Why am I feeling so depressed?
I feel an utter failure because I am 39 in March (so middle-aged next
year!) but still living with my parents.
ZeroLight’s move to Live Works has made my depression worse,
because I am now comparing the heart of the North East’s regional
capital with the godforsaken former mining village where I live.
Newcastle may not be London, but it is notable how much younger, more
confident and more diverse its population seems compared to my own village
(or Peterlee, the nearest town where I often take mam for shopping).
My mam is even more depressed and anxious than I am due to caring for
two disabled family members, and is desperately clinging to me as I’m
the only significant person in her life capable of holding a
conversation with her:
My sister Helen has autism, epilepsy and learning difficulties:
she’s 30 but has a mental age of roughly 6.
My dad suffered a serious brain haemorrhage in January 2012 and was
lucky to survive.
Mam hasn’t really had an outside social life since c. 1990 (when Helen
became too much of a handful for my grandparents to babysit). Now she can’t
even go out alone on the bus while I’m at work, because Helen gets so anxious
about being left alone with Dad.
I am the only driver in the house, and my mother is reliant on me to
take her for grocery shopping at weekends.
Dad can no longer drive due to the effects of his brain haemorrhage
(including hemianopia and epilepsy) -- I have already been driving
for as long as dad ever did.
Mam never attempted to learn to drive due to her anxiety and her
extremely poor sense of direction.
Mam’s extreme anxiety may be in part the result of a close call she had
(in the year before I was born) with a joyrider under police pursuit,
who seconds later fatally crashed into a wall.
Mam and Helen are both also extremely afraid of dogs, while I am
also to a lesser degree.
I currently have no social life outside cyberspace (where I feel safe
from mam’s prying due to her computer-illiteracy), and I’m worried that
I’ll end up dying a virgin: living with my parents until they die then
spending the rest of my life as Helen’s carer.
How did I get where I currently am?
Pre-University era (pre-1996)
My dad lost his job in 1991 (he was only 33) when Easington Colliery
closed, and (except for a few weeks at Flymo in Newton Aycliffe) he
never worked again.
I was always hearing my mam shouting at my dad attacking him for not
getting another job. This made me afraid of questions coming from my
mam, as when mam asked dad questions it almost always led to trouble.
Dad had poor academic qualifications (CSEs only) and I suspect from
his mannerisms that he may have had undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome
(as I have this myself).
The "get a job" rants misled me into thinking that my mam’s
grievance against my dad was basically materialistic, even though
her fondness for Dolly Parton’s song "Coat of Many Colors" should
have been an indication that this was not in fact the case.
The tense home situation made me resolved to "get good qualifications,
get a decent job and make mam happy by buying her the things that dad
was too lazy to work for".
First Degree era (1996-2000)
I did an MSci degree in Physics at Durham University.
Shortly after starting university there was a news story about
Durham University student Anne Brennan, who had died in 1995 from
CO poisoning caused by an improperly-maintained gas system in her
I remarked at the time that since her parents’ home was only 8
miles from Durham and had a frequent bus service, she must have
been seeking to escape parental scrutiny. To me this was a pure
logical deduction, but (to my disquiet) my mam saw something
sinister in this desire, almost as though she’d deserved to die for
As I began university at 16 (very fortunate for me as it means I missed
tuition fees!) initially I had no choice but to live with my parents.
Also not being licensed to drive for the first two years meant I
couldn’t practically take part in extracurricular activities (as
there was only one bus home per hour at the time).
Even when I learned to drive and got myself a car, I still didn’t get
involved as I was deterred by the prospect of questions from my mam.
Instead I preferred to spend my time on my home PC, often working
on instrument panel add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator 95 that
I made available for users to download.
I envied the social lives of those living in student accommodation,
but I rationalized my lack of social life as the price of avoiding
PhD era (2000-2006)
It was the second year of my PhD before I was determined to do a social
activity outside my studies: I joined the university chess club.
I had attended a chess club before when school-age, so I never
expected this choice to be controversial with my mam.
I went to the chess club for a few months: in the end there were two
reasons why I stopped going.
