DEAR ABBY: I'm a homemaker with two sweet little girls. As precious as they are to me, I have a problem that is preventing me from giving them the kind of life they deserve. I hate to leave my house. Anytime I have to leave the house I start sweating, my heart starts pounding, and by the time I return home I'm exhausted and can do nothing more for the rest of the day.
My girls are asking to go to parties, have me volunteer in their classrooms, and they want to join Girl Scouts. I don't know what to do! I want them to experience all of these things, but the thought of how I'll have to leave the house and all the people I will have to meet and try to converse with brings me to tears. I don't want my anxieties to rub off onto my children. What should I do? -- HOMEBOUND IN ANDERSON, CALIF.
DEAR HOMEBOUND: Call your doctor and have a frank conversation about how stressful it is for you to leave the house and interact with people. Then ask for a referral to a mental health professional who treats panic and phobic disorders, because it appears you have at least one.
Fortunately, problems such as yours are treatable -- but in order to get the help you need, you will have to ASK for it. Make it your first New Year's resolution.