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

A New Year's Message

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Tuesday, 03 January 2017
Yet again the world of pop is in mourning, this time for musical genius George Michael after he died on Christmas Day, aged just 53. Since the shocking news of music legend David Bowie back in January, we've had to endure the deaths of a multitude of high profile celebrities and musicians, including the utterly unique artist Prince, and most recently, actress Carrie Fisher, followed by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, the day after. All these losses have dominated the media, and, whilst it is reassuring to know that these huge stars were truly respected and admired, it can make it hard for us to escape our own painful emotions about their passing.

Even though we didn't know any of these famous people as well as those closest to them, they had been, and still are, a big part of our lives - the musicians whose records we remember from key moments in our past, the nation's favourite broadcaster, Terry Wogan, or Victoria Wood who over many years brought us much laughter. Indeed, the list goes on and on. However, be reminded that, although all these famous people are no longer with us, our memories of them will forever remain.

When celebrities die who have in the past brought us happiness, our grief is stronger because they have struck such a personal note within us. Many, particularly from the baby boom generation, feel that huge chapters from their youth have been lost. To some it's the end of the world, but for others it may have little or no impact. A lack of empathy from our friends and family can leave us feeling worse and unsupported, yet we can gain comfort by acknowledging the communal grief shown in the heartfelt messages and tributes throughout the media and social networks for each and every one of them.

The particularly high number of losses in 2016 highlights for us, especially those who have suffered their own personal and private loss, the need to embrace life, cherish every moment, and never take any situation for granted. Despite all the negative news that has engulfed us over the past 12 months, we have to believe that 2017 will be encouragingly positive. In George Michael's words - We Gotta Have Faith.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very healthy and peaceful New Year.
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My grandchildren always expect big expensive presents from me

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 16 December 2016
Dear Patricia Marie,

My grandchildren always expect big expensive presents from me, but this year I just don't have the funds to spend as I used to. I don't even have enough money to buy my daughter and son-in-law a gift. I haven't told my daughter this, but I'm dreading Christmas Day because my son-in-law's parents are going to be there and I know they are very wealthy. I can't bear the idea that my grandchildren are going to be disappointed by my presents, which I still haven't purchased yet, or that they'll start to see me as the poor relation.

Patricia Marie says...

The festive season is upon us, and for lots of people this is an exciting and wonderful time of the year. But for the many others like yourself who can't afford Christmas, it can be particularly stressful and depressing. You must not allow yourself to feel guilty - you are not obliged to celebrate Christmas by someone else's standards, and your loved ones should be understanding and respectful of your situation.

Don't be too proud to admit to your daughter you're having a tough time. Simply be honest and ask her to suggest something reasonably priced that the children would really like. Even a nice book linked to their favourite character would thrill them. Children love looking at photographs, so perhaps you could make them their very own album, to include past and present family, which will give them great pleasure, and provide much enjoyment for the whole family.

With regards to your daughter and son-in-law, you could consider sending personal gift vouchers to include anything from an offer of 2 hours ironing, to a day of spring cleaning or an overnight stay of babysitting - treats which I am sure will be very well received, and highlighting that the best gifts do not have to have monetary value. 

As for trying to compete with your son-in-laws wealthier parents, do not waste another moment worrying about this. Grandchildren love their grandparents in their many varied forms, indeed it can be the most special relationship. The true meaning of Christmas runs far deeper than a present could ever compete. Spend quality time with your grandchildren, give your daughter a helping hand with the extra work Christmas brings and remind everyone that Christmas is about love, not spending power.

That's what your Grandchildren will remember in years to come - not some present, however lavish.
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I can't bear the thought of Christmas without my husband

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 08 December 2016
Dear Patricia Marie, 

I can't bear the thought of Christmas without my beloved husband, who died three months ago. Although I will be spending time with my son and his family at their home, I am going to be missing my husband so very much. 

What is the point of my life without him?  How do I even start to get on with my life now he is gone?

Patricia Marie says...

Dealing with the death of a loved one is an extremely difficult and traumatic experience, and the pain is significantly heightened at this time of year when others are joyously celebrating the festivities. It's not going to be easy this very first Christmas without your husband, but instead of focusing on life without him, perhaps allow yourself some time to remember the special times you enjoyed with him. I often suggest to those grieving to perhaps light a candle in memory of their loved ones, which can allow much comfort when one is feeling sad. When you visit your son this Christmas, take a photograph of your husband with you, and keep it nearby, so you are able to feel his presence, and as difficult as it may seem, ensure you open up to your family, as they care for you and will be conscious of your loss. At times you may feel overcome by emotion, but this is perfectly natural. Starting to address your grief, often through tears, does provide relief, and promote healing.   