One reason was that most other casual players like myself (seeking
to unwind from my studies) had stopped attending, leaving mainly
competitive team players of a standard far higher than myself.
The other reason was that the club membership was over 90% male,
which didn’t really appeal to me.
Starting the third year I decided I wanted a change and decided to
attend evening classes with the university’s Instep Dancing Society:
The first week I decided to go I didn’t actually go because my mam
demanded to know what I was doing and I was too embarrassed to tell
her. It was only the second week that I plucked up the courage to
I really enjoyed this activity while I was doing it, until
eventually I gave it up too as I was getting sick of finding myself
the odd man out.
This failure I did put down to the fact that I was living with my
parents: it’s far easier for people to find partners if they are
living in the immediate area an are able to socialize
spontaneously, unlike myself who lived 7 miles away and had to tell
my mam why I was going out any time where this wasn’t
I didn’t do any social activities in subsequent years as I had a really
hard time trying to acceptably finish my thesis, which I eventually did
Just after my viva I attended a conference in Seattle USA. When I
returned home my mam commented on how beamingly happy I looked. I now
suspect that this wasn’t just because of the things I had seen over
there, but also because it was such a relief to spend a whole week away
from my family.
Unemployed era (2006-2008)
In late 2006 I did a two-month work trial at ScottLogic Ltd, but it
didn’t work out.
At the time I was given the impression that this was because my
social skills weren’t good enough (due to my Asperger’s).
After I started at Eutechnyx I learned that I wasn’t kept on by
ScottLogic because of a downturn in demand (as big financial firms
became more likely to do their software development in-house).
I spent a year looking for work: my mam thought my difficulties were
primarily due to my Asperger’s, while I myself (along with the staff I
still knew from university) believed my main impediment was the fact
that I was not willing to look outside the North East region.
Spending so much time at home enabled me to have the most productive
period with my flight simulator development hobby. I joined a group of
developers online called the Historic Jetliners Group, which provided
free downloads of old jet airliners for Microsoft Flight Simulator
It also showed me that my mam’s grievances with my dad were not
materialistic in nature (with the one exception that she resented him
for failing to make her a homeowner): they were more about his
unwillingness to do household tasks unless repeatedly nagged to do so.
Early Eutechnyx era (2008-2012)
I started work at Eutechnyx in April 2008.
Once I was working and bringing in an income I expected to be
giving more money to my parents so they could improve their quality
To my horror my mam point-blank refused to take more than £80/week
from me even if offered, which was barely enough to pay the council
house rent and the council tax.
She didn’t even give me any ideas for things I could buy her
either, which meant that "her" presents for Christmases and
birthdays were often actually household goods (which was
dispiriting for me).
For the first couple of years or so I was motivated not only by
money, but by a desire to prove to my mam that I was capable of
holding down a job (so that she’d give me the go-ahead to move
At the time my interpretation of mam’s refusal to take more than
£80/week was "she could do with more money, but she’s doing me this
really big favour to help me save up for a deposit for a place of my
This had an affect on my behaviour: once when I said I was going
out for a drive and went further than normal (to Appleby and
Ullswater as it turns out) I was terrified that mam would ask me
where I had been because I was convinced she’d be angry with me for
wasting so much petrol.
I was able to save money fast at this stage as I was getting a lot
of money from my grandparents (my grandfather was a miner and had
received a big pension as compensation after being badly injured in
an accident in the 1970s).
Once I had enough money to get a deposit for a mortgage, mam moved the
goalposts by saying she was afraid that if I moved out I’d be made
redundant and end up losing my home.
Now she insisted that I should live with her until I had saved up
enough money to buy a house outright.
Perhaps the alarm bells should really have started ringing in my
mind at this point? (After all, how many young people get to buy a
From 2006 onwards, my mam’s parents (the only grandparents which I’d
felt close to, and which now lived in a bungalow about 100 yards from
our own house) were housebound and increasingly dependent on my mam’s
help, which she typically provided twice a day.
