my problem

Three years ago my wife and i separated and following a highly traumatic divorce the judge awarded shared residency and my two children live with me for three days a week. I can't cope. I am unemployed, my ex-wife refused to share the child benefits so I cannot afford to look after my kids properly. i rent a two bed flat, my kids have a bedroom each, i sleep on the living room floor, i cannot afford the rent because housing benefit does not cover all the rent, I have been living on my credit cards but now i'm in £11,000 debt and my credit is running out. The stress is horrible. i can't sleep, i feel suicidal in the middle of the night, wake drenched in sweat all the time. i am so anxious it hurts my stomach. i am having a big problem with depression, i was on esa for nine months, but am now trying to get a job. I am/was an academic, there are no jobs in my field and the last office job i went for had 300 applicants. If i don't get a permanent full time job within the next six weeks I will lose this flat. I am terrified. I was drinking and smoking heavily for these three years, and using cannabis for about four months to self medicate/avoid the emotional pain/reality of my situation. I haven't had a drink or smoked cannabis in five weeks i haven't smoked in three weeks but my problems seem huge now that i am not using those crutches. i dont eat properly and am losing weight.

I think i need to get a single bed flat that housing benefit will cover, have my kids live with me less and just concentrate on looking after myself and getting myself well, mentally, emotionally and financially. I love them and they love me but if i don't do something i/we will end up on the street anyway.

I don't know what to do or who to talk to or what to do for the best. I've been to the GP for escitalopram. I don't have many friends and my confidence and self-esteem are shot.

38 Replies

  • Hi reallyworried

    Thanks for posting and sharing, I'm sure there will be many others on the site who are experiencing similar problems with unemployment and debt who would be able to offer more support and advice for solutions to this than myself. Have you approached any organisations within your local area such as citizens advice?

    It sounds like you are having a really hard time although it is obvious you have already made positive steps by stopping drinking/smoking, visiting your GP and for reaching out for support on here.

    Do you feel like escitalopram is helping? Did your doctor offer any other advice or possible therapy?

    As you have said your priority is to get yourself mentally, emotionally and financially well. Tackling your living situation is definitely a place to start, hopefully this will reduce some of the stress and anxiety you are experiencing and will enable you to tackle other things, particularly your self-confidence and self-esteem.

    You say you don't have many friends, are the ones you do have supportive or do you have any family members who could help?

    I don't know how much help this will be but hopefully others will have more advice :).


  • Thanks for writing, KD.

    I've been reading on the internet about debt, depression, etc. I had ignored the debt and ignored the depression. I need to acknowledge both.

    The escitalopram is helping a bit: I've stopped crying all day long, every day. It has made the anxiety go away a little. The doctor didn't say much, but I've another appointment with him at 5.10 today.

    My friend last night was very kind. He cooked me a meal last night and told me he would help me move.

    My mum is supportive but I don't want to burden her.

    Your message was very kind and helpful. Thank you.

  • No problem.

    It's good to hear you have support from your friend and your mum, although I understand about not wanting to burden others, having someone is always helpful.

    The fact that medication is helping you just now is also positive, hopefully the doctor can offer further advice or options for specialised support.

    Good luck with your appointment, if you want to...let us know how you get on :) others may be able to offer further information/support :)


  • Hi KD, I don't like asking for help, although I'll readily give people help, to the point where I neglect my own needs (low self-esteem). I've always been bad at asking for help. I bottle my problems up until they are unbearable. I hadn't seen my friend for months because I though I'd offended him. When I went round to apologise I burst into tears and it turned out I hadn't offended him at all.

    My GP gave me sominex sleeping pills. I asked for them. I haven't slept properly for over two months. I really hope I can sleep all the way through tonight. It is driving me up the wall waking at 2am and not being able to get back to sleep properly. The doctor recommended going to the CAB for debt advice and said he'd speak to the mental health link worker about me.

