DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: My dad has called himself a hypochondriac for as long as I can remember. It got worse after he and my mom split up right before I started high school. When that happened, they were given joint custody of me, so I started splitting my time between their two homes, which I continue to do even while I’m now in college. I get along great with both my parents, and I actually enjoy being with them both, just not when they’re together.
Now that my dad is what he calls semi-retired, he has more time to worry about his health, and obviously, COVID hasn’t helped. He has sat in his car in stupid long lines four times I know of to get tested whenever he believes he has any of the potential symptoms. He is really healthy, and except for slightly high blood pressure and cholesterol, he is in really good shape for someone who is almost 60. But he refuses to go out of the house, except for getting tested and so far for his two vaccination appointments.
Now that he’s fully vaccinated, he needs to start getting out, and stop focusing on his health. What do I do to convince him it’s safe, and actually a good thing, to get out of the house once in a while? He is beginning to get a little weird from being home all the time and alone for half of it. --- HYPOCHONDRIAC’S KID
DEAR HYPOCHONDRIAC’S KID: I know a few people who, like your dad, are still not comfortable leaving their homes these days — even after they’ve been fully vaccinated. I’m glad when I hear that most of them at least venture out for some exercise and the occasional trip to do some necessary shopping.
Perhaps you could work on getting your dad out for a walk, even in your neighborhood, with you along, masked and socially distanced. You can explain to him that you really need the exercise yourself, and that you don’t have to stay out for too long. I’d start small and close to home, at a time when it isn’t likely you’ll encounter any neighbors. Then, if that works, you could try a local park, which will hopefully have other people, but also enough space to avoid being too close to them for your dad’s comfort. In time, you could talk to him about getting some professional help to deal with his anxieties, but that would probably be a hard sell right now.
Baby steps. I think that’s what it’s going to take to get your dad and countless others back out in the world again.