Dear Thelma: I'm feeling drained by negativity from relatives and colleagues


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Those 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 family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); or Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929/ email sam@befrienders.org.my/ befrienders centre in malaysia).

Dear Thelma,

It's been quite an eventful past few months. My father, who quit life and decided to make our lives difficult instead, has shown up again after his self-enforced exile.

Out of pity, I welcomed him back home. Then the negativity started piling up.

He has never held a paying job since the late 1970s. He is schizophrenic and continually dwells in the past. Worst is his bad-mouthing, even to me. I gave him a chance, Thelma, but he has never been grateful for it.

Now, despite constant allegations from his relatives, that I as a son have failed my duties in taking care of my father, they don't see the sacrifices I have made. I even gave up a well-paying job to tend to him some years ago when he had a bad leg injury.

None of his beloved relatives were keen on helping. I still helped anyway. It was a painful decision, but hardly a thanks, and I was constantly treated like a servant-child.

Fast-forward to today, things have gotten so acrimonious between us all. In my relatives' eyes, I am a mentally unsound person. They have labelled me a psycho, all because I stood up for myself.

On a different point, I am now working overseas. I was lonely before, and am even lonelier now. A part of me is glad to be in a new environment, though there are a lot of challenges. Namely, I am being targeted by an insecure feminist, with constant accusations of being late for work.

Everything is at face value these days regardless of the fact I haven't been on medical leave for seven years now.

Infantilising is a common practice here, and I'm bearing the brunt of it since I'm the new guy. I reported this to my superiors. They are close friends with the department head and HR, which probably explains their bold attitude at mocking a person.

I'm a gentle soul. I get my energy from within.

All this negativity is draining and I'm contemplating on leaving. The thing is, I just joined two months ago.

Mentally, I'm quite tired from all the politics. I'm not happy here.

In terms of timing, I am the earliest to arrive, at times up to an hour early.

What's also a shame is, a female colleague is showing signs of interest. I can't tell whether it's genuine or not since I'm not the type that gets attention easily though it's really heartwarming to see a cute smile on a pretty face come my way.

Kimosabe

You've written about two different situations, so I will address them separately.

I'm sorry your father has schizophrenia. While it can be frightening, many people lead happy, healthy and productive lives with the help of medication and support.

As for your family, they are vocal about advocating helpfulness but shy away from acting themselves. That's not unusual.

What is unusual is that they call you nasty names when you disagree. That's unacceptable.

You haven't asked a question, so I'll offer some general thoughts on ways to make effective change.

Nobody asks for mental health issues, but when we do have them, we have to be sensible about looking after ourselves as much as possible.

The first question is, does your father take medication and work on managing as best he can?

If he won't help himself at all, that may be a boundary. Start by insisting he does this.

If he is already doing this, then ask the second question: What are you willing to do? Maybe you're happy to check in once a week for a chat or pay part of his medication bill.

Making a list of what you are willing to do will help you connect while maintaining firm boundaries. You are abroad now but you can write, call or text.

As for the family, talk to the members you think will contribute. It may be easier to put this in terms of suggestions, as in, "Uncle, I'm glad you mentioned we must stick together. Please take my dad out for a meal once a month." Or, "Please sponsor his medicine for a month."

If you don't want to speak to them, that is a choice you are free to make.

The second situation is quite separate. You're abroad. You've been in work for two months. You don't like it. That's fine. New jobs often don't pan out as we hoped.

What concerns me is the way you talk about others. You are very free with disrespectful and sexist labels and accusations of unfairness and politics. You present yourself as a helpless lamb.

Perhaps you are in a toxic environment. You may also be depressed, which can manifest as anger.

However, you say your father and family are toxic. Therefore, you may have picked up your family dynamic of using nasty names for people you don't get along with. You may also use anger as a weapon.

Furthermore, you say you are isolated and you feel you don't get enough attention. Again, it could be depression talking but it may also be that you are be difficult to get along with.

Honest self-reflection will tell you the most likely answer. Please understand, this is not a question of moral worth. We learn behaviour from the people around us. That is great if we have good models and difficult if we have flawed models.

The fix is thankfully straightforward: What you have learned, you can unlearn. So if you have learned toxic traits, book a few sessions with a mental health professional and work on effective change. They can also assess you for depression, should you think it an issue.

As for the job, when employees find that the corporate culture is a bad fit, they either choose to stay and adapt or they leave and find a place with a culture that suits them better.

In your case, this may be a bigger picture issue. You mention that you don't like your host country's common practices and attitudes.

I would remind you that it is up to you to adapt; you cannot expect your host country to adapt to you.

Depending on your skills and opportunities, perhaps you can pick a different company to work for. However, it is also possible that you have picked a place with a culture that's a bad match. If so, your time there may be limited.

That is a bigger question, and one that I think you should consider closely, perhaps with the help of a therapist.

I appreciate this is probably not the response you looked for, but you sound angry and unhappy. Therefore, think it all through and please start building a life that will bring you joy.

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