DEAR ABBY: I'm afraid my best friend's daughter, "Kami," may have Munchausen syndrome. People with this condition consciously fake the symptoms of a physical disorder.
Kami is 30, a former nurse, and married with a toddler. She lives to be sick. She is always in the emergency room for something. Kami often claims she has cancer and is dying. In fact, she recently told me proudly that she had "died" twice. Ladies from her church clean her house and bring her meals because they think she's at death's door, yet Kami and her husband are planning a water-skiing and snorkeling vacation.
Kami's husband and parents are extremely protective of her and become defensive if anyone suggests that Kami may not really be physically ill. A sister-in-law who mentioned Munchausen is no longer spoken to.
The final straw for me came when she arrived late to a wedding, making the grand entrance in a wheelchair, and by the end of the night was on her feet swing dancing at the reception.
She's losing friends, because to be friends with Kami means you are completely invested in her illness. Most people are staying away. She exhausts us.
I care for this young woman and her family, but don't know how to help her. Have you any thoughts? -- WORRIED FRIEND IN UTAH
DEAR WORRIED FRIEND: Until Kami's family is ready to recognize that she may have a complex emotional disorder rather than a physical illness and stop enabling her, there will be no help for her.
However, has anyone taken into consideration the effect Kami's endless dramatic crises are having on that toddler? When a parent is continually at death's door, attention that should be devoted to nurturing the child is diverted from where it should be.
Please point THAT out to your best friend. While the truth may not endear you to her, it may be the wake-up call she needs to see that her daughter gets help. Either that, or she can intervene to ensure the child receives the emotional support he or she needs while Mama is having another crisis.