  • i didnt sleep. the pill didn't work. I was awake again at 2am :(

  • Hi

    Sorry to hear you are feeling this way. I wonder if you have heard of a Debt Relief Order? as long as you can prove less than £50.00 disposable income each month you can have your debts written off as long as they are £15,000 and under. I hope this might help you as it helped my financial situation and slightly helped with my feelings of depression. If you arrange a appointment a citizens advice they do a lot of the work for you. Only sticking point is that there is a £90 fee for this but £90 can wipe off your debts so may be worth it. It did take me 4 months to save £90 but was worth it in the end. Hope this helps a little.

    Do you mind me asking how you managed to stop smoking cannabis. I know this has a negative effect on my depression but just the thought of stopping worries me

  • Thanks for this advice miserables. I have a car which is worth more than 1000. i will sell it because i can't afford it. how does the £300 assets thing work? i have a tv and a (really old) laptop. do they count those as assets? Will there be people/bailiffs coming into my house?

    I just stopped. It was making me fearful and making me think strangely and what with the money worries I just stopped. It was the synthetic herb stuff. I stopped myself from going to the shop. I'm glad I stopped because smoking it had caused me to destroy several important friendships and alienate other people from me and to make some really irrational decisions e.g. I upset people by overreacting to situations and/or reacting without thinking clearly and saying mean things. My reactions were not good - I realise that now, but didn't then.

    Smoking the stuff was clouding my judgement and I had to think about the way it changed my thinking for the worse and i just decided i didn't want it to happen any more.

    i just took it one day at a time and congratulated myself every day for not smoking it and it was easier with every day that passed. i read a lot and go to bed early.

    i allowed myself to realise that being depressed would be a side-effect of stopping drinking and drugging, so didn't beat myself up for being depressed. I read as much as I could about withdrawal effects and side effects so that I could understand that those feelings were normal.

    my depression has gotten a lot worse since i stopped drinking and smoking - because I was using drink drugs and fags to self medicate. BUT, I would pass out on the kitchen floor, wake up and be sick every morning. I didn't think about the reality of my situation.

    I don't pass out now or be sick or cough at all. However, life is very, very real. Scary Real. I am in unaffordable housing, i have large debts, i am unemployed. BUT, i am and can take tiny little steps towards making my life better, like going to the gp for proper medication. Just writing this is making me feel a little better because i see that I've done some good work by quitting. I am a lot calmer now that I am not smoking and less paranoid and fearful now I'm not smoking the cannabis stuff.

    There is a really good website called it was really useful to me for stopping smoking cigarettes. Some of the ideas on there may help you.

  • Well done for all the steps you have taken. You have a lot to contend with, but are making real progress. It must be so hard having been in an academic field and then to be unemployed, and the breakup of your marriage will have probably damaged your self-esteem further.

    I think the two main priorities must be your health and your finances. It would be good to research eating healthily on a budget. If you want to save electricity etc., most libraries have free internet access for at least an hour a time each day. (By the way, if you have spare time between job-hunting, it might help your self-esteem to take on a volunteer post for a couple of hours a week - when I retired I started two hours of web wizard/computer buddy at the library and two hours archiving parish registers from microfiche to Excel for people who are researching family history. A friend who has been unemployed drives for two organisations who pay just above costs for 'hospital car service' type things. This has helped him slightly financially and greatly in the area of self-esteem and getting out. He does have a temporary Christmas job starting next week - sorting mail - but will probably keep some of his driving up.)

    Finance-wise, the CAB should be able to help - as may Christians Against Poverty (not just for people of any religious belief, but a service to the community.) If you have anything - even small - which is unwanted and saleable, you can look into advertising in local papers (often free for small items), or on the net, such as Gumtree or E-bay. (Just about to do some myself after the AGM next weekend.

    A smaller flat sounds a good idea, and you could probably have the children for days instead of overnight and research free or inexpensive activities.

