Ask Amy

Ask Amy column

Q. I recently noticed a lot of precisely cut lines on my friend’s arm. I am pretty sure that these cuts were the results of self-harm.

She seems like a happy person with loving parents and supportive friends. I don’t think that there is anyone bullying her (and we have a really small school, so I would know). She is generally liked and is popular.

This is really worrying me, and I don’t know how to handle it.

Worried Friend


A. A person can seem happy and healthy on the outside and still be insecure, anxious, or in pain. You simply never really know what people are going through.

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The reason some people cut themselves is because they are trying to find ways to cope with feelings that are otherwise unexpressed.

You should notify your school counselor about this. If it’s not treated, self-harm (“cutting”) can progress and become even more serious. You are a very good friend to notice this and want to help.

Q. Two of my close friends just broke up, and I’m looking for advice on how to deal with the aftermath. The breakup wasn’t “bad” — no fighting, screaming, or bad-mouthing.

But I still feel stuck in the middle because they’re extremely uncomfortable and depressed around each other. I met these two at the exact same time (not an exaggeration — on the first day of college, we were standing next to one another in a line). There is no way I can, or would even want to, pick sides.


The problem is that our friend-groups are exactly the same, and I can’t think of a way of hanging out with one without the other finding out.

I’m really at a loss: These two people are my closest friends in the world, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to weather the storm without making things worse. Stuck

A. Your primary job is to be honest with both friends and to cope with your own discomfort — not to change your behavior or act against your instincts to shield them from their discomfort.

This is an awkward situation and will remain so until everybody settles down. Tell both friends: “I know this is tough on you, but it’s hard for your friends too. I’m going to do my best to spend time with each of you, but I hope you will figure out a way to hang out together with the group.”

If you choose to spend time with one friend, and the other wants you to be exclusionary, you’ll have to spell it out that you care about them equally and won’t be pressured to choose between them.


Q. Your advice (about unequal bequests) to take care of family in the kindest way hit a nerve with me.

My mother, in her mid-90s and of sound mind, cannot grasp the “emotional equity” concept of your advice. After the death of my only sibling several years ago, my mom has redone her trust twice, the latest in an effort to leave out my nephew for the indiscretion of not phoning often enough.

I have brought up the inequity subject twice over the course of a few years and realized it was of no value. To inoculate my children, just in case they were expecting anything, I have told them that Grandma will not be leaving anything for them in her will. To their credit, they remain loving and giving toward her (as do I).

Frustrated Daughter

A. Preparing your children for this legacy inequity (and carrying on regardless) is the right thing to do.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at