Angst: Expert advice on your problems

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The Independent Culture
Two years ago, after leaving university, I joined a small management consultancy. I am working harder than ever before, and when I get home at night I can't stay awake for more than an hour. I've tried going out but I end up falling asleep; I can't muster the zest and spirit for socialising that I had before. My life outside work seems to have no purpose and this constant fatigue is depressing me.

Your fatigue could stem from many things - the stress of getting to grips with a job that is still relatively new, for example, or an emotional problem. Perhaps you are very tense and your body cannot relax and recharge itself. I would advise you to see your GP for a check-up, though you may find it helpful to see one who will look beyond the medical cause. There are some, for example, who also use massage so that you get a treatment for the mind and the body. You might also look into the possibility that you are suffering from what has been labelled Tired All The Time (TATT) syndrome, where people feel just as you describe. There are doctors using complementary medicine and large injections of magnesium sulphate to treat this, which certainly helps some people. If you send an SAE and tell us what kind of help you would like, we will forward names of practitioners registered with us in your area.

Institute for Complementary Medicine, PO Box 194, London SE16 1QZ.

My husband and my 13-year-old son are very close - more so, oddly, for not being blood relatives. They still kiss goodnight, like to stand close together with an arm around each other, and hold hands when walking. My husband maintains that the boy will become a stronger man if left to grow up at his own pace, and that to discourage physical contact now would only add to the upheavals of puberty. But I do not think he is preparing himself for the inevitable father-son conflict. He is a devoted husband who would never hurt the boy on purpose, but perhaps by mistake.

In our society there are so many taboos surrounding physical contact between males that your concern is not surprising. However, the physical expression of affection is not necessarily bad - indeed, in other cultures it is very common. Father-son conflict in adolescence is not inevitable, either. Surveys show that most teenagers get on well with their parents; it is only a few who experience a serious deterioration in their relationship. Perhaps you should also ask yourself whether it is the closeness between your husband and your son that is hard for you to cope with. If there is any jealousy, try and talk about this with your husband.

John Coleman, director, Trust for the Study of Adolescence, 23 New Road, Brighton BN1 1WZ. Tel: 0273 693311.

My daughter has become close friends with the daughter of a local couple. I have chatted to the mother on a number of occasions, and welcomed her daughter into my home. The other day my little girl, who is seven, went to visit Claire. She told me it had been a bit strange, because Claire's father had suddenly appeared wearing women's clothes. His wife was at work and he had given the girls tea and played with them, then changed back into his ordinary clothes to bring my daughter home. I am upset by this, but don't feel I know the wife well enough to talk to her about it. I have no idea whether she even knows. My daughter is distressed that I have turned down the last two invitations to Claire's house, and feels I am spoiling her friendship .

Not surprisingly, you have taken your daughter's description of the incident at face value. But it is just possible that Claire's father was simply relaxing in a sarong or some other item of exotic leisure wear. Then again, perhaps he wasn't - in which case he has dragged you into a compromising situation where you are left confused, implicated in his deceptions and feeling bad about your daughter and his wife. Either way, you have to talk to them. You can afford to lose their friendship but you must make sure your daughter remains open with you. The first thing is to check out the story with her. If after this you remain unhappy, you must explain why to your daughter.

Tim Woolmer, director, Westminster Pastoral Foundation, 23 Kensington Square, London W8 5HN. Tel: 071-937 6956.

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