Ben Claassen III (For Express)
Express Advice Columnist

Don’t miss the next live chat: Dr. Andrea Bonior, a licensed clinical psychologist who has been helping readers with Baggage Check since 2005, hosts a weekly live chat at washingtonpost.com on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. She discusses her recent columns and answers any questions you may have about relationships, work, family, mental health and more. Join or read Dr. Andrea’s latest live chat here.

Q. Six months ago my apartment was finally cleared of bedbugs. It was a nightmare — our building had to be treated multiple times and it affected my sleep, my finances, my mood and even my relationships. It was horrible. I feel odd saying this but I feel like it changed me. I’m still not over it. I constantly check for them and have gotten out of some work trips because I don’t want to stay in a hotel. I convince myself they’re back and panic all over again. I am hesitant to go to other people’s places because I worry I’ll get them again or I’ll give them to someone.

I’m sorry. Despite most sufferers’ silence about this, the bedbug experience is startlingly common. Not just the critters (sorry, readers who may now not sleep themselves!), but also the nearly trauma-level aftermath of it all. But first, please recognize that you are not fundamentally changed by this. Instead, you are having some justifiable anxiety reactions to a trying, stressful event — one that immensely affected your daily life and comfort. There is help. It may seem silly (or even more embarrassing) to consider seeing a therapist about this, but a good cognitive behavioral therapy practitioner can help you work through this stress reaction like any other: systematically, with new coping mechanisms, reframed thought patterns and relaxation exercises.

It’s high school all over again

Q. I recently found out my husband’s been talking to his high school ex-girlfriend on Facebook. They had a reunion last spring that I didn’t go to, and he didn’t tell me they got back in touch. When I went on Facebook most recently, I saw her comments all over his posts. I asked about it and he said he never felt the need to tell me and it was no big deal. They were together all through high school and didn’t break up until after the first year of college. Their parents thought they’d get married. I hate that I feel jealous, but I do.

First, breathe. It’s OK to have a reaction to this — and beating yourself up about the reaction is not going to do any good. You can both be right. This can indeed be no big deal to him (most reunions bring about a frenzy of social-media friending in their aftermath) but that doesn’t mean you can’t also feel a sting. There’s no one-size-fits-all about who “should” be friends with whom on social media, but in a healthy marriage the right answer begins with respecting each other’s vulnerabilities and reactions, and communicating honestly with each other. It sounds like this upsets you not because you’re worried about an affair per se, but more because it awakens basic feelings of jealousy. They did have something significant together that you weren’t a part of, and when you see them interacting now — even if it’s about a goofy cat video — it makes you feel left out all over again. So, start there. Feelings are never a bad thing when they can be talked through with someone who’s willing to try to understand.

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at baggage@wpost.com. She may answer them in an upcoming column in Express or in a live chat on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com.

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