22 October 2017Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: I’m terrified of leaving home

It’s likely that you are suffering from something called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Russell Hemmings.
1 Apr 2016 | 12:00 am

I was 12 years old when my dad died in front of me of a heart attack. I’m now nearly 19, but this still haunts me every day. I can’t get over what happened and I am becoming more and more reluctant to leave the house, because I feel extremely anxious when I do. Now, I’m preparing for university but am terrified of leaving my mum, even though she wants me to go. What should I do?

This was such a tragic and traumatic event in your life that it’s no wonder you’re struggling to cope. A parent dying at any age can be overwhelming, but to witness what you did at such a young age must have created a fundamental split in the fabric of your young life.

That’s why I urge you to seek professional help to enable you to begin to piece things back together again. This will help you to explore what has happened to you and teach you how to manage your anxiety. It’s likely that you are suffering from something called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The stress your mind was placed under at the time of your dad’s death probably keeps resurfacing, because you haven’t had the chance to deal with and process those emotions. It might be that you felt you had to stay strong for your mum, so you put your grief on hold.

Indeed, I wonder how much opportunity you have had to explore your grief and the emotions associated with it. You mention very little about your family, but you do seem to feel close to your mum, so would it be possible to begin 
a conversation with her about how you feel?

It’s a testament to how strong a person you are, that in the face of such adversity you have achieved enough academically to go to university. Your mum clearly wants the best for you, so maybe it’s time to share how you feel. This may not come easy at first. I suspect that you have learned to hide your feelings, perhaps because you don’t want to feel responsible for upsetting your mum, but I feel she would want to know.

If you are finally able to go to university, it will be a measure of how strong you both are and I’m sure it’d make her proud to know something wonderful has emerged from such a terrible situation.

You are struggling at the moment, so you might want to shut the world out, because if you don’t the floodgates of your grief will open up and engulf you. However, you have your whole life ahead of you and I’m sure if your dad was around he would urge you to make the most of it.

Now is the time to find the right professional person to help you cope with the past, so that your future will be bright.

Got a problem?

Email your queries to

Russell Hemmings.

Russell Hemmings

Life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist. More info: / 04 4273627 / 055 2867275.