Ben Claassen III (For Express)

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Q. I suffer from syndromes that cause chronic pain and lately everyone has been suggesting I seek therapy as well. I’m not sure where this is coming from. Is that just something people say because they know I’m going through something difficult? 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. —Wondering

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 in managing your conditions.

The baby’s on the other foot

Q. I was reading your chat about how to decline a baby shower invitation when you are dealing with infertility, and all the people who have difficulty with baby showers. Now I’ve got the opposite problem. I was a constant baby shower-skipper for years, because of similar 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! —Not Sure How to Handle This

I can understand your worries, and it’s very considerate for you to be mindful of the lack of quid pro quo (or is it an eye for an eye?) 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 (or my word count). 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 whether to attend as you did; that’s how you make it up to them. (But my bet is that since these friends all have babies now, they’ll be more than happy to show up, if only to get a chance to trounce you in the “Name That Pureed Vegetable!” showdown.)

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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