyone and everyone. Even just a text. That little bit of communication with the outside world can help so much too.

Thank you for letting me type this all out, even if you do not publish it.

I'll forgive you the length, given how many useful things you offer here.

I think re not knowing what you're trying to say, you've put yourself in a bit of an "Inside Out" position here, having the whole emotional picture in front of you but not quite putting the two pieces together:

Yes, you're right, the feelings are valid and we do need to allow ourselves the time and space to feel them. 

But we also need to do the other things you did so right in your own story: "I resolved ... to start getting out in my new city more, and controlling the things that could make me happy."

It's a remarkably effective pairing, endlessly adaptable to our individual needs.

I'm grateful you got the optimism flowing.

I normally have a great relationship with my son's in-laws. She's a retired nurse, and he's a fairly eminent scientist in the environment field (also retired). I had cancelled a visit to Washington to meet my new granddaughter and celebrate the second birthday of my other granddaughter (2 sons in DC area). When my sons mother-in-law announced that she couldn't wait for the big party/visit I suggested to her that she should consider not coming to DC (this was about a week ago). My sons's father-in-law told me in a text message to a family group to "not be so sanctimonious" (and then they did in the end cancel the trip, I suspect my daughter-in-law (their daughter obviously) told them to stay home. Down the road the next time I am in the room with them (which will happen eventually) how should I handle this? I'm not looking for and apology, but I'm also fairly annoyed. My general take is my son's father-in-law is pretty much sanctimonious beyond all peradventure. Mostly I get along fine with them as we agree on all things political/environmental, but not necessarily on all things child-rearing.

Is he, or is his remark, worth any more than an internal eye-roll at his apparent lack of self-awareness, followed by a resumption of your getting along fine on generally typical in-law terms?

Does the fact of your having overstepped by offering, unsolicited, what any fellow adult "should" do (with the best of intentions, no doubt) change the math on that?

Now add the fact that most people are under some degree of stress right now, and people under stress often show it by not being at the top of their diplomacy games. (See above.) Does *that* change the math?

Last thing. I may be overstepping myself with this hunch, but I see two confident, highly intelligent people (you, eminent scientist) who have detection systems that react to even a few molecules of condescension in the air. To get along with this guy, you might need to override your system manually, if not completely shut it off.

I work from home part time and also I'm a writer working on my third novel. My daily routine is not really affected by this quarantine situation much at all. My husband works at an historical site, which is closed, and he's home, climbing the walls. He wants me to spend more time with him but my job still has to get done and my next novel is the third in a series and due out this fall. To keep my readers engaged, I can't afford to miss that deadline. In other words, I don't have time to play around. My husband is acting like my refusal to goof off with him means I don't love or care about him. I feel for him, I know he's an extrovert and this is hard on him. He's also right that the pressure for my novel is mainly internal (my small indie publisher will not drop me over a missed deadline) but it's very important to me. What can I do as a compromise?

First thing to try, always, when wrestling a shapeless blob of time and competing demands on it into something remotely productive: artificial scheduling. You start work at x a.m. and quit at z p.m. with a play break at x for an hour. If he leaves you alone until z p.m., then you will be available after that for any off-goofing needs.

This might seem ill-suited or even counterproductive for creative work, and styles certainly vary, but doing this can eliminate the stress of constantly trying to enforce your boundaries around your work, which in turn can free you to be more creative within the hard limits you've set for yourself.

Another compromise, if you can do this and still be productive, is to shift your hours so you're getting work done while he sleeps.

If these aren't enough, then you might have to find the most compassionate and respectful way to ask him to grow the erf up.

My son got into his first-choice college! I am so excited and happy for him, and so fearful that the global health crisis will not be worked out in time for him to dive into his new school environment. Like many kids, he is largely looking forward to being away from home for the first time in his life, so discussion of long-distance study is not likely to cheer him much if at all. Any suggestion for keeping his deserved happiness alive during these weird times?

Don't, maybe?

