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Dear Coleen: 'I was sexually assaulted and then bad things keep happening to my family - I can't cope'

Mirror agony aunt Coleen Nolan advises a stressed teenager who fears she is always waiting for something bad to happen to her family after an awful year

  • Jun 17 2024
  • 39
Dear Coleen: 'I was sexually assaulted and then bad things keep happening to my family - I can't cope'
Dear Coleen: 'I was sexually a

Dear Coleen

Before I get into my problem, I wanted to say I’m probably one of your biggest fans and I’m only 18. I came to see you on tour in February and had the best time ever, and even had the pleasure of meeting you and getting a photo.

So, after reading your advice for other people, I’m now hoping you can offer me some words of wisdom to help me cope as the past year has been awful for me and my family.

At the beginning of last year I was sexually assaulted, which had a devastating impact. Then following that we found out my dad had cancer. After that my nana got cancer, then my uncle and my auntie too.

Thankfully, my auntie, uncle and nana were all treated successfully, but my nana still isn’t well and may need another operation, while my dad is still waiting for his all-clear.

As if all of that wasn’t enough to deal with, in February, my other auntie suddenly passed away at the age of 57. It was so shocking. I just can’t help thinking, “What’s next?” I’m always waiting for something bad to happen to the family again. How can I get control of this horrible feeling?

Coleen says

Well, I can relate to some of what you’re going through. When an illness like cancer ravages your family, as it has mine over the years, it does change you and you have to consciously keep a handle on it or it can turn into paranoia and an uncontrollable fear.

It certainly changed me and it makes you think about your own mortality, which in some ways is good because you learn to appreciate everything more.

When I’m complaining of feeling stressed now, I always think how my sister Bernie, who died in 2013, would love to be here feeling stressed. So, that’s how I snap myself out of stressful situations.

The worry is something that’s hard to shake off but, here’s the thing, none of us knows how long we’ve got on this planet or what life has in store for us around the corner, so let’s not worry about what’s going to happen in the future, let’s focus on today. You’ve had an awful lesson in how fragile and uncertain life can be at such a young age but, if you can take anything from it, it’s to enjoy living in the here and now.

I also believe, especially given the sexual assault, that you’d benefit from some counselling. It’ll help you work through everything that’s happened and support you moving on. Speak to your GP first to see if you can get a referral via the NHS.

You can also search for a therapist at bacp.co.uk, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. There are also lots of good self-help apps available to help cope with anxiety and calm your mind.

I’m sorry about what’s happened to you but you have a wonderful life ahead of you.


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