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by Abigail Van Buren

Volunteer Regrets Telling Supervisor Reason for Absence

DEAR ABBY: I am 52 years old and have experienced chronic fatigue (from Lyme and Epstein-Barr) most of my adult life. Four years ago, I discovered a wonderful medical practitioner and, by adhering to her protocol, regained such improved health that I began volunteering with a local organization. Due to a recent setback, however, fatigue has prevented me from volunteering, and my absence has been noticed.

Although I am usually a private person, I decided to divulge my health issues to the leader so he wouldn't think I was unhappy with my duties. He then began asking if I had tried various health products and remedies to the point where I felt I was on trial and defending myself. In the past, before I received an accurate diagnosis, some family members and physicians doubted the validity of my illness, so I am sensitive to being questioned.

Over the years, I have sought treatment from various sources, from local health stores to nationally recognized hospitals, and I don't appreciate advice from healthy armchair experts. I also don't like being questioned or doubted. Did I set myself up by disclosing my health issues, or should I have remained polite but vague? -- SURVIVOR IN THE EAST

DEAR SURVIVOR: In a sense, yes, you did set yourself up by disclosing the reason for your absence. The medical conditions from which you suffer were poorly understood years ago, and many people -- medical personnel included -- were under the impression that their patients' problems were all in their heads. Please try to be less defensive where this person is concerned. From my perspective, he was only trying to be helpful.

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