Dear Thelma: My mother is a pain to live with

  • Family
  • Sunday, 04 Feb 2018

Why can’t my parents be civil to each other?

Dear Thelma,

I'm 20 years old and my life seems perfect. I seem to have good parents, a good brother, no financial problems, a caring boyfriend, truly good friends and I’m studying to be a doctor currently under scholarship.

But I cannot feel emotions. I can barely understand myself. I’m just not allowed to be myself. I blame my parents for this.

I do not know the reason, but my mother has been depressed since the day she married my father. I cannot remember a solid whole day when my parents spoke properly to each other. There are always cynical remarks between them.

I love my brother, but he keeps everything to himself, unlike me.

With my father, the more my mum reprimands him, the more he runs away to work.

And I honestly don’t care for my boyfriend. I have lost interest in him, and in fact, in my life.

I don’t know what to do for my mother to be happy. I feel like everything is a façade and I want to give up and run away rather than commit suicide – although if I died suddenly, I wouldn’t mind either.

My mother seems to be jealous of me sometimes, telling me there’s no need for me to wear a certain outfit or to use makeup. It isn’t only me, she’s always bad-mouthing other people, the way they dress and judging their behaviour because of that.

She is an excessively controlling person, telling all of us, including my dad, to stay at home, and often complains that we are never at home. This is a lie. I have to beg and beg her to see my friends. And I’m never allowed to go on a trip. This is not the life I want. I want to run away. I want to cry but when I do, it doesn’t help me release my emotions. Is it even worth living? – Racheal

Dear Racheal

It is not easy trying to make someone with depression “happy”. Depression is a serious condition that requires treatment by trained professionals. If not treatment, then at least, some kind of help.

Also, it seems you see your role as being the peacemaker at home. This is something many children, daughters especially, of unhappily married people find themselves doing. They feel the need to do everything possible to make things pleasant at home. They try to make sure there are no reasons for their parents to fight with each other.

As a child, a daughter, you have tried to make your mother happy. You try and do things and be the kind of person you think will make your mother happy. In that noble effort, you have forgotten to be yourself. You are so tuned in to what you think your mother wants and needs, you have lost the sense of you and yourself.

Hence, you feel like everything is a façade. Because, it probably is. By turning yourself into something that you think is going to please others, you lose your authentic self. This does not mean you are a fake person. That is not what not being authentic means in this context. You are not pretending. It just means that you are not the person you want to be.

This sense of wanting to run away that you are experiencing may be an expression of your feeling overwhelmed by all that is happening. You are facing your internal struggles, which you cannot share with anyone. Then, there is the issue of your parents.

Perhaps you need a break. But, please, do not run away. Also, you do not have to kill yourself. There are things you can do to start feeling better. Yes, there is hope.

If you are unhappy with your relationship, perhaps it is simply time to reconsider it. If your boyfriend is not someone you care for, you owe it to him, and to yourself, to let him know how you feel. You may not have to use those words. Talk to him about what you think about the relationship. Be honest. There is nothing wrong in ending things if that is what you want to do. There is no shame, either. This is not a testament of you as a person. People will be hurt. As will you. But ending something you are unhappy with is much better than trying to coax yourself to believe that you are happy with it.

You need time to figure out who you are. If your boyfriend can give you that space – and this may be an indefinite period – then, it may be worth remaining in the relationship and see what happens. If you do not want to end the relationship, this is a compromise you can work towards. Be careful, however, to not place a time limit on how much time you require to discover yourself. You need to be patient.

As for your mother, you will first need to understand that you cannot make her happy. She has to do that herself. You have seen that you try and try and it doesn’t work when you try to make her happy.

Parents will be happy when they see their children happy. Think about that.

You are not going to become a rebel or some wild child just because you want to do the things that make you happy. That is what others may perceive when they see these changes in you. And, that is OK. You should not let what others say upset you. You know what is right and wrong; good and bad. You will make good decisions.

Your mother may not be jealous of you. Instead, she wants you to conform to her idea of what a “good girl” looks like. Many parents are like this. Hence, she makes comments about your clothes and make up. These are normal issues children endure with their parents. You will have to learn to negotiate these matters with her.

The same applies to her need to constantly have all of you home. Many parents believe that children hanging out with their friends is a sign of bad parenting. Or, that it will lead to children being up to no good. It is a common fear parents have. And, this can come across as being controlling.

Again, you would have to learn to negotiate with her about this. It may help for you to reach out to your brother and father and get them on your side. Surely they would also want to be able to spend time with friends outside the house. Sometimes, strategising helps.

Finally, you need to understand that it is not your role to make peace between your parents. Whatever issues there are between them, from what you say, has existed for a long time. As adults, they should be able to handle it themselves. If they won’t, then you shouldn’t have to.

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

Write to: Dear Thelma, c/o Star2, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

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