DEAR FIONA: Should I stay or should I go?

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Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: work transfer stress, mood swings and lingering heartache.

QUESTION: I am 23 and live at home, have a great job, lots of friends, a great boyfriend and am about to get promoted in a few months’ time.

All in all, I am really happy, so writing to you seems a bit odd, but the new job worries me. It’s at the other end of the country in an area I know nothing about and I’m worried that finding somewhere to live will be difficult and expensive.

My boyfriend says he will visit as often as he can, but I am still scared I will lose contact with everyone I know. I might hate the new job or my colleagues, or my boyfriend might dump me.

I’m terrified of being on my own and am getting really stressed by the whole thing. Should I go?

FIONA SAYS: It is perfectly natural to feel afraid and excited by the prospect of a new job, especially one that involves moving to a different area, so please try not to get too stressed about this.

You have some big decisions to make and you won’t be able to think clearly about these if your mind is in turmoil.

As a first step, I suggest you find out everything there is about the new job, where you will be based and what you will be doing.

Also, enquire if your employer can offer any assistance with the move and finding somewhere to live. Presumably you will be looking for somewhere to share with others, which would spread the cost and mean you needn’t worry about being alone.

Before you make the move, visit the area and investigate what social and leisure facilities are nearby. Perhaps you could include a visit to your new place of work while you’re there.

You might even ask your employer about the possibility of a short-term secondment if that can be arranged, which would give you a better feel for what you’d be getting into.

Knowing all of this will take a lot of the unknowns out of your thinking. Having dealt with the practical issues, you can move on to tackling the thornier problem of whether to move away from family and friends.

I am not going to pretend this will be easy. You are clearly happily settled, but talk to your boyfriend, friends and family, and share your concerns with them. If they have your best interests at heart, I would hope they encourage you to go.

Your boyfriend seems to be doing this already, but I will sound one note of caution – long distance relationships rarely last. That aside, this sounds like a great opportunity, one you may grow to regret if you turn it down.

Have more confidence in yourself. Your employer clearly has faith in you and thinks you are ready for the challenge. In the end, though, it should be your decision.

QUESTION: For the past few months I have been getting some extreme mood swings. At times, I feel that everything around me is falling apart and I can’t stop crying.

At other times, I scream for no apparent reason at whoever happens to be around me. My husband has been getting the brunt of this but my work colleagues have been getting it, too.

Yesterday I slapped my 19-year-old son for telling me I need to see a doctor. He forgave me right away but I now feel so guilty.

These swings don’t coincide with my periods, so what on earth is wrong with me?

FIONA SAYS: I think your son is right. You need to speak to your GP.

You don’t mention how old you are but I am guessing, from the age of your son, you are probably over 40. Given this, it is possible your symptoms indicate the onset of the menopause.

In much the same way that the onset of a period can create mood swings, so too can the hormonal changes that occur during menopause.

If this is the case, your GP can suggest possible treatments, including conventional hormone replacement therapy.

There are alternative treatments available including homeopathy and acupuncture, as well as lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. These have shown benefits for some women, though your GP may or may not suggest them.

Another consideration is that you may be showing signs of depression and it’s likely your GP will want to explore this possibility, too.

Depression is a serious illness and one that typically needs treatment, so please don’t dismiss this out of hand.

QUESTION: Do I need to change my name when my divorced is finalised? I have discussed it with my mum and some friends but no one seems to know if there is a legal requirement to do so.

Also, should I continue to be a ‘Mrs’ or switch to using ‘Miss’ or ‘Ms’? The divorce was quite a difficult one and I know, with all that’s happened, this seem a bit trivial.

However, I am getting genuinely upset by it and the last thing I want to do is pass any of this anxiety on to my son. He’s been through enough already.

FIONA SAYS: There is no legal requirement for you to give up your married name and, in fact, it really doesn’t matter what you call yourself. You can switch back to your maiden name or choose an entirely different one if you wish, but doing so will have repercussions for your son that you should consider.

You don’t mention his age but, if he is still at school, you may both find it less problematic if you retain your existing surname. Changing it will only expose him to questions at school and children can be incredibly cruel at times. When he is older, he can make his own decision about whether to retain his father’s surname.

As to your title, that again is up to you, though in dealings with the school it may be simpler to retain ‘Mrs’, which you are perfectly entitled to use, married or not.

Other than that, you should inform institutions like Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, your bank and any mortgage provider that you are no longer married.

QUESTION: When our daughter was only 11 months old, my partner walked out and left us. I loved him and it hurt like hell as he and I had been together for more than five years and I really thought we had something special.

Since then I have struggled to raise my daughter as best as I can, relying on family and friends to help so I can at least work a little.

I thought I had moved on, but last week I bumped into him in a supermarket of all places and was gutted when he introduced me to his new wife and their baby daughter.

I was completely shocked and, as I walked away, I burst into tears as I realised I still loved him despite everything. How do I get over this?

FIONA SAYS: It can take a long time for the hurt of a failed relationship to pass and, in your case, probably more so because your daughter is a constant reminder of this man and the painful breakup.

You invested a lot of your love in him, so it’s little wonder you are struggling.

Even if there was a faint possibility the relationship could be rekindled – which seems most unlikely given his new wife – would you really want to trust this thoughtless man again?

Seek help from Relate and rely on the support of family and friends. Try to stay positive and tell yourself that you and your daughter deserve better. In time, the pain really will fade.

Write to Fiona Caine c/o Elise Brewerton, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Portsmouth PO6 3EN or elise.brewerton@thenews.co.uk. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence, nor pass letters on to other readers.