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    Hi Foxtree

    It’s interesting that people think there has to be a root cause for depression. Sadness and depression are two different things – in fact, depression can be defined as feeling down and sad with no particular reason No-one would ask “What is the root cause of your appendicitis?”. They would just treat it, and depression is no different.

    In your case you have had some deeply unpleasant things to deal with. You have suffered at the hands of someone you once trusted, so it’s not surprising that you try to distance yourself  from people to prevent it happening again. It’s entirely natural that you feel the way you do. So forgive yourself for that. But, as you have discovered, it’s not a great long term strategy, so give yourself the time and the chance to sort it out.

    You have taken the first step by seeking advice and help, and clearly understand that your life is your responsibility. But remember that taking responsibility is not the same thing as accepting the blame You are not to blame for everything that has happened to you, but you are responsible for what you do about it.

    This was something that it took me a long time to understand. Like you, I was the sort of person who didn’t shirk responsibility. So for a long time I believed that everything that happened to me, no matter how awful, was somehow my fault. But that meant that I was also blaming myself for the outrageous behaviour of others. It’s one thing to acknowledge where you could have done things differently to secure a better outcome. It’s quite another to simply accept that it is your lot in life to be treated abominably.

    I can also identify with the seat belt thing – I went through a stage of doing something similar. I think I was almost daring this bully called life, which had kept punching me repeatedly, to do its worst. Not the most sensible solution, but I suppose I felt I was fighting back. But soon I realised that there were better alternatives.

    So many people in situations like yours never even dare to face up to it. They deny it with drink or drugs, or stay in abusive relationships. You are coming out fighting, and recruiting support to help you. That is how you will build a network of friends,maybe online at a distance at first, but you will win your battle, simply because you understand what you need to do. This site has a great many people who understand exactly how you feel, people who have been there and got through it. And before long, you will be on the other side of it, explaining to others how you did it.

    One day at a time, you will get there, and your next birthday will be so much better.

    Stay strong




    Hi Foxtree

    So sorry to hear how you are feeling – somehow a birthday magnifies everything, doesn’t it? Life beats us up and it always seems it must be our own fault – when every day is a struggle it’s only natural we feel like giving up sometimes.

    But a birthday is also a good time to resolve to make a fresh start – to put the past behind you and start working on your future. You have made a start by sitting and posting this – you realise things have to change, but need some help and support in making it come about.

    You have a little girl who loves you and just wants her Mum to be her Mum. At 9, she isn’t going to remember your birthday without some prompting, and she probably realises that something is wrong and isn’t sure how she should react. Kids often feel like they are to blame if a parent feels bad. Chances are she wants a hug, too. And maybe just a bit of your time.

    Children and dogs are relentlessly positive. Watch your daughter out in the park with your dog and  I guarantee they will both be having a whale of a time with nothing more than a stick. And remind yourself that that is a scene that you have created. Without you, it couldn’t have happened. And that both of them love you unconditionally and totally, and want you to be happy.

    Today is the day to resolve to make a better life for all of you. Your daughter wants a happy Mummy, so make sure you take time for you, and for her. Things won’t change overnight, but that’s OK – with just a tiny improvement each day you will feel vastly more positive by this time next year.

    You have started the process by acknowledging things need to change. Resolve to get all the help and support you can – from friends, family, your daughter, your dog, a counsellor, this site – and you will make the coming year the best of your life.

    It may not have been the happiest birthday, but I hope it at least becomes the most significant and important one for you – the one where your new life begins.

    Good luck!



    Hi Sparkle

    Try thinking about this from your partner’s perspective. He obviously loves you and is proud to be seen with you. Having you by his side makes him feel confident and attractive, which in turn makes other women notice him more.  He doesn’t understand your concerns because he doesn’t see these women flirting with him as a threat. He sees it as proof that he chose the right partner – after all, if he’s got you, he must be worth having, right?

    But by being self-critical you are criticising his choice too. You are telling him he chose someone “rubbish”. How do you think that makes him feel? Doesn’t do much for his self-esteem, does it? The very person who makes him feel so great is telling him he’s deluded.