By that I mean, don't *try.* Weird times call for a constantly evolving balance between acknowledging the weirdness and maintaining a sense of normalcy. If you work too hard toward the latter, then your son will see through you--and if that happens, then he'll feel the added weight of having either to say, "That actually isn't true/isn't helping," or to not say these things in an effort to protect  your feelings. 

Instead I suggest you follow his lead emotionally, do more listening than talking, and act on your more interventionist impulses only if you see him getting stuck. 

It is great news he just got, and it will be a disappointment if his launch is postponed. These two realities can coexist in a healthy way--it's just hard to watch when you've been programmed to respond to downward pressure with "cheer up" countermeasures.

Hi Carolyn: There has been some talk about expectations in the last couple of chats. Happiness equals reality minus expectations. That seems like a great way to live but it's gotten me thinking: where is the line between plans and expectations? Having a concrete plan makes it seem reasonable to expect that it will happen. And because there was a concrete plan, I may be even more disappointed when it doesn't. I know the reality is that not every plan will come to fruition, so should I go into every plan without an expectation of it actually happening? Or is it that concrete plans are just different because expectations usually go unspoken? (The lockdown is giving me so much time to overthink!)

Ha. 

I'm thinking of it in party terms (which may be kind of cruel at the moment, but thinking up a new example will take too long): You want to have people over because you haven't seen them in a while and you enjoy hosting. So, you plan. You pick a date, choose the people, plan a menu, prepare everything you want to serve. This is a concrete plan and, honest RSVP'ers and global pandemics willing, it's reasonable to expect your party will happen.

Where you get into expectations that aren't useful is with visions of how it will turn out--how people will behave at your party, how the food and drink you offer will be received, what room they all gather in (your kitchen, btw, not your perfectly appointed living room), how much fun you will have. These blanks are best left unfilled-in by your imagination, because the reality of what occurs will depend on more factors than you can reasonably control. And, what actually happens might be so much more interesting and memorable than what you had in mind--which you risk missing completely if you're busy being disappointed that things didn't go exactly as you'd hoped.

Does that help?

I was surprised that you didn't challenge the LW's assumption that the mother is mentally ill, and that the example given could have been an instance of something other than insanity. Many commenters pointed out the huge expense of replacing rotting window frames, or that LW seems not to be doing anything to help the mother with her (purported) problems.

It's not the windows, it's the reaction to the windows. The house is in (apparently) extreme disrepair and yet the mom is upset the grandkids won't be allowed stay there. That's the gap.

If this were just about home maintenance, then there would be a conversation about home maintenance. There wouldn't be disagreement over whether it's a safe place for kids.

 

I've noticed that my boyfriend can't take a compliment. He responds by changing the subject, deflecting it some other way, or simply remaining silent. I tell him he's handsome and he'll reply "So are you" (we're a gay couple) or "What's for dinner?" or with silence. For the record, I've noticed he does the same thing with others, whether friends of his or strangers. He just can't say "thank you" or internalize it in any way. In my opinion, he is stunning, physically and otherwise (he's very smart, which is sexy). So I tell him so. Often. It's what I want to say. But if I know if makes him uncomfortable, should I not put him through it? Should I dial it back? I want to sing his talents to the heavens but if it just makes him uncomfortable, should I edit myself and not let him know what I think of him?

Have you ever asked why he does this, and whether he appreciates these compliments or wishes you'd stop? "I've noticed" ... "I've noticed" ... "should I" ... "should I" ... "if it just makes him uncomfortable." These tell me there's been no, "Hey, I've noticed this about you, and I wonder if there's any reason for it." If I'm reading that right, then that's where I suggest you start.

By the way ... this is a thought that would have fit better as an opening, but it occurred to me now so here it is.

