DEAR READERS: I've stepped away from the Ask Amy column for two weeks to work on a new writing project. I hope you enjoy these edited "best of" columns in my absence. All of these questions and answers were first published 10 years ago. Today's topic is: Wellness.
DEAR AMY: As a public health nurse and mother of four, I spend a lot of time talking about germs and staying healthy. With seasonal flu, H1N1 and nasty germs such as MRSA in the community, I am amazed that people bring their newborns to the mall or grocery store and pass them around like postcards. For the mother who wrote you, if she kept her young one home, strangers touching her baby would not be an issue. Children younger than six months do not have a fully working immune system. They should not be out in crowds, such as the mall or at parties. People with infants in the home (or caregivers of infants) should get their flu shots. By having everyone who comes into contact with the baby immunized, it protects the baby who cannot get the shot. This is called "herd immunity." If you love them, immunize. If they are too young to be immunized, protect them by keeping them away from public places.
Nurse in California
DEAR NURSE: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 36,000 Americans die each year from flu-related causes. Some working parents have no choice but to bring their babies out into the world. Because of this, the larger community should do everything possible to help protect them. Thank you for your advocacy. (October 2009)
DEAR AMY: How should I handle a friend who is bipolar? She is fine until she goes off her medication, then she becomes nasty and hateful, and I am not sure how to forgive her for what she has said about me.
DEAR PUT-UPON FRIEND: Bipolar disorder is a serious illness that can respond well to treatment. The mood and behavior swings that people with bipolar disorder experience can strain relationships. Your friend is responsible for maintaining her health and taking her medication to control her illness, and your responsibility is to be understanding of her health issues and inform her when she is behaving in a way that harms your friendship. When your friend goes off her meds and abuses you, you should remind her of how her behavior affects you. Discuss this with her when she is stable. Ask her to pay closer attention to her treatment and offer to help. Your friend's illness may explain her behavior, but her burden is to acknowledge and apologize. The National Institute of Mental Health offers a comprehensive description of this illness. Check nimh.nih.gov. (September 2009)
DEAR AMY: I am a nurse and worked for a doctor for 34 years. He gave me a generous severance. My son stole most of it because he is a drug addict. He is in rehab now and is okay so far. Then my husband of 27 years moved out because he feels he is "not good at marriage." He has been distant to me since his own retirement (five years ago). My daughter lives two states away. We have a hard time talking to each other. She is close to her father. I feel as if I have been a good wife and mother. I don't know what went wrong. I have a group of friends I enjoy, but the loss of my family is consuming me. Any advice on how to get through this?
DEAR SAD: Aside from providing the lyrics for countless country western ballads, these challenging periods offer us opportunities for growth and change. It's hard to see it that way when you've just been pummeled, but in life, we either adjust or we remain stuck in our sadness.
You could start by doing some soul-searching, to see what you should take responsibility for and what you should let go. Give yourself the fresh start that each of us deserves.
Let your healthy relationships sustain and propel you. Seek opportunities to work or volunteer, helping other people. Your nursing skills would be welcomed by any number of organizations. Being useful to others will help you to feel better about yourself. (May 2009)
DEAR READERS: Are you curious about my background and life outside of the confines of this space? Read my two memoirs: "The Mighty Queens of Freeville" and "Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things," available wherever books are sold or borrowed.