Ask Amy

Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: I was a lifeguard when a drowning occurred on my watch. I found the little boy, gave CPR and tried to save him. I wasn't able to save him, and have been dealing with it ever since.

It's been about a month since the drowning, and everything is fine on the outside. My mom, a professional counselor, has taken care of me the whole time and has really helped, but I don't think it's enough.

I can't sleep too well, have troubles eating some days, have random anxiety attacks and occasionally have suicidal thoughts.

I've told my mother none of those things, for many reasons.

We have no health insurance to cover a private counselor for me. My mom is coping with health issues and a divorce, which my youngest sister is having trouble coping with.

My mother recently left her job and is trying for her master's degree in divinity.

I don't think it would be fair to have her deal with my issues as well, especially since I have been coping well on my own so far.

Not only that, I just don't know how to bring it up.

Am I doing the right thing, and if not, how can I fix it without adding extra stress to my mom's heavy load?

— CS

DEAR CS: You have been through a severe trauma and are exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD affects people who have participated in and survived a serious, emergency situation, such as that which military or emergency workers face.

I give you so much credit for trying to handle this on your own, but this is more than you will be able to tackle. You must get professional help immediately.

Your mother can be helpful and supportive, but she won't be able to handle this serious situation on her own.

Contact your supervisor from your lifeguard job. Because this happened in the course of your job, he or she should be able to connect you with a counselor at no cost to you.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, reach out to the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 800-273-8255. A phone counselor will connect you with a local counseling center.

This tragedy is not your fault. A trained and compassionate professional will help you to deal with the aftermath. Please reach out today.


DEAR AMY: After listening to a friend complain that she had no digital camera and wanted to sell things on eBay, I gave her a camera I no longer used.

I received no acknowledgment from her and she continued to complain about her credit card debt and about never having money.

She just called to tell me that she bought an expensive new camera online.

How does one get through to a person who apparently loves debt but who still wants to retire in a few months? I'm worried sick about her.

— Worried Friend

DEAR WORRIED: You can only be honest with your friend, while preparing yourself for the fact that she might not listen.

The next time she complains about her debt, tell her: "I'm really worried about your financial situation, but unfortunately I can't help you with it. I hope you will choose to get your house in order before it's too late."

I recommend the work of Suze Orman, who has done a great deal to counsel people (women, especially) to eliminate or reduce debt. The burden of debt affects a person's health, well-being and relationships.


DEAR AMY: Thank you for recommending grief support groups. As director of Montgomery Hospice Bereavement Care in Rockville, Md., I led grief support groups for 10 years.

It is always amazing to see a group of hurting individuals come together and listen to one another and enable one another to move toward healing. They gain self-help tools and understanding. This understanding and these tools help them to manage their grief.

— Elaine

DEAR ELAINE: Thank you for the important work you do; I agree that when individuals come together, they can help one another in important and life-changing ways.

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Filed under: Lifestyles