Health

Agony advice

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I FEEL SO LOW BUT DON’T WANT TO TAKE PILLS

Eight years ago, I got a divorce after what I had thought were 30 years of happy marriage. My husband, it turned out, had been having an affair for some time and decided to make a new start for himself with her, instead of me.

Although at the time I was devastated, I worked through my grief and built a new life for myself. I made new friends, learnt new skills, got a good job, developed my hobbies and now, although alone, I am not lonely. So, I really don’t understand why, recently, have I started to feel life is not worth living. It makes no sense, but I have lost interest in my home, can’t be bothered about anything, don’t even care to cook for myself, and generally feel as if the inside of my head is a vacuum.

I do try and fight these feelings and I have talked to friends and family, but I can’t seem to shake them. My son is particularly concerned and wants me to talk to the doctor about it, but I know that, if I go to him, I will just end up on a load of pills and I don’t want to resort to drugs.

I feel I should be able to find a way through this, but at the moment, life feels impossible and like I’m wading through treacle.

P. O.

FIONA SAYS: PLEASE TALK TO YOUR GP

Whilst in general, I agree with you that taking pills unnecessarily is a bad thing, the key thing here is whether they are necessary or not. There are times when they can be a big help, even with something that may seem to you to be as ‘non-medical’ as depression. And depression is what it sounds like you may be experiencing at the moment.

Please don’t be hard on yourself – you’ve been through a lot, and the last few years of Covid restrictions almost certainly haven’t helped. Depression is not something you can just ‘find a way through’. It’s an illness and, like most illnesses, it needs treatment.

Whilst I don’t know what has triggered it at this time, do please talk to your doctor. If they think that a short course of anti-depressants could help you, then please don’t dismiss this advice out of hand. You can explain your reluctance to take drugs and they may recommend talking therapies as well, but please do give yourself a chance to get things properly checked out and receive the help you need.

It is possible that some quite small thing might have tipped you over the edge after the build-up of all the events over the last few years. If you can work out what has started you feeling this way, that too might help you too.

Another point, your current lack of interest in food may mean you are no longer eating a balanced diet, and that can make you feel worse. Do try to eat properly, and if you can’t, it might be worth considering taking a supplement of some kind too.

You seem to be the kind of person who makes a go of life, whatever happens, so probably this phase in your life is only transitory. The fact you are able to talk to family and friends is great; do please continue to do so, however difficult it may feel at times. With the darker evenings and the cold weather, it’s all too easy to hibernate at home.

Doing too much of that though will potentially make your feelings of depression and isolation increase and become even harder to shake. Do try and get out for a walk at least most days – and , if you can, do some socialising of some kind.

And please listen to your son and see your doctor; with some appropriate help, you could be feeling back on top of things before you know it.

FRIENDS HAVE ALL SIDED WITH MY EX

About six months ago, my boyfriend of five years and I broke up – it was all quite amicable and we’re still friends.

Starting over was really hard, but we both realised it was the right thing to do. However, what I’ve found most hurtful about the whole thing is the way all our friends have apparently sided with him.

We had a lot of mutual friends and also there was a group who were friends of mine before we got together. They almost all seemed to have just dropped me, even though they seem to have stayed friendly with him! I thought, at first, it was because I was no longer part of a couple, but as he isn’t either, I don’t suppose that can be the reason.

He and I have talked about it, and he has said he’d talk to them about it. But I’ve told him I don’t really want him to do that as it will feel so awkward. The telephone used to be really busy with calls from these so-called friends, but now it’s silent, and sometimes I think I miss my female friends as much as I miss him.

There’s no chance of us getting back together, even though we remain close, as he’s come out as gay. I’m 31 and I have no single friends to go out with any more, so I’m beginning to think I’m stuck with being on my own for ever.

