DEAR AMY: I am married to the man of my dreams. After a rough first marriage, I was definitely rewarded with an amazing second one. My husband and I have been together for 11 years now, and it still feels like we're honeymooning. The problem? I'm terrified that something is going to happen to him. I know it's silly, but the fear that he will die never leaves me. I lie awake some nights, heart pounding, worrying about it. I know that worrying solves absolutely nothing, but I can't shake it! I reached out for therapy, but my insurance doesn't cover mental health and my city is woefully lacking in resources. I'm on two wait lists for affordable therapy, but I'm not sure what to do in the meantime. Any tips on managing this fear?
Scared Silly in New Orleans
DEAR SCARED SILLY: Given that this fear and rumination are interfering with your daily life, it's important that you continue to pursue professional counseling.
I assume that this overwhelming fear you are experiencing is at its core not really about your husband, but about you. Coming to terms with other losses in your life will help you to embrace your current daily blessings with less fear attached.
If you don't learn to manage this, your ongoing fear will affect your lovely and loving relationship.
In the short term, I suggest diving into practical and healthy pursuits that may help to rewire your brain. Running, yoga, meditation, and music are all activities that you can pursue as ways to both distract and expand your consciousness, and better control your ruminative thoughts.
You live in New Orleans (lucky you!), and so I suggest that you pick up your ukulele and join one of the many free jam sessions that spring up around the city. Music will open you up.
For an introductory guide to a daily meditation practice, read "How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind," by the wonderful Buddhist sage Pema Chodron (2013, Sounds True). With gentle good humor, Chodron lovingly leads the reader toward a beginner's meditation practice.
Your fearful thoughts will still enter your mind. But meditation can teach you to open a window — and let these thoughts merely pass through.
DEAR AMY: This may sound silly, but my 50th high school reunion is approaching fast. One of the people who will attend is the "mean kid" who tormented me. I can't tell you how many times he would follow me in the hall, yelling, "HEY, UGLY! YOU'RE SO UGLY YOU SHOULD KILL YOURSELF!" According to people who still know him, he has spent the intervening years honing his witty repartee. I've had a long and happy marriage (he's been married/divorced four times), a wonderful family, and a great career (research chemist). I have no idea why it still bothers me. Why does it still hurt? I do not want him to control my behavior. I've thought carefully about how to react if I see him. I've decided I won't remember him. I'm also prepared to leave quickly if I decide I want to. I understand that he's either a sad, unhappy person or just a nasty jerk, either way, I have my husband and children. I love your thoughtful advice.
DEAR HURTING: This still hurts because being bullied and harassed in adolescence is noxious, undermining and unforgettable. Of course, it still hurts!
You should spare a thought for the wounded life of the young person who would be so cruel. Only someone deeply scarred would seek to torment and injure another young person in such an obvious way.
But enough about him.
I like your idea to "not know" this man at the event. If you can't avoid an encounter or introduction, responding with "...And you are...?" might make you smile inside.
I assume you were not his only victim. Attend this reunion knowing that you have a squad of people (all of the bullied, harassed or formerly lonely high schoolers reading this) cheering you on.
DEAR AMY: Thank you for your response to "Saddened," who had recently been dumped by her husband. No, she should not have to beg her husband to see their children, but yes — she should always try to advocate for the kids. Like you said in your answer — it's hard.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Yes, it's hard. But that's what good parents do.