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Dear Annie: Being a friend, not a therapist

Dear Annie: I have a friend who has experienced a difficult life, including abuse, cancer and loss. I no longer spend time with her because every visit involved a painful recounting of every awful incident she has endured.

I have tried to redirect the conversation to other topics and told her I missed talking to her about books, politics, family, friends, travel and food. I suggested that our first 10 minutes be spent on her troubles and that we then move on to other topics, but it always goes back to her traumas.

She is angry that I no longer want to get together, but I feel like I have become a dumping ground rather than a friend. Any advice? – Not Willing To Be a Dumping Ground

Dear Not Willing To Be a Dumping Ground: You took the right steps by having an open and honest conversation with your friend. It sounds like she is suffering from severe depression. You are not a trained therapist and should not have to bear the responsibility of being one for her.

Perhaps you could suggest that she seek the help of a professional who deals with post-traumatic stress disorder. She might not be aware that she is unable to talk about anything else.

If you can help her to seek professional help, be patient with her as she works through her past. The fact that she has suffered abuse, cancer and loss means she has been dealt a rotten hand. Sometimes, when a person has experienced multiple traumas, the pain and memory of his or her experiences remain present, even if that person might not physically be living with the traumas.

Dear Annie: This is for the guy who “pranked” his friend by putting his house up for sale while he was on vacation, adding the fellow’s phone number in the ad. When they were on their trip, his friend’s phone rang constantly with interruptions. The prankster thought it was funny. Now he wonders why the guy won’t speak to him. He also added that his friend should not spend that much money on a vacation.

Maybe the man and his family had saved for a long time for this trip. Maybe it was for a family celebration. Maybe it was a trip to Disneyland for the kids. That would mean airfare, hotel, meals, admissions, etc. And this “prankster” ruined the trip for the entire family. The only way I know to make peace is for the letter-writer to ask how much the trip cost, and then write his friend a check so that he and his family can go back and create good memories that will override the bad ones they have now.

That gesture would do a lot to help the healing. — Just a Thought

Dear Just a Thought: While I doubt the prankster will follow your suggestion, it is a nice thought.

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