Originally Published: February 23, 2017 6:02 a.m.
Dear Annie: In December, I went to a holiday house party, and most of the people in the crowd were my old friends from college (class of 1979). I hadn’t seen some of these people in 25 years or more. The hostess pulled out her giant photo album, and there they were, several pictures of my favorite ex-girlfriend and me having the time of our lives. I haven’t seen or talked to her since 1985. So my big question is: Would it be kosher to write her a light and lively letter and catch up? We’ve both been married with kids for close to 30 years. (I looked her up online.) She’s the one who got away from me, but I’m not looking for any do-over; we had our chances. But I would pay big money for a time machine! What do you think? — Nostalgic in Boston
Dear Nostalgic: No matter how many years have passed, to reconnect with this old flame would be playing with fire, and your whole family would be liable to get burned.
If you didn’t feel that this woman was the one who got away, I would say sure, you could strike up a friendship. But because you’re still wishing for a time machine, I think you’d better keep your distance. I’d also recommend taking off those rose-colored glasses when looking at your past. There was a reason you two broke up. Reminisce about your college days as much as you’d like, but don’t try to resurrect them.
Dear Annie: When I saw the letter from “Feeling Neurotic,” the young person who is experiencing random bouts of anxiety and dread, the words “sense of impending doom” jumped off the page at me. Just put the word “overwhelming” in front and you have the exact phrase I’ve used to describe how I feel sometimes. The first time it happened, I was 50 years old and driving down the road. Nine years later, I still experience these episodes, but on a very infrequent basis.
Minus the obsessive-compulsive behavior, “Feeling Neurotic” and I share the same confusing experience. There is no apparent reason for that feeling, no particular stimulus, no way of explaining or understanding or predicting it. Over time, I’ve learned to roll with it by reasoning that it is just a feeling — that it always passes in a short time and there is no harm other than the “sense of impending doom” itself.
It’s just my opinion, but I think “Neurotic’s” obsessive-compulsive behavior is merely a response to the anxiety attacks rather than a symptom to be treated. A sense of helplessness that accompanies the anxiety may be prompting behavior simply because “Neurotic” needs to do something in response.
I think the OCD behavior is a self-defense response. Because the anxiety attack is illogical, there is no apparent cause for it and there is no tangible threat to respond to, “Neurotic” is compelled by the brain’s self-defense mechanism to do something, anything, even if that something is illogical.
I hope this high-school sophomore is able to learn to deal with this. The first step is to accept that the anxiety attacks are not a harbinger of doom and to control the obsessive-compulsive impulse. I’m sure it can be done. — Anxious in New England
Dear Anxious: Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sharing your insights here with the hope they help “Feeling Neurotic,” as well as other readers who experience anxiety attacks. For more information about these symptoms and the conditions to which they might be related, visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website at https://www.adaa.org.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.