Life

Ask Fiona: I really want to see my son but his girlfriend's too anxious

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas

Until your son's partner feels more reassured it might be better to let things sit
By Fiona Caine, PA

MY son lives with his girlfriend in London. She's a lovely girl but very nervous about Covid and has hardly been out of the house for the past year. I know she has asthma and so feels additionally vulnerable but, as a result, I've not seen my son since last June. I get on well with her, but this is seriously getting me down.

With the restrictions changing, I was very keen that they should come and see me soon, but he's still reluctant to do so because of her anxiety. The guidelines indicate that two households can get together from May 17 in England, and it's my birthday at the end of May so I really want to see them – they missed my birthday last year.

I've had my jab and although she's only young, she's had hers too – probably because of the asthma. I think she's worried about the fact I'm still working, and have to mix with other people as a result. I'm so very careful though, and I've told my son that if they would be prepared to come and see me, I'd be prepared to isolate myself for a couple of weeks beforehand, if that would help.

Even so, he's not prepared to push it with her. We have video calls at least twice a week, but it's not the same. I can't go on like this and I feel so alone and isolated.

CC

FIONA SAYS: I really do understand how you feel about this, but trying to push someone with anxiety issues is only going to make things worse. Worse for her, and worse for your son who lives with her.

Every relationship we have has been changed, and we are in new territory with not just family members, but partners, friends and colleagues too. We have all had to adapt to a ‘new-normal', as technology has taken a huge new importance in all our lives.

Technology has been wonderful to help us stay connected to loved ones, but, brilliant though it is, it's a poor consolation for seeing someone in real life. I am sure your son would love to come and see you – I really don't think he's using this as an excuse to avoid you, otherwise he wouldn't be in video contact with you so regularly.

His girlfriend has a health issue and like so many others, she has been terrified by reports of this illness. Perhaps she is right to be terrified, perhaps she isn't, but either way, you have to deal with her as she is, and not as you might wish her to be.

While you are doing all you can to reassure her – and you might think that offering to isolate yourself before she visits would be enough – you will have to let her do this in her own time. Rather than persisting with trying to persuade them to visit, why not let things lie for the time being?

The closer we get to May 17, the more information there will, presumably, be about what the Government thinks it is safe to do. We will also all have a better idea about where the pandemic is going because, whilst figures are going down in the UK, in the rest of the world, there are still many serious concerns.

Assuming the opening-up of the country goes according to plan, then I would suggest you let things lie until two households are permitted to meet indoors again. After that, then perhaps try again to suggest it would be safe for them to visit you. You could suggest they make it an outdoor visit if they'd be more comfortable with that.

Don't be surprised though if they want to be cautious and wait a little longer.

Keep talking to your son, but try not to put him under pressure, as his loyalties will be divided, I'm sure. If he is the caring, loving person I am sure you've brought him up to be, then he won't want to cause his girlfriend any further anxiety by trying to pressure her into doing something she's not comfortable with. This pandemic and our isolation from one another seems interminable – but it will pass.

IT'S ALL TOO MUCH

I'VE spent all this afternoon and evening crying my eyes out, as I just don't know how I'm going to cope. My washing machine has broken, and it feels like the last straw. I have three children, one with special needs and two with bladder conditions, which means so much washing daily. I can't even afford to replace it, as I can't get credit anywhere.

My abusive ex-partner took out a £10,000 loan in my name, never paid it back, and I didn't even know about it until the men in black tracked me down and tried to take my car. Now there's a County Court order against me and I'm not trusted anywhere, despite never having faulted on any loans or debts myself.

I've been searching online for some solution, and even tried calling the refuge I was in when we escaped him, to see if they've any ideas, but they've not got back to me yet. The thing is, days like this make me realise I'll never be free, because his actions continue to control me even though I escaped.

I'm under huge stress to try to find a solution because children need clean clothes! And just to add to the way I feel, I smashed a plate of my only matching set my mum gave me. It's just too much.

