Dear Abby: Therapist, friends, family don’t get my illness and say all the wrong things

Because the conditions are invisible, people seem to think the patient is making them up.

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DEAR ABBY: I am struggling with an invisible illness and losing patience with friends, family and acquaintances. I’m working with doctors to manage my conditions, and I’m tired of all the suggestions and seemingly positive comments I’m hearing, like, “You can do it; just put your mind to it!”

I am seeing a therapist to help with the emotional stress, and even the therapist is trying to armchair diagnose me and question my knowledge of specific vitamins, probiotics and treatments. Some of these folks mean well, but others I suspect are strongly hinting that I’m making it all up.

I’m not even sure what my question is. A polite way to shut people down would be helpful. Please make your readers aware that not every illness is visible. — STRUGGLING IN THE EAST

DEAR STRUGGLING: If you no longer trust your therapist, it’s time to change therapists. A lingering illness can be frustrating and exhausting, and you clearly need someone to vent to about the daily frustrations you are encountering.

The problem many people with hidden illnesses face is one that often happens while using a parking place designated for disabled individuals. If you are questioned about your disability, all you need to say is not all disabilities are visible. Then show them the disabled parking placard from your doctor. As to those well-meaning folks who offer you these pep talks, be polite. Say “thank you” and change the subject.

DEAR ABBY: I have been divorced three years. “Rowan,” my ex, was the love of my life. He helped me raise my three children from my previous marriage. Unfortunately, Rowan cheated, and it broke my heart.

My problem is my son blames me for the divorce. To say our relationship is stressed would be putting it mildly. Also, I can’t seem to get over Rowan. He’s all I think about. I miss our family unit.

How do I get over him? How do I mend my heart? I have recently tried dating, but no one compares to Rowan. I try to not compare, but I miss him so much, and having a troubled relationship with my son is awful. I need my son back in my life. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. — HOPELESS IN OHIO

DEAR HOPELESS: You can’t undo the past. You divorced Rowan for a valid reason. You may need counseling to move past your heartache and resume your life. Comparing the men you meet with Rowan is unfair to them and unhealthy for you. That marriage is history.

As to your fractured relationship with your son, family counseling might help heal the breach between you. Your therapist can assist you in deciding whether to explain to your son your reason for divorcing Rowan.

DEAR ABBY: When a couple becomes engaged, is it customary or permissible for both parties to wear engagement rings? — JAMES IN GEORGIA

DEAR JAMES: It isn’t common, but if you and your intended would like to do that, no rule says you can’t. The choice is yours. Go for it.

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 www.DearAbby.com 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 $8 (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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