Am I being made to suffer for the abortion I had as a teenager


I am a 56-year-old childless woman, fairly happily married for 25 years.

When I was 17 I had an abortion, with no say in the matter, as my parents were very strict.

At 24 I married my first husband, but we were childless for the seven years we were married, and then he left me for someone else. They went on to have two children.

Now there isn't a day that goes by when I don't think whether I've missed the chance to have a family

Now there isn't a day that goes by when I don't think whether I've missed the chance to have a family

I then met my second husband, who already had a three-year-old son. I loved him dearly (and still do), but my husband said he didn’t want another child and foolishly I accepted this. Now there isn’t a day goes by when I don’t think about what could have been.

Two months ago my beloved 15‑year-old border terrier died in my arms. She had been my baby and I cannot get over the loss.

As I work more hours at the moment, I felt it wasn’t right to get another dog. So I went to the rescue centre and got a cat. But for more than 12 months now I have been buying sleeping tablets on the internet to help me get some rest and take the pain away.

I know I am addicted — and unhappy and lonely. I have no children, no grandchildren and no dog.

Since I have run up a large debt on my credit card, my husband found out about the tablets and is furious. My parents are both elderly and I know they are going to be more demanding, but I love them dearly.

As I write this Ican’t stop crying. I have made such a mess of my life and feel I am being punished for the termination more than 40 years ago.

Bel, I can’t get over losing my dog, my companion. If I was middle-class and had money and my own home I would fill it with dogs and cats as I prefer them to people.

My husband is very angry about the tablets and has said he will leave me if I don’t stop taking them. I don’t know what to do. I just want to be reasonably happy.


Your modest wish to be ‘reasonably happy’ is an admirable one, since it refuses to make too many demands of the universe. But to what extent are we in charge of our own happiness

Oddly enough, I believe we have more control than we think.

The old phrase ‘You make your luck’ will seem harsh to somebody who feels that life has dealt a rotten hand of cards they simply do not deserve.

On the other hand, feeling cross and deciding to jolly well do something about it (even chucking the bad hand on the floor, metaphorically speaking) can be the first step to shifting a life from the negative to the positive.

So let me challenge you to stop seeing yourself as a victim of circumstance, and instead to confront mistakes you may have made and to vow to make changes in your life.

The first thing that jumps out from your letter is not your sorrow at losing your beloved dog (which I, as a dog-lover, can so empathise with) but the fact that you have been buying these sleeping pills on the web ‘for more than twelve months’.


Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or e-mail [email protected]

A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

You say you began taking them to ‘take
the pain away’, but that was not the pain of bereavement. So what was
it Ten months before your dog died you began this horribly unwise
business of buying stuff online. Why

There are many painful strands within your letter. I am seeing a woman
who never recovered from the forced abortion, but has now transferred
any anger she may have felt with her parents to herself — when it was
not your fault at all.

So how can you be ‘punished’
You proclaim your love for your parents and seem to assume you will end
up as their carer. I wonder if that’s something that, deep down, you

You say you had no choice about going along with their wishes all those
years ago, just as you meekly agreed with your second husband’s decision
not to have a family.

It’s not surprising that you feel that you should have rebelled instead
of allowing yourself to become, in effect, a victim of those you love.
You, who were previously dealt a crushing blow by your first husband’s
infidelity — made so much worse by the cruel twist of fate that gave him
another woman’s children.

I believe you’re carrying a weight of blame, and rock-bottom
self-esteem, for all these things; you are not being ‘punished’ by any
outside power, but by yourself.

At the time when you began self-medicating you must have been aware of
your dog’s age and dreading her inevitable death. I’m also wondering if
you were still menopausal, and whether that was a contributory factor in
your insomnia and depression.

Lastly, you tell me you are ‘lonely’ — and it truly bothers me that your
husband’s response to the discovery of your credit card debt is anger
and a terrible threat. You weren’t buying handbags but pills!

He should be giving you love and care, and encouraging you to go to talk
to your GP to make full disclosure of what you’ve been taking and seek
counselling for depression on the NHS.

You aren’t used to asserting yourself, but this is what you have to do now.
Your action plan goes like this: first, you have to talk frankly to your
husband and show him this page — yes, be brave! He needs to realise
that there are ways of helping your partner and recrimination is not one
of them.

He should also realise that this 25-year marriage needs some work since
surely neither of you wishes to face old age alone. It’s time to take
care of each other.

Give him your credit card (to keep for just a while) and allow him to
help you get rid of any remaining sleeping pills. Then make an
appointment with your GP and do as I say above.

Remind yourself that although you have had no children, you have been a
loving step-mum and don’t devalue that achievement. Finally (I’m sure
you know what I’m going to say!), you know perfectly well that you don’t
have to be ‘middle-class’ to enjoy the loving company of a dog.

Make a plan with your husband that, at some stage in the future, you
will share the care of another canine companion — one which will get on
with the cat. This will be something for you to look forward to.