    Put simply, you have a choice. You can wear him down by constantly suggesting to him that he is a fool for being with you, and eventually he will be brainwashed into thinking it must be true, which will make you both sad. Or you can show him some respect, accept that he loves you for who you are, and resolve to enjoy every day that you have together. You don’t have to agree with or even understand why he has chosen you. The fact is, he has, and he has his reasons.

    So if not for your sake, then for his, respect his decision, accept that he is capable of deciding for himself, and that he has decided that you are the person he wants to be with, because you give him that confidence that no-one else can. And the next time you see another woman looking at him, just look at her, smile, and hold his arm a little tighter – you’ve made him feel more of a man, more attractive, which is why she noticed him – and it’s exactly why he wants to be with you.

    Good luck!


    Hi Dom

    First of all, I would say that what you describe is not uncommon – many of us, particularly when we are young, place a great deal of value on how we are valued by others, and so feel the need to try to fit some imaginary ideal. So you are right in identifying that a first step is learning to love yourself as you are – and you are also right that it is much easier to say than to do.

    At the moment, your strategy seems to be that if you accommodate everyone else’s needs, everyone will like you and you will therefore be more valued as a result. It sounds logical, doesn’t it? But humans don’t work that way. We take things for granted very, very quickly.

    20 years ago, the idea of having wifi in our home or a mobile phone that would allow us to access the internet anywhere was just an amazing dream. Now, we get hacked off if 4G is running too slow for us to video call a friend in another country when we are on the bus. Every time expectations are met, expectations increase.

    If, however, you start with certain expectations of how you deserve to be treated, this does two things. First, it demonstrates that you have some value of your own – that you are worth being with. And if you are more valuable, guess what? You become more desirable.

    And secondly, it weeds out those people who just want to use you for what they can get out of you. Think of it as a “creep filter” – if he won’t put up with you having an interest of your own that you go to once a week, then it’s his loss, not yours.

    I suggest starting with a few red lines of your own – things which you simply will not compromise on, because they make you feel good. Maybe you enjoy yoga, or pottery classes, or having your hair long, or short – whatever it is,  make it non-negotiable. If a man cares about you enough, he’ll not only accommodate it – he’ll encourage it, because he wants to be with someone valuable. And what makes you valuable is what makes you who you are – your interests, your sense of humour, your desires. It’s what makes you unique. If you lose that, you become much easier to replace. And that does nothing for you, or any worthwhile man you are with.

    Awareness is the first step, and by posting this you are there now. You sound caring and kind – a wonderful prize for any man. So just make sure he understands just how lucky he is.

    Good luck!




    Hi Dagnytaggart

    I’m pleased that these articles have a user name because otherwise I might have been worried that I absent-mindedly wrote this myself after a bottle of red…

    Having lived with the same feeling for (probably) at least twice as long as you, here’s how I deal with it.

    The first shortcut I would offer is, forget the idea that this happens because you are not talented enough or intelligent enough. In fact, the reverse is true – because you are intelligent and talented, you try to take on too much. As you state, you are ambitious and create pressure for yourself because you can’t reach your own standards. You reach for the stars and feel a failure for only reaching the moon. Someone less intelligent would feel happy for reaching the top of the stairs.

    So the chaos arises because there is so much going on in your head, and because you feel you should achieve more. As a result, you lose focus, and end up either overwhelmed and achieving nothing, or at best doing a little bit of everything but with little to show for it. The fact is that you are working hard, but not producing all you are capable of. Being told to work harder is like being told to struggle in quicksand – it makes things worse, not better.

    The way I deal with it is firstly to write down everything that I need or want to do on a list. I know it sounds basic, but just getting it out of your head and onto paper saves an awful lot of “RAM” in the brain. The bible on doing this effectively is GTD by David Allen, but even just a single list is far better than nothing.

    Then, the secret is focus. As you say, you manage to complete your assignments, because they take on huge importance as the due date looms and you have to. So tonight, from your list, select just one task as the thing that you really want to achieve tomorrow. Promise yourself that once that task is done, you will do something pleasurable (this is important). Then, tomorrow, focus on just that one task until it’s done. If you’re like me, you will try to procrastinate on it even then. Tell yourself that you will do it for 5 minutes and give yourself permission to stop then if you want (you won’t).