    Well done, once again. I hope your medication continues to help. It is worth asking your GP if there is a free counselling service in your area - for general support as well as help with debt. There may be a waiting list. Some areas have a free 24-hour phone support service - not unlike Samaritans. I keep the Mental Health Matters number on my phone!

  • Thank you Misrat, I AM making progress, it just doesn't seem like much. Still, i didn't drink today, didn't smoke today, had a decent meal and so did my kids, had a shower, so did my kids, all tucked up in bed and so are my kids!

    You are right about the volunteer work. I will try to get some volunteer office administration work as I'm looking for office admin work. I need to be more active when my kids aren't with me. I need to be around people when my kids aren't with me, because, all to often I am stuck in on my own.

    I will go to the CAB for the finances. i have opened a basic bank account and will get my benefits paid into that before defaulting on my current bank account. I am waiting for the account stuff to come through.

    There is free counselling, but through the NHS. There is a local helpline and drop in service for the samaritans.

  • Hi there wow so sorry to hear all of this but dont give up right first things first when you withdraw from puff you will go through 6 weeks of nightsweets and nightmares i was only smoking 2 joints a night as i was in a really bad place and man that alone nearly made me go back to it but i stuck with it and have been clean over 2 years now I know you can do it, and then the next bit.

    No you should not have to give up your flat the fact that you have the children for half the week means your entitled to benefits, go back and get onto esa for depression as its obviously affecting you badly you can still try to find work while you are on this benefit your just getting a higher rate cause you can not currently work.

    go to your local housing office and state that you are at risk of being made homeless and show the documents that you have the children and they must give you a property for the three of you.

    go to citizens advice they also now offer a debt advice service and can advise you to do a budget and put letters to the creditors and stop it right now, if you need any help i am here for you have been there and done all the debts and the lost home and well i went one further and also lost my children as the ex would not leave us alone and they are being adopted, I helped my ex out to set out his flat and lent him my money now he says it was money from his mum for him and wont repay it, so i have had to do the budget and write to the creditors and now i have it under control, its not easy its really tight living as i have a car and that takes money to run but you can keep your car you need that for the children and also for you.

    I now have a little flat and am sorting their belongings and fighting in court to stop the adoption, but i dont want you to lose your children as well which is something that your ex could possibly use against you as that pain is the worst in the world ever.

    The court said i had exposed the kids to emotional harm as their dad was violent and that i had a drug addiction that i had not been clean long enough and then decided i had a emotional personality disorder well who would not be emotional after losing their home and their children. T

    hey are not adopted yet but i havent seen them for a year and that is just so heartbreaking but i am now doing all the court work myself and the ex is just putting in statements full of lies. I have done all my therapy and as i said clean for over two years, if i can do it with no family or friends i know you can do it, I have faith in you because why you have admitted you have problems and reached out for help it takes a lot to do that when your a giver its often hard to admit our own problems because it means we know they are real, but if i can help you in any way i will

  • thanks for the advice.

    i was on esa - but when i was examined they told me i was well enough to work and i got moved onto jsa.

    I tried to get housed by the council but as my ex-wife has the kids for four days each week she's the main carer, she gets the benefits and as far as the council are concerned my kids have a home with her. I appealed and got rejected.

    I don't want to move out of my flat and I certainly don't want to make the decision while I am depressed. I worked out that if i default on my debts and don't use my car i will have £31 a week for food after my bills and the shortfall in my rent is paid.

    Thank you for the advice about cannabis withdrawal. I have horrible insomnia. I think it is stress related though - the finances are causing me to wake up terrified. I'm not discounting anything though. I am trying to be mindful.

    i am sorry to hear about your problems and your fight in the court. I do hope all works out well for you and your children.

    My ex was very aggressive in the court and hurt me badly. She was hurt and rejected by me so she wanted to hurt me back in the court. It's complicated. we are a lot better with each other now. I told her today that my mental health is bad and my finances are bad and she has agreed to help me by changing my contact days with the children, from three days to two days, because it helps our children. Not only will they not be back and forth between houses but they will spend more time in her (more stable) house. This is better for the children and gives me an opportunity to work through my issues: finances, mental health, self-esteem, etc.

