Dear Ann Cannon • What do you do when the list of Facebook people you want to kill becomes unmanageable? Is there a service that handles this sort of thing?
— Harried in Herriman
Dear Harried • Dude. It’s called your delete button. Good luck with that!
Dear Ann Cannon • My newly adult daughter has just passed two years cancer free. My husband and I are so grateful and happy for her restored health, but sadly she’s really stuck in a place of defining herself as someone who is sick. She is not in school or working and rarely leaves the house. She has a diagnosis of depression and anxiety and is taking medication and seeing a therapist once a week. Besides paying for her treatments, encouraging her without overly pressuring her and offering her opportunities to do things with the family, I fear there’s not much more we can do on our end. We really hope that at some point she’ll want to reengage with her life. Do you have any other suggestions for us?
— Trying to Help
Dear Trying • I missed an entire year of school because of a serious and extended illness when I was in grade school, and I still remember the thought I had as I walked back onto the playground for the first time in months: I never, ever want to be the sick kid again.
Now. I don’t share this story so that you will think I’m tough or even unique. I do share it because I know what it feels like both to be seriously ill and to be defined by that illness. Hell, it’s hard NOT to define yourself by your illness when literally everyone in your life — family, friends, neighbors, caregivers, doctors, nurses — does.
I also understand from personal experience that depression and anxiety are illnesses in their own right, thieves that steal an individual’s sense of well-being and self-confidence, as well as his or her faith in the future.
BUT. In the end, your daughter is the only one who can choose not to be defined by her health issues, past and present. Sadly, you can’t do it for her.
So why would your daughter continue to play the role of invalid even though she’s cancer-free? My guess is that there’s a lot of fear involved. Fear that she won’t be as “important” as she was when she had cancer. Fear that her peers have all moved on to college, jobs, relationships without her. Fear that her illness may come back. So, so many fears. She’s fortunate that her parents have had the wisdom (and, frankly, the resources) to provide her with counseling to help her address those fears.
My advice? Continue to encourage her healthy choices and kindly but firmly resist the temptation to treat her like an invalid yourself. She may resent you initially for it, but in the long run you’ll be doing her a favor.
Meanwhile, I heard from a reader who respectfully disagreed with my advice to “get a puppy anyway” over a spouse’s objections. Here’s what she advised instead (and yeah ... it’s good advice).
They might volunteer to foster (three to five weeks is the typical time commitment requested by shelters or other save-the-critters organizations) to see if, in fact, the husband really dislikes dogs. Maybe he will warm up to one, maybe not. And by simply fostering a needy dog, there is no long-term commitment, the family can temporarily help a dog in need, the husband/wife team can assess whether they both are ready for a lifetime “fur kid” responsibility and, if it does not work out, no harm is done (to the dog, or the husband) while experiencing the foster situation.
Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.