Company does not love misery

Dear Annie: I recently retired, and my younger brother is still working in a high-pressure job. Whenever we get together, all he talks about is every detail of his daily grind. I never cared to hear all of these stressful job details. And this is especially true now that I’m retired. How do I get him to stop — or at least greatly reduce the amount of time he talks about his stressful job? — Happily Retired

Dear Happily Retired: Some degree of venting is part of any close friendship or family relationship, and it can be therapeutic. That said, after a while, venting becomes complaining, and complaining becomes toxic. It fosters complacency in misery. So encouraging your brother to get out of this negative work headspace will not only be a relief for you but also helpful for him. Toward that end, the best defense is a good offense: Be proactive in conversations, asking him questions about nonwork topics. Make a point of attending outings with him, such as going to sporting events, concerts, botanical gardens, museums — activities that will offer conversation fodder besides the same old, same old.

At the end of the day, he might continue to talk about his stressful work life, but his stress doesn’t have to be yours.

Dear Annie: I have been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, like the young lady in the recent letter from her mother. I am so sorry her daughter passed during a crisis. I have not lost a child, but I have lost a grandchild. So, I know a little about the pain.

Luckily, as a man, MG came much later in my life than the daughter in that letter. Typically, men get this autoimmune disease in their 50s and women in their 20s. Unfortunately, this is my second autoimmune disease. I have since found out people with autoimmune diseases often get more than one. The first autoimmune disease is currently in remission.

Autoimmune diseases are hard to diagnose. Many times, people are misdiagnosed. I do not find it hurtful when family and friends doubt my diagnosis; I question everything myself. But I do find it very hurtful when the people who know me best think there is nothing wrong with me.

I work very hard to overcome these diseases, with the help of medical professionals and medication. I have been successful in business. I have overcome these challenges to be very active. Sometimes my autoimmune diseases slow me down, but they have not stopped me.

I am lucky my symptoms are not worse, and this is because of all the help I have had. Not everyone is so lucky. Instead of giving me credit for overcoming these diseases, friends and family oftentimes think this is evidence there is nothing wrong with me.

I wish I could tell the mother in your letter to forgive and forget.

I hope she can. I try to remember that I knew nothing about autoimmune diseases until my first diagnosis and forgive their ignorance. — Your Faithful Reader

Dear Faithful Reader: I am sorry that it’s been such a struggle for you to find validation of your disease. People who live with lesser-understood conditions often report a lack of support from peers and even the medical professionals from whom they seek help.


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