To some degree this has always been true, but the current crisis makes it so much more pronounced: What is actively tormenting one person right now might well be the one thing someone else absolutely craves, on a cellular level. So the person who is overwhelmed by awkward new work-at-home conditions is being tormented by a job, which would be a gift to someone terrified right now after an abrupt job loss. The person who is growing bored and itchy with Netflix and baking is going to come across as so! spoiled! to the person who has seen this crisis double their home responsibilities (kids, work, chores) and halve their team to do it as a partner goes off to work as usual (or not as usual, but all hours in a medical field). Or, the person who lives alone feels unseen and stressed by solitude, while the person in a big family feels fishbowl-watched and stressed by inability to find solitude.

I'm throwing this out there because it would help all of us, I think, to keep this in mind as we contemplate people's specific stresses. It's not less of a torment because someone else sees it as a blessing. It's not thoughtless or insensitive to complain just because it's about too much of something that someone else is desperate for. 

Just wondering if this will be a stress-reliever in itself, to set these terms out upfront. (Or upmiddle.)

 

I'm wearing jeans. Am I too sexy for this chat? *grins*

Yes. I haven't worn a waistband since March ... blobth. Single digits I'm thinking.

Background, I'm a nurse, who fell and broke a bone in the beginning of February just as Corona virus was starting to peek its nasty head into America. These past few weeks I have been off due to a broken bone, just before I was to go and get my cast off, I started symptoms of Coronavirus. And after 4(!) phone/video doctor visits, I finally got tested. Due to symptoms, I am presumed positive, The Drs who I talked to say they would bet the farm that I am infected. I was feeling guilty for being not being at work due to the broken bone. And now I'm out for a few more weeks. I feel like a soldier sidelined during the big battle who didn't even get sidelined due to the fighting. I am feeling so very guilty for being out of work and for catching this awful disease. While I've been off I've been a bit of a homebody, only leaving home to go to Dr's appointments, PT, grocery shop etc. I'm a bit of a neurotic handwasher, so I have no idea how I got this(which made for the difficulty in getting the test). How do I handle my survivors guilt? I love being a nurse, and its the one of the few things I feel I really do well. I'm too out of breath to do much around the house.(and I'm not the best housekeeper anyway) Husband is telling to just be still and rest, that there will be plenty to do when I'm well. But how do I do that without the guilt? I'm feeling useless, helpless etc. Any words of wisdom?

To me, guilt is something you feel for having done something wrong. 

What have you done wrong? 

If you're out there, then please write back so I can answer from there. Thanks.

Hi Carolyn, Please tell me we will survive? My husband and I are both working from home full time and taking care of a baby and we are now both sick with virus symptoms (but can’t get tested). Each day for the last week has been a blurry marathon of trying to rest, keep our fevers down, keep the baby alive, get critical work tasks done, repeat. It’s a miserable disaster and of course no one can come help us. I’ve never felt so depressed and helpless in my life and I worry about my husband’s mental health too. Even once we are feeling better, this situation seems unsustainable. (And yes, I know we are lucky to still have jobs.) I’d appreciate any recommendations for small, incremental changes or shifts in thinking to get us through each day. I’m truly not seeing a light here.

I am so sorry. Neither of your employers will give you paid sick leave? Even unpaid at this point. Or are you fearful of claiming it?

As for the small shift in your thinking, please remember you are (by all accounts of how long this illness lasts) likely past the midpoint of its course through your family. Another thing--it comes with surprising fatigue. These are both paths toward light because they can tell you, I hope persuasively, that you will likely feel better able to deal with all of this with each passing day. So if your mind is saying you can't do this, that's only because it's not capable--yet--of seeing past this moment. It will be soon. 

I hope you're also in touch with people who know where you are and what you're going through, so you have emergency options lined up. The calculation on whether and how people can help you changes if your need is dire. Please do make sure to keep someone outside your home up to date.

