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. I just started a new job and the office is so cliquey! No one has made an effort to include me in lunches or conversation. I’m rather socially anxious anyway, and I am constantly second-guessing everything I do, wondering if I have gotten off on the wrong foot with people. I’m trying to find the balance between pushing myself to make connections versus intruding upon friend groups that already exist and will be resentful of me.
Sometimes people with social anxiety overestimate how unwelcoming a place is, because they are (understandably) hypersensitive to any perceived slight whatsoever. Now, your office may be particularly difficult, but even for people who aren’t socially anxious, getting assimilated into a new office social culture can be uncomfortable and awkward. It’s a goal that takes effort. Reassess the (likely) all-or-none thinking about “no one” including you, and the catastrophizing that friendliness will lead to resentment. Instead of wondering what you’ve done wrong, make a plan of specific steps to do right, like polite, interested questions, offers to share your macaroons, or compliments on someone’s ZZ plant.
The wreckage after the crash
Q. I was involved in a car accident with my children two months ago, and my teenage son was injured. He is expected to make a full recovery but still has pain and mobility issues. He has been irritable and not himself, and I have a lot of guilt. I wasn’t driving recklessly and multiple cars were involved but I still did not do enough to prevent the accident. Every time I see him I am reminded of it all over again. I am struggling so much with this, and my husband just tells me it will get better with time. I don’t really feel that is the case. Realistically, I am not that motivated to try to fit therapy in to my life given the time and financial costs. Is this typical? Can I still wait it out?
I understand that fitting in therapy is hard. But is fitting in guilt, struggle and anxiety any better? One path will cost time and money but will help you heal and gain control over your emotional experience. The other path risks taking you further away from feeling like yourself.
What you’ve been through is significant. Car accidents can frequently cause trauma, especially when there are injuries. The fact that it was your son who sustained injuries brings an additional layer of emotional strain for you. Your reaction isn’t atypical, but it is significant enough to warrant help. Why continue to suffer and run the risk of your well-being declining further? There’s no guarantee your symptoms will just fade without adequate support. Your son could likely use a little help as well.