Dear Annie: I am 13 years old and the oldest of four children. Lately, things have gone downhill for me. My schoolwork load is horrible, and my parents put me down all the time. My 10-year-old sister is constantly coming into my room, breaking things and stealing money. I always tell my parents, but it backfires. I end up being the one in trouble.
I live two completely different lives. Energetic yet shy at school, and depressed and lonely at home. I have four very close friends who keep me going, although only one of them knows that I started cutting myself about a month ago. I told everyone the marks were rug burn. I don't want them to feel bad for me. Every day, I just want to die. I can't figure out what to do because I feel like I don't belong in this body. It's hard to explain, but nothing feels right.
I'm not a spoiled brat. I don't have a cell phone and sit around texting all day. I get yelled at for everything I do. I try so hard not to cause problems for my parents, but they think I'm the most horrible child there is. I know I shouldn't be so dramatic, but it's not a joke. I'm hurting. Please help me.
- Unloved and Misplaced
Dear Unloved: It's difficult to be the eldest because your parents expect more of you than your siblings. We're sure they love you, but apparently they aren't expressing it sufficiently. At 13, it also isn't uncommon to feel displaced in your own body. Cutting yourself may temporarily relieve the stress or emotional pain, but it is not a healthy solution and can become habit-forming. Please talk to someone today - your school counselor, your parents, a favorite teacher or other trusted adult.
You are smart to recognize that you have a problem, but you need to work on less damaging ways to deal with your emotions.
Dear Annie: My husband of almost 40 years is a very private person, while I am outgoing and social. "Ralph" gets upset if I tell our friends what movie we saw, what restaurant we ate at or when we are going on vacation.
We live in a nice community and have lots of friends who love to get together. If Ralph is not with me and someone asks where he is, he gets furious if he finds out I answered them. I am only permitted to reply, "I don't know," which is embarrassing and untrue. He is allowed to share this information, but I cannot tell people even the most trivial things about him. Seeking professional help is out of the question. He's made it clear there is nothing wrong with him. What should I say when people ask harmless questions like, "How is Ralph?" or "What did you guys do this weekend?"
- Stressed in Sarasota, Fla.
Dear Sarasota: Has Ralph always been like this? Some early-stage dementia manifests itself as mild paranoia. Suggest that he get a complete physical, and alert his doctor to the problem in advance. If, however, this always has been part of his personality, there's not much you can do after 40 years. We'd ignore a lot of his objections, although we wouldn't go out of our way to annoy him.
Dear Annie: "Not Burly About Kimberly" didn't like it when the relatives called her "Kim." Here's how I solved a similar problem.
My name is William, and the first time anyone calls me "Bill" or "Will," I say in the nicest possible tone, "My name is William, with two syllables." If it happens again, I say with a smile, "Who's that?" It usually gets a laugh, plus there has never been a third incident.
- William With