DEAR ABBY: I did a careless thing and I don't know what to do next. My mother and I have kept a big secret (I will not divulge the secret) within the family since I was a small child.
This secret has involved numerous lies to outsiders. I asked Mother for permission to discuss the secret with my psychiatrist, and she agreed. We were both comfortable with this, knowing that psychiatrists cannot reveal what their patients discuss.
I did not ask for permission to discuss it with my support group. However, I did discuss it -- and now I'm worried that one of the other members of the group will mention it to someone outside, and my indiscretion will come back to haunt me.
Mother does not know I did this. She and I are extremely close and I know she senses my nervousness. My question: Should I confess to Mother and clear my conscience, or should I pretend that nothing happened? This is tearing me up inside. I feel physically ill and I'm extremely depressed. My mother has been through enough and I don't want to hurt her, but I cannot forget what I have done. -- FEELING GUILTY
DEAR FEELING GUILTY: It is unlikely that your secret will be discussed outside your therapy group, where generally, confidentiality is required. Discuss your fears with your psychiatrist, and ask him or her to make an announcement reiterating confidentiality at the next group session. Since you feel that your mother would be upset by your disclosure, say nothing to her. Then forgive yourself, and let it go.