Q: I suffer from syndromes that cause chronic pain, and lately everyone has been suggesting I seek therapy as well. Is that just something people say, or can therapy really be helpful for managing chronic pain? I am willing to consider it, but I would not be inclined to if people hadn't brought it up.
A: It's hard to know exactly where people are coming from. Perhaps you are very obviously struggling and your need for support is clear, and the fact that several people are suggesting this should be a pretty loud wake-up call. Or maybe these folks just happen to believe strongly in the mind-body connection (as do I). Either way, they're likely on to something, and it's worth seriously considering.
Chronic pain not only causes stress, but there's evidence that stress and emotional challenges, in turn, can make pain feel worse. All pain, from your head to your toes, is felt in your brain, after all. And things like increased muscle tension (increased with stress) can objectively make you more sensitive to it.
So, is therapy something you absolutely must try? Of course not. But it might be helpful to seek out a therapist who specializes in these mind-body issues, and to consider it part of your larger treatment plan.
Q: I was a constant baby shower-skipper for years, because of infertility issues. Now, I am pregnant and wondering what to do for a baby shower. It feels strange to expect people to come when I didn't go to theirs!
A: I can understand your worries, and it's very considerate for you to be mindful of the lack of quid pro quo here. But anyone who bases their decision of whether to attend your shower solely on the fact that you didn't happen to be at theirs doesn't deserve a lot of your mental energy.
You are bringing a baby into this world; how do you want to commemorate it? The choices are many, from nothing, to a simple lunch with friends or family, to a blowout baby shower with diaper-related games that make people cringe through their laughter. Decide what your ideal celebration would look like. Your friends will get the same freedom to make their own choice about attending as you did; that's how you make it up to them.
Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist, writes a weekly mental health advice column for The Washington Post's Express and is author of "The Friendship Fix." For more information, visit www.drandreabonior.com. On Twitter: drandreabonior.