Friend’s car trig­gers pain

Los Angeles Times - - COMICS - Send ques­tions to Amy Dickinson by email to askamy@tri­bune.com.

Dear Amy: I have a strange prob­lem with a friend who just pur­chased a car. This friend is fairly new to my life. She is the clos­est friend I cur­rently have in a new city where my fam­ily just pur­chased a home.

I like this woman very much and don’t want to of­fend her — how­ever, I just learned that the car she pur­chased is the make, model and color that is owned by some­one with whom I have a painful past, re­lated to the death of my in­fant son.

I suf­fer from ob­ses­sive­com­pul­sive dis­or­der (which I have had all my life) and PTSD re­lated to the trau­matic death of my son, and this car is a real trig­ger for me for ex­tremely painful mem­o­ries.

I want to be ex­cited for my friend, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to ride in it, or park near her at school pickup, or do any of the things I used to do with her.

I don’t want to tell her and make this new ex­cit­ing pur­chase de­press­ing for her, but I can’t imag­ine that my aver­sion won’t be­come ob­vi­ous. I’ve worked hard for years to get over the emo­tional trig­gers in­volved in my son’s death, but some days I’m just fak­ing it till I make it, and I don’t want to get back to another dark place where things start fall­ing apart for me emo­tion­ally.

Should I tell her, or should I keep quiet and pre­tend to be ex­cited for her and her new big pur­chase?

Strug­gling

Dear Strug­gling: Keep­ing quiet and pre­tend­ing this prob­lem doesn’t ex­ist won’t work, be­cause in­ter­nal­iz­ing your re­ac­tion won’t help you to work through it. I as­sume your goal is to de­crease your stress re­ac­tion over time, and the way to do this is to be hon­est with your new friend about this un­for­tu­nate co­in­ci­dence, while not blam­ing her for any of her choices.

Con­tinue to avoid this vis­ual trig­ger, but be open to the idea that your goal would be to ad­just to it over time. Iden­tify this chal­lenge as an op­por­tu­nity to tap into some of your in­ner strength. Ideally your friend’s pos­ses­sion of this ve­hi­cle might help you re­place the ter­ri­ble and trau­matic as­so­ci­a­tion with a more be­nign one.

Def­i­nitely talk this through with a ther­a­pist in your new city who has ex­pe­ri­ence treat­ing PTSD.

Dear Amy: I re­cently heard that a neigh­bor feels I am “stand­off­ish.”

This, de­spite us hav­ing had this neigh­bor over for nu­mer­ous din­ner par­ties and cel­e­bra­tions at our house for the first seven of the 20 years we’ve lived here.

Not once dur­ing this time have we seen the in­side of this neigh­bor’s home or been in­vited over. I stopped invit­ing this neigh­bor, who I felt wasn’t in­ter­ested in cul­ti­vat­ing a friend­ship.

I am not sure how to re­spond to this per­son, whom I see at neigh­bor­hood events. Do you have ideas?

Takes Two to Tango

Dear Takes Two: By your own de­scrip­tion of how this re­la­tion­ship has de­volved, it seems (to me, at least) that you ARE stand­off­ish to­ward this neigh­bor. And now I am won­der­ing why you care.

When thrown to­gether with this neigh­bor, you should be­have in a way that is “neigh­borly.” That means in­quir­ing about the fam­ily, pets or gar­den. This does not mean you must at­tempt again to loop this per­son into your cir­cle. And if be­hav­ing like a cor­dial neigh­bor means you are stand­off­ish (ac­cord­ing to that per­son’s def­i­ni­tion), then so be it.

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