    Do this daily, and you will find that you can build up to (maybe) 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) of the day. Don’t build this up too quickly, or be tempted to exceed this, as you will end up back where you started. You want a pattern of success, not failure. There is nothing to stop you doing another task once your MITs are done – you just don’t have to.

    Will doing all this quieten down your creative mind? Probably not. But you will be more productive and a much greater proportion of the stuff that you think about will end up happening. And it will at least be the stuff that is most important to you. Will you reach the stars? Who knows? But you will be making your ideas real and not fantasy, and that benefits everyone.

    Good luck!


    Hi Serenity

    As you’ve already identified, the issue that you have is the negative feeling towards your situation. Looking at your situation purely objectively, there isn’t much about it that is “wrong”. It’s just that it isn’t what you want for yourself right now. You also indicate that nothing you have done so far seems to have had any effect on your situation, which leaves you thinking you will be feeling like this for the foreseeable future. So a combination of feeling better about your current situation and an effective plan for the future would go a long way to improving things.

    Let’s look at your current situation first. You say you are in your early 30s, which is often a time when people start to re-evaluate their lives anyway, whatever they are doing. Single people often start to think about marrying, whilst those who married younger often start to wonder how their lives would have been different if they had stayed single. As friends marry off, you start to feel like the last soldier left standing. However…

    You don’t have a place of your own, not many friends and connections, and say you are in a dead-end job. You see that as being some kind of failure. I read that and think, “What a fantastic opportunity!”. You have no personal commitments, no mortgage, no great career to put at risk – you can decide to do anything, anywhere – what have you got to lose? Whether it’s travelling, going to college, or just moving to another town for a change of scenery, you have opportunities that I can guarantee a lot of your “settled” friends would be massively envious of.

    The point is, a whole lot of people at your age feel the same way as you but have families and mortgages – they aren’t just stuck in a rut, they are glued to it. You don’t have that problem, so you are in a truly privileged position.
    Now, when it comes to feeling positive about the future, it’s important to ensure that you are the master of your own destiny as far as possible. You talk about being lonely and trying to meet someone, which is fine, but if you are expecting that other person to magically make you happy from the start, it’s asking an awful lot of them. How would you feel about taking on someone who expected you to fulfil their every need right now?

    Instead of looking for someone else and hoping that they will make you happy, focus on doing what makes you happy. Because, guess what? Happy is much more attractive than misery. If you join a gym because you really enjoy working out and keeping fit, you will look great and be happy. That will make you more attractive – not necessarily in the confines of the gym, but everywhere else too. But if you join a gym to try to catch someone’s eye whilst on a treadmill… well, maybe in movies but it’s a long shot.

    By focusing on your own needs and your own happiness, and doing things that you enjoy, whether that’s bungee-jumping or basket-weaving, motorcycle racing or model-making, you will lift your mood and spirits. You will have a feeling of accomplishment. You will have things to talk about, things that make you interesting. And that is attractive.

    Online dating is fine, but it can only ever replace the “meeting” part of the dating process. If there’s nothing going on behind the eyes when you meet, it won’t go any further. I’ve also never really been convinced by the idea that your interests have to match – they only have to be tolerated by the other. I know a couple where he rebuilds and races vintage cars and motorcycles, whilst she is an expert on orchids. They’ve been together for ages.

    So, you have no commitments, nothing to lose, and total freedom to start doing whatever makes you happy. Focus on that, and you will find that loneliness ceases to be a problem very, very quickly.

    Good luck!


    Hi Mia

    I think a lot of us look for external sources to provide us with the things we need – I guess it’s part of trying to return to childhood when our parents provided all of these things. As we grow up we either seek these things from others in relationships, suffer from lacking them, or learn to provide them for ourselves.

    The last of these is obviously the preferable solution, as that way we are not reliant on others. But, as you are finding, that is much easier said than done. It’s so much easier to get someone else to do it for us. But, like learning to cook for ourselves, it’s much more satisfying when you learn to do it for yourself. And you seem to be a long way down the line by actually defining it all in a very clear and eloquent way.

