Tuesday 24 April 2018

Dear Mary: We moved to the country and I've never been so miserable and lonely

Stock photo
Stock photo

Mary O’Conor

I'm writing to you because I feel so horribly lonely and I haven't got the first idea how to change things. I'm married to a wonderful man. Our relationship is marred only by my ongoing sadness, which my husband sometimes feels reflects badly on him (it doesn't - he is wonderful).

The reason I feel sad almost every day is because I have no friends and literally no life outside our home. Two years ago, I gave up my career to move to a rural location with my husband because we could not afford to live in the city.

Since then, I have only had casual work because of our isolated location, and the lack of a professional identity is a bigger problem for me than I thought it would be.

I also have zero social life. A core group of friends were quite good at visiting us in our first year of rural life, but since then the visits have almost totally stopped. Unless we travel to see them, we no longer see anyone. I rarely receive a call or email from my old friends.

I have always been the kind of person who had a small number of very close friends. I am now seeing the fault lines in those friendships, and feel that I put in a lot more than I'm getting out.

Now that I am the one struggling to keep it together, those old friends are nowhere to be seen. They don't seem to care that I feel sad and lonely, and they don't seem to want to help. This devastates me and I feel abandoned.

After two years, I have not succeeded in making even one new friend where we now live.

I think that is partly because we have no children. On the rare occasion that I've fallen into conversation with any woman in my age group, they always appear to lose interest when I tell them that we don't have children.

I am now at the point where I'm forgetting how to socialise, how to converse on general topics, how to be open with people.

I wonder if there's something fundamentally wrong with me, because no one seems to want to know me.

After such extreme isolation, I regret our decision and I long to return to our former life. On a practical level, returning to the city is now not a possibility - even if we could sell our rural home, we would still never be able to afford life in the city again. Every day I'm tortured by the thought that I've ruined my life and that all I've done is make both of us miserable.

In the past two or three months, I've stopped exercising, I've started eating all sorts of rubbish, I hardly bother with my appearance and if my husband's away with work, I don't bother to shower.

I put on a front on the rare days that I am going to see people but most days, I have to convince myself to get out of bed, and have to talk myself out of drinking.

Sometimes when I'm driving, I imagine letting my car swerve into the ditch.

I'm in my mid-30s and I dread feeling like this for the rest of my life.

I wish I could say that putting this on paper has helped, but it just makes my mismanagement of my life seem even more pathetic.

A We have different friends at different stages of our lives. Some are transient and some last forever. Right now you are feeling that you have no friends at all which is not true because your long-term friends will always be there, but it is only natural that as you have moved to the country they will have learned to live without you.

I'm sorry that you feel so abandoned and I'm sure your friends would be sad to hear you feel like this. In fact as you were the one that abandoned them by moving they would probably question your way of thinking.

I was shocked when I got to the end of your email to discover that you are so young - it read like somebody much older had written it.

You seem to have sunk into a depress-ion and if you have not al-ready done so then you should find a GP and get help. You may need med- ication for a short period of time in order to feel well enough to get up and go.

It is somewhat easier to make friends when one has children - there are lots of opportunities for meeting up with other parents and forming a bond with some of them. But you don't have children and so you will have to use other methods to make new friends.

One way could be to invite any neighbours in the vicinity for a drink - a sort of open house. It doesn't need to be anything fancy and for just a couple of hours, but you could drop a note in and say you would like to meet them.

There must be a local hub no matter how remote you and your husband are situated. This might be the pub, the church, the Saturday morning market, the local Irish Countrywomen's Association or a sports centre.

You can find this out by asking locally - if there is a Post Office anywhere in the vicinity they will be able to point you in the right direction.

Then you need to become a presence, banish all thoughts of losing your social skills, and start to get involved in whatever takes your fancy.

Nobody is going to come knocking at your door suggesting you do things. It really will be up to you.

A bit further on you might like to start a book club, or run a fundraising coffee morning for a charity that you feel strongly about, and in this way make some friends in the locality. All of this requires more energy than you have at present, which is why the visit to your GP is important.

This is definitely a case where you need to stop looking back at what might have been. You want to give your husband something to look forward to when he comes home from work rather than the sad and lonely person who you have become.

I very much hope that things improve for you.

Your letter should serve as a reminder to us all to look out for new neighbours and welcome them. I'm sure yours is not an isolated occurrence.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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