I’m 61 and desperately lonely and sad. Suffering depression all my life, there’s no period I can look back on fondly.
I had a much older brother and sister and was badly bullied at school. I joined the police, but was always a loner, feeling different and putting on a front.
I married, but getting cancer when our son was two made me think about life. I suspected I was depressed because of latent gayness and told my wife, asking for her help. She threw me out — and moved back with her ex soon afterwards.
When I die there will be no one at my funeral. My legacy in this world is zero. Isn’t it sad when a life has been so empty and worthless? I’d love to have a partner, for companionship, but it’s not going to happen now [File photo]
Since coming out I’ve met a succession of liars, cheats and psychopaths. One put me in hospital. There were a couple of decent people, too, but nothing lasts.
I’ve seen many different counsellors, therapists and psychiatrists for my depression, but nothing seems to work.
After 33 years I retired, without so much as a card from my colleagues. The last psychologist I saw said it’s like I’ve fallen off people’s radar — although I feel I was never really on anyone’s radar.
Please don’t tell me to get out and meet people, Bel. I’ve volunteered — for the National Trust, for example — and try to get involved, then go home alone. No one ever wants to be friends. My depression affects every part of my life.
I’m extremely sensitive and at the slightest hint that I’m not wanted, I react by cutting myself off. Or being sharp verbally.
I’m 61 and desperately lonely and sad. Suffering depression all my life, there’s no period I can look back on fondly. I had a much older brother and sister and was badly bullied at school [File photo]
My relationship with my son, 29, was once good, but is now almost non-existent. He’s civil but distant; we just talk about cars and politics.
He seems angry about something. I tried to tell him about my depression, but he isn’t interested.
Earlier this year, I had another cancer scare and wanted it to be terminal. I know that sounds bad when there are people who would do anything to live, but I ask: ‘What’s the point?’
Apart from my son, and one friend in Liverpool, whom I rarely see due to distance, I have no one. My parents and brother are dead, my sister estranged.
When I read suicide websites and speak to the Samaritans and hear, ‘Don’t do it — you’ll hurt your loved ones’ it doesn’t ring true.
When I die there will be no one at my funeral. My legacy in this world is zero. Isn’t it sad when a life has been so empty and worthless?
I’d love to have a partner, for companionship, but it’s not going to happen now.
You don’t have a magic wand, but maybe some wise, kind words from you might help.
How could anyone read this devastatingly sad letter without feeling compassion?
As we make Christmas plans — perhaps moaning a little at the thought of being with certain family members — let us spare a thought for those who are alone and yearn for the loving companionship they never find.
This is the point when I let readers know that what’s printed is about one-quarter of the original email.
Yes, four times as much unhappiness as we have here. That’s why it’s very hard to summon up those ‘wise, kind words’ you seek.
You have seen therapists galore, yet nothing has worked. The trouble is, your whole letter is one long cry of negativity.
When you were born, your sister was 17 years older, your brother 11 — which sounds as if you were an accidental late baby who caused some disruption within a family that moved around a lot.
Your parents were very busy, so I can’t help wondering whether you felt wanted or were given real attention.
With all the moving around, it’s unlikely you would have had the time to form relationships at your schools — and when your family moved to Australia (when you were 14, a vulnerable time) you must have felt very alone with those Aussie classmates. Children pick on those who are different.
Have you truly believed in the change you want? Have you tried to stop resenting the fact that it won’t just land in your lap? I think you should urgently seek out a cognitive behavioural therapist to work on your mind-set
All this settled you into a sense of being worthless. Your response was to be like a hedgehog and present prickles to the world.
You provide details of how you lash out in self-protection, but you must realise such an attitude won’t bring you friendship or love.
In fact, when I read your letter (on a day when I felt flattened by some personal problems) I wanted to take you to one side and tell you to stop obsessing about yourself and look outwards at the world.
That’s not meant unkindly. On the contrary, I just want to reach out and save you, not from those others, but from yourself.
It’s often a good idea to flip perspective. To give one example, your relationship with your son has changed, but you’ve no idea why.
When you met up, you wanted to talk about your depression instead of ‘cars and politics’. But what if he’s got his own problems and longs to chat normally?
You used to be friends with your ex-wife, but you no longer speak and you don’t know why.
You state flatly that you’re estranged from your sister, with no explanation or regret. What’s more, you’re as good as ‘banning’ your son and Liverpool mate from your funeral because you are determined to believe no one will be there.
Those self-pitying prickles can be tipped with poison. You won’t think all this wise or kind, so I’m sorry. But you have written the script for your own life — and hate it.
Have you truly believed in the change you want? Have you tried to stop resenting the fact that it won’t just land in your lap?
I think you should urgently seek out a cognitive behavioural therapist to work on your mind-set.
I know you have spoken to them before, but if you feel overwhelmed, you can call the Samaritans (116 123) at any time or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if it would help you to write things out. Make a real effort to get back in touch with your sister and ex-wife, and work at building bridges with your son and find out about what’s going on in his life. Visit Liverpool to see your friend.