It was at this point that the house kitchen became more and more
dirty, messy and dilapidated as my mam’s extra responsibilities meant
she couldn’t check up on him so much to make sure he was doing the housework.
I now know that the reason why my parents had moved back in their
current village when I was a baby (their first house had been in
Peterlee and was actually a better house) was because mam was still
very close with her parents and wished to be within walking distance
of them. (Before I was born, she was visiting them by bus
Perhaps the fact that mam served as such a dutiful carer for my
grandparents has coloured her own thinking regarding what I ought
to be doing for the family?
My grandfather died in August 2009, and my grandmother in May 2011
– it was in the summer of 2011 that I began more seriously to
consider moving out.
Since then, my mam has rarely left the upstairs of the house except
when she needs to go out (such as to get shopping or to go to the doctor).
In November 2011, when Eutechnyx adopted shorter (and flexible) working
hours I saw it as an opportunity to try to lose weight by doing some
exercise at home after returning from work:
My hope was that losing some weight would make it easier to find a
woman once I left home.
As I hate doing exercise at home and find it boring, I used my home
PC to make a video of female platform divers to watch to motivate
my exercising (by reminding me why I was doing this)
It didn’t really work out as I was still eating too much (perhaps
affected by the Xmas season), but I thought I could try again more
seriously in the New Year.
After dad’s brain haemorrhage (2012-present)
In 2011 dad was showing worrying signs that something was amiss with
his health, and both mam and I repeatedly warned him to go to the
doctor, only to be ignored:
He was (and still is to this day) snoring terribly (to the point
that he began sleeping on the couch downstairs as otherwise no-one
else in the house would be able to sleep).
He was becoming an increasingly erratic driver (and at risk of
falling asleep at the wheel) to the point that any time we
travelled more than about 5 miles mam asked me to do the driving,
as she felt unsafe with dad driving.
Perhaps he refused to go to the doctor because of his family
history of diabetes, which meant that he feared losing his driving
licence? (As it was, he ended up losing it anyway, as well as
suffering major damage to his memory functioning!)
The brain haemorrhage happened on 14th January 2012: I first sounded
the alarm when I tried to ask him something that afternoon and he
replied with gibberish.
Mam had originally planned me to take her to Dalton Park that
afternoon (but decided not to due to the freezing weather). If we
had gone dad would have died as Helen wouldn’t have understood what
was happening, nor would she have known how to call an ambulance.
A tense couple of months followed, as mam and I had to share the
housework that was normally done by dad. On two successive Saturday
nights I was up until after midnight clearing rubbish from storage
rooms (off the kitchen and passageway respectively).
In April 2012 (figuring that due to the developments that year that I’d
be unlikely to be moving out soon) I thought about restarting the dance
classes that I’d tried while doing my PhD. This time however (even
though I was open with her) my mam stopped me from going, claiming both
that I’d never be any good (due to my co-ordination being hindered by
my Asperger’s) and that she feared for my safety!
By now I had about £100k in the bank, so I thought I might be able to
buy my parents a house (my unspoken hope was that if I did this I’d be
able to say that "I don’t owe you anything anymore" and there would
therefore have no grounds for stopping me going my own way).
I printed off an Excel spreadsheet I had prepared of about 60 3+
bedroom houses in Peterlee (nearest town to my home village). I
wanted them to move into town so that they’d be less dependent on a
car (and thus on myself as a driver), but all the houses were
rejected as "too small".
The following year (April 2013) I attempted to move out - secretly
viewing a one-bedroom flat after work - but my attempt was foiled when
my parents went in my money tin that morning (intending to get a bank
statement for me) and noticed my debit card was missing:
I was so traumatized by my mam’s angry phone call that I forgot to
eat my packed lunch that day!
When I got home, I was told I was crazy to want to live in a flat, and
that there were multiple men in the village still living with their parents
into their 40s or even 50s, and that the only ones living live alone by
choice did so to allow their ageing parents to move into a bungalow.
She also claimed that I couldn’t move out because Helen needed me
to keep the internet connection in the house operational.
