Ask Mary Jo: Keeping illness from altering personality & navigating social media with an ex

Hi Mary Jo,

About two years I became bedridden due to an unknown illness. Since that time, my husband says my personality has drastically changed. What should I do?

Madeline

Dear Madeline,

Being bedridden for two years with an unknown illness can cause many psychological changes. You may suffer from severe depression from being unable to engage with others or have post-traumatic stress disorder due to the fear surrounding the illness. Emotion that isn’t resolved manifests in the body, causing stress and the breakdown of the immune system. I have suggestions I think will help you:

  1. Talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a neurologist. There could be changes to your brain’s health that need medical attention.
  2. Ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health counselor. When you go to your first session, go alone so you can be totally honest and tell your counselor exactly what you told me.
  3. Begin to journal your feelings. This will be a helpful way for you to express your feelings, and it will help your therapist understand which direction of therapy will be most beneficial for you.

Hey Mary Jo,

My significant other follows their ex on social media. What do you think the boundaries are? Do you think it’s okay, or do you think it’s unacceptable?

Sierra

Sierra,

Generally, I advise couples to unfollow their ex after they break up. A breakup means something is wrong with the relationship and moving on means leaving the past behind. Your ex is your past and being continually reminded of what they’re doing and who they are spending time with makes it harder to let go. However, I have worked with couples who are able to co-parent and stay connected to each other on social media after they break up or divorce. This has worked only if the exes respect each other’s new partner and keep their distance.  Here are suggestions that can help you and your significant other communicate and be clear about necessary boundaries with social media after a breakup:

  1. Be upfront with your ex about your boundaries on social media. It is strongly recommended that after a breakup you stop following your ex so you both can move on.
  2. Don’t talk about personal issues involving your ex on social media. Nothing is private on social media and drama spreads fast. It’s best to keep your ex and your life with them in the past.
  3. Make your new relationship a priority so your partner can trust you. Should your ex message you or try to contact you, it will be less threatening to your partner if they trust you and aren’t suspicious of your intentions with your ex.
  4. Set firm boundaries for yourself. Old feelings can creep up, and the most important boundary you must maintain is the only one you have control over.  Once you set a boundary, it’s important you keep your part of it. If you told your ex not to message you, when you see a message don’t engage. The guidelines you and your new partner make with social media and exes is the most important one to keep.