Dear Annie: My father did everything he could to make my life miserable, and to deprive me of anything and everything. He treated my brother and sisters far differently, but even so, everyone in the family knew he was one sick man.
My brother committed suicide when he was 21, and after that, my father made a couple of attempts to have a relationship with me, but he still couldn’t help himself. He would constantly try to undermine me and make verbal slights and backhanded remarks any chance he got.
My mother was the same as he was when it came to emotional abuse. They fought constantly and blamed their unhappiness on being stuck in the marriage because of the children.
After he was old and his health was failing, he wondered why I didn’t want anything to do with him. Throughout my life, I avoided him like the plague and would rather have pulled my own teeth than go to his funeral.
Child abuse lasts forever; you never forget those who did everything in their power to destroy you when you were a child.
If you were never treated like that, you will never understand. Reading about it in a book might give you a tiny bit of insight, but you will never understand it if you haven’t lived it.
— Still Hurting
Dear Still Hurting: I am so sorry you had to endure that emotional abuse. Your father and mother sound like they were awful parents, and no child deserves to be treated that way.
I am also so very sorry for the loss of your brother.
You are correct that there is no one better to help people going through things than someone who has experienced that type of abuse themselves. That is the premise of Alcoholics Anonymous — former alcoholics helping other alcoholics.
The faster you heal, the quicker you will be able to help those who have suffered similar abuse. Try to find a good therapist who can help you process some of your trauma.
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Dear Annie: I don’t like dogs. Every dog seems to sense this, and, when not on a leash, comes barreling toward me. I always put my hand out like a traffic cop stopping cars. I say no to the dog and back away. I say to the owner, kindly, that I don’t like dogs but they always seem to gravitate toward me.
This is usually not well received. I know some people think of their dogs as children, and that my statement is a bit harsh, but it’s the truth. Can you help me with a phrase that would get owners to control their dog?
The dog should be on a leash in the first place, but I’m not going to address that, as they know they are at fault. Thanks for any help you can offer.
— Barking up the Wrong Tree
Dear Barking up the Wrong Tree: That which we resist persists. It is OK not to like dogs, but have you ever asked yourself why? If you do some introspection, you might find yourself disliking them less than you think.
Dogs should be on leashes for your safety and theirs. Next time you encounter a dog, just try to ignore it and continue on your walk.
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— A native Californian, Annie Lane writes her Dear Annie advice columns from her home outside New York City, where she lives with her husband, two kids and two dogs. Her debut book, Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie, features favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette. Email your Dear Annie questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.