Perhaps mam’s thinking is rooted in the fact that when she was
young it was almost universal for people to live with their parents
until marriage (perhaps because you had to be married to qualify
for a council house?)
On her 54th birthday in June 2013, she said "if you leave home you might
as well stick a knife in me before you go: I’d kill myself if I was left
alone with him!" Birthdays are especially fraught for my mam as she
shared her birthdate with her own mother whom she still grieving for.
- In April 2014 I told my mam that I felt really unhappy about still living with
- She replied "if you were leaving home because you’d found someone and you
were getting married I’d be over the moon, but why the hell would you want
to live ON YOUR OWN!?"
- I then responded "given that I’m still living with you, how do you expect any
woman to take me seriously? They’d be sure to assume that I don’t know how to
look after myself!"
- My mam responded "you obviously don’t understand how women think. If I was me
as a young woman looking for a partner, I’d prefer a man still living with his
parents – it would mean he would be unlikely to have any baggage from previous
relationships, like children he’s making support payments to".
- I could hardly believe what I was hearing from my mam, as I thought that the
"children should live with parents until marriage" ethic was now dead in Britain
except in Asian communities: and I thought that at least if I had been Asian I
would have probably had a marriage arranged by now.
At Eutechnyx’s 2014 Christmas party I had a go at dancing with a few female
staff members(perhaps because they felt sorry for me?): this was probably the
only time since dad’s brain haemorrhage that I have felt true happiness!
In June 2016 my mam was taken into hospital (Newcastle’s RVI) with a brain aneurysm
that needed an operation. Once when I visited her there, she had a go at me about how
I still couldn’t look after myself, but when I listened carefully to what she was
actually saying it seemed like what she was really saying is that I didn’t know how
to look after Helen!
Since 2016 I have been feeling even worse, in part because (as
mentioned before) ZeroLight’s move into central Newcastle has made me
feel even more like I am missing out, but probably more because of
Brexit (IIRC over 90% of ZeroLight’s staff voted Remain). Now I am
feeling worse and worse as No Deal looks ever more likely.
The political developments have also worsened my home situation
because my mam voted Leave (even though it was little surprise as
both her parents voted Out in the 1975 EEC referendum).
In December my mam wanted to buy me a dash cam for my car, but I didn’t want
one, because when I’m alone in the car going to or from work, I’m often sobbing
"What did I do to deserve to be shackled to this family?!" and I didn’t
want to be recorded doing so!
Last month when taking her for some shopping she asked me why I was always
looking so sad: I said it was because I had no social life due to living at home
and she replied "if you wanted a social life why didn’t you get one when you were
at uni?" I then said "because I was living at home then as well" and she insisted
it was actually because of my Asperger’s, and "don’t you dare blame not having a
social life on ‘living at home’!"
She also questioned why I’d even want a social life: arguing "you said you
don’t want to spend your time getting drunk, you have no interest in football, and
you can’t exactly go to restaurants because you’re such a fussy eater." Why is mam
so apparently unimaginative?
I now have about £128k spread between two bank accounts, but unless I can get mam’s
blessing to move out (or unless she can find a house acceptable to her for us to move
into) I feel like this is just useless numbers on bank statements!
My mam’s preference seems to be for a house with an attached bungalow (where I could
live close at hand). However I’m not keen to say the least, once when my mam showed me
such a house on Rightmove (?) my heart visibly sank as I thought "surely you’re not
expecting me to pay for my own life sentence?!"
Mam is increasingly agitated by the need to nag and nag and nag my dad to get him to do anything
around the house, as well as the fact that he often does things very badly (due to his severely
impaired short-term memory amongst other things). When I asked her why she doesn’t do more housework
herself if my dad’s so incompetent, she said that her physical condition precludes it.
Is my mam’s controlling behaviour driven by how much she needs me, or by how much my sister supposedly needs me, or because she thinks I can’t be trusted with a place of my own?
I’m now increasingly starting to feel as if I have been mentally damaged by my mam’s
overprotectiveness and controlling behaviour to the extent that I did ever manage to move
out I would need therapy to repair this damage!
How can I get myself out of my predicament?