Agony Aunt

Patricia Marie, MBACP qualified counsellor is a member of The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, practising in Harley Street, Essex and Scotland. She has many years experience of dealing with domestic violence, relationship problems, bereavement, depression, addictions, post traumatic stress and many other emotional issues. If you have a dilemma, please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk

I feel awkward about being "posher" than my family

Posted by Patricia_Marie
Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 01 April 2016
Dear Patricia Marie,
My mother is from a working-class family, but she went to university, got a good job and married my upper-middle-class father. I had a privileged upbringing, which makes me feel awkward around my mum's family.

My cousins are much closer to each other than to me, partly because they all live in the same town while I live 2 hours away. We get on well enough, but I don't really connect with them because our interests and tastes are so different. They make fun of my "posh" accent, hobbies, etc. I'm sure it's meant as a joke, but actually it really upsets me, although I hide it. I worry that they think I consider myself superior. Now when I'm with them I change my accent and keep quiet about my lifestyle.

Is it unhealthy to feel like you have to be a different person around your family? How can I make them stop teasing me without being whiny? I know that I am very privileged compared to them and so I shouldn't complain, but it is really upsetting me.

Patricia Marie says...

Social class prejudice is still very much in evidence today, although perhaps less openly expressed than it used to be. It is an unfortunate fact that society can make sweeping assumptions about people based solely on their accents. Class differences need to be acknowledged and interpreted without judgement, so that these differences can be enjoyed and appreciated.

There may be an element of jealousy from your cousins, or it could just be that they would love to accept you into the family circle, but that your reluctance to share your life experiences and feelings makes you seem unapproachable. If you could open up to them, you might all start to enjoy each other's company and greatly improve the relationship between you.

One of the most common mistakes we can make when we feel we don't belong, is to try and fit in. You are who you are. No more, no less. Counselling could help you establish what specifically triggers your current feelings, and also increase your self esteem, making it easier for you not to take your cousins' comments to heart.

You are unique, and will hopefully in time realise that your acceptance by others should not be the basis of your happiness. I suggest you put more importance on the relationships you do have that enhance your happiness, rather than considering changing yourself to suit others. Embrace who you are, and you should start to feel more joyful and fulfilled in your life.

We may never escape all judgment and discrimination, but we can learn to value ourselves. Remember, nobody can make you feel bad about yourself unless you allow this.

British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) 01455 883300 www.bacp.uk

I'm moving back with my parents

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 24 March 2016
Dear Patricia Marie,

I left home when I was 24, and, four years later, am about to move back in with my parents.

Living with my boyfriend didn't work out, neither did renting with friends, and now I'm badly overdrawn. My parents have already laid down house rules, including that I will not be allowed to have anyone stay overnight, and I'm feeling so deflated and depressed.

How am I supposed to get my life back?

Patricia Marie says...

Having to move back in with parents can sometimes make one feel like a failure, with an additional lost sense of independence. It is an entirely different dynamic from moving in with friends or a partner, and it can be a frustrating adjustment for both parties as it is very easy to fall into the old child/parent roles.

However, returning home doesn't necessarily mean reverting to previous house rules. To avoid any problems before you even walk back through the door, a new set of boundaries need to be mutually discussed and established, and any concerns raised at the outset. Your parents might find it hard to recognise you are now an adult in your own right, and negotiating a verbal contract will force all of you to contemplate some of the questions and difficulties that your relationship will face, such as the rent you are expected to pay, which chores you will each carry out around the house, and how you will respect each other’s privacy. If they insist you will not be allowed to have any friends staying over, you may have to accept this, and perhaps instead you could occasionally spend the night at a friend’s house, which would offer a change of scene too.

You seem to be feeling rather vulnerable and fragile, but the love and security of your parents in their home could offer you much comfort at this unsettling time. You may discover a totally new way of being with them that you did not previously have, and even enjoy the time you are with them. Of course it's important to contribute financially, but you can also use the opportunity of being at home to save and improve your finances.

Think of this as a temporary set back, which in turn will give you breathing space and help you recover from recent disappointments. It's not surprising you are feeling down, but the experience you have gained from this will prove priceless, and although your choices proved to be unworkable, at least you had the courage to try. Unexpected events occur to all of us - so accept that fact and start to fully embrace the next chapter in your life. 


Regretting my decision to retire

Posted by Patricia_Marie
Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 18 March 2016
Dear Patricia Marie,

I recently retired from a career I'd had for over 20 years. I thoroughly considered this decision and was excited about finally having the time to do the things that the demands of work wouldn't allow. However, 3 weeks later, I think I'm regretting my decision. I miss the purpose my job gave me and the people I used to work with, and actually feel bored at home. I know that I can't return to work but I'm struggling to move on. Do you have any advice?

Patricia Marie says...

Retirement can and should be an exciting time, bringing leisure and freedom to pursue a multitude of interests, to travel or just to slow down and 'smell the roses’. However, it can often leave a huge void in your life, and the important thing is to fill that void in such a way that you can remain physically fit, mentally agile, and continue to enjoy social interaction with other people. A pet could be the answer, particularly a dog, but if your circumstances prevent this, perhaps you could embark on a hobby, join a gym, or check out local clubs for upcoming activities.

