Dear Abby: I have a problem I can't discuss with my family. I am 45 years old, married for 12 years, and I am in love with my wife's daughter from her first marriage. "Danica" is 24 and married. I have had these feelings for her for quite some time. Danica is fun to be around and very pretty when she smiles. We have talked when she has been over to visit her mother, and she drives me crazy. My wife says I have a crush on her daughter. Thank God she doesn't know how much.
-- Smitten in San Antonio
Dear Smitten: The first thing you should do is take a cold shower and wake up. You have slipped from fantasy into obsession, created a rift in the family and made a fool of yourself. If you can't let go of this, please talk to a mental health professional.
Dear Abby: Please accept my apology for thinking that every time you advise counseling you were "passing the buck." After years of abuse and three nightmare marriages, I am finally finding myself through psychiatric care.
After my husband of 27 years left me, I was shattered -- terrified. I couldn't stop crying. I made a desperate call to a mental health hot line and was advised to go to the nearest emergency hospital. My physician met me there and I admitted myself to their psychiatric ward. It was the beginning of a new life.
Everyone I encountered, from the person in admitting to the doctors and nurses, the staff and other patients, helped me. I started to heal. I signed myself out after five days, but continue going in for weekly counseling.
I will soon begin taking courses at my local college to become certified. And now that I am healing, I'm doing volunteer work in mental health care and awareness. My goal is to make the public realize the importance of mental health.
I have learned you can live in fear or reach out for help. There is no reason for anyone to suffer when help is close at hand. There are toll-free hotline numbers for crisis intervention.
Thank you for always being there, Abby. I know you were there for me.
-- Sunshine in South Carolina
Dear Sunshine: Thank YOU for sharing your personal success. When you were in crisis, you were wise to recognize it for what it was and get help. There should be no shame in such a positive, life-affirming act.
Another valuable resource for the mentally ill is an organization called the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). It offers emotional and educational support to people -- and families -- with all the major mental disorders. Its toll-free number is (800) 950-6264. The Web site is www.nami.org.