    Protection can be physical and emotional. If you live in a place that physically isn’t very safe, then you will have some basis for feeling unsafe and anxious, so need to take steps to address that – locks, alarms, etc. From the emotional protection perspective, it’s worth thinking about what has actually happened in the past, rather than letting your imagination run wild thinking of what might happen. How often has your feared outcome actually happened? And how often have you been able to deal with frightening things through your own skills and ability? I’m sure that, if you were to list them all, you’d find the second list much, much longer than the first.

    As for feeling lost and needing guidance, that is often down to spending so long living up to the expectations of others that you end up with no expectations of your own. When we are a passenger, it’s easy – we just go where we are driven. Once we are in the driving seat, there’s decisions to be made, things to consider, and responsibilities for outcomes. No wonder some prefer to stay in the other seat. So it’s a difficult habit to break, but start small. Choose to do something just for you, something that you will really enjoy, no matter what anyone else thinks. Learn what it feels to be in the driving seat. Learn to enjoy being in control. Then the guidance will start to come internally, and naturally.

    You say you feel alone and in need of comfort. Do you mean you feel alone, or do you feel lonely, because there is a big difference. For myself, I get comfort from being alone, and the loneliest I ever felt in my life was when I was married. I think for you this feeling will be helped largely by doing things for yourself as I mentioned before, the things that really give you comfort. Another thing worth trying is simply in giving comfort to others who are in need – it will give you a feeling of self-worth which will overcome any loneliness, and in doing so address your need for validation, helping you to realise that you have skills that others will value.

    The fact is that, when we look externally for things, it’s easy to assume that is the only place we can find them. The fact is, they are within us all, but need to be brought out of us. And we do that by taking concrete actions to bring them to the surface.

    How often have you given support to a family member, friend or colleague who felt fear? That’s you giving protection. How often have you offered advice to others? That’s you giving guidance. How often have you supported another person who felt in distress or vulnerable? That’s you giving comfort. How often have you given somebody praise? That’s you giving validation.

    So you already have all these things inside you – they just need bringing to the surface. And by giving them to others, you will find them for yourself more easily too. And the odd thing is, those others will be even more likely to give them back to you in return – now that’s real magic.


    Hi Phantom2013

    The simple fact that you have taken action by seeking help and advice so quickly instead of wallowing in despair shows that you have a great deal of inner strength and purpose, even if you can’t feel it right now. So there will be a way out, even if it takes time.

    Many people spend their lives trying to live up to the expectations of others, and it causes a lot of unhappiness as a result. I still feel that pressure even now, and I have teenage children of my own. Ironically, I have no doubt that if I hadn’t spent so much time trying to live up to the expectations of others, I would have been vastly more successful in my adult life – it’s just that I’m finding that out rather later than I would have liked.

    So I can see your position from your angle, and that of your parents. As a parent, I know that I would want my children to live up to their own expectations, not mine. There will be plenty of other parents who may feel differently, but ultimately they all have the same objective – for their children to be happy and successful at what they do. But I would also add to that by saying, don’t use that as an excuse for ignoring any advice your parents give you. They have been where you were no all that long ago, and know that life can be tough sometimes. Try to seek their advice rather than treating it as a fight, and you will gain a lot.

    Of course, the world does change fast – Facebook being one example – so some of their advice may be out of date. But you are clearly a thoughtful and intelligent individual, able to take what is useful and adapt the rest.

    The fact is that Facebook is just everyone trying to say how great their lives are. Why do they need to do that? Because they are empty inside, and desperately need approval. If you don’t believe that, just think about it. When I was growing up, the best that people could do was send a postcard from somewhere that they had gone on holiday, to “boast” about where they could go and what they were doing. Now, people can do it every day, they do it about the most petty things – look at my lovely dinner, look at me, look at me, look at me! The fact is, you could do the same if you chose to – the fact that you can care for 10 guinea pigs makes you pretty amazing – a lot more so than just having rich parents who can pay for a holiday somewhere. The thing is, the realistic people like you are more secure in yourselves and don’t feel the need to seek approval for the things you are good at, so don’t constantly post on Facebook.

