Dear Abby: I’ve kept friends in the dark about the problems consuming my life

Woman fears talking about her own health issues and her children’s will bring down the room.

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DEAR ABBY: I’m a woman in my late 40s, and since coming out of the isolation of the pandemic (the lockdown was strict where we live), I’ve had a hard time rekindling the friendships I valued before — with my two best girlfriends, in particular. We used to have the type of relationship in which we were very open. We told each other everything and had a lot of fun.

The last two years were really hard on me. I faced a series of serious health issues, as did my youngest kid, who almost died and had to be hospitalized in another city because the care centers here were overcrowded. A few months later, my older child had a mental health crisis that we now spend a lot of time working through.

Those challenges completely changed the way our house runs. They dominate my day-to-day life. The thing is, talking about all that feels too heavy. I don’t want to be the friend who always brings down the room. On the other hand, when my friends find out everything that has been going on that I didn’t tell them about, they’re going to be angry that I’ve been hiding things from them, and it’s going to damage our friendship.

I don’t have the capacity to take on managing anyone else’s feelings, while at the same time I wish I had more people to go out and have fun with. How can I be a good friend without sharing all the challenges? — NOT SHARING IN THE EAST

DEAR NOT SHARING: Now that the lockdowns are over and, for most people, life is returning to near-normal, get together face-to-face for a truth session with those friends. Tell them as much as you think they need to know, and enjoy them as often as you can. If they can’t lighten your load, widen your circle to include some women who can.

Do not feel you must manage their feelings or disclose all of your son’s emotional difficulties. Make sure to devote some time listening to the challenges THEY may have faced over the last couple of years. True friends try to make the people they care about feel better, not worse.

DEAR ABBY: I live with a man who sits around the house all day. If I’m outside doing yardwork, he’ll sit on the porch and watch without offering to help. He’s retired and doesn’t work. He’s 59 and does nothing but sit up all night and sleep half the day. Any comments? — DOES IT ALL IN KENTUCKY

DEAR DOES IT ALL: Have you asked the man who is living with you for help? (I notice you did NOT refer to him as your husband.) If you have and he refused, my comment is that your porch-sitter appears to be lazy and unmotivated. He may feel that because he’s no longer in the workforce, he doesn’t have to do anything else until the good lord claims him, which may be sooner than he thinks if he doesn’t get up and do some exercise.

In dealing with someone like him, try coming up with a way to motivate him, hire someone to help with the yardwork or trade him in for a younger, more energetic model. (I’m only half-joking about that last option.)

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.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order “How to Have a Lovely Wedding.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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