ETCETERA / ANgST: Expert advice on your problems

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I was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis a year ago, and although the symptoms are not yet advanced I feel very scared about what may lie ahead. Friends are, without exception, supportive and kind, and they say they will be around to help when I need it. But the thing that frightens me most is becoming entirely dependent on them. Is there anything I can do to help myself?

One of the most frightening aspects of multiple sclerosis is not knowing how, when or indeed if the condition will progress, or what the future may be like for sufferers and their family / friends / carers. However, there are various therapies available, including physiotherapy, which can help with the movement of joints when they get stiff. Certain foods have been found to aggravate the condition, and our centres offer dietary advice to MS sufferers. You might also find counselling helpful, either through the national helpline numbers below or on a personal basis.

Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centres, Unit 4, Murdock Road, Bedford MK41 7PD, tel: 0234 325781. Telephone counselling numbers: London 071-222 3123; Edinburgh 031-226 6573; Birmingham 021-476 4229.

We have a family business with a large annual turnover. There are four children who are all directors and equal shareholders. Our father founded the business 40 years ago and remains involved, but no longer has any shares in the company. One of my sisters, who was always regarded as the 'difficult one', has upset our mother so much that we feel she can no longer remain in the company. Her husband works for the business, but only because he is married to my sister. We are worried that the family row will destroy the business. What can we do?

While family businesses can be a source of great satisfaction, you describe a number of the problems they face. You highlight what happens when family and business boundaries become blurred. Who actually makes business decisions, and what is your father's role in relation to the board? It sounds as though there may still be problems in resolving succession issues. Another worry may be that if you buy your sister out, the business will not survive. The question of how you resolve your different loyalties - to the family and to the business - is a complex one, and I believe you need professional help. This situation requires skilled interdisciplinary consultancy, drawing not only on management consultancy, but also on family therapy and commercial law. At present, both your family and your business are in jeopardy.

Hugh Jenkins, director, Family Business Consultancy Ltd, 43 New Cavendish Street, London W1M 7RG, tel: 071- 486 3498.

I have been under a lot of pressure recently, mainly in the area of work. I am self-employed and periodically have a punishing workload that demands every ounce of my energy. I have been feeling very tense for several months now and this tension affects me all the time. Somebody I was talking to suggested that massage might help. Could this kind of therapy really do much to deal with my anxious and exhausted state?

The body manifests the strains of a lifetime, and when we are under stress the manifestations become more pronounced. Typical symptoms of stress include tight muscles, nervous headaches and high blood pressure, and you may develop illnesses. We believe that, through manipulation of the soft tissues, massage relaxes and tones the muscles, soothes the nervous system, lowers blood pressure and heartbeat and assists circulation and the clearance of toxins from the body. It can also improve digestion and help establish good sleeping patterns. The theory behind holistic massage is that it doesn't just deal with symptoms, but treats the person as a whole emotional, physical and spiritual being. A tense body will often not feel cared for, and massage helps provide this feeling of nurturing.

Linda Hall, registered practitioner of the Massage Training Institute, tel: 071-226 7944 (male clients by referral only). The Institute can be contacted on 071-226 5313.

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