KB

FIONA SAYS: You've clearly been through, and are still going through, a very hard time. But you are getting through it – even though it's difficult – especially at times like this. You have got yourself and your children away from someone who was abusive, and that's a very big thing indeed.

You say there is a County Court order against you – but did you get any help and advice when this was taken out?

Did you have any opportunity to appeal it? If you haven't been in touch with them already, do contact the charity StepChange, which is there to help you cope with the kind of financial situation you face. Go to their website (stepchange.org) for more advice and information and then make contact.

I would also encourage you to go contact Citizen's Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk) as, amongst other things, they can help you make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to. You could also see if there isn't a way of having this court judgement appealed or suspended – it really isn't fair that his debts are held against you.

As for your washing machine, can it possibly be repaired?

Getting an engineer out to look at it might cost a bit, but could be considerably less than a new machine and it might just be something simple. I know it's not an ideal long-term solution, but in the meantime, you could do your washing in the old-fashioned way – throw everything in a bath of soapy water. It might not get things as clean, or be as easy as a washing machine, but it'll help you feel on top of things until the situation is resolved.

You've been through so much and it can take a long time to recover from an abusive relationships. Have you had any counselling or emotional support? Charities such as Refuge (refuge.org.uk) are a good place to start, and remember you can talk to your GP too, about accessing psychological support.

MY DARK BODY HAIR IS GETTING ME DOWN

I DON'T know what to do about the amount of dark hair on my face, arms and legs. I am 22 and have never had a boyfriend, because I am too afraid to let people see me up close. I think the hair looks revolting and have tried all sorts of creams, but nothing works.

I have also tried shaving, but it soon grew back. I'm sure you'll think this is silly, but I can't feel like a woman while I look so horrible and, at times, I feel my life isn't worth living.

AG

FIONA SAYS: While, as you know, shaving, creams, waxing and sugaring are all ways of removing facial and bodily hair, it's only a temporary solution.

Some people do have more, or darker body hair than others – and that's nothing to be ashamed of – but if you feel yours is excessive, you really need to speak to your GP, as this might very well be a hormonal problem. If that is the case, a course of hormone therapy could help, or your doctor may suggest another form of specialist treatment.

If your doctor feels it is only cosmetic, you could consider options such as electrolysis. This is a permanent solution, which destroys the root of the hair and prevents further growth, unlike creams. It's not cheap and you need to make sure that you use an approved practitioner. Contact the British Institute and Association of Electrolysis (electrolysis.co.uk), for a list of qualified practitioners.

Also, please don't assume that everyone finds body hair unattractive. Whilst you might feel it's unattractive, some people find it perfectly acceptable – even appealing.

STRUGGLING WITH THE EFFECTS OF ROAD ACCIDENT

I HAD a nasty road accident nine months ago, and it seems that I am going to have to spend some considerable time in a wheelchair. I am reconciled to this and undergoing therapy to help me walk again, but this is going to take time.

Prior to my accident, I was a fanatical gardener, and now it's impossible to do very much. My husband and family have been a great help, but I wish I could do more than just watch somebody else do it all.

TR

FIONA SAYS: I am sorry to hear about your accident, but well done for taking such a positive approach to your rehabilitation. You say you can't garden now and watching from the side-lines may not suit you, but you could use the time to look in detail at your garden and make plans.

You could also probably do more than you think, with the right equipment and aids. I would strongly encourage you to look at the website of the Gardening for the Disabled Trust (gardeningfordisabledtrust.org.uk) – particularly their ‘ideas and inspiration' section. There are specialist suppliers listed which might have tools, equipment and suggestions that could make it possible for you to be more actively involved.

Even something as simple as a planting table you could use to pot up seedlings, prior to getting other family members to plant them, would help you feel more involved again. The Trust even makes grants available to help, if this might be something you need.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net 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.

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