Ironic as it sounds, I'm being completely overwhelmed with social interaction while our family is self-quarantining. I'm a classic introvert -- interacting with people is a net drain on my energy reserves, and I need some quiet alone time every day to recharge. But in this craziness that's impossible. With daycare closed my kids (1 and 3) are home 24/7, and constantly clamoring for my attention. Every second that doesn't go toward childcare is devoted to frantically trying to catch up at work. I get up at 5 and work/childcare straight until 9. By the end of the day I'm so burned out that the idea of further conversation and physical contact makes me want to scream -- and that's exactly when my husband is trying to get our quality time in. I just don't have the energy for even a conversation, much less sex. I can feel myself cracking up and we're only on week 2 of what might be MONTHS. I'm terrified that my relationships with my children and husband are going to be seriously damaged as this continues because I can't keep doing this much longer.

Please refer to the answer above on artificial scheduling. You're getting swallowed by the time blob, so put in some guardrails around a few things you need. Let's say you need an hour of "omg I can't do this anymore" time, every day. Talk to your husband, say you can't do the other 23 hours well without this ... and, if needed to get the message home, equate it to the X he can't function well without. Like, that "quality time" he's looking for. He needs that, yes? For him? And you understand that? Great--so you will be part of providing that for him, just as you're asking him to be part of providing your introversion hour. Pick an actual o'clock for it--that's how these schedules-but-not-really tend to work best--and a place or two you can retreat to where you cannot be disturbed. They're clearer that way and therefore easier for people to follow and not get upset about/take personally. 

Hi Carolyn! I’d love it if you could elaborate on this: “You can also decide on certain useful responses whenever you’re in these situations, to create a positive association. Like a swear jar, but life size.” I’m especially keen on what you meant by “useful responses” and “creat[ing] a positive association.” Any sample ideas you have in mind? And I totally missed the analogy, because I always thought swear jars were punitive. Thanks, as always, for trying to keep us sane!

Swear jars are punitive in that you have to pay up for your mistakes, but in the end there's that pile of money you've fined yourself, which can then be applied to a greater good. So, you have the emotional slip, but in the end that slip ... benefits a charity, or buys something nice for everyone. 

So, to apply this to the column (Thursday? LINK or the original chat LINK): Every time you let a person's predictable behavior get under your skin, and you're frustrated with yourself for that, you ... add 5 minutes to your workout, or throw money in a jar, or give $5 to charity, or call someone who doesn't bug you and whom you frequently kick yourself for not calling often enough. Stuff like that.

That was my letter from what feels like a million years ago. At the time, I think my issues were 1) wanting to be liked (I am older now and care less about that) and 2)feeling I needed to provide all the labor my MIL had trained her husband and sons to believe could only be done by women for holidays and birthdays while listening to them sanctify a woman who was never very nice to me. But it's all water under the bridge now. As an older person, I am better able to see my MIL as a loving, flawed person who was likely doing her best, and also to appreciate the things she did do for all of us that I took for granted at the time. Also, the men step up a lot more and I don't do more than I want to.

Wow, great update, thank you. And good for you.

(If anyone's lost, this was a vacation reprint from 2005: LINK)

I'm feeling much better during this pandemic because it's much clearer to me which choices are the right choices. I'm social distancing, so I don't have to decide which events to go to. I don't have as much choice over my time because I have to get my part-time job done when my husband isn't working and can watch the kids. I don't have to worry what food to get because I know I should just get what's available and not go to multiple stores or worry if something isn't the best deal, etc., etc. All of the decisions were exhausting, and now I have so many fewer decisions and have hardly anything to second-guess. I might be sad about things I'm missing, but I'm not upset *at myself* for maybe causing it. How can I stay in this same place when there will be so many choices again when this is over?

What a great question.

I can't promise it'll work (check back in when it's all over and you've had a chance to road test this), but I wonder if you can install it into your working memory that when you are confronted with these decisions, the difference between A or B is usually minor, but the difference between sweating it and not sweating it is huge, as far as your and your family's well-being is concerned. 

So, in other words, instead of getting "upset *at myself* for maybe causing" a less-than-optimal optimal decision, get upset when you catch yourself being overly invested in choices, which in most cases involve benefits that are marginal at best.