K. L.

FIONA SAYS: TIME TO GET PROACTIVE

It is a sad indictment of the sort of people your friends were if they cannot manage to remain friends with you both. I am tempted to say you are better off without them and should try to make new friends, however, I suppose I should be more charitable.

People do find it hard to stay friendly with both sides when there is a break, even one that apparently was mutually agreed. I say ‘apparently’ because, whilst you say it was amicable, your ex may be saying something different, which might be a part of the problem.

If you think there are people you do still want to stay in touch with, then I suggest you make the first move. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, you call them.

Invite them over to your home or suggest meeting them on neutral territory somewhere.

I suggest you don’t bring up the subject of you break up or give them the reason. If they say anything then make sure you say something positive along the lines of, ‘he was a lovely guy but we both agreed we had grown apart’. It could be that they are scared of contacting you, fearing you may just want to moan about him – so move on to another subject as soon as it feels comfortable to do so.

You are far too young, at 31, to be stuck at home – so find things to do that take you out as part of a group. Perhaps join a running club or an amateur drama group – anything you fancy. Look on social media for social activities in your area. It’s time to start making new friends, and they aren’t going to beat a path to your door, you are going to have to go out and find them!

STRUGGLING TO COPE WITH HUSBAND’S BEHAVIOUR CHANGE WITH DEMENTIA

My husband is 78 and has been diagnosed with dementia, even though the doctor says it’s only in the early stages. What worries me is his changed behaviour, in particular his unreasonable sexual demands. He’s forever making sexual remarks and innuendos – sometimes to other people and I find this very hard to deal with.

He twists everything I say, and I am at my wits end so how do I deal with this without causing too much upset in our lives.

J. R.

FIONA SAYS: PLEASE SEEK SUPPORT

Sadly, some types of dementia do trigger unpredictable sexual behaviour. Our brains control our behaviour and our emotions and that includes our sexual feelings. There can also be changes in the level of inhibitions and in some cases, like your husbands, people can become far less inhibited both in the way they express themselves and their behaviour.

Do please discuss this with his doctor, even if it feels difficult and embarrassing, as it is almost certainly a symptom of his condition. The Alzheimer’s Society website (alzheimers.org.uk) has a lot of information about this and I would encourage you to read it. I would also suggest you talk to them about ways in which you can help your husband and manage this behaviour.

Medication is usually only considered as a last resort and there are other ways in which you may be able to cope.

For example, you could try distraction rather than a refusal and suggest something else to do, or if

he becomes aggressive, try to keep out of his way and his mood may well pass.

As his condition progresses, his behaviour will probably change yet again, and he may become calmer. Please don’t try and deal with this on your own, though – your doctor should be there to help you too.

WE’VE DRIFTED SO FAR APART

My husband and I have been together since we were both 15 – that’s more than 20 years. As the years have passed though, it has become clear that we have very little in common. We both go out independently and have separate friends and separate social lives.

He works hard, helps in the house, and although I’ve tried to talk to him about our increasing estrangement, he doesn’t want to know. He seems quite content with things as they are. I suppose I do still love him, but is there anything we can do to stop us drifting further away from each other?

R. D.

FIONA SAYS: IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU BOTH NEED TO TALK

From your description, you sound like two friends who share a house together and perhaps, sometimes, a bed. That can be fine for some people – and perhaps that includes your husband – but others, like you, want a more intimate relationship.

There is a real risk, when a relationship becomes platonic like this, that one or the other partner might find a more fulfilling partnership elsewhere. You are clearly already starting to wonder if there is not more to life than currently exists. If things are going to go back to being more intimate, then somehow or another you are both going to have to really listen to one another’s needs and desires.

As your husband is reluctant to do this, I believe you’re going to need outside help and I’d really encourage you to contact Relate (relate.org.uk). Even if he won’t talk to them with you to begin with, talking to them yourself may very well help you to find ways to get him to listen. You may ultimately decide your marriage is over, but don’t let it go without making an effort to save it – especially because you say you still love him.

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