Dear Thelma: I'm overwhelmed by the lockdown, joblessness and past mistakes


  • Living
  • Sunday, 08 Aug 2021

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Email lifestyle@thestar.com.my or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11,46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Please include your full name, address and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained.

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Those suffering from mental health issues or contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935/ 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999/ 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) family, social and community care centre (0111-959 8214 on WhatsApp); and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 or go to befrienders.org.my/centre-in-malaysia for a full list of numbers nationwide and operating hours, or email sam@befrienders.org.my).

Dear Thelma,

I am at a point in my life where I do not wish to live anymore. Everything I do tends to bring me down. I have made mistakes but the smallest of mistakes tend to have a huge impact.

Everything started when I was in a relationship with a Filipino lady. My life has been in turmoil since then.

Somehow I managed to get rid of her mostly from my mind, but now suddenly with the whole lockdown situation and being jobless and also having the feeling of needing to just have someone to hug and also maybe help me out of this rut and not having anyone for that makes me go crazy.

I don't know what to do. Honestly, I don't dare to take my life; if not, I would have done that. I do overthink but life has pushed me to a point where I daily wish I don't wake up the next day.

All the small things in life seem more important now. I don't know how to survive this. The government doesn't understand the difficulties I'm undergoing. I know there is nothing I can do about it.

But I really wish someone could listen and not judge or blame me. Most of the things happening now, I can't control.

I really need moral support and motivation.

JD




Dear JD,

I'm sorry life is rough at the moment. You're out of work and a relationship ended. Put in the context of the pandemic, you've become depressed and suicidal.

You're quite right to seek help, and I understand you worry about being judged, so let's start with some facts.

You are not alone! In fact, the strain of constant fears of infection, lockdowns, and other stressors have resulted in a worldwide surge of mental health issues.

As you point out so sensibly, it's not as if any of this is under your control. So the question is, how come there are still people who judge?

I think it comes down to two things. First, we like to imagine the world is a just place, where good things come to good people. We tell ourselves that if we work hard and act nicely, that we will be safe and secure.

While it feels good when our lives are happy, this just world belief has a nasty consequence: if something bad happens, we wonder what we've done to deserve it.

Of course, the truth is that bad things happen to good people all the time. We know this if we think about it but sometimes we simply don't. And that's when we blame victims.

The other thing that fuels unfair and unreasonable judgement is fear. When we see good people suffer, it comes home to us that we might be next. So we ask victims what they did and didn't do.

We do this to comfort ourselves. We pretend that under the same circumstances, we would pull some kind of magic solution out of a hat. We do this to dampen our fears, so that we can tell ourselves that bad things can't happen to us.

So where can you seek help without judgement?

As you are suicidal, I think the first step is to see a doctor so you can be evaluated for depression. As you're unemployed, see your family doctor and ask to be referred. Or, seeing the current numbers are high, phone them.

Alternatively, call the numbers given in the blurb above. Tell them where you are and ask where you can phone for an appointment. There is telehealth now for some issues but, for a first appointment, you'll most likely need a face-to-face consultation.

Discuss whether you're depressed and whether you'd benefit from a few months of medication.

In addition, make a regular appointment to talk to a mental health professional for support. Support differs from place to place, so ask your doctor, at the hospital or your local council. If you just want a friendly, compassionate ear to listen while you blow off steam, try Befrienders (contact details in the blurb).

Next, connect with the people you love. Many of us are having a bad time, it's a pandemic for goodness sake, so open up to the person you think will be most open and compassionate. Reach out and be around people who love you.

Also, it helps to be active. Clean your home, go for a walk, repair something that is broken. Help your neighbours! Being useful will give you a boost.

And finally, you can apply for jobs in the regular way, but remember that networking is a job seeker's best friend. Brush up your CV. Then contact old bosses and colleagues and tell them you need a job.

And if they ask questions or say things that sound judgemental, recognise they are scared because on some level, they know it could happen to them.

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