  • Hi

    I haven't read all the details of everyone's answers and your comments as there's a lot, but the first step has to be to make sure you have somewhere to live and enough money, so CAB first. You must get all the benefits you are entitled to as well as sort out any debts, they will help with that. Then you have to be safe and supported so see your GP for help with the health problems, but you also need support emotionally so perhaps the GP can refer you to a counsellor. Friends and family are the best source of long term support. In terms of a job, you say you were/are an academic - I know the problem, there is little work out there. You are probably too stressed right now to think of new kinds of work, but when finances and emotions are more sroted what about part time teaching in local FE colleges, even just learning support hourly paid work or teaching with the OU, depends on your subject. Just make sure your earnings don't get above benefits level. In the longer term what about considering going back to college as a mature student and retraining in something you can do freelance or part time. The recession does make the work situation seem impossible, I know from my own experiences, but once you have greater emotional strength you may find ways of thinking outside the box. First take care of yourself and your finances, the rest will follow once you are stronger.

    Good luck. Suexx

  • Thanks Sue x

  • I feel lots better at the end of the week than I did nine days ago when i wrote my first post. Thank you for your support and advice


  • It sounds as if you are taking really positive steps. Well done.

    Is there a volunteer bureau in your town? It would be great if there is some office admin work available, but if, as in my case, there isn't, the things you can do at the library are closest to it, I think, and would look good on any CV.

  • Hi Missrat, Thanks for your kind words.

    I feel awful today. Yesterday took so much emotional effort (talking to my ex-wife for three hours) I'm exhausted today and feel really negatively about myself. I feel like all I've ever done is let people down or hurt them.

    It's good that I've stopped drinking and smoking but the depression is awful. I feel really badly about myself. I wish it would end. I wish I could sleep properly, without waking drenched in sweat.

    I doubled up on the sleeping pills my doctor gave me and it's made me feel really tired today. I kinda slept last night but woke this morning feeling completely unrefreshed.

    Phoning the volunteer bureau was on my list of things to do today but I haven't been able to face it :(

  • I feel lots better at the end of the week than I did nine days ago when i wrote my first post. Thank you for your support and advice


  • ok you didnt get that call done today try again tomorrow remember this please as this is what helps me get through the days, ok so today is a crap day but tomorrow will be better I will do what i can when i can and you have NOT failed at all you have done so well you have sorted out everything for the children and always put them first and yes your exhausted from it but you have done well unfortunately the insomia is a big part of depression as when we try to sleep we relax and then our minds just decide to throw everything at us and then we worry and cant sleep i was taught that at times like this to get back up and say oh well i cant sleep right now and then as soon as i do feel tired to try to go back to bed at one stage this year i was going 36 hours with no sleep and then just crashing for a whole day but now i am pleased to say i am well kind of in a more regular pattern, i had to take a calming tablet last night as i was in such a state and yes i slept last night but also lost the whole of today, but i do actually feel better because i have slept and sleep deprivation will make you feel very low, but your doing really well so from one person to another KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK, and i would go back and see if you could now get on esa as you have gone down hill x

  • Hi Downandout,

    They're really kind words of encouragement. Thank you x

    I did sort things out for the children. I spent two years fighting for them in court so they could have a relationship with their dad. I then spent six months getting divorced from their mum - delays all on her side - she threw me out and i divorced her. I had to get out. Go figure!

    It messed my head up a bit talking to her yesterday. We had a very codependent relationship. She suffered from depression and I suffered from anxiety so, the more she withdrew the more anxious I'd get, the more anxious I got the more she'd withdraw. I really loved her, Downandout.

