Dear Amy: I am a teenager, struggling with school issues, anxiety, and worries about where I want to go in life.
I have been experiencing panic attacks since seventh grade. My parents have been very supportive, but they don't want me to get counseling. They believe I should try to deal with my hyperventilation and stress issues myself before we transition to the medical side of things. I respect this, and I understand their views. I'm asking you for help because your advice could just give me a push in the right direction.
When I confront a challenge, I usually just become angry and want to give up. I get stressed at the smallest things and I'm very sensitive.
Usually, I release my anger by crying and complaining, which eventually leads to panic attacks. For me, the transition from middle school to high school was very hard — more kids, harder classes, people growing up too quickly, etc.
I don't like high school and I tend to find myself becoming nostalgic about the past. I have a lot of friends that moved to different schools, which is also tough for me.
Some of the people that I knew from middle school are now making bad decisions that I know will eventually get them in a lot of trouble. Although I am willing to take on the workload of more challenging classes, I usually find myself so incredibly unhappy that I cannot do my best work in school.
I've tried many stress-relieving techniques — deep breathing, yoga, and meditation — but they just don't seem to work. What can I do to overcome my anxiety? — Stressed
Dear Stressed: Your parents seem to associate counseling with medication, but counseling involves talking, strategizing, confronting, and coaching — and not necessarily medication (although medication might help you!).
I am impressed that you are trying so hard to tackle this on your own, but yes, you would benefit from counseling, and I hope that your parents support you getting professional help to deal with your anxiety. Any treatment should start with a thorough professional assessment. Your school psychologist or counselor would be a good first stop for you.
Being a teenager is tough. Being a teenager with anxiety is tougher. All of the new experiences and challenges coming your way can seem overwhelming. Instead of sorting through your busy days and putting thoughts and feelings in some kind of manageable order, your anxious brain is on high-alert and is racing faster than it should.
Your school counselor or library should have a copy of "My Anxious Mind: A Teen's Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic," by Michael A. Tompkins and Katherine A. Martinez (2011 Magination Press). Both authors are counselors who work with teens, teaching effective strategies for confronting that anxious bully in your brain. You are not alone, and this book (and others written for teens) will help.
Dear Amy: My brother recently told me that his daughter, whom we haven't seen in years, won't visit us unless we let her dog have access to both our main upstairs living space and the downstairs. My brother knows that having a dog upstairs would cause me stress, and so that's where I draw the line.
The downstairs is a daylight ground floor of nearly 1,800 square feet, with guest rooms, a kitchen, bathroom and large living room with a view of Puget Sound. We've hosted other relatives with pets who've been fine keeping them in the downstairs area during their stays.
There used to be rules of etiquette for guests that included not bringing a pet to someone's home unless it was invited by the host. We're happy to host our niece and her dog, but within reasonable limits.
Am I being unreasonable? — Sad Uncle
Dear Uncle: The rules for being a good houseguest haven't changed. You describe a very pleasant suite of rooms available to your niece and her dog. If you would like to invite her to visit, you should contact her directly and spell out the accommodations available to her and her pooch. Let her respond directly to you, instead of using her father as a go-between.
Dear Amy: Responding to the question from "Mom of Fantastic Frump," I grew up with a mother like this and it took years of therapy to escape the mental prison of her incessant judgment.
To this "frumpy" daughter I say: Keep on being you, regardless of what Mommy Dearest thinks! — Been There
Dear Been There: I agree!
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.