And then in time, try to unhitch this from getting upset altogether ... but, one step at a time.

 

Maybe I'm using the word guilt in the wrong way. Prehaps a better word is sorrowful. I feel sorrowful because as written, I fell and fractured a bone at work and was at home on workman's comp and I still got the virus! I feel judged by employee health at the hospital, like I was out partying and traveling while out and that's how I go the virus(which I didn't do). I'm also feeling bad because I'm jealous!, (weird as that sounds). I WANT to be there. I've been doing this healthcare thing for 30 years and I'm good at it! I feel I've been training for just such an event. My father(in healthcare in NY-NJ area) is writing to me about being "on the front lines." and I feel like I have let him down. I feel bad that my co-workers(a great bunch of nurses!) are having to take up slack because I'm not there. I feel bad that I was "weak" to get this virus. I was brought up that one never calls out from work. So as strange as it sounds I feel guilty for being sick, falling etc. Hope this clarifies things. Just writing those thoughts down helped me to see some of the misplaced guilt involved--

Ah, thank you, this makes so much more sense. Seems like it's more shame than guilt, too--that you feel as if you "should" have been able to protect yourself, given your expertise, so you're embarrassed--and maybe that's what you're turning around into feeling judged? Of course I don't agree with this, it's obvious the virus is finding its way to all kinds of people, both the likely ones (the partiers) and the unlikely--the Boston Globe had a story just in the past couple of days that people with COVID in the health care field around Boston were largely cases of community infection and not workplace. So if there's any little voice left in you telling you this was your fault, then you can cite this when you tell it to shut up.

I also totally get the "put me in, Coach"! feeling. To that I say, don't worry--they're really going to need you as soon as you're recovered and ready. Subs can save a game, even coming in late off the bench. 

FWIW, work is my anti-depressant. At the end of a shift, I leave the hospital often happier then when I came in. (Please don't misinterpret that I feel joy at other's pain, I just really like helping them, and most are a little better at the end of my shift) I do feel bad if a patient is not doing well and will often fret and think about them at home. I feel useful, competent, etc. So I'm missing my "anti-depressant" fix.

Okay, this makes even more sense. Thanks. I hope that even as you rightly focus on getting well, you also give some thought to other ways to manage your depression while you're stuck at home. Journaling would be a natural for you, given that you say you already got something out of writing this to us. 

 

yesterday my internal state switched from anxiety to calmness, frustration to gratefulness. Here's what changed it for me: 1. no zombie apocalypse reactions (yet) - no fighting, looting, rioting 2. I still have TP (though it's getting lower, hopefully the hoarders have enough that I will be able to find some soon) 3. people are generally taking this seriously 4. I consider this a test....new viruses seem to be coming faster, and with global travel, we need to adapt 5. while the mortality rate is dismaying, we are not anywhere near the rate of the Black Plague 6. I see small kindnesses that show we're actually expanding our thoughts of others.....people shopping for at risk family and neighbors, people making more eye contact and greeting from a socially acceptable distance. 7. after the divisiveness of politics and growing feeling of misanthropy, I am actually starting to feel hope that we might make it as a species

I'll take it, thank you!

When my husband retired while I am still working, we had 6 months of off and on tense times. Finally, after a stupid argument,, he yelled "I'm waiting for you to jump in"! I asked him what I was supposed to "jump in" to? Well, he didn't even know. It finally lead to a discussion about how our roles were reversed and that his current feelings reflected mine for so many years. Work doesn't allow us to "jump in" to someone else's newly freed up time easily. Just talking about it help almost 100%

Rest up and take care of yourself, because we will need you to return to the "front lines" once you are well. All indications are that this will go on for a while, so you will have your chance to be of service during this catastrophe. I'm staying home for you and your colleagues; you rest and get well for us! And THANK YOU.

Think about it this way, in a couple weeks, you're going to be able to step when reinforcements are *really* going to be needed, both to the surge in cases, and attrition of frontline medical staff. I'm sure your coworkers will be extremely grateful. Plus, you may be better suited to care for COVID-19 patients if you've already had it and built some immunity. (I know the jury is still out on that.)