    I have a home here for the kids. They have lovely rooms. We've got all the things we need, except money. I've got a home for me here, too. I don't really care that I sleep in the corner of the living room on a futon. I don't really care that I haven't slept with anyone for well over a year.

    I am scared of the job interviews because I've been depressed for a long time now. I'm not scared of working, just of getting a job. I think I need to go to the volunteer bureau to get some confidence back, to be around people and see that I CAN DO IT.

    I'm sorry to hear you were in a state last night but glad to hear you felt better today. I was in a state this morning. The sleeping pills last night made me really spacey and tired this morning. It wasn't good. I was reading in an AA book last night that it's best to avoid all drugs and props after giving up drinking to help avoid relapse, but i need to sleep. I don't know.

    I read more about withdrawing from cannabis and apparently the THC stays in one's fat cells for ages and gets released if one crash diets. I have lost lots of weight in the last couple of weeks (I've been too depressed to make a cup of tea, even, sometimes), so maybe I've inadvertently released a load of THC into my system. I am so stupid. I wish I hadn't drank and smoked. I never saw just how bad the drinking was for me, how badly it messed up my perception and made me react badly. I've been looking back at all the times I messed up and there was a drink in my hand EVERY time.

    Still, it's bed time, I haven't drank or smoked today so it has to be a successful day.

    Thanks again Downandout x

  • Hey, Downandout! I went over the volunteer website and phoned Age UK which is within walking distance from me and it would be an ideal role for the types of jobs I'm looking at. They're going to send me an application form. Hurrah! I did it! I also wrote a letter to a friend. She is a lovely woman who I upset by being quite random with a few months back. I have been meaning to apologise to her (fretting about it) and today, by letter I have apologised. I also phoned the AA. There is a meeting tonight and I hope I'm brave enough to go.

    I slept a little better last night.

    I hope you did ok today after being in a state the night before last and losing yesterday then sleeping lots. x

  • There is some really great advice on here :). Looks like you are continuing to make positive steps :) well done contacting the AA!

    Hopefully you can sort some voluntary experience to build your confidence as you said :)


  • Thanks KD,

    Life looked really bleak this morning... I just wanted to stay in my bed under the covers and hide and cry but little by little I came out and tried to do some things to try to make my situation better.

    I went to my second AA meeting tonight and also put in the application for the voluntary work today. I did some positive things i should be proud of :)

    Best wishes


  • U should be proud :) although ur day started bad u didn't hide away, you had a really productive day instead :) that's great!


  • Thanks KD

    I wasn't so good on Friday though. I was so tired because of being so busy on Tuesday, Weds and Thurs that I was exhausted. on Friday I tried getting up at 9am, but it was impossible and didn't properly wake up until 3pm! I felt lots better when i finally got up. carried on with my job searching and my kids arrived at 7pm. They've been with me today (they're in bed now) and when they go tomorrow lunchtime it's back to trying to get back on top of my life, get a job, sort out my debts. I feel lots better at the end of the week than I did nine days ago when i wrote my first post. Thank you guys for your support and advice


  • Well done you have done so well see it was not yesterday but it was today and you did more than just the volunteer so that is just FANTASTIC and you should be so very proud of yourself you really should.

    I started back in Cancer Research shop and then moved onto Debra, but you know what both of them were just fantastic I started hidden out the back and sorting clothes and putting them on hangers and with the correct size and a label and went on to be sorting things in the shop when i felt more confident that is the great thing about these charity shops they really appreciate anything you can do and you do what ever you can when you can the fact that it is walking distance is just even so much better because for me it was the cost of parking that ended up killing it for me, but just remember the 16 hours a week limit, you may just start with 2 hours like i did for a couple of days a week and then build upto 4, whatever you feel comfortable with in your own time, I do have a link somewhere for a volunteer thing for all the jobs in the area i will have to go see if i can find it for you because on that site you can even do gardening or other things that you may enjoy and help you just get back out there.

