Tell Me About It: ‘I live in an area I just don’t fit into’:

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Tr­ish Mur­phy

QI am in my mid-30s. I had a good ca­reer over­seas, but I moved home two years ago be­cause my hus­band and I didn’t want to con­tinue hav­ing a long-dis­tance re­la­tion­ship (which we had done for four years at that point). He is won­der­ful and he is the only good thing in my life. He does his best to be sup­port­ive, but I fre­quently hide my true feel­ings from him be­cause I am scared that I will even­tu­ally push him away if I am sad too much of the time.

When I re­turned from over­seas, I couldn’t find work, so we were fi­nan­cially obliged to move to a ru­ral area. I only have ca­sual work which I do from home one day per week. We are in a very iso­lated area where the op­por­tu­ni­ties for work and hob­bies are very limited. Here, I’m stag­nat­ing and most of our friends live in Dublin.

In the two years we’ve lived here, I haven’t made a sin­gle friend.

I feel I don’t fit in at all. For ex­am­ple, most peo­ple in this area go to church or Mass on Sun­days, while I’ve been an athe­ist all my life. On the rare oc­ca­sion that I’ve fallen into con­ver­sa­tion with any­one, it’s be­come clear quite quickly that they like watch­ing soaps and re­al­ity shows – but I’m into lit­er­a­ture, theatre, al­ter­na­tive mu­sic; I lived with­out a tv for five years. I try to put across a sunny per­sona when I meet peo­ple, but I also find that they lose in­ter­est in me when they find out that we don’t have chil­dren and I feel judged. I know that I have good qual­i­ties. I’m kind, a great lis­tener, I’m gen­er­ous and car­ing.

I’m at my wits end. I have zero so­cial life and there are days when I have to con­vince my­self not to start drink­ing at noon. Some­times I cry, but I mostly feel an­gry or pan­icked. I look to the fu­ture with sheer dread – how can I live like this for the rest of my life? It seems like a long time since I last re­ally en­joyed my­self, or laughed. I fear that I’m los­ing my so­cial skills, that I’m for­get­ting how to in­ter­act with peo­ple. Most of all, I fear that I will for­ever re­gret wast­ing my life. It is im­pos­si­ble for us to re­lo­cate again, but there must be some­thing I can do? How can I con­vince the peo­ple in this small vil­lage that I’m worth know­ing?

AYour let­ter screams of iso­la­tion and feel­ing os­tracised. This is in­tol­er­a­ble for any hu­man be­ing and there is no doubt that some­thing has to change and quickly. It seems that two years ago you not only moved coun­try but you also moved from an ur­ban to a ru­ral lo­ca­tion and you gave up a re­ward­ing and sat­is­fy­ing ca­reer. You did this for love and it is a tes­ta­ment to that love that the two of you are still united and bonded. You un­doubt­edly went through a pe­riod of in­tense grief and loss but with­out any of the usual friend­ship and com­mu­nity sup­ports that get us through these pe­ri­ods of our lives. In fact, you could ar­gue that this grief process is still hap­pen­ing and that you are an­gry and de­spair­ing at this stage.

You say that re­lo­cat­ing is im­pos­si­ble, but your re­spon­si­bil­ity is to have a ful­fill­ing and happy life and if that has to hap­pen in the com­mu­nity you live in, then change is re­quired at the per­sonal and oc­cu­pa­tional level. There may be judg­ment go­ing on in the com­mu­nity, but per­haps you have also judged ev­ery­one as re­ject­ing you and are thus de­fen­sive in your in­ter­ac­tions. De­fen­sive­ness is one of the four fac­tors that cause re­la­tion­ship break­down (type John Gottman’s re­search into Google) and if there is any way of tack­ling this, it might open up some con­nec­tion for you. En­gage­ment is the op­po­site of de­fend­ing and per­haps this is the quick­est method of in­te­gra­tion for you. It sounds as though you have lots of ex­per­tise and skills and I won­der if you could use this to vol­un­teer in your lo­cal or nearby com­mu­ni­ties.


You could start with the schools and in­quire if you could help with stu­dents seek­ing ca­reers in your area. While this might be ideal, any vol­un­teer­ing will help you in­te­grate and usu­ally fel­low vol­un­teers are good, car­ing peo­ple and are worth know­ing. If you are on so­cial wel­fare, you may be en­ti­tled to a back to ed­u­ca­tion al­lowance and any course, whether on-line or face-to-face will ac­ti­vate your brain and pull you into in­tel­lec­tual stim­u­la­tion with like-minded oth­ers. When you be­gin to feel a bit more con­fi­dent, you might con­sider set­ting up a small book club fo­cus­ing on lit­er­a­ture or see if any­one is in­ter­ested in dis­cussing bring­ing theatre to your area (eg the Abbey theatre cur­rently has a pol­icy of visit­ing the coun­try).

When peo­ple get to know you – as you blos­som in your ar­eas of in­ter­est – they will see the gen­eros­ity and kind­ness in you. If you are still strug­gling and spend­ing your days cry­ing, then it is im­por­tant that you seek psy­cho­log­i­cal help as you need to be heard, un­der­stood and sup­ported.

This help is avail­able all over Ire­land and of­ten there are slid­ing scales of fees for those you are on low in­comes. (See psy­chother­a­py­coun­ to source an ac­cred­ited psy­chother­a­pist).


Iso­la­tion: “I have zero so­cial life and there are days when I have to con­vince my­self not to start drink­ing at noon. Some­times I cry, but I mostly feel an­gry or pan­icked”.

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