DEAR ABBY: A few days ago I received a large white envelope from a friend I had been close to in high school. "Jen" returned every letter, card and note I had written to her throughout our four years of school. She thanked me for being a good friend and thought I might like to have them.
I can't tell you how upsetting it was to read how awful I was as a teenager. I was promiscuous, used foul language and made references to experimenting with drugs. It brought back so many terrible memories that I had blocked.
I have been married for 23 years and have three children who would be crushed if they discovered my past. I don't know what to do. The letters are full of history and my innermost feelings. Some passages are humorous and the thoughts of a silly teenager talking to a dear friend. I can't bring myself to throw them away and have hidden them in my hope chest. What should I do with them? -- SECRETS OF THE PAST
DEAR SECRETS: The problem with the written word is that it often outlives the writer. If you don't want your children or grandchildren to remember you through your true confessions, censor them NOW. Unless you're "hoping" your family will discover the letters after you're gone, you should destroy them. However, if they contain memories you would like to keep, copy the passages down and place those in your hope chest.
DEAR ABBY: I was sexually assaulted two years ago by a boy at a party I attended while away at school. I reported the incident to local and campus police, but there wasn't enough evidence to have him arrested. It took me a while to realize I needed help to deal with it. I'm looking for a counselor and hope to volunteer at a rape crisis center after I have gotten the help I need.
I have learned that the man who attacked me is getting married. I don't know his fiancee, but I'm horrified at the thought of this unsuspecting woman marrying a predator. I know if I do nothing, anything that happens to her or their children is on my hands for staying silent. I don't even know if she'd believe me, but I feel I have to try. Some advice, please, Abby. -- ANXIOUS IN ALABAMA
DEAR ANXIOUS: You are not alone. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women report having been raped or suffered an attempted rape in their lifetime. If there is a rape crisis center near you, contact it now and let the counselors there counsel and guide you in your healing. If you approach your predator's fiancee at this point, you probably won't be believed. Not being believed is like being raped twice. So get some professional help before you attempt to reach out to her.
DEAR ABBY: I am very fair-skinned and turn red easily, especially when I'm nervous or embarrassed. It has made me afraid to speak in public or to go to large events where there may be a lot of people. Do you have any advice on how I can get over this? -- BLUSHING EVEN NOW IN PHOENIX
DEAR BLUSHING: What you have described may be a symptom of social phobia, the most common form of an anxiety disorder. There are effective treatments for it, and you can find out more about them by discussing your problem with your physician and/or a psychologist. You might also benefit from attending a phobia support group. The psychologist can help you locate one or more of them in your community.
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