If you're still employed, and your company has it, don't forget that you can take advantage of their EAP (Employee Assistance Program) which usually will provide a number of free counselling sessions/other help depending on your needs.

This was me several years ago. A friend pulled me aside and explained how awkward I sounded. Just smile, say "thank you" and move on, she said. Accept that someone is being nice to you.

This week, I found out I had a miscarriage, alone in a zombie hospital where all the workers were wearing masks. Thankfully, the surgery I needed counted as essential, and I was able to get it done even in the middle of the zombie world. But now I just feel like the world is crashing down all around me, and I am having trouble putting one foot in front of the other. (We hadn't really told anyone yet although we had known for months, and that almost might make it worse.)

I am so sorry you have had to go through this at all, much less at a surreal time. 

I may be stating the obvious here (my apologies if so), but your not telling about the pregnancy doesn't mean you have to not-tell about the miscarriage. Please think of your most supportive person or people beyond your partner, and tell--even if that person isn't necessarily your closest person. You want someone good (supportive) in a crisis here, which can be a different skill set from the one your mom or closest sibling or best friend has. Invite people emotionally, one at a time, to help you through this.

If for whatever reason you don't have this person or don't see anyone helping, then maybe online will suit you better. Resolve (resolve.org) offers good community support. 

It's also perfectly normal to feel emotionally overwhelmed by this. If you feel as if you're in immediate crisis, though, then your OB is the next person to call.

I can't remember what famous person on TV said, "I am even getting mad and upset at my dog." So tempers will be shorter and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I believe on the other side of this event, everyone will be so happy that all hurt feelings you can apologize and forgive a lot no matter what.

Recently I was screened for anxiety, and my doctor recommended I find a therapist. Then this happened, and I both desperately want to talk to someone about it and have no idea how this sort of thing can happen under stay-at-home orders, if at all. I was already overwhelmed by the idea of finding a therapist and now what do I do?

It can happen, therapists are adapting by seeing patients over the phone or on FaceTime/Skype/etc.

Call your doctor to ask for recommendations, and ask the office staff if they ever arrange appointments. Some offices will do this, some don't, but it can't hurt to ask--and can shorten the wait significantly.

Does anyone have the name of the web site therapists are using to connect with new patients? I just looked and cant' find it. Thanks.

I have to step away for a sec but will check back for that web site ...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Please remember that all your feelings are going to be magnified because all your hormones are going to be all out of whack for awhile with the miscarriage and your body working to heal from the surgical procedure. Please be kind to yoursel.f

Use the Psychology Today website (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/) to find a therapist. EVERYONE is using electronic means now. Many patients are canceling therapy due to anxiety about their incomes and health insurance coveraage, so many will be happy to start now via skype/zoom/doxy or by phone. You can see them in person when life settles down, if you prefer.

OP, please check out babycenter's online miscarriage boards too. They were integral to my own mental health. There are a lot of supportive women on there to connect to, and it can save you from having to deal with well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful family and friends.

I was someone who had the same issue with certain compliments, and who audibly swallowed the first few times I tried to simply say "thank you" without demurring on a compliment. I found that "you're very kind" was a good set of training wheels. Even if I couldn't internalize the compliment, I could acknowledge that someone was making an effort on my behalf. Eventually I was able to just say "thank you" and then move on with the conversation.

Your feelings are very common among people in fields that serve others. As a military veteran I can tell you that while you're deployed you want nothing more to get home to your family and once home you feel guilty for not being out in the field fighting the good fight. This thing looks like it's going to be a long haul. You'll get your chance.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s49nfxStZXY

I'm so glad you were at home instead of at the hospital where you could have unknowingly passed the virus around. If you look at it that way, you should feel very thankful you were out and not going from room to room approaching a lot of people who were so sick they were hospitalized!

