DEAR ABBY: I'm a homemaker with two sweet little girls. As precious as they are to me, I have a problem that is preventing me from giving them the kind of life they deserve. I hate to leave my house. Anytime I have to leave the house, I start sweating, my heart starts pounding and by the time I return home, I'm exhausted and can do nothing more for the rest of the day.
My girls are asking to go to parties, have me volunteer in their classrooms, and they want to join Girl Scouts. I don't know what to do! I want them to experience all of these things, but the thought of how I'll have to leave the house and all the people I will have to meet and try to converse with brings me to tears. I don't want my anxieties to rub off onto my children. What should I do? - HOMEBOUND IN ANDERSON, CALIF.
Dear Homebound: Call your doctor and have a frank conversation about how stressful it is for you to leave the house and interact with people. Then ask for a referral to a mental health professional who treats panic and phobic disorders, because it appears you have at least one.
Fortunately, problems such as yours are treatable - but in order to get the help you need, you will have to ASK for it. Make it your first New Year's resolution.
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DEAR ABBY: At a recent social gathering I was taking digital photos and handed my camera to a friend so she could view the last shot.
She then proceeded to scroll backward through a large number of previous shots I had taken, most of them from other events. She even questioned me about one of them.
I think what she did was uncalled-for and intrusive. What do you think? I have since dumped the camera's contents onto a computer and purged them from my camera. - ROBERT IN PORTLAND, MAINE
Dear Robert: Those must have been some "hot" shots to have elicited such a strong defensive reaction. If you didn't want your friend to see the pictures you had shot previously, you shouldn't have handed her the camera.
DEAR ABBY: I have been keeping company with a man for the past 10 years. Our spouses are deceased. He sometimes receives invitations to weddings, parties, etc., addressed only to him. Without consulting me, he will call and tell these people that if I am not invited, then he will not attend - so they are forced to tell him it's OK if I come, too. I am very uncomfortable about these situations.
I feel that after 10 years, my name, or at least "and guest," should appear on the invitation or I should not go. Because I don't want him to stay home, I usually end up going. What do you think about this? - UNCOMFORTABLE IN WISCONSIN
Dear Uncomfortable: Your gentleman friend's behavior is rude. Guest lists are usually limited for economic reasons. He should not be attempting to "blackmail" his prospective hosts. Many hosts handle situations like this by cheerfully telling the boor who tries it, "Sorry you won't attend. We'll miss you!"
I don't blame you for feeling awkward. My advice is not to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.