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Dear Annie… Company does not love misery

Dear Annie: I recently retired, and my younger brother is still working in a high-pressure job. Whenever we get together, all he talks about is every detail of his daily grind. I never cared to hear all of these stressful job details. And this is especially true now that I’m retired. How do I get him to stop — or at least greatly reduce the amount of time he talks about his stressful job?

— Happily Retired

Dear Happily Retired: Some degree of venting is part of any close friendship or family relationship, and it can be therapeutic. That said, after a while, venting becomes complaining, and complaining becomes toxic. It fosters complacency in misery.

So encouraging your brother to get out of this negative work headspace will not only be a relief for you but also helpful for him. Toward that end, the best defense is a good offense: Be proactive in conversations, asking him questions about nonwork topics. Make a point of attending outings with him, such as going to sporting events, concerts, botanical gardens, museums — activities that will offer conversation fodder besides the same old, same old.

At the end of the day, he might continue to talk about his stressful work life, but his stress doesn’t have to be yours. Practice some loving detachment; realize that you can be there for him without being his dumping ground.

Dear Annie: I have been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, like the young lady in the recent letter from her mother. I am so sorry her daughter passed during a crisis. I have not lost a child, but I have lost a grandchild. So, I know a little about the pain. Only time helps, in my opinion.

Luckily, as a man, MG came much later in my life than the daughter in that letter. Typically, men get this autoimmune disease in their 50s and women in their 20s.

Unfortunately, this is my second autoimmune disease. I have since found out people with autoimmune diseases often get more than one. The first autoimmune disease is currently in remission.

Autoimmune diseases are hard to diagnose. Many times, people are misdiagnosed. I do not find it hurtful when family and friends doubt my diagnosis; I question everything myself. But I do find it very hurtful when the people who know me best think there is nothing wrong with me. They have called me a liar. They have called me a malingerer. I am neither of these, and they should know that.

I work very hard to overcome these diseases, with the help of medical professionals and medication. I have been successful in business. I have overcome these challenges to be very active. Sometimes my autoimmune diseases slow me down, but they have not stopped me. I am lucky my symptoms are not worse, and this is because of all the help I have had. Not everyone is so lucky. Instead of giving me credit for overcoming these diseases, friends and family oftentimes think this is evidence there is nothing wrong with me.

I wish I could tell the mother in your letter to forgive and forget. I hope she can. Certainly, I understand how upsetting it is when the people that should know you best doubt you. I try to remember that I knew nothing about autoimmune diseases until my first diagnosis and forgive their ignorance.

— Your Faithful Reader

Dear Faithful Reader: I am sorry that it’s been such a struggle for you to find validation of your disease. People who live with lesser-understood conditions, including myasthenia gravis and other autoimmune diseases, often report a lack of support from peers and even the medical professionals from whom they seek help.

Readers can find out more information about autoimmune diseases, as well as support groups for people living with them, at https://www.aarda.org.

— Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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