“I was brought up that one never calls out from work.“ I was brought up this way too. And now, because of that, we are all in a worse position community spread wise. Go figure.

Ha. Good point. 

Also keep in mind that your hormones are crashing right now -- two days after the surgery to complete my miscarriage, I sat on my bed and sobbed. It's horrible, and as you say, a very private kind of grief. I would second the online message boards suggestion. I am so sorry for your loss.

I semi-retired to a rural, undeveloped island in the middle of the Caribbean a few years ago. I had no idea how relaxing it would be to have so very few material choices to make. There are only a handful of small shops, so you can't price compare, be picky about brands, or look for the latest and greatest products. Ironically, I enjoy shopping so much more now, because I appreciate the thrill of seeing what's available and what I can make with it. All that time that went into shopping now going into cooking and I'm much better off for it!

Here's another thing that might help: you ARE making decisions now. Good decisions! Not everyone is social distancing or doing their part to flatten the curve, but you have DECIDED to do so! These decisions might feel easier because this literal life-or-death situation makes your morals and your priorities very clear: you choose to stay home because you want to do your part to fight this disease. You choose to focus on your part-time job because you and your husband have agreed that this is division of labor that best serves your family during these particular hours of the day. You choose to shop quickly because you believe that benefit of social distancing outweighs any slightly higher financial costs. I think that the peace you feel now isn't that you aren't making any decisions, it's because the decisions you are making align so clearly with your personal moral code and your family's shared priorities. Perhaps this could help when the crisis is over.

Try the Talkspace app - it connects you to a virtual therapist - you can communicate on video and by text

Thanks--not one I've vetted but I'll put it out there. The one I'm thinking of is similar to this but I'm still not seeing it. 

I have seen this website for online therapy recommended (haven't used it myself): https://www.betterhelp.com

Thanks--also unvetted ... though now I'm doubting myself and maybe it's the one I did check out? Anyway, similar idea at least, thanks.

To the OP (and others who find there are way too many choices): take a look at Barry Schwartz's _The Paradox of Choice_. https://www.amazon.com/Paradox-Choice-Publisher-Harper-Perennial/dp/B004NLTIGE Well worth a read (he's a psychologist, and it opens with his own story of being overwhelmed by the number of options of blue jeans).

A month ago I was having a really time finding a therapist. This week, practices that previously told me they were full are calling me offering an appointment. I'm guessing others are cancelling appointments creating new openings. A silver lining for a few of u

The phrase "well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful" stuck out at me. I get it, and at the same time, I loathe it. My parents were kind of oddballs and I don't seem to have learned how to give the perfect kind of "help" -- encouragement, kind works, etc. I get so paralyzed by not knowing what is "right" that I end up not doing anything, or I do something I think might be "right" and then castigate myself for ages afterward worrying that it wasn't "right." I dunno. I guess this is more about me than society but it's at least partly society, too. (Also it's why I read these columns, to learn what the "right" thing is.)

"then castigate myself for ages afterward worrying that it wasn't 'right'": You know, this alone is a thing.

I know because I have it, and my perseverating is basically what I've turned into an education for writing this column. It might be useful to you to talk to a therapist about the negative, repetitive thoughts. It might be the stress of this that paralyzes you, and it also might be treatable. 

If you have Carefirst insurance, they have a GREAT telehealth app. I see a therapist once a week via video chat, and for only a low copay. Very easy to sign up for an appointment and to use.

In one of his really personal conferences, Cuomo stated he was even getting mad at his dog.

Right, thank you. 

Okay, okay, I need to set Yu free. Thank you everyone for stopping by, have a great weekblob and I'll type to you here next blobday.

This is probably too late, but ... about five years ago I streamlined my day-to-day wardrobe to 5 pairs of the same black jeans and about a dozen of the same shirt, in different colors. Saves SO much time and the only decision is "what color shirt today?"

"blob color."

Yes I'm going now.

In This Chat
Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on washingtonpost.com. She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.
Recent Chats
  • Next: