Advice columnist Fiona Caine answers your questions

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FIONA Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships

MY DAUGHTER’S HOUSEMATES ARE BULLYING HER

Q My daughter is a student at university and she’s thoroughly enjoying it. She’s a pretty girl and has made loads of friends.

Initially her best friend was one of her housemates, but now this girl seems to resent my daughter’s popularity and does everything to make her life difficult. It’s petty stuff like using all her milk and not replacing it or hiding her mail. Last week though, it escalated and she persuaded the other two housemates to sneak out to a party without telling her she was invited. It was the last party of term and my daughter was really upset when she found out. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with them for another year and I don’t know what to advise her.

A You say she is stuck with them for another year but I’m sure the student welfare department would be able to help if she were to ask. The probability is that this girl is jealous of your daughter. It’s a good thing your daughter is popular and has other friends she can rely on. Could she confront the other housemates and ask them why they did this? It might at least make the others realise how petty they have been, even if her former best friend is unmoved.

If things don’t improve and if she (or the university) can’t arrange a change of accommodation then she is going to have to develop tactics for coping. It won’t be easy for her but if she keeps out of their way as much as possible and also keeps her belongings under lock and key she will get through it.

I CAN’T GO ON FEELING LIKE THIS

Q I’ve lacked confidence for a long time now and the way I feel about myself is spilling over into other areas of my life.

I can’t concentrate on work and, at 45, I’ve realised that I’m destined to be on my own. My GP said I was depressed and gave me pills, which were useless, so I stopped taking them. I had suggested he referred me to a hypnotherapist but he wasn’t interested and just wanted me to take the stupid pills. I can’t go on like this but I don’t know what to do.

A Did you take the pills as your doctor told you? Many anti-depressants take a while before they “kick-in”.

Did you go back and discuss the fact that they didn’t seem to be working? Had you done so, your doctor might have tried something else or referred you to someone else – perhaps not a hypnotherapist but possibly a psychiatrist or psychotherapist.

Please go back and see him and discuss things further.

I WANT TO MAKE AMENDS WITH MY SISTER

Q I’m 26 and have one big regret in my life; I never got along with my sister. She’s two years older and was always better and smarter than me, as my parents (and my school) constantly told me.

I hated her and she probably hated me, too. I left home at 16 and haven’t really spoken to my family much since. I’m now happy and successful but this really bugs me. My boyfriend gets on so well with his brother and sisters who are all widely different in terms of age and attitudes to life, I never knew that families could be like this. I wish I could just call my sister and tell her how I feel but I’m sure she’d just refuse to listen to me.

A You can’t really know how she’ll react after all this time, so why don’t you just call her?

I wouldn’t suggest you pour out your feelings over the phone but suggest you’d like to see her again and ask if she’d like to get together for a lunch or something. Then, when you’re together, choose your moment to tell her that you’d like to put the past behind you and try to be friends.

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