    You ask how to get out of this cycle of feeling depressed and not meeting everyone else’s expectations. Well, the first thing to do is to sort the sleep problem out, because that makes anyone feel bad. Something that works for me is listening to a talk radio station, or a podcast, something reasonably light and frivolous so you can listen to it but not have to think about it. Others prefer sleepmasks, earplugs, and stuff like that. Alternatively, speak to a doctor and get some help – it’s probably the most common complaint they deal with. Find something that works for you, but certainly try to avoid using screens in the 30 minutes before going to bed – that makes a huge difference.

    Then, think about what you want to do, and discuss it, in an adult fashion, with the people around you. (If they can’t discuss it in an adult fashion, find someone you respect who can.) But try to make any suggestion a positive, a “going to” rather than a “running from”. Do something because you want to do it, not because you don’t want the alternative.

    And have a look at “40 alternatives to going to College” by James Altucher. It may help you to formulate your thoughts better, and help you build your argument.

    The fact that you have accessed this forum, and asked for help and advice shows there you have a raging spark inside you, just waiting for the right opportunity. Use that spark wisely, and you will have a very bright future indeed.

    Good luck!


    Hi Penguin

    Finishing study is an extremely difficult point in life, but many people don’t recognise it as such. I remember when I was at the same point as you, and feeling like I was alone in a space rocket on the launch pad. Up until then, everything had been mapped out for me, people were there to guide me. Suddenly, it was time to put everything I had learned into practice.

    Was I scared? Hell, I was terrified. I thought I was supposed to have everything all mapped out for the next 40 years, and I just didn’t. I had spent all of those years studying, receiving praise for getting things “right”, only to find that I was now in the world of work, where instead of praise you get paid, and if you get it wrong, you wouldn’t get helped, you’d get fired. No wonder it’s frightening.

    I took a job in a bank because I thought it would be a guaranteed future. Since then I’ve been made redundant 4 times as a result of restructuring or takeovers. So if you or any of your friends think that they are embarking on a safe and solid career, they are seriously deluding themselves. Who knows, they may still be working in the same field in 2056, but the odds are massively against it.

    I don’t know what roles you have been going for, but as someone who has both sought employment and employed people, I can tell you one thing for certain – there may be lots of people looking for work, but not nearly enough who have the right attitude. So you can stand out, not by having a degree, but by having the right attitude to work. Whatever you do, be it freelance writing, studying, helping out, or working in a bar, use it all to build a reputation of being trustworthy. Turn up, do your best and keep your promises and you will be streets ahead of a lot of young people. As a result you’ll be recommended to others and get more work and the financial backing to follow your dreams much more easily.

    Your studies will at times have taken you well outside of your comfort zone, so don’t think that any job is beyond you – almost by definition, it isn’t. You have been able to stretch yourself and create things beyond anything you would have thought possible even a short time ago. So keep doing stuff that takes you outside your comfort zone. Do stuff that is uncomfortable and difficult, on purpose, every day. Take an action every day that moves you towards becoming an author. Write a thousand words a day, every day. Get into the habit of becoming a writer. Because those habits will help you in any other work you undertake.

    Build your skills and experience to take advantage of whatever arises, and the opportunities that come your way and you won’t fear uncertainty – instead you will relish it. Remember that the world changes very fast. The job I do now didn’t exist 15 years ago, and now it is over-subscribed. My skills are no longer valued, so I need to look to something else that will make better use of them. So whilst it may seem like there are too many people out there chasing too few jobs, the reality is that new jobs are appearing all the time. I’ll bet that not many of your parents’ friends left school to become website designers, podcasters or smartphone engineers.

    So all I would suggest is to have confidence in your skills – you have already proved that you have them. And accept that it may feel uncomfortable and alien to you to promote yourself. Once you get used to feeling discomfort and fear and can overcome it, you can do anything. Nothing will frighten you again. You are no longer limited to a cosy, safe bubble – everything in the world becomes yours for the taking.

    You have already come a long way and learned a lot about yourself. The mere fact that you are nervous about the next step shows that you have the intelligence to understand what it involves, and that intelligence is what will take you through it in whatever direction you want to go.

    Good luck!


    Hi Bobbyk

    Sounds like you had a really tough time – going through that sort of bullying is an awful experience and it is bound to have an effect on you for a long time.

    What I would say is that you seem to be doing all of the right things. You are taking action to resolve the difficulties that you were left with, you are through the things which contributed to making you a target, and are now able to openly and eloquently explain what you went through and how you felt. It seems to me that you are a long way down the road through your own actions, and you should feel very proud of yourself for that.

    The fact is, by far the majority of other people your age, and many who are a lot older, have similar social anxiety all the time. And a number of those will be the ones that you look at and think that they are masters of social skills.

    I am more than twice your age, but still have to make an effort to overcome it. Yet I remember being not much older than you, when a younger work colleague opened up to me about his social anxiety and wished he could be as confident and at ease as I was. I explained to him that I really wasn’t – I was fighting exactly the same battles that he was, maybe just hiding it better. And I also told him that his unease was news to me – he always looked confident, even if he didn’t feel it.

    So the chances are that you are being your own worst critic, and that nobody else really notices your anxiety, and in any event, nearly everyone else shares it. The big difference is that you are trying to do something about it, and that will come, in time.

    The fact that you have come out of the other side of the things that you have gone through means that you have a lot of valuable experience which you can pass on to others. Most people you meet will have suffered bullying at some point in their lives which will have affected them in ways they may not be prepared to admit to. Your experience and advice would be really valuable to them. So, far from being uncomfortable at the idea of you talking to them, many would welcome your experience and knowledge.

    If offering help face to face seems too daunting, you can always start by offering the benefits of your experience on this site – there are many going through bullying right now who would value the advice and comfort you could give them.

    So you are going the right way – just keep going. Don’t expect too much of yourself too quickly, give yourself a bit of time and you will find others seeking you out for advice on how you overcame the things you went through.


    Hi Nicole

    Really sorry to hear what you are going through. You have been treated badly by someone who has taken advantage of you and your trusting, caring nature. What do you do now? Right now, all I would suggest is that you do something for yourself, no-one else. Of course you can’t concentrate, your mind will be a whirlwind of thoughts. Just do something that you enjoy, and it will help to bring your thoughts back into some kind of order. But give yourself time – it is still very raw right now. You will be wishing that things had turned out differently – that’s only human. It’ll take a bit of time and distance to see it more clearly for what it is.

    You deserve to be treated with respect, and your ex-boyfriend didn’t do that. That is something which would only have got worse and hurt more. The thing to focus on is that, despite what he might have been trying to load on you, none of this is your fault. He treated you badly, not the other way around. It’s time to allow your own feelings to come out, instead of him dictating them. Like Anita says, the cell door is open – step outside and be you.

    You will feel cynical about love right now, of course you will. But in time you will be able to use this experience to spot the warning signs, to spot when you are being treated badly. And that experience will mean that next time around, you will love and be loved in the way that you deserve.

    You will get plenty of support and help from people on this site who understand exactly what you are going through right now. It may not feel like it now, but give yourself some space and time, and you will come through this stronger and happier than ever before.


    Hi Lace

    It’s really positive that you have identified this trait in yourself. In my experience the vast majority of people with this tendency don’t even realise they are doing it, so you are already a long way towards sorting it out.

    In very simple terms, I think it comes from the fact that people are generally nice to you if you’ve had a hard time, whilst if nothing out of the ordinary has happened to you people will ignore you or expect more of you. By playing the victim, you can get sympathy, you have a ready made excuse if you screw up or don’t do as much as someone else, and people will pay attention to you.

    The big problem with it is, it is a short term gain with long-term negative consequences. Firstly, those people who are supportive of you will soon get bored and fed up of it once they start to realise that there is not much substance to what you are saying.So you end up constantly having to move on to new friends, who naturally sympathise at first, until they too wise up.

    Secondly, it actually gives your problems a positive value to you. If being in a bad situation results in others being nice to you, how hard are you really going to try to get out of the bad situation?

    But more importantly and more damaging, is the effect that it has on your own self-esteem. You can start to believe your own propaganda, make excuses to yourself, and ultimately create problems in your life purely to get the sympathy you crave.

