Dear Thelma: My parents' fighting is affecting my life

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  • Sunday, 07 Jun 2015

Dear Thelma,

I have a lot of problems in life. My main problem is loneliness.

After my mum started working in her own shop, I became more and more miserable. She should know that she is not young anymore. She has varicose veins and her condition has not improved even with treatment.

She does not show as much affection as she used to. Although I grew up as a spoilt child, I care for my mother very much. I just want her to hire another worker for her shop. The reason why she can’t do so is linked to my second problem.

My father is also very loving, but he often shouts and argues with my mother. This upsets me greatly. I can’t take it anymore. I am falling apart.

Before I registered for my IGCSE, I used to take a lot of Panadols. I live only for my parents. Now I feel I have nothing to live for anymore. I’m 15 years old.

I became a diploma holder when I was 14. It was an online programme accredited by the NCFE in Britain. My friends and family did not think much of my accomplishment. They thought it was nothing extraordinary. The only person who was impressed was my teacher. I even thought I could break the record of being the youngest PhD holder in the country. Thelma, do you think I have achieved anything in life? – Salmenn

Dear Salmenn,

It is sweet of you to show so much concern for your parents. However, your concern could be misplaced.

You may think your mother is too old or not fit enough to work, but ultimately the choice is hers. She is a grown woman who understands her own body and knows its limits. As her son, you have to respect that.

Your mother runs her own business. She knows when and if she should hire someone to help out at the shop. Perhaps she enjoys working and finds fulfilment in what she does, so she does not want to give up what she is doing.

It is sad that you have to witness your parents’ arguments which have affected you badly. You need to understand that it is normal and all right for couples to argue, no matter how long they have been married. What is more important is that people handle their disagreements amicably.

The arguments can go into the grey region of abuse if there is constant putting down of one person by another. If this is what your mother feels is happening, then there are things she can do to address the situation.

What you can do, if you want to help, is to talk to her and alert her to these options and see if she is willing to take the necessary action. It may help if you tell your mother that you are badly affected by the arguments she has with your father.

If you want to learn more about what you can do, you can contact the Women’s Aid Organisation or the All Women’s Action Society.

However, you must realise that this is a decision that only your mother can make. She may have a different view of the arguments. That is why it is important to have a heart-to-heart talk with your mother. Ask her how she feels about these arguments with your father, and how she copes with them.

If she chooses to work as a way to escape your father’s tempers and moods, then you should sit down with her and ask her to reconsider. Whatever the issue may be, she is the only one who can make any decision about what she does with her life.

Her decision may affect you, but there are things you can do to address the issue. Firstly, you have to acknowledge that your main problem is loneliness. You have to address that yourself. Expecting your mother to stay home to make you feel less lonely is selfish.

You are a young man. You have resources. You go to school. You live in an online age. What is there to stop you from making connections and friends that can help address your loneliness?

The other issue could be anxiety. You said you have taken many Panadol tablets. Why have you taken these? Were you having headaches?

All these unnecessary thoughts and worries that you experience can lead to stress and tension. The stress and tension result in muscles tensing and cramping, thus leading to headaches. The solution to that is to address your worries. What other worries do you have? What positive coping mechanisms can you apply to deal with these? You can do an online search to identify simple mechanisms to deal with anxiety and its accompanying symptoms.

The other thing that could be causing anxiety to you, is over-reliance on what other people think about you. You have this diploma that you have worked hard for. Why is it so important for you to get approval from others? Is it not sufficient that you recognise the work you have put in to achieve this? That in itself should be all the accolade you require.

The point is, you can never satisfy people. You cannot live your life expecting to get validation from others. You have to learn to appreciate yourself and find your self-worth through that. Success is not an end goal. It is about reaching a goal – and through life, the goals will change – and your journey in reaching the goal. It is about finding happiness in pursuit.

Achievement is not measured by just one thing. You have to accept that about your diploma. You are very young and have a long way to go. Achievement is about completing your task despite the many challenges along your path.

If you believe you can secure a PhD at a young age, do it. Put in the hard work that is required. Get into a university and get a degree. Do well enough to get into a PhD programme.

Ask yourself, what would you be doing this for? Is it your ambition to get a PhD? Does your dream job require a PhD? Or are you doing this to prove a point to someone?

It is not easy getting a PhD. A diploma is one small step towards getting an education. And that is what it should be about. Getting an education. Not about chasing some end goal that you think a PhD is going to address.

Happiness is something that has occupied the thoughts of countless philosophers and gurus. While they may all have different views and ideas about it, the one thing they have in common is that happiness is dependent on what you do. If you want happiness, you have to work towards it. Whether it is about having positive thoughts, or going on a course on happiness, it depends on individual action.

And this is what you have to do now. If you want to address your loneliness, only you can do something about it. You are the one who has to go out there in the big world and find people you have something in common with, and connect with them. You have to make the effort to find things that make you happy and do them.

You may be close to your mother, but she cannot make you happy. Placing your happiness in the hands of another – no matter how much you love each other – is a sure-fire way to not be happy. This is because, unless you find what makes you happy, it won’t matter what the other person does because none of that will make you happy.

So, get up and start now. Don’t wait for a sign, or put it off till later. Go out there and find out what makes you happy. Then do it.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.

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Dear Thelma,

c/o Star2, Menara Star,

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Selangor or e-mail:

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