Dear Amy: I see my adult niece once or twice a year. She has had different diagnoses for mental illness through the years, including depression and bipolar disorder.
Years ago, when she was 19, she yelled at me in a public place with great intensity. Please believe me that I didn’t do anything to bring on this outburst. She exploded without warning. It was upsetting to me, but I decided to overlook it because she was a teenager.
Seven months ago, at the age of 37, she was very hostile and verbally abusive toward me during a family weekend. Everyone was aware of it and her parents apologized to me. It culminated in her alternatively screaming at me and then crying for over an hour.
I should have just extracted myself after about one minute, but I was too shocked. I was very afraid of her.
I am not angry with her, but saddened by the event.
In my heart I have forgiven her, but I feel that it WILL happen again if I am around her. I can’t imagine being around her, trying to watch every word I say in order to avoid “triggering” her. Any contact with her, at this point, would be upsetting to me.
I am getting gentle pressure from her father (my brother) to re-establish a friendly relationship with her for her sake. I don’t want to. I wish the best for her and I will always love her, but I do feel that seeing her would take a huge emotional toll on me.
Am I making the wrong decision? — Frightened Aunt
Dear Frightened: Your niece has a brain disorder that affects her moods and behavior. Cognitively, you understand that, but emotionally, these outbursts are frightening, upsetting, and impossible to forget.
If any of the involved parties acknowledged how traumatic and frightening this episode was for you, it would help you to recover.
Her parents want you to re-establish a friendly relationship with her, but does she want this? Rather than gently nudge you to move on, her folks should engage you in a deeper conversation about her illness and behavior, triggers and reactions. Understand that if you were willing to be with her, it would benefit her parents, as well.
Your niece went almost two decades between these attacks on you. I wonder if there are better memories from that in-between time that you can attach to, in order to try and measure the reward versus risk of being in her presence.
You don’t have to be physically near her in order to have a relationship. If she is active on social media, you might be able to re-establish a rapport. If she accepts a “friend” or “follow” request from you, an occasional “like” or comment on a photo might help both of you to feel more at ease. I believe you should try.
Dear Amy: Ugh. Spring is here, and the people up and down my street enjoy walking their dogs.
The problem is, some of these humans don’t clean up after them! I hate looking out my window and witnessing this. More than that, I hate picking up these “deposits.”
How should I respond? — Curb Appeal
Dear Curb: Knee-high garden fencing along the front of your property might deter dogs and owners.
I recently saw a photo of a cardboard box set on a lawn near the sidewalk. The box sported a sign saying, “Dog treats here!” with an arrow pointing into the open box. Inside the box was - you guessed it - about a dozen doggy “deposits.”
That might work, also.
Dear Amy: “Annoyed by Chaos” described her workplace frustration due to “a certain level of OCD.”
After I retired 10 years ago, my wife read an article about ADHD symptoms and showed it to me.
I read it and ticked off at least five items. I saw a specialist and was diagnosed and am now taking medication. If only I had been diagnosed earlier.
After talking to family members, one of my sons and two of my grandchildren were also diagnosed. The grandchildren will receive the help they need earlier than I did.
My joke is that ADHD might not excuse my actions over my life, but it does explain them. Like any other problem, ADHD is what I have — it is not me. — Much Better
Dear Better: A correct diagnosis can explain behavior which is otherwise baffling. Your attitude is commendable; I’m happy your treatment is working.