Advice from readers

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By Carolyn Hax
Sunday, March 20, 2011; 9:52 AM

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On making comments about others' food choices: My daughter has life-threatening food allergies to a laundry list of common foods. She has to bring her own treats to birthday parties. She can't get a full meal at a restaurant. She can't get a snack at a movie theater. Adults are constantly telling her they feel sorry for her and telling me, often in her earshot, what a saint I am for making sure she has safe foods. Apparently a lesser parent would just hand their kid a burger and fries and not worry when the kid drops dead? Really?

Some of this has to come up; I can't send her to a friend's house without making sure the parents know not to give her anything to eat and she always travels with emergency medications. But pointing at her food? Asking the same question every week for two months straight? Telling my kid she's lucky her parents haven't killed her because keeping her alive takes a little more effort? We all need to think before we comment on how other people live. - A.

On remaining engaged with the world despite loner tendencies: I'm not a social person, and I've been happily coupled for several years. I met her attending a party at a friend's house under what I call "social exercising." I don't like going out, but I know doing it regularly is good for my psyche, much like how I exercise - even though I don't always want to - because it's good for my body.

When I was single, my "system" was always saying yes to a gathering where I knew I'd meet someone new. After two years of this system, I met a really awesome someone new and haven't looked back.

I will always be someone who recharges by being alone, but being around other people in social situations helps me roll with the punches at work, in my relationship, with my family, and with a host of unexpected situations that inevitably arise living in a world with other people. - NOT a social person

On dating someone with a serious mental illness: After dating through much of college, my gal and I were married soon after graduation. She was attractive and intelligent but after we were married the brakes were off and she no longer tried to temper the fact that she was a clinical psychopath. Not someone who killed kittens, but bad enough that life was hell - I became the "peacemaker" trying to help talk through irrational behavior that may or may not have been judged my fault from one moment to the next.

For those who think clinical illness is something like PMS or a bad day, it's not. In fact, it is chilling to witness random, irrational, emotional (sometimes physical) violence, let alone live with such episodes at least weekly. Needless to say, we never found the hot "love" I remembered when we were dating, and after living in survival mode for a few more years we finally divorced.

From that point forward, I was also out of the "make me happy" relationship business for life. With almost no emotional baggage, I also felt wise/mature enough to know who was right and wrong for me and set out looking for her.

After dating a lot, two years later I met a girl who was not only wonderful, but also not looking to save anyone or to be saved. Now 11 easy, sunny years have passed. Our love is still bright and we share that glow with our three gorgeous young daughters. While part of me views my first marriage as a waste of a lot of my life, the perspective it provides makes me feel like one of the luckiest men alive. - Michigan

I was diagnosed with depression in 1988 and have been dealing with it ever since. I wouldn't wish chronic depression on my worst enemy. It takes tremendous will and energy to keep it in check even with medication and some therapy. I even think it contributed to my divorce back in 1993 because my ex just didn't want to have to cope with it. The nicest thing people can say to me now is they can't believe I have depression because I seem so happy.

Living with someone who suffers from depression is hard enough when they're dealing with the illness. It's impossible if they choose not to deal with it. A person can offer support and help, but cannot deal with the depression for a partner. Until a partner accepts his problem and takes steps to heal, he will just suck the life right out of the other person. - Mass.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com.


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