Annie's Mailbox: Family distances themselves in my times of need

Dear Annie: I am 49, the eldest of four siblings and have been suffering with multiple sclerosis for years. My family has little understanding of what living with MS is all about, even though they have seen me at my worst. I don't want their pity, but it would be nice to have some appreciation for what I'm going through and occasional assistance. Instead, in times of need, they distance themselves.

My relationship with my family is now at its worst. Last fall, I had a verbal confrontation with my mother, and she was exceptionally cruel, accusing me of "faking my disease" and "using it as an excuse for attention," and saying it means I was "punished by God and this is my just due." She said this in front of a crowd that included my entire family and perfect strangers.

Mom is not the type to apologize or admit she is wrong. If I forgive her, I am setting myself up to be verbally abused again and again, so I decided to sever this periodically toxic relationship.

What I did not realize is how it would affect my relationship with my siblings. Whenever there is a family event, such as a nephew's birthday, I am not informed or invited if my mother will be present. These events take place less than two miles from my home, doable for a person with unrelenting fatigue, but I am not given the opportunity to attend. I get the clear picture that until Mom is no longer around, I am a ghost in the family. I truly feel I am watching evil win and have lost faith that my siblings and their children will ever respect me. What can I do?

- N.

Dear N.: We understand this is difficult and painful, and you are perfectly justified in avoiding your mother. But when you cut off a relationship with a parent, you cannot expect your siblings to do the same. What's truly sad is they don't seem to understand your illness. Please contact the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (nationalmssociety.org) at 1-800-344-4867, and find the support and understanding you are missing.

Dear Annie: Do any of your readers have husbands who holler when they yawn? My husband has been doing this for years. He recently had surgery, and because we worried about his recovery, every time he yawned and hollered, his daughter and I would run into his room to see if he had fallen or something.

He doesn't make this noise in public, so I know he can control it if he chooses. Any suggestions to get him to stop "crying wolf"?

- Tired of It

Dear Tired: Suggest your husband talk to his doctor. There could be an impediment making it difficult for him to release his jaw and throat after a yawn. Controlling it in public may require a lot of effort that he isn't willing to expend at home. If, however, this is just a bad habit, he will need some "retraining." Either exaggerate your response ("You sound terrible! I'm calling the doctor!") or ignore him.

Dear Annie: I was tickled to read the letter from "Not Lazy and Married to Her Son," whose mother-in-law takes over during visits, implying that "Not Lazy" lacks housekeeping and cooking skills. She should count her blessings and, as you said, let Mom take over while she goes out and enjoys herself.

My mother-in-law was the opposite. She never lifted a finger, although she subtly criticized my housekeeping and made snide remarks about the food. Her son was oblivious, but I noticed the little smirk on her face when she said these things. She is dead now and no longer a worry. Friends say if she got to heaven, she's finally happy, but I bet she would find something to complain about there, too.

- Canaan, Conn.

Happy Canada Day to all our readers north of the border.

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