Dear Abby: It’s not visible, so people doubt I have a disability

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DEAR ABBY: I can’t drive. It’s not because I don’t want to, but whenever I sit behind the wheel, I have panic attacks. I’m currently attending therapy for it, and progress is being made, albeit slowly.

The problem is, when I try to explain that I suffer from GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), which affects my ability to learn to drive and sometimes just function day to day, I get a raised eyebrow and a “Well you look fine to me.”

I feel like I’m in a lose-lose situation when the subject of my disability comes up. I’m not ashamed of it, but it’s frustrating to be regarded as either lazy or a liar because I don’t “look” disabled and I’m not “disabled enough” to apply for disability. How do I handle this? — ELAINE IN COLORADO

DEAR ELAINE: You look fine because you have what is called a hidden disability. You do not have to discuss it in casual conversation.

If someone asks you to drive, explain that you can’t because panic attacks prevent it, but you are “working on getting it resolved.” If someone implies that you are lazy or a liar, reveal that you are in therapy to address it if you choose. If that doesn’t shut the ignorant person up, keep your distance.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 16-year-old girl who has been having a hard time moving on since I was sexually assaulted. Although it was four years ago, it has conflicted with my current and past relationships because I tell guys I’m not ready for anything like that yet. They know what happened and keep trying to push me to move on from my fear. Please tell me what to do. — NOT READY IN IDAHO

DEAR NOT READY: You are smart not to have allowed yourself to be “persuaded” into doing anything you don’t feel ready for.

I’m sorry you didn’t mention whether you received counseling after the assault. If you didn’t, you would benefit from discussing what happened to you with someone trained to help victims of the kind of trauma you have experienced.

R.A.I.N.N. (the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) can help you to locate a rape treatment center in your area. Either call (800) 656-4673 or go to and they will give you the information you need. Please don’t put it off.

DEAR ABBY: You often publish letters from women who are upset that their boyfriends haven’t proposed, sometimes after years of being together. These letters perplex me.

We live in a time when women are told they can do anything, be anything. So why are they waiting for some guy to finally pop the question?

My suggestion to them: Ask HIM! And if he waffles or says he isn’t ready to commit, you’ll know there’s probably no use waiting. Then find someone who recognizes you for the awesome person you are and can’t wait to be with you. — WISE WESTERNER

DEAR WESTERNER: I suspect that more women don’t take the initiative because they are afraid of the response they’ll receive. But you have offered wise advice. Time is precious. It shouldn’t be wasted waiting for a commitment that may never come.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. 

Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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