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by Abigail Van Buren

Girl Who Bites Her Nails Gets Something to Chew On

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 10-year-old girl who lives in McHenry, Ill. I read your column as often as I can. I think you're the best. Now I need your help.

I bite my nails all the time, but mostly when I'm nervous. I hate it. My nails are so short you can't even see them. I have tried to stop but I just can't.

One of the rules in my tae kwon do class is no nail-biting, but I still do it at home.

What should I do? Please help me. -- NERVOUS NAIL-CHEWER

DEAR NERVOUS NAIL-CHEWER: As a former nail-biter, I offer several suggestions. First, you and your mother should visit the pharmacy and ask if it sells a harmless but bitter product you can put on your fingers, so that putting them into your mouth will be less appealing. Second, instead of chewing your nails, substitute crunchy vegetables like carrot sticks, celery sticks and radishes.

Third, put light-colored polish on your nails. It will protect them, and within weeks, as they begin to grow, they will look better and better. (Perhaps your mother would reward you with a professional manicure at the end of the month if you can refrain from biting.) And last, if you can't completely kick the habit, choose ONE nail that you can chew while sparing the rest.

DEAR ABBY: For 16 years, I experienced complex partial seizures, a mild version of grand mal seizure. I would have episodes where I "wasn't there" for a few seconds. My husband and others would observe me staring with watery eyes and pursing my lips as though tasting something bitter, but no one realized what was going on.

The seizures occurred infrequently and lasted approximately 15 seconds. When someone would ask me if something was wrong, I would deny it. I was afraid and ashamed to admit that perhaps I needed help.

In 1999, I experienced a partial seizure while driving on a highway. My mother was in the car just ahead of me and I rammed her. Then my car crossed the opposing lane of traffic and flew airborne into a power pole. By some miracle, no one was seriously injured.

Because I had no memory of the accident, my doctor suspected I had had a seizure of some kind. An EEG confirmed the doctor's suspicions. I was put on medication and haven't had a seizure since.

My unwillingness before the accident to admit there might be a problem nearly cost me my life, and worse -- someone else's.

Please urge your readers who may be "blanking out" for a few seconds to see their doctor immediately for an evaluation. Seizure episodes can usually be controlled with medication, erasing the potential for a traffic fatality. -- SEIZURE-FREE NOW IN FLORIDA

DEAR SEIZURE-FREE: You are very lucky to have survived such a traumatic event unscathed. I have said for years that the first and most important step in resolving a problem is admitting you have one -- and that applies to physical, emotional, legal and spiritual issues.

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