Tell Me About It

I am depressed and my family don’t seem to understand

I’m in my 20s, living at home, and feeling more and more angry in this house with every passing day

PROBLEM: I finished college two years ago. I’m in my 20s and living at home.

I never felt able to confide anything to my parents; the few times I have done so, I can remember them discussing it casually with other people, so now I never tell them anything. Once, when I was 16, I tried to tell them that I was feeling depressed and that school was a problem for me. They laughed it off, telling me I would get over it, all the while worrying to me that my eldest brother might be depressed because he wasn’t enjoying college.

My boyfriend is very supportive but he thinks I can just stick it out, be nice to my family and everything will be all right. He doesn’t really know my parents, and I don’t want to weigh him down with all this.

I am feeling more and more angry in this house with every passing day. I need to leave but I don’t make much money and can’t save up a deposit while paying rent to my parents (which they need because my mother is ill and can’t work) . I went to see a therapist a few months ago. I didn’t tell my parents, but I couldn’t explain anything to the therapist either.

Over the Christmas holidays, I was more blue than I can ever remember being. I cried constantly, I didn’t want to speak with the visiting family and I dreaded giving the presents on Christmas morning.

Since then, my mother has told me I need to snap out of it and stop being such a horrible person, and that if 2015 doesn’t see any improvement in my silly behaviour I can pack my bags and go. Recently she told me there is something wrong with me, and if she doesn’t see me pulling my weight she will send me off to a doctor.

Stepping back through the door each evening is like picking up a rock. Being in this house with my family is hurting me.

I am tired of this house and all in it and I am scared of ruining my relationship with my boyfriend.

ADVICE: It sounds as though the difficulties at home for you have been mounting for many years, and the efforts to sort this out are exacerbating the problem. You are on the brink of desolation, and your family either can’t see this or they are worn down by the criticism they receive from you. Continuing in this way can only lead to further conflict and distress.

Communication is just not happening. You say your mother is ill, and all the family are suffering from financial pressure, so it is likely that everyone is stressed and not acting from their best selves. You say you would like to be treated like an adult with self-agency, but the pattern of disapproval on one side and anger on the other seems to dampen any possibility of change.

The issues that need to be addressed in your household are communication, conflict and criticism. However, in order to tackle any of these, you need to be in a good place yourself. How are you managing your self-care? Talking to a counsellor or your boyfriend does not seem to have helped, and yet talking to someone is crucial to helping you let go of your anger before engaging in a dialogue with your family. Is there a relation you could connect with? Someone who knows your family and would be sympathetic, without condemning them? If not, perhaps a trusted friend who can challenge as well as support you?

For proper communication, there must be understanding on both sides, and since you are the one who would benefit most from this, it is up to you to begin the process. Listening is the key – it will offer you a clear picture of where the other person is coming from – so start from there.

For example, if your mother is agitated, there is no point talking, as she is unable to listen. You might need to signal the importance of the conversation with your family by saying that a family meeting needs to be held, and ask for attendance at a particular time. The agenda can be open, so that everyone can put something on it, but it needs to include the reality that you are now all adults living together and these positions need to be respected and honoured.

One particular area of the house could be allocated for serious conversations, where anyone can ask another person for 10 minutes. This would allow everyone the right to be heard and allow for difficult conversations to be had. You need to be heard fully for your confidence to grow, but in order to achieve this, you too must listen fully and understand the other person.