Volunteering at a hospital will ask more of you. You’ll be needed. Think of each face you meet as having suffered — and take time to wonder why. This process of empathy is surely the whole point of life.
If you hope for love, Richard, you must generate kindness yourself.
Can I fix my daughter’s broken heart?
I’m worrying about my heartbroken student daughter, whose boyfriend has broken up with her after nearly two years.
I think he’s a cad — although he was always the perfect gentleman when visiting us. When he broke it off, my daughter suspected there was another involved.
This girl had been offering tutoring support to the boyfriend, which my daughter and he had argued about. I (and all her friends) assured her this was unlikely.
Modern parenting has veered towards a fussy, ‘health and safety’ coddling family life. But no imaginary high-viz jacket can protect our children from emotional ups and downs [File photo]
One week after breaking up, she went to visit him and found him in bed with this young lady. So now we’re all nursing her severely wounded heart, which we hope will heal soon.
This heartbreak is so real to her and she finds it hard to accept he ‘no longer has any feelings for her’ (his words).
She was so serious about him and is struggling to cope. Her college work is suffering, as sometimes she’s too sad to attend. I’ve had my struggles with men and my advice is to move on, but it’s so easy to say that as an old veteran!
Young love is so idealistic and I’m at a loss as to how I can repair the damage. Can you advise a worried mother?
Most people will — if they’ve had children — recognise your pain. Yet they’re also probably thinking what I’m about to say: none of us can protect offspring from things that go bump in the night.
From the moment a small child is woken by nightmares, through times when someone at school is mean, to exam stress, friendship issues and love problems, all parents can do is be calm and strong.
What we must remember is to teach our children resilience — the most precious gift any fairy godmother can bestow.
Modern parenting has veered towards a fussy, ‘health and safety’ coddling family life. But no imaginary high-viz jacket can protect our children from emotional ups and downs.
And just as we need to let them play without fretting about germs, so we must warn that hurts and disappointments may make them miserable in school, college, work — and love.
Bad things will happen, so they need to be forewarned. They may not be fully forearmed, but at least they won’t be surprised.
You use an old-fashioned term about your daughter’s ex: cad. But is he? He behaved badly and hurt your daughter, but it all sounds quite normal, especially when still at college with all the world ahead. The young people were dating, not engaged.
His behaviour makes him someone who has acted as countless young (and not so young) men and women have done before — hurting others. It doesn’t make him a nasty person.
From the moment a small child is woken by nightmares, through times when someone at school is mean, to exam stress, friendship issues and love problems, all parents can do is be calm and strong [File photo]
The guy who charmed your family is the same one who decided he was out of love — neither your judgment nor his actions were out of the ordinary. And it’s normal for you to despise him!
You can do nothing — except assure her this will pass. Watch her moods, encourage her to get on with work, life and friendships, and perhaps have a quiet, confidential word with her best friend so that you’d be alerted if the broken heart became something more serious.
You could take her Christmas shopping and maybe splurge on something she wants but can’t afford. Encourage fun.
Veterans like you and me must accept that some damage cannot be ‘repaired’. I love U.S. singer Lucinda Williams.
Her track Right In Time contains the line: ‘You left your mark on me, it’s permanent, a tattoo.’ And so it is.
Tell your daughter that we brave, strong women learn to wear our inkings with pride.
Reading to others gives so much joy
Wonderful prose and poetry read aloud, delighted applause from the sell-out audience — it’s all still buzzing in my head.
This was Autumn Leaves, an event in aid of the small charity Read Around Bath, of which I’m patron.
For ten years, RAB has been sending volunteers into care homes, working with other vulnerable groups and providing weekly sessions of reading and talk at Bath’s homeless shelter, Julian House.
What do people get from being read to? As well as the shared joy of words, it’s the sense that they matter.
Believe me, putting on such a show takes months — and depends on the generosity of those willing to give up a Friday evening to perform (bossed by me!) and even indulge the odd selfie request. Make no mistake, this is kindness in action.
Having taken on the role of compere and reader, I then had the task of assembling a cast … So here’s a shout-out for the busy, talented people who gave up their time.
Broadcaster and author Jonathan Dimbleby; arts supremo and writer Sir Christopher Frayling; that brilliant (and so handsome!) actor Anthony Head; local BBC radio and TV star Ali Vowles, actor and comedy festival organiser Ralph Oswick; poet and international opera librettist Ian Burton; and lovely young Catherine Mallorie, who trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company, but now helps people as a counsellor.
They could all have been ‘too busy’, but instead said ‘yes’.
Our readings gave the audience laughter, tears and food for thought — in all, a grander scale version of what Read Around Bath volunteers do every week: bringing people together through words, delighting old and young alike.
And the good news I want to share is that this is a national movement. For inspiration, visit readaroundbath.org.uk.
Then find the national reading charity The Reader (thereader.org.uk). You could join a group near you — or why not start one up?
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email email@example.com.
Names are changed to protect identities. Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.