Dear Annie: I am a 14-year-old girl who suffers from ornithophobia, which is a fear of birds.
I have researched how to overcome it. One website listed steps to follow, and I did all of them except the last one, which said to go to a place where there are birds and learn not to freak out.
I have an opportunity to do this every day, but when the birds come close, I run away.
I don’t mind having this irrational fear, but my friends do. They constantly tell me it is stupid, and they are embarrassed to be around me when birds fly by. I know they complain about my phobia to other people. They say, “Just get over it. It’s not a big deal.”
It hurts when they say these things. They have no idea what it feels like. I have tried to explain, but they roll their eyes. I want them to understand and calm me down when I panic.
Annie, I am so stressed by this problem. I have talked to school counselors, my mother and other people, but nothing seems to help.
— Help Needed
Dear Help: Ask your friends whether they would be as derisive if you were afraid of snakes or spiders. Fear of birds falls into the same category, but because birds are so abundant and seem so innocuous (Hitchcock notwithstanding), most people don’t understand the problem.
There are techniques and treatments to help you overcome your fear. Look into the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (adaa.org) at 8730 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910.
Dear Annie: My older sister is 63 and has multiple medical problems that cause intense pain. Her doctors have told her to stop smoking and drinking, but she hasn’t been able to.
She cannot work and recently became eligible for disability benefits, which puts her above the limit for receiving Medicaid but isn’t enough to cover her high medical bills. She has to wait another two years to get Medicare.
I have plenty of money and have been helping her out, but people tell me I am only enabling her to continue to smoke and drink.
My friends in Al-Anon tell me she’ll never stop unless I cut the cord. But if I stop, she’ll probably lose her apartment. I cannot bring myself to do this, especially knowing how much pain she endures.
Is this a “tough love” situation, or would I only be sentencing her to a miserable life on the streets?
— Distressed Sister
Dear Distressed: Your sister could be depressed. It’s also possible her pain medication is not doing the job.
She may be relying on other forms of self- medication to get through the day, so please suggest she talk to her doctor about this.
Are the drinking and the smoking the cause of her health problems? Does she get drunk and put herself in jeopardy?
Determine how negatively her addictions are affecting her, as well as you, and consider whether pulling the rug out will help her in the long run.
Then, we recommend making the decision that best allows you to sleep at night.