Most importantly, stop being so hard on yourself. Three weeks is no time to adjust, as you are still at the transitional stage from working to taking life easier. Make this time count, and try to focus on what you would like to do next. Consider some voluntary work in the local hospice or charity shop. Hopefully you would then feel a sense of fulfilment by doing something useful, together with resuming a routine you so badly miss, but without the pressure.

Think about all those dreams you envisaged, and had to put off due to work commitments. Allow yourself some quality time to do just as you please. If you can learn to enjoy retirement, you could be rewarded with what may be the most meaningful, creative and fruitful time of your life, and have great fun in the process.

I recommend: Retirement Manual by Stuart Turner: The Step-by-step Guide to a Happy, Healthy, Retirement.


I have Alzheimer's

Posted by Patricia_Marie
Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 11 March 2016
Dear Patricia Marie,

I have just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and I don't know where to turn. I feel terrified that I am going to turn into one of those irritating old people who can't remember anything, keep repeating themselves, loses things all the time, and is generally irritating to their friends and families. I have always been worried that I could end up not being able to look after myself, and having to go into a home, and now this is probably what will happen.

Is there any hope for me, or am I now on a downward spiral?

Patricia Marie says...

A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can cause feelings of shock, depression, anger and anxiety about how to cope in the future. These are all perfectly normal reactions. You will naturally need time to absorb this life-changing information, and fully understand what it means to you and your family.

When facing difficult times, having a support network of people to whom you can turn for advice and encouragement may give you a sense of reassurance and belonging. The Alzheimer's Society are able to put you in touch with an early-stage support group which could really help, as connecting with others in the same position may put your own experience of living with the disease in perspective. They can also provide information, helplines, lunch clubs, and even home care schemes. Please feel comforted that having Alzheimer's does not necessarily mean you will at any time have to give up either your independence, or living in your own home.

Loss of patience from those close to Alzheimer's sufferers is often due to not understanding the illness. Share your worries with your family about how you may change, and the implications this will have. Discuss also your thoughts for the future, such as who will care for you, when you may need more help to be independent, and whether any legal issues need to be resolved. Being organised and sorting matters of importance can help you feel more in control, and ease your concerns about burdening your loved ones.

Once you are able to come to terms with your diagnosis, hopefully you will be able to move forward and discover new ways to live a positive and fulfilling life. Contact your GP, who can refer you for counselling which could prove invaluable during this time of readjustment.

My heartfelt advice to you is to live in the moment - whether one is diagnosed, or not, with a life threatening illness, no one knows what tomorrow will bring, so please try to enjoy each and every single day, and not let your fear of the future prevent you from enjoying the present time.

Alzheimer's Society Helpline 0300 222 1122 www.alzheimers.org.uk

Mother's Day

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 03 March 2016
As Mother's Day approaches, not everyone will be happily celebrating. For those who have lost a mother, it can be a daunting day, especially if this is the first one without mum. The day may also bring mixed and complex feelings to women who have experienced the loss of a child, infertility or miscarriage. They may struggle to cope with the memories and emotions which this day triggers, and may feel very unsettled.

For those who need a little support at this time, I offer some guidance to help you get through...

The Loss of a Mother
If you have lost your mother, this day could prove to be overwhelming, so be gentle on yourself. Do something positive, and perhaps choose an activity that will connect you - be comforted by looking at photographs of her, revisiting places you know she loved, spraying some of her favourite perfume, or listening to significant pieces of music, to relive those special memories. You may find this upsetting at first, but it will allow you to feel her presence, and as time goes on, it could become your own ritual. To honour her memory, plant a living memorial in the form of a tree or rose bush. You may still want to buy a Mother's Day card, to celebrate this day in your own unique way. She may not be here - but is still very much your mum.

The Loss of a Child
The death of a child is a loss like no other. If you feel yourself struggling during this significant day, light a candle in their memory, which could make you feel especially close to your child at this time. You may feel anger, sadness, or guilt, because they died before you. These emotions are very common with grief - don't try to suppress them. No matter how long since your loss, if you are still suffering, consider joining a bereavement group which could help you to feel understood, and give you hope, that if others can survive their loss - so can you. In time your focus can hopefully shift away from your child's death towards remembering your child's life.

And celebrating the day...
If you are celebrating this Mother's Day with your family, relish and enjoy every single wonderful minute. If you are wanting to treat mum, try not to be influenced by the multitude of gifts on sale. Instead treat her to something far more worthwhile like breakfast in bed, an offer to clean the house, or work through that pile of ironing. Perhaps bake her a cake, and get to enjoy some quality time with her. These gestures from the heart would, I'm sure, mean far more to her. And if you know anyone who may be reminded of a heart breaking loss on this day, perhaps help ease their pain by a small act of kindness, such as offering a card, flowers, or words of encouragement, which could make a huge difference to the way they are feeling.

Life goes on, and we must embrace it. Hopefully there will be plenty to look forward to in the future, and, however you do, or don't celebrate this occasion, I wish each and every one of you a very happy Mother's Day.


For additional help, advice and support, contact:
Cruse Bereavement Care: 0844 477 9400 www.cruse.org.uk
SANDS is a national charity which can offer you support when your baby dies during pregnancy or after. 020 7436 5881 www.uk-sands.org


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