Girl's phobia doesn't fly with friends

DEAR ANNIE:I am a 14-year-old girl who suffers from ornithophobia, which is a fear of birds. I have researched how to overcome it. One website listed steps to follow, and I did all of them except the last one, which said to go to a place where there are birds and learn not to freak out. I have an opportunity to do this every day, but when the birds come close, I run away.

I don't mind having this irrational fear, but my friends do. They constantly tell me it is stupid, and they are embarrassed to be around me when birds fly by. I know they complain about my phobia to other people. They say, "Just get over it. It's not a big deal." It hurts when they say these things. They have no idea what it feels like. I have tried to explain, but they roll their eyes. I want them to understand and calm me down when I panic.

Annie, I am so stressed by this problem. I have talked to school counselors, my mother and other people, but nothing seems to help. — Help Needed

DEAR HELP:Ask your friends whether they would be as derisive if you were afraid of snakes or spiders. Fear of birds falls into the same category, but because birds are so abundant and seem so innocuous (Hitchcock notwithstanding), most people don't understand the problem. There are techniques and treatments to help you overcome your fear. Look into the Anxiety Disorders Association of America ( at 8730 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910.

DEAR ANNIE: My older sister is 63 and has multiple medical problems that cause intense pain. Her doctors have told her to stop smoking and drinking, but she hasn't been able to. She cannot work and recently became eligible for disability benefits, which puts her above the limit for receiving Medicaid but isn't enough to cover her high medical bills. She has to wait another two years to get Medicare.


I have plenty of money and have been helping her out, but people tell me I am only enabling her to continue to smoke and drink. My friends in Al-Anon tell me she'll never stop unless I cut the cord. But if I stop, she'll probably lose her apartment. I cannot bring myself to do this, especially knowing how much pain she endures. Is this a "tough love" situation, or would I only be sentencing her to a miserable life on the streets? — Distressed Sister

DEAR DISTRESSED:Your sister could be depressed. It's also possible her pain medication is not doing the job. She may be relying on other forms of self- medication to get through the day, so please suggest she talk to her doctor about this.

Are the drinking and the smoking the cause of her health problems? Does she get drunk and put herself in jeopardy? Determine how negatively her addictions are affecting her, as well as you, and consider whether pulling the rug out will help her in the long run. Then we recommend making the decision that best allows you to sleep at night.

DEAR ANNIE:"Help" said her husband never closes cabinet doors and asked if anyone else had this problem. Yes. Big time.

Not only does my husband leave doors open, but he leaves the cap off the toothpaste and the top off the orange juice (so that it flies all over when I shake it), fails to close cheese packages, loaves of bread and cereal boxes, and leaves all the lights on. Last week, he even left the hot water running in the sink. I call this condition "failure to complete." — Hamden, Conn.

DEAR HAMDEN:Leaving the hot water running can be dangerous, as well as expensive. If your husband's "failure" is getting worse, you might suggest he see a doctor just in case something more is going on.

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