Dear Prudence

Help! I’ve Been Bitten by a Bat and Charged With Soliciting a Prostitute.

I have been experiencing severe bouts of depression and emotional instability

A silhouette of a man.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Huy Takagi on Unsplash.

Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we will be diving into the Dear Prudie archives and sharing a selection of classic letters with our readers.

Dear Prudence, 

I am a college student just wrapping up my junior year. This school year has been incredibly stressful for me. I had to undergo a series of rabies shots after being bitten by a bat, my mother’s house was burglarized, and two close friends have been imprisoned. The house I live in attracts numerous unwanted critters and is far enough away from campus that I have lost touch with most of my classmates. Because of these factors, I have been experiencing severe bouts of depression and emotional instability, and I recently succumbed to these feelings and sought out an escort online. However, she was an undercover police officer, and I was charged with solicitation. I sought out legal help on my own, and the charges will be dismissed in less than two months after I complete an educational program. I have also entered counseling through my university. I have not told anybody outside of my lawyer and therapist about the incident because there is a definite social stigma regarding prostitution, and I am extremely embarrassed. My parents have been very understanding and supportive of me this past year, but I do not think I can bring myself to tell them about the incident. Given that the charge will be dismissed, do I need to tell my parents about it at all?

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You were bitten by a potentially rabid bat! That gives you a freebie on subsequent mad behavior. It sounds as if Judith Viorst should do an update of her classic children’s book, make it for young adults, and call it Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Junior Year. I’m assuming you mean that the charges will be expunged, right? I hope so, in which case it’s as if the incident never happened. You have dealt with this in an adult way, and since it will have no further bearing on your life, you aren’t obligated to tell anyone. You say your parents have been very supportive of you, so instead of discussing solicitation, solicit them for help in underwriting housing for you that gets you close to the university. You’re entitled to enjoy your college years and not feel as if you’re exiled to some outer precinct of True Blood.—Emily Yoffe

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From: Help! I’ve Been Bitten by a Bat and Charged With Soliciting a Prostitute. (May 5, 2015)

Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend of three years is a smart, funny, caring guy and we love each other very much. The problem is that during the past year and a half he has lost an extreme amount of weight that he really didn’t need to lose. He’s super, super skinny and unhealthy looking. Friends and family are concerned he’s seriously ill. He insists he is fine and his most recent check-up didn’t reveal any physical problems. My problem? His weight loss (done without exercise, BTW) has left him a very different person: unable to exercise without being exhausted quickly, unable to engage in sex fully because anything but “girl on top” is too tiring, and so very moody. I’ve tried for the last two years for him to get help and I’m frustrated he can’t or won’t seek it. In addition, I’m a curvy girl who has always had body-image issues. He loves my body but it’s been a long road to feeling attractive. Having my boyfriend weigh less than me, wear a smaller size than me, eat less (sometimes only a meal a day), etc., is bringing back all those feelings of being “big” and unattractive. Issues I’ve worked hard to get past. Am I a horrible person that I’m considering breaking up with him because he won’t talk to a doctor seriously about this and it is having a negative impact on most every part of our lives together?

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Something alarming is going on with your boyfriend, so please don’t make this an issue about how he’s “fat shaming” you because he’s gotten so thin. Leave your size issues out of this: Don’t compare your waist measurements, just tell him you’re profoundly concerned that he is in a health crisis. Point out that he is exhausted and moody all the time, doesn’t even have the energy for sex, and his refusal to eat more than one meal a day is having a negative impact on his health and your relationship. Ask as a favor to you if he will make a follow-up appointment with his doctor and allow you to come. If he does, you can point out to the doctor the changes over the last 18 months and its effects on your boyfriend. If he won’t let you do it, say that your relationship is on the line. Explain this is not because you don’t love him, but because something is dangerously wrong and you don’t know what to do anymore if he won’t acknowledge it or let you help.—EY

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From: Help! My Boyfriend Is So Skinny He Can’t Have Sex Without Tiring Out. (Mar. 25, 2013)

Dear Prudence,

My wife and I are both complainers by nature. We dump most of it on each other, for the sanity of our friends and family, and it’s been a comforting aspect of our relationship. She’s several years younger than me and has been at the same job since finishing university. She hates it and has been talking about changing fields for years without actually doing anything about it. The things she complains about, though, are sort of part-and-parcel of any job. Recently, I was in a bad mood and I interrupted her complaining tirade by snapping, “I think you’d hate any job. It’s not your job, it’s you.” I felt bad right away, but her reaction surprised me: She agreed. She said, very seriously, “You’re right. I’m a negative, hateful person. What should I do about it?” It made me realize that I’m a negative, hateful whiner too. Do you have any ideas how we could improve this aspect of ourselves? She’s seen a psychiatrist in the past and she found it very helpful, but she stopped because even with our insurance covering part of it, it was far too much for our budget.

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Oh, sure, dump your problems on me. Did you ever think I have my own issues to deal with? You think you’ve got headaches—well, pull up a chair and let me unload. OK, maybe the three of us should start the Whiners Anonymous support group. Just imagine what our fellow haters would have to say about the temperature of the room, the snacks, and our lousy leadership. Good for both of you for wanting to address deficiencies in yourselves. It’s rather sweet you two Debbie Downers want to do some joint reforming of your personalities. Start with a book club, reading together on cognitive-behavioral based therapy. The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns is one place to start. Both of you should have the good humor and acceptance to acknowledge you are never going to turn into Dr. Pangloss, nor would you want to. I agree one of the pleasures of marriage is that it’s the place where you can blow off steam about all the annoyances (and more) of life. But not feeding each other’s negative spirals will likely allow you both to get more pleasure out of life. If you feel you could use the help of an outsider, social workers charge much less than psychiatrists, so look into using the services of one. Consider that a good investment in a happier life together.—EY

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From: Help! How Do I Stop Complaining About Everything? (Jan. 13, 2014)

Dear Prudence,

I am a high-performing individual at my workplace who also suffers from clinical depression and anxiety. I’ve discussed the basic issues with my boss, who seems vaguely supportive without truly understanding—she’s stated that I should do what I need to do for myself without really seeming to understand that sometimes I just can’t bear to come into work because of these illnesses. This year has been challenging so far, and I’ve taken four sick days this year where I’ve supplied other excuses for not being at work. Do I owe it to my boss/company to tell them why I’m really not there? This is a fairly progressive company, but I still fear backlash and prejudice because these are mental vs. physical illnesses.

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If you work in an office with more than 15 employees and your productivity is affected by your clinical depression (which it sounds like it is), you are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Your employer is required to make “reasonable accommodation” for you, including “schedules which incorporate flex-time … time off for scheduled medical appointments or support groups … physical arrangements … and joint meetings between the employer, supervisor, and job coach or other employment service providers.” It sounds like your boss is well-meaning but may not have a clear understanding of your condition and what particular needs you might have. I also understand your reluctance to share the specifics of your mental health issues with her, as many people unfamiliar with clinical depression have a vague sense to confuse it with absenteeism or an unwillingness to just “suck it up,” rather than a diagnosable, serious condition that affects brain chemistry.—Danny M. Lavery

From: Help! Should I Tell the Company I Miss Work Because of Clinical Depression? (Feb. 29, 2016)

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