Caroline West-Meads: I don’t want to behave like a bully

Caroline West-Meads
Chris O’Donovan

Q. I am exhausted and feeling overworked. I’m aware that I’m becoming increasingly irritable and short-tempered with people and everyday situations in general. I’m classed as a key worker (in necessary retail) and my workplace has been flat out since last March. Myself and one of my colleagues are both seen as the most reliable and committed so we have had extra tasks piled upon us. Lately, I’ve been quite snappy towards others who aren’t pulling their weight – those who don’t think for themselves or use their initiative, who ask me to do things for them instead of taking ownership and responsibility. Just before Christmas, I got into an argument in a shop with another customer over something trivial. Then, more recently, I got quite cross with a member of staff – and since then she hasn’t spoken to me, even though I’ve tried to make amends. I’ve brought up these issues with management, who were initially supportive, but some colleagues are still just meandering. I dislike myself for being like this because I don’t want to be a bully – in the past I’ve had bosses treat me badly and I’d rather not be like them. Normally I’m the one who will help out at work whenever I can. I’m happily married in my 50s (with young adult children for whom things are not easy either). Even at home, my wife says I’ve changed over the past few months and become angrier. How can I stop all this?

A I sympathise. This is a difficult situation for us all and with the extra burdens, it’s no wonder you’re exhausted. It is good that you recognise your problems because it makes them easier to deal with. Irritability and anger can be signs of depression and/or anxiety. It is hardly surprising. We have all been in ‘fight or flight’ mode for so long, anxious about loved ones or our own safety – tense, overworked (like you) and maybe worried about money. You might even be suffering a level of post-traumatic stress disorder. You need to talk to someone about how awful it has been – perhaps contact Relate (relate.org.uk) and speak to a counsellor or wellbeing adviser. Tell your wife that you could be depressed or feeling low. Ask her to gently let you know when you are being irritable. When she does, don’t deny it. Pause, take a deep breath, say ‘yes, sorry’ and start again – ideally with a hug. If you catch yourself being snappy, you will be able to stop, tell yourself to be kind and question whether there is a different way to react. Take a similar strategy at work (minus the hug, of course). Remind yourself you are feeling irritable because you are struggling and let it pass. Your GP could prescribe medication for depression and anxiety or you may need to take some time off work. It’s important to take care of yourself physically and mentally with plenty of sleep, exercise, fresh air and healthy eating. You could also try meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm.

How can I ever trust my husband again

Q. I am in my late 50s and have been married for 38 years. We have two children and a granddaughter. My husband always treated me like a queen, but a few years ago he started drinking. He became emotionally abusive, uncaring and was watching a lot of porn. He’d also been meeting a female friend behind my back. When I confronted him, he said I was paranoid. I know he hasn’t told me the whole truth – he is always looking at other women when we’re out together and it’s so hurtful. We had counselling and he tells me I’m his everything. He has stopped drinking but I’m scared that he’ll go back to how he was. I don’t know what to do. It’s so hard to trust him.

A. I’m so sorry to hear this. The man who has been your husband your whole adult life has betrayed your trust. I really hope this woman is just a friend, but would he conceal meetings and texts from you if this was the case? This is hurtful and you have a difficult decision to make. It may be that your love for him has been irreparably damaged. But if you were to give him another chance, much would have to change. He would need to acknowledge the pain he caused and agree to professional help if the drinking began again. He would also have to show remorse for hurting you and end all contact with his friend. Trust can take time to rebuild and, for at least six months, he would need to give you access to his phone and emails. To help you decide what to do, I suggest counselling alone. Also go to al-anonuk.org.uk, which provides support for the partners and families of alcoholics.