Dear Thelma: ‘Am I going crazy?’



30-year-old woman feels the whole world is against her.

I am a 30-year-old who is planning to pursue a masters degree. I come from a middle class family. 

I encounter harassment everywhere I go. I get harassed by my co-workers, neighbours, and the public in general. 

When I was in university, I was harassed by my varsity mates. As a result of the abuse, I suffered serious brain injury.

I sought Ayurvedic treatment for a year, and it helped with my condition. I could function quite normally for a while and was hopeful of completing my studies. Now the harassment is back. I have difficulties integrating with society. I am even afraid to go out and buy food as I feel threatened and scared. 

Why is this happening to me? Why is everyone treating me so badly? I feel so sorry for myself.

I just want to live a normal life. I want to complete my masters degree as planned. But it is hard to study when I am constantly victimised by certain irresponsible people. I don’t exactly know who these people are.

It all started when I fell in love with Q who is from a different race. We were studying in university then, and started dating. We met up four or five times in total. That was before I fell sick. I cannot remember what happened after that. 

All I know is that Q went overseas for some reason and that was the last I heard of him.

After that the persecution started. The public started throwing abusive words at me. My neighbours started tormenting me. I get harassed all the time by everyone I meet.

I have not done any wrong to anyone, so why is everyone, including the police, ganging up against me?

This harassment even continued in hospital. I was admitted to hospital, and all the hospital staff started to victimise me.

Everytime I go to the hospital for a follow-up, I get harassed. This is all very painful for me. I feel out of control. I cannot take it anymore. — Hopeful


NEXT PAGE: What Thelma has to say


Thelma's advice:

It is difficult to fully appreciate the problems you are going through without sufficient information. Yet, it is sufficient to understand the stress you must be enduring with all the perceived threats to your personal safety.

You seem to have tracked these problems to your relationship and eventual breakup with Q. It has been said that love hurts. Breakups are even worse.

The end of a relationship affects people in different ways. Your experience is personal to you, and the circumstances surrounding your life and your relationships are unique to you.

It is too bad that the fallout from the relationship turned violent. Even if a relationship involves people from different backgrounds or religions, there is no justification for violence.

It is good that you sought treatment and that you are better. Different methods work for different people and the traditional method has worked for you. It must be hard to have to deal with all this stress on your own. It looks like it is hard for you to trust people around you as you do not know who will hurt you.

It would help for you to see a mental health professional. A psychiatrist would be able to provide you medication which would lead to a reduction in anxiety. With this reduced anxiety state, you may be able to sleep better. 

Also, you would be able to focus more attention on your studies. Your mind would be clear of unwanted intrusive thoughts which only serve to distract you from the present.

Many people shy away from seeking much-needed mental health services because of the stigma associated with it. Society has a long history of negative perception towards those who are deemed “mentally ill”. And people who seek the help of mental health professionals are labelled such.

This is not true. The fact is that life is hard. It is full of obstacles and challenges. Some of us have the skills and abilities to cope with these ourselves. Some of us turn to loved ones – family, relatives, friends – for help. Some of us aren’t lucky enough to have this kind of social support. A mental health professional – aside from being able to provide specialised services – can act as this support.

Another misconception is that seeing a mental health professional is just about spending an hour talking. People ask, how can talking help? Talking helps plenty. Aside from being able to gain new perspectives on problems, it enables the person to deal with the emotions that arise from these problems. 

If left unchecked, these emotions can be overwhelming. Because people find these overwhelming emotions difficult to deal with, they ignore it. Ignoring it does not help. On the contrary, it only makes the situation worse as these emotions build up and the person is left feeling like a volcano waiting to explode.

It is these unchecked emotions that make us irritable and snap at others. It makes us say hurtful things to the people we love the most. Worse still, it makes us do harmful things to ourselves. For many people, the inability to deal with these emotions drive them to abuse substances which they think can drown or numb the feelings.

Seeing a mental health professional does not mean one is a weak person. It takes far more courage to admit that you need help than it does to bottle things up.

It would be good to see a psychiatrist first. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in mental health services. She would be able to assess your needs and provide proper diagnosis, if necessary.

A psychiatrist may prescribe you medication and it would be good for you to take the medication according to the doctor’s advice. This kind of medication can only be reduced or stopped with follow-ups and consultation with the psychiatrist. Also, the medication may require time before it takes effect. Report to the psychiatrist any side effects that you think the medication may be causing.

Follow-ups may be needed with a clinical psychologist or counsellor who will be able to spend more time talking to you about your problems. These mental health professionals will be able to teach you coping skills. They will serve as a trusted listener. The psychiatrist will be able to provide you a referral to this follow-up service.

This kind of help may not be expensive. Mental health services can be accessed at many public hospitals. You can contact the Malaysian Mental Health Association for more information. And why not? Your mental health is always worth it.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Email star2.thelma@thestar.com.my. Include your full name and address (which will be kept confidential) and your preferred pseudonym for publication. No private correspondence will be entertained. 

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