Moving Back Into Life
Dear Margo: I’m a 40-year-old man who in 2007 was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (more depression-based), OCD, anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. I began my career as a high-school teacher at the age of 22 and felt teaching was truly my life’s calling. I left my position in 1998. I realize now that the issues I was dealing with were what caused me to leave teaching. Since being diagnosed, I have gone through nine jobs — being fired or resigning from all of them. After two disastrous relationships, two suicide attempts and several years of therapy, my parents and I decided it would be best for me to move in with them and concentrate solely on my therapy and a return to a normal life.
My question is this: In the previous city in which I lived, my two closest friends knew the details of my life and truly were lifesavers. I am now in a new city and do not know anyone my age to associate with. I am working on ideas (in therapy) about how to meet new people. When I do meet someone new, the first questions are: Where do you live, and what do you do? How do I go about talking with someone about my life without exposing my condition? Please help me to let someone begin to know me without feeling they are simply seeing an out-of-work 40-year-old living with his parents. –Answer Challenged.
Dear Ans: In your situation, I would advocate for a minimalist approach. To the question “Where do you live?” I would simply say, “1114 Beachwood Avenue.” As to what you do, I think “a research project” would work nicely. If pushed, the subject of your research could be mental health, particularly bipolarity. Should one of the new acquaintances become a friend, then you can reveal more, without your difficulties being the first things they know about you. Do remember that these days your conditions are 1,000 times more common than they used to be and are therefore more familiar. For educated people, I don’t think there’s a stigma at all. –Margo, confidently
Last Words, Last Wishes
Dear Margo: My mother is 92 with developing dementia, and she’s in a nursing care “memory” ward being well taken care of. However, she is no doubt in the process of dying. She comes from a large family (12 siblings, three now deceased). They’re Greek and can be very stubborn — loving, but they have their opinions and you’d best listen to them. Mom wants to be cremated, and in fact, she prepaid years ago. And she doesn’t want a funeral.
I suspect the family will put up a fight. I will probably give in and have a memorial for her. Even though she really didn’t even want that, I can understand the family’s side. I don’t have the problem yet, but I want to be prepared. –K.K.
Dear K.: My mother had the same wishes as your mother, and people were mad at me for there being no funeral! I feel strongly that any person should have the last word about his or her last rites. And that is your response to people who argue with you: “Those were my mother’s wishes.” The little memorial service you have in mind sounds just right — because that will be for you and the family, without abrogating her wishes. I also think you are wise to make decisions about this issue now. –Margo, loyally
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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