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DEAR ABBY: My son just withdrew from college with a medical leave due to anxiety and depression. My husband and I support him fully and are helping him receive the help he needs. Of course, we are very concerned.

The problem is my mother. When I was young and had similar problems, she told me: "It's a sin for someone who has as much going for her as you do to be depressed." (This was especially strange since she's not religious.) She has been similarly dismissive of my feelings during other bouts of depression. She is generous with money, gifts, cooking, etc., but she cannot understand that being close with someone has more to do with emotional trust than simply time spent together.

I don't know how to handle this current situation with my son. She wants to be involved, but I have a strong aversion to her being around because I don't know what she'll say. I need to protect my son and myself, but I know she'll feel hurt if I leave her out. What should I do? — MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE

DEAR ADVOCATE: Your mother's feelings should not be a priority right now. I'm recommending you grandma-proof your son to the extent you can, by explaining to him that Nana has some old-fashioned, outdated ideas about depression, an illness that can run in families and appears to run in yours.

There are far more effective interventions for him now than were available for you back then. Medications and sometimes talk therapy can put him in a more positive frame of mind, and I'm glad you can help him get the professional help he needs.

DEAR ABBY: For most of my life, I've felt uncomfortable in my own body. It seemed as though my right arm belonged to someone else. I have decided to have it amputated, and I'm trying to find the best way to tell my family. I'd appreciate any suggestions you might have. — LOST FOR WORDS

DEAR LOST: There's a name for those feelings you have had for so long. It's called body integrity identity disorder. Before trying to explain your desire for amputation to your family, please discuss this with a licensed psychotherapist who may be able to help you determine if you truly want to follow through with your intention. With psychiatric help, you may be able to integrate your alien limb into your body image.

DEAR ABBY: I lost a friend about two months ago. During the early morning hour of his death, I was having breakfast alone, and I had the light on in my dining room. All of a sudden, the light went out and then came back on. Abby, the only power that went out was the light over my head. I am a science person. I do not believe in mystical things. Now I am not so sure my friend wasn't communicating with me. I cried. What do you think? — MISSING HIM IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR MISSING HIM: I think if it comforts you to believe your friend was reaching out to you as he passed to the next realm, you should hold onto and treasure that thought. If it doesn't do that, let it go and dwell on the wonderful friendship you two shared.

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.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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Jeanne Phillips
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