    When you look at really inspiring people, they have usually overcome the most dreadful problems not by seeking sympathy but by seeking ways through their issues. They may seek help, but rarely sympathy. That’s because they understand that others will happily support those who try to help themselves in far more positive ways, and for far longer, than those who just want the sympathy.

    So the way you are feeling is not unusual, and actually quite normal human behaviour in many respects. The problem comes, as with most things in life, when it starts to become too comfortable and a habit. This is what you have identified, which as I say is an excellent start.

    The easiest way to change any behaviour is to replace it with a different one. In your case, my first suggestion would be to set out with a different approach. So if your problem is, say, ill health, instead of seeking sympathy, tell others what you intend to do to conquer it. If it’s a bad knee, say how you are planning to get it sorted so you can do a charity walk in three months. That way, you still get a positive reaction, but it is people being impressed by your resolve instead of sympathy (which is limited in supply).

    If the problem is financial, set out what you intend to do to improve your situation. You will find that people are more supportive than you think. It’ll feel different, certainly, but it will be much longer lasting, and do wonders for your feeling of self-esteem.

    About 15 years ago I ended up in hospital, unfit and considerably overweight with pneumonia brought about by a combination of serious work and family issues. The doctors suggested I should take medication for the rest of my life. I could easily have soaked up a lot of sympathy and given up, blaming my health. Instead I responded by losing 50lbs in the next three three months so I didn’t need medication, and running a marathon exactly a year later. The goodwill and support I got from that has lasted far, far longer than any sympathy would have done – and I have been able to enjoy myself much more too.

    You are on the way – take it step by step, and you will find a much brighter destination as a problem-solver than as a sympathy-junkie.

    Good luck!


    Hi Ashley

    Really sad story. I don’t normally comment on relationship issues as I’m hardly an expert, but I can identify with so much of what you have spoken about that I hope I can help a little. In my case, I suffered physical and mental abuse from a partner who was mentally ill, but it lasted nearly 18 years.

    First and most importantly, you must keep well away from this woman for your own safety. She clearly has serious mental health issues and it is clear from her seriously assaulting you that you cannot help her even if you wanted to.

    These issues may or may not relate to the things in her past that she told you about, but from experience I would be cautious about taking them at face value. I have often known people who will invent such stories in an effort to garner sympathy, or simply as an excuse to behave outrageously. This has a damaging effect, not only on those around them, but particularly on those who genuinely have suffered such abuse. Whilst there is no way of knowing anything for definite in her case, I would find it incredibly difficult to believe she would let her Grandad babysit her own daughter if he had genuinely abused her. So all I would say is that her statements bear all the hallmarks of being invented to excuse herself, but I accept I may be completely wrong.

    The only other important issue is your son, and access to him. You absolutely need to approach the courts to gain access, and potentially apply for custody. You don’t mention whether you have pressed charges relating to the assault but it would certainly be in your and your son’s interests to do so. As a father, I found that the Court was prepared to overlook virtually any behaviour of the Mother (including violence towards me and my children) because I hadn’t made any complaints to the police. In my case, I was trying to hold the relationship together, but you have no relationship to lose. If she is capable of inflicting such an injury on you, she is capable of doing it to a child.

    I can fully identify with where you are right now, and it feels completely devastating. The best way I found of working through it was simply taking action and starting the fight for your son. Whatever the outcome, the knowledge that you have done everything that you can will enable you to start healing yourself. In my case, I had very limited success, due to a lazy lawyer and an incompetent Family Court system (which has since been acknowledged). But at least it allowed me to look my children in the eye and live with myself, knowing that I had done everything I could.

    Once I resolved that I was going to fight back as hard as I could, not out of spite against her but for the welfare of my children, I felt so much better and more energised, and I’m sure you will feel the same. It’s clear from the way that you write that your focus is on your children. Keep that focus, because it will stop you from pursuing pointless arguments, and at the end of the day it is all about them, not about you and her.

    Good luck, my friend, and stay strong.


    Hi Secret

    It’s probably worth considering the reason you focused on drama instead of your education last semester. Was it because you felt that the drama was easier, and an escape from the hard work of your education? Or was it because your education didn’t really fire you up any more, whilst the drama did?