Cruse Bereavement Care offer professional help and support, including group counselling which I feel could be particularly beneficial, allowing you to see that if others can make it through their losses, than so can you. Learning coping techniques may give you hope for the future, and, even better, supportive friendships could be forged, through experiences shared within the group.

At this moment you are clearly suffering, but you don't have to hurt forever or manage this alone. Be compassionate with yourself as you work to relinquish old routines and establish new ones. Life without your husband will inevitably be different, but, given time, you will hopefully soon realise your life is still very much worth living, and certainly not over.  

I recommend ‘Death And How To Survive It’ by Kate Boydell, a unique, practical and uplifting guide to coming to terms with the loss of a partner.   

Cruse Bereavement Care: www.cruse.org.uk/  Tel: 0844 477 9400 




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I'm beginning to resent my husband

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 02 December 2016
Dear Patricia Marie,

My husband spent his early 20s working away in the States doing all kinds of jobs, and he still describes that period as the best days of his life. I find that so insulting since he's now married to me and we have two lovely children. Recently we were at a party when he started bragging about his US years, and I just lost it. How do I make him understand how insensitive he's being.

He also tells our friends at any given opportunity that he was always popular with the women and hasn't lost his charm. How dare he make such comments. I do love him, but am beginning to think he's not the man I thought I'd married, which is causing me to resent him.

I don't think he deserves me or our beautiful children. My friends think he is a joke, which is very embarrassing for me. Please can you offer me some advice.

Patricia Marie says...

A relationship shouldn't be a battle to see who has had the best experiences, and it can be difficult to live with someone who gives the impression they have seen and done it all. Sometimes, for whatever reason when things aren't going right, people look back on the past with rose-tinted spectacles. The need for your husband to convince you that others think so highly of him, is a sign of insecurity, and by shifting it and projecting it to you, he is reassuring himself. He is covering up his lack of confidence by displaying unacceptable behaviour, which is typical of a person who values themselves so little they're always afraid they're not loved. The only way to work through such anxiety is to work on self-esteem. Counselling will help, but first he needs to admit he has a problem, which may not be easy.

You need to have a proper chat. Make it clear that you're not a jealous person, but his trips down memory lane are wearing you down. How would he like it if you were constantly reminiscing about the fun times you shared with your friends and previous partners? Discuss what you can both do to enhance your relationship. Whilst working hard to bring up a young family, it is easy to lose sight of each other's needs as a couple. Make some special time for each other, so you can both feel loved and appreciated. Hopefully your husband will begin to see he cannot continue to act in this way, as he could risk losing the life he has now. Memories are precious, but the past cannot be allowed to intrude and damage the present.
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I hate the way I look

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 25 November 2016
Dear Patricia Marie,

I am writing to you because I don't know where to turn. I hate the way I look.

I have a dreadful birthmark across one side of my face and also a misshapen nose. I feel like everyone stares at me and laughs, even though I try to turn away and never look directly at people, as I can't stand the shock I see in their faces when they look at me.

I was born with this, and I know by now at the age of 41 I should have learnt how to deal with it, but I haven't. I have become so introverted, hate ever going out, and at times feel suicidal. I don't have the money for cosmetic surgery, and make up doesn't seem to make much difference. I only have one close friend, and of course she tells me to take no notice and that I am lovely inside, but I just can't bear it.

Is there anything that you could suggest?

Thank you so much for reading my problem.

Patricia Marie says...

In a world obsessed by perfection, those living with facial disfigurements can often struggle with psychological problems, including lack of self confidence, low self-esteem and crippling shyness. The reality of living with a visible difference is that others can be very judgmental and intrusively inquisitive, which can make the individual feel distressed and vulnerable. Nevertheless, there are those who feel their flaws define them, and would feel incomplete without their familiar blemish.

Your friend means well when she says you're lovely on the inside. However, everyone is uniquely beautiful on the outside too - although many have difficulty viewing themselves in this way. I believe you have been particularly brave trying to deal with this matter on your own, and would suggest you embark on some counselling, which could help you learn to accept yourself, because of your uniqueness, and not in spite of it. Furthermore, because you are feeling seriously depressed, I would suggest an urgent chat with your G.P, who could explore all options with you to improve your emotional wellbeing, including potential referral to a cosmetic surgeon through the NHS.

There are some dedicated organisations, including The Birthmark Support Group that offers support and information, not only for anyone with a birthmark, but also their family, and Changing Faces which provides a wide range of Self-Help Guides, and could help you learn new techniques to handle living with an unusual appearance, and to find a way to live the life you want.

The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy: www.bacp.co.uk 
The Birthmark Support Group: www.birthmarksupportgroup.org.uk 
Changing Faces: www.changingfaces.org.uk 
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