Dear Readers: Your questions and dilemmas never take a holiday, but occasionally I must. This week's "best of" columns come from deep within the Ask Amy vault.
Dear Amy: I have a problem. My best friend cuts herself. I tried to tell myself it was not that bad, until I saw the horrible gashes on her arms.
It is obvious to me that she is in a state of depression, but I want her to stop hurting herself. Please help.
— Afraid for friend
Dear Afraid: You're a good friend. Friends like you notice when things aren't right and don't always accept a pal's explanations when you know she needs help.
Your instincts sound right on. Cutting is a dangerous form of self-injury and is often an outward symptom of depression and/or anxiety.
People who cut say that injuring themselves sometimes feels like a relief, like a release valve. Sometimes they say it makes them feel more alive.
Unfortunately, cutting usually gets worse. The person injuring herself usually doesn't get better without help. Sometimes, medication relieves some of the pressure to cut; a good counselor will provide care and understanding.
Please let your friend know that you're aware of what she's doing and say you want to help her. You should speak with an adult you trust who could assist your friend in getting help. There is a lot of information on self-injury on the Web. If you check out kidshealth.org and do a search on "cutting," you'll find very informative articles and ideas of how to further help your friend. (May 2004)
Dear Amy: I have a longtime friend who is driving me nuts. When she enters a room, within five minutes she is talking about her two sons: how wonderful they are, what they did in the last year, about their in-laws. None of us has seen them in years, if ever.
We are so bored to tears by her long dissertations; she never knows when to quit. She has become so obnoxious.
What can we do?
— Friends in Virginia
Dear Virginia: You might make some headway by speaking with her, alone, not with your other pals. Please keep in mind that boring people rarely change; that's the nature of being a bore. Your being tolerant and then skillfully changing the subject when you can't bear it anymore might be the best you can hope for. (July 2004)