Dear Annie: At 23, I'm finally finding peace and happiness in my life, taking time to enjoy friends and family, while still working really hard as a grad student. And for the first time in eight years, thanks to a combination of self-reflection, counseling and, what finally pulled me across the divide, pharmaceutical assistance, I'm able to make it through the day without vomiting up everything I eat.

My mother seems annoyed that I am taking antidepressants. She says people use medication instead of dealing with their problems. But after years of hell, this is the first time I'm really doing all right. I only told her about the antidepressants because I thought, in case of a medical emergency, someone ought to know what drugs I was on. I also told her about the counseling, but she thinks I'm just stressed out and overdramatic.

I haven't told my mother about the bulimia because if she can't understand counseling, she certainly won't understand an eating disorder. I worry that she'll take it as a personal failing. And I certainly can't tell my father, who my mother said would probably "kill me" if he knew about the antidepressants.

I absolutely don't blame my parents for my problems, but at the same time, I'm annoyed that she belittles me for doing something that probably saved my life. Is it worth it to try explaining my situation when I know she'll ridicule it? —Sara in the Midwest

Dear Sara: Ask your counselor if it would be a good idea to bring your mother to a session. It might help her accept your choices if she hears from a professional. If Mom refuses to go or, after going, still cannot accept the steps you have taken to stay healthy, stop discussing the subject with her. While her understanding would be helpful, your physical and emotional well-being are most important.

Dear Annie: My cousin, "Amy," never buys gifts for anyone in the family. In fact, I can't remember the last time my children or I have gotten so much as a card from her.

The problem is, Amy always expects gifts from the rest of us on her birthday. I buy her children presents because it isn't their fault their mother is selfish. However, Amy's birthday is coming up soon and she's been hinting she wants a watch. Should I comply? —Tired of a Selfish, Spoiled Cousin

Dear Tired: Amy has been taking advantage of your compliance for years. Unless you are eager to give your cousin a watch for her birthday, we see no reason to keep accommodating her. Tell her, nicely, that from now on, the gift-giving will be limited to the children.

Dear Annie: This is in response to "Tammy," whose son has a joint birthday party with a school friend born the same week. She said one particular guest always brings a card or gift for the other boy, but not for her son.

We just had a joint birthday party with our son and two other children. The parents and I decided to make it "no gifts" and it worked out great. The birthday boys never once asked about the missing gifts, and the kids played for hours without interruption. Kids have so much these days anyway, why add to the chaos? —Marcy

Dear Marcy: Many parents make their children's parties gift-free, or ask guests to bring something that can be donated to a children's shelter or food pantry. These are all excellent ideas and have the added value of teaching children that giving to the less fortunate can be part of the celebration.

Dear Readers: We are carrying on the tradition that April 2 be set aside as Reconciliation Day, a time to make the first move toward mending broken relationships. It also could be the day on which we agree to accept the olive branch extended by a former friend or estranged family member, and do our best to start over.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.