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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband's sister, "Claudia," has been one of my closest friends since we became sisters-in-law seven years ago. I have been there for her over the years, including watching her children, helping her recover from a painful divorce, and allowing her to vent about everyday problems.

For the majority of those years, Claudia was on medication for anxiety. However, a few months ago, she stopped cold turkey. She and I had no problems while she was on the meds, but now that she's off, Claudia has said and done many hurtful things to me and other family members and friends.

Claudia doesn't seem to realize that she is a different person when she's off her medication. Her mother, her best friend and I have all told her separately how cruel and insensitive her comments are, and that she needs to be upfront with her doctor about what's going on. She refuses, and her behavior is escalating.

How can I get across to my sister-in-law that she is unbearable without the medication? -- TIRED OF BEING HURT IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR TIRED: Since each of you has spoken to her separately without making an impression, the three of you should confront her as a group and tell her how much she has changed and how hurtful her behavior has become. If she is still not receptive to informing her doctor that she has a problem, limit your time with her.

DEAR ABBY: I visit my son, daughter-in-law and baby granddaughter a couple of times a year and stay for four or five days each visit. They live 2,000 miles away.

My daughter-in-law's parents live around the corner from them and often "drop by" and visit all day. I like them and would enjoy having dinner with them once. However, the rest of the time, I'd like some privacy to visit one-on-one. My daughter-in-law thinks both our families should completely blend and bond.

My son says I shouldn't expect his in-laws to change their usual lifestyle just because I'm visiting. He thinks my attitude is selfish. I don't think I'm asking too much. How do you think I should handle this? -- SAD GRANDMA IN KENTUCKY

DEAR SAD GRANDMA: I personally don't agree that your wanting some "alone time" with your son, daughter-in-law and grandchild is selfish. After all, her parents have ready access and use it frequently.

That said, since both your son and daughter-in-law are in accord on this, you have little choice in the matter. So accept the package deal gracefully.

P.S. I also think it is insensitive of the in-laws not to realize that you should have some private time to visit.

DEAR ABBY: I am 12 years old and live with my dad. Twenty-two years ago my mom placed my brother, "Jim," for adoption. I found out about my brother two years ago. Mother gave me his address. I would like to meet him, but I am afraid he won't like me. He has a wife and kids who are my niece and nephew.

Please, Abby, should I write Jim or should I not? -- CONFUSED AND SCARED IN ALBUQUERQUE

DEAR CONFUSED AND SCARED: I see no reason why you shouldn't write your brother and let him know that you would like to meet him and his family. Yes, reaching out can be scary, but you have more to gain by doing so than you have to lose. The majority of reunions are happy ones. Think positive.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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