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Baggage Check: Up at all hours, a not-so-evil stepmom

By Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior (that's BONN-yer!) is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and writer. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology focusing on individual and group psychotherapy for young adults and specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression.

Q: I’ve always had trouble falling asleep, but lately it’s gotten worse. I used to drink wine to help ease the process, and now I’ve started taking Ambien. It helps me fall asleep, but I worry that I’m not going to fall asleep without it. What’s wrong with me?

What’s “wrong” with you is not uncommon, and what’s right with you is far more important – that you realize that Ambien is not a long-term solution. Insomnia is a huge problem for many people.

Pharmaceutical sleep aids can help in the short term, but what you really need are tools that you can use over the long haul that won’t get you addicted to a pill. You can develop a tolerance to Ambien, so it will lose effectiveness after a while, and long-term use also runs the risk of withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. Get checked out by a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders.

There are also cognitive-behavioral therapists who specialize in insomnia and will put you on a structured plan to get back on track.

Q: My father is about to marry an incredibly irritating woman. My siblings and I are all in our 30s and are long over our parents’ divorce. We are closer to our dad than to my mom. He’s a good guy, but this woman is terrible – so fake-nice, vain and superficial. She doesn’t seem to care about anyone but herself. How can I still spend time with my dad without having to deal with this woman?

The first step is accepting that you will have to deal with her – you can’t simply ignore her. The trick is to establish healthy boundaries that let you be as minimally but respectfully engaged with her as possible, which will be helped by maintaining your relationship with your dad on an individual level. Don’t frame it as wanting to exclude her, but as wanting to have one-on-one time with your dad.

As for the interactions with her that you can’t avoid, borrow a page from her playbook and be fake-nice, too. Smile, be civil and exit the conversation gracefully when it gets to be too much. And remember that if she has somehow managed to bring your dad some joy and comfort in life, she’s helping you more than you realize.

Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist, is the author of “The Friendship Fix.”
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