Dry those tears, buy yourself a bunch of narcissi and breathe in their
scent. You haven’t ‘made a mess’ of your life; things have happened to
you, as they do to many people. Accept that and work on the next stage.

Dear Bel

I wrote last year in the hope you might respond on your page, but I do realise that you are inundated with mail. I am 48, single, unemployed, without any friends.

I endured the unpleasant experience of being alone at Christmas. I was bullied at school, have very low self-esteem and have suffered from body dysmorphic disorder since my late teens.

At the Boxing Day sales I overheard a woman describing me as ‘ugly’.

It is not the first time that has happened. If other people view me as ugly, it must be true.

I hate my facial features and am reluctant to interact on any social level. Please help me as I am not in a good place.


First, I am not a sex therapist, nor have I ever wished to be. No sex tips on this column, I’m afraid!

As I grow older I find myself less and less comfortable with graphic frankness about sexual matters.

That could be because I am becoming puritanical in my old age — and I confess I’ve always been that way inclined when it comes to pornography. Inclined to puritanism, I mean.

But maybe I’m just bored with the fact that sex is used to ‘sell’ everything, from cars to clothes for little girls. Yuk, I think, just put it away!

The serious point here is that the overkill in sexual imagery does lead many young people who may be very inexperienced ‘in the bedroom department’ to believe that everybody is at it, all the time, and that it’s the norm to ‘perform’ like a stud or a slut. Which it’s not.

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First, I’m sorry for inadvertently making you feel neglected last time, though I know you will have received the acknowledgement sent to all who write in, assuming they provide an email or postal address.

As you say, there are a lot of letters covering many problems . . . but here I am at last, hoping to be useful.

But can I assume that you truly want help You have to look steadily into that mirror you hate so much and make a conscious decision to help the person you see reflected — yes, that one who deserves your compassion, even your affection, not your dislike.

Readers may not know that body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a genuine mental health issue that affects 2 per cent of the population.

A sufferer has an obsessive dislike of some aspect of his or her appearance, which makes interaction with others socially very hard, if not impossible. The problem frequently starts in the last teens and can be triggered by chronic childhood teasing or bullying.

BDD sufferers may look perfectly normal, but believe they are ‘ugly’.Their quality of life is diminished and sufferers can become severely depressed and often suicidal.

Apparently, fewer men seek help for this disorder than women — which is why I urge you, Martin, to make today the first day of the rest of your life by vowing to act.

Have you talked to your GP He or she should be the first point of help. You see, an authoritative study found that when BDD sufferers had that brilliant ‘talking cure’ called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), their symptoms decreased and BDD was eliminated in 82 per cent of cases.

Doesn’t that give you hope You should ask your GP to refer you to your local primary care mental health service, saying that you believe CBT on the NHS will help you address this condition that is blighting your life.

Or you can just ring them yourself on 01202 843400. Another useful number is for the Gateway Team on 01202 633583. Take a deep breath, pick up the phone, explain and ask what they think you should do. Choose to make 2012 the year things change for you.

It’s much easier for me to research this kind of information when I have a postal address. But the fact that you wrote a letter also leads me to suggest that at this stage in life, you should become computer literate to open up new worlds.

Phone your library on 01202 454848 to find out how you can start learning computer skills. You need to seek proper professional help, but you also need to get out and do things — and I think both should happen simultaneously.

Finally, let me whisper gently in your ear that if you did, indeed, hear some stupid woman describe you as ‘ugly’ (and please consider that you imagined it), then I tell you this: the only ugliness in the equation is lurking within her soul.


Sometimes I want to pass on words of wisdom from someone whose honesty has impressed me, as well as helping support me in what I do.

So I introduce you to James, who writes to thank me — even though I have never had a problem letter from him.

He tells me that two-and-a-half years ago he split up from the woman he loved and moved out of the home they had shared.

‘Being a successful, confident chap I was totally ill-prepared for what was to come. Mere days after moving out, I descended into what I now recognise as a deep depression over the loss of my girlfriend, my beautiful house and the future I’d dreamt of.’

So he tried to win her back (‘probably sent too many text messages, made too many phone calls, sent too many heartfelt letters’), but failed.

James says he sank into a ‘psychological mess’ and that he was tempted on many occasions to write to me ‘to ask you what I had to do to get better’.

He didn’t, but started reading this column each week.

‘It taught me that I was suffering from a problem which is far from rare, and that many people had far worse problems in their lives to deal with than me.’

Each week this helped (along with the support of his family and friends), and James touches me deeply by writing: ‘Thank you, Bel, for being a quiet counsellor to me in the background.’

This reader has a very wise message which demonstrates that acceptance is an essential part of moving on.

‘Unrequited love is a sapping problem to have to get your head around. But I have learned to accept that I can still love her from afar, despite her making it clear in many ways that she doesn’t love me or want me.

‘So, to all those people who feel total despair about the break-up of a relationship, I say: it will get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel — and mine has been long and deep.’