    It’s important to distinguish whether you were moving “towards” drama, or “away from” your education, or maybe a bit of both. If it was “away from” your education, then you had already lost your motivation at that point, and were looking for something to fill the void – drama just happened to be it. If it was “towards” drama, then your feelings about your education may not have changed, so it would be relatively easy to get back.

    From the way you describe things, my guess is that it your education was becoming tough, and you were looking for something – anything – which would get you away from it. That is a completely human reaction, and one I identify with very closely.

    Something I find helps me get back on track is to write down all of the good reasons to complete the task. So for you, you have already identified a number of reasons to finish your masters (which is bound to be really tough, anyway, so you should be proud of coming this far). This should help you to overcome the motivation issue, or at least help you understand why you would choose to continue your studies. If you can’t come up with enough good reasons, then that should tell you something in itself.

    It is also important not to dwell on any negative comments or feelings you might have received or experienced. They are not facts, they are simply “tracking” devices that alert you that you might be drifting a little off course. Having received them, you are now taking corrective action, so they are no longer relevant any more. If you take a wrong turning when you are walking, that doesn’t make you incompetent. You just turn around or go a different way and get back on track – no big deal.

    As regards actually making the changes necessary, well, in my experience I make changes when the fear of not changing finally outweighs the fear of staying as I am. So once you have listed all of the benefits of finishing your education, make a list of the drawbacks of not doing so. If there is very little on either list, then it may be that taking the masters was not actually the best idea in the first place. But assuming that’s not the case, reading those things on paper instead of buzzing around in your head makes a much bigger impact.

    It may be that you need to make some fundamental changes to help you get through it – maybe in terms of your accommodation arrangements, or hobbies, or circle of friends or whatever. But the fact that you have successfully got to the point that you have demonstrates that you have the necessary skills and intelligence – it’s just a matter of understanding why you need to apply it and then taking the action.

    Good luck!


    Hi Ben

    I’m glad that your lists are churning out a lot of ideas, but I understand how easy it is to become overwhelmed. I have the same issue myself – so many business ideas that it becomes incredibly difficult to focus on one without part of me thinking “But what about the others?”. I’m at the stage where I have more than enough ideas to keep me busy for the rest of my life, and beyond! But that is much better than the alternative – imagine how it would feel if there was nothing you could think of.

    Once you’ve got as much as you can onto your list, the issue will be to narrow it down to target the relevant things. Now, I can completely identify with the red tape and qualifications issue – it often feels as if every possible obstacle is put in the way of anyone achieving anything. But what I would say from experience is, don’t worry about that at too early a stage. In other words, don’t let the qualifications and red tape issue dictate your decision – make your decision and then deal with it. To use an extreme example, if you decided you wanted to become a heart surgeon, there would be a lot of red tape and qualifications involved. But if it’s what you really want to do, you’ll see it through as it will simply be part of the education process that you have decided you enjoy, and you will have the necessary motivation.

    As an example of red tape and qualifications in action, I am now having to take a qualification in my profession. I hadn’t taken it before, for the simple reason that I devised and wrote it in the first place, more than 15 years ago, so I couldn’t – I would have been examining myself. But now, the regulator says everyone must have the qualification to do the job, so I have to take it. So I get what you are saying exactly! But if you treat it less as a qualification, and more an issue of learning about something that you are really interested in, it will be less daunting.

    Also, never forget that every job has its boring aspects. Many, many years ago I played in a rock band at University. I spent half my time setting up and taking down my drum kit, had hours of practice on my own, and even had difficulty getting the free drinks (which is all we were paid) from the bar because the barman couldn’t see me at the back of the stage. So when I left University and our guitarist asked me if I wanted to go touring with him, it didn’t really appeal. I also did a bit of motorcycle racing, which sounds exciting, but in reality was an hour or so of excitement surrounded by 47 hours of utter, mind-numbing boredom and red tape. So the boring stuff will always be there – it’s just a matter of whether you are prepared to go through it to get the rewards of the good bits.

    But as I said before, don’t rush, take your time and consider your options carefully. Keep looking at your list, and there will be certain ones that you keep being drawn back to again and again, and others that you decide are never going to make it to the top of the pile. The answer will come.

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