    Great that you managed to write to your friend it takes a big person to apologise and the effort that you have taken to write it well i sure hope that it gets sorted, but please remember that even if you dont hear back you have done right and its no longer your problem it may take her some time to decide whether to still be in your life or not, and if not then we need you to remember that you have settled it and its not your problem any longer.

    And just oh give yourself a massive pat on the back about ringing to find out about AA meetings and dont worry if you dont get there tonight you now know when and where they are and can go next week the important thing here is that you realise how much you have done and that you will have really crappy days, but when you get a good one remember to say well i did do that maybe to help you write what you do every day in a diary if you have a page to a day then you can just jot down rung aa, rung volunteer centre etc just so when your down you can see how much you can do on good days.

    And I am good thanks I am back up and moving and doing heaps ok cough cough did not sleep last night but then i have forced myself to stay awake all day so i sleep well tonight, I just want to tell you how proud i am of you because you know we all need someone to understand and believe in us and i did have a thought when your children are not with you have you thought of jumping in one of their beds and getting a few nights better sleep and then just on the futon when they are there, worth a try,

    Anyway so very proud of you and so very pleased for you and thank you so much for sharing your good hard work with us all because you just sound so much brighter and its nice to know cause even though i dont know you people i do worry about you all and wish everyone the best.


  • I've thought about sleeping in their beds, but it feels like a violation of their privacy. The only time I get in my daughter's bed is at 6.35am on the school mornings she's with me. Her alarm goes off, she doesn't wake up, I go through, get into her bed, tell her to snooze her alarm and we cuddle and snooze until 7.10!

    Phew! what a day.

    Take care,

    Dan x

  • Hi there

    yes I do understand about the bed part but at the end of the day if they are not there then why not get a good nights sleep and as you said you snuggle with your daughter so you kind of share it in a way and i know the kids would want you to sleep well, and so pleased to hear about your day your doing fantastic

  • Hi :)

    I asked my girl if she'd mind me sleeping in her bed. She said she wouldn't mind, so I might try it.


  • I feel lots better at the end of the week than I did nine days ago when i wrote my first post. Thank you for your support and advice


  • that is great news and all we did was support you its you that has done all the hard work and gone out there and got help and changed it all for you just so very pleased for you times may be hard but you have shown that your not going to give up and at the end of the day whether you get one thing done or ten its just all about the fact that you keep trying WELL DONE

  • Thank you downandout :)

  • No problem like to help others cause i cant actually talk about my own issues i have such a hard time telling people how bad my life is so its easier for me to help others

  • Bless you. Feel free to talk to me about anything you like... It doesn't have to be bad stuff, it could be stuff like what you had for breakfast, what you watched on telly.

    I get really lonely. I did a good thing tonight...

  • ... because I'm so isolated I need to talk to people. I went to AA a couple of times, which helped (and I'll go again) but the group i need to go to is sexand love addicts anonymous. There isn't one near me, but i was able to go on an online webchatroomthing to talk to others like me. I have huge self esteem issues due to being emotionally needy (stems from being emotionally neglected when i was a child). I did a lot of research on the internet tonight and actually followed through. I felt it helped.

  • really lol maybe that is where i should go

  • try looking here:

    there are some meetings in the uk

    I hope this helps :)

  • My problem is more about that i just trust people to easily and often get hurt after i go out of my way to help and support them, i have done all of the therapy and now i am just in the process of starting to try to well start a new life now that i have lost everything so dear to me but thanks will check it out never know whats out there or who understands till you look into it x

  • sorry to hear that - Being hurt by people one trusts is horrible. Maybe those links won't be useful as they're more for people who are addicted to other people or to sex.

    Maybe trusting too easily is similar to being emotionally needy?

    You're right about not knowing who understands or what is out there. The guys at AA have been very kind and supportive and I'm glad I found them. I am looking forward to going to the meeting tonight. It will be my 4th meeting in 8 days. I am being nourished by the fellowship there, it is so much better than being in the house on my own.