Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine encourages an unhappy young woman to follow up on offers of support.
“I am 28 and since finishing my college course, I have lived at home with my parents. For the past few years, I have become increasingly miserable. My brother is happily married, owns his home, and he and his wife are expecting their first child in a few months. Most of friends from school and college are also paired up and/or have exciting jobs.
“Increasingly, I feel awkward around their success and find excuses not to meet up or message them back when they get in touch. I’ve never got anything interesting to talk about, as a home-based, online customer care numpty anyway, so why bother?
“No one has said anything yet, but I am sure they must know something is wrong. My brother convinced me to have an online consultation with a doctor back at the start of the summer, but this didn’t amount to anything. I don’t like taking about myself and I probably didn’t explain my problems very well. Despite this, she suggested that I might be depressed and that perhaps I should see a counsellor. She also referred me to a questionnaire, which I didn’t complete as I didn’t see the point.
“My mum is also worried about me. She’s supportive and doesn’t seem to mind me dumping all my worries on her, though even she must be getting fed up with me moping around. I have told myself so many times to just pull myself together, but it never works. I think I am a long way from being suicidal, but sometimes I do wonder why I bother.”
“All the sources of advice and support you’ve mentioned would be able to do so much for you, if only you’d give them more of a chance to help. The questionnaire you didn’t see the point of is a standard tool that doctors use to try and assess a patient’s mental health. As you didn’t complete it, your doctor will have no idea how you feel – especially as you say you didn’t really explain your problems either.
“It doesn’t matter if you can’t get health professionals to understand your problem straight away – they’re used to that – so please do persevere. If it all comes out in a jumble and torrent of words, so what? Counsellors and doctors are quite used to having to get to the root of problems this way. You must have expressed yourself clearly enough though, for your doctor to recognise that you need help.
“You mustn’t think that you’ve got to somehow make an instantaneous and speedy recovery from what has been a long, drawn out period of depression – it will take time. The pandemic has meant that while some people have drawn closer together, using video conferencing and other tools, others have retreated into their shells.
“Your friends will have been struggling with their own lives through all this – the fact that they’ve not reached out and not said anything could be because they’re suffering too. Even those who are, as you put it, ‘paired-up’, may not be getting on as well as you think. Many close relationships have been tested to breaking point when couples have had to spend 24 hours a day with each other for weeks on end. Try to make contact with a few close friends you trust – be open and honest with them and I’m sure they’ll stick by you.
"Pour terminer, les Samaritans (samaritans.org) don’t just help people who are feeling suicidal; they provide a 24-hour confidential counselling service for anyone who has a problem and just needs a good listener. They can also refer you to other specialist sources of help if they think it’s appropriate.”
If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.