Dear Thelma: My parents don't see that I care more for them than my siblings do

Do you need a listening ear? Thelma is here to help. Email

The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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 befrienders centres in malaysia).

Dear Thelma,

I have contemplated writing to you for a while now. All the responses that come from you belong to stories that hurt a lot more than mine.

It feels like I'm no good with emotions and bearing pain; everything in me tells me to be stronger, that everyone else is doing badly too. It's a sad world but I'm not supposed to let it get to me.

Regardless, here I am.

Thelma, I want it to hurt less. My family is what most will call happy. Sure, we are. But, like other families, not all the time.

As the eldest daughter, I often feel responsible for a lot that happens.The need to make sure my parents are healthy and fine at their age, and how my siblings are doing in their personal lives, weighs so heavily on me at times. Throughout it all, I have somehow ended up being the glue that keeps us together.

I care a lot more than my siblings for our parents. I picture them in my future and how I don't belong to myself but to them. Every thought is about keeping them happy, making them proud and promising to give them the life they deserve.

I think about how I'm dissolving, and how my siblings often have no respect for me. I think about how my parents have never seemed proud of what I've achieved or done. Partially the fault is mine, for never being the smartest, prettiest, or the doctor they wanted me to be.

I listen to them praise my siblings and talk about their lives while I'm in the background with the static. It's painful, someties. I think that one day, hey, I'll reward them with a good life, with money that can take them places and provide them with the best healthcare.

Maybe then, they'll be proud of me, do you think? Will I feel enough?

Will it hurt less? It's lonely hurting like this.

A lonely, possibly depressed, college student, miles away from home

You are a student, so I'm guessing early 20s. At this time of life, you should be focusing on making friends, exploring adult life in a safe environment, joining lots of clubs to try new activities, and studying so you can enter a career.

Instead, you're imagining fading away as a family servant, valued only for the money you provide.

And that appears to be at the root of this. You don't feel seen or respected, and fear you're not valued by your family. Your self-esteem is at rock bottom.

My dear, you come across as depressed or burned out. Maybe these dark thoughts come purely from low mood. Your thought that you must control everything could be related to anxiety.

Also, I'm wondering about your family structure.

Put bluntly, you need professional help. See a mental health practitioner, a person with at least a Masters in Psychology, Counselling or Social Work who can assess you for depression and anxiety.

Also, go thoroughly into your family dynamics. You believe you're not smart which is clearly not true because you're at university.

Furthermore, you believe you are not pretty and that your family don't like you because you aren't interested in a career in medicine.

Where do these ideas come from? Is it what people are saying to you? If yes, that's rude at best and possibly emotional abuse if it is part of a repeated campaign to put you down.

If it's emotional abuse, a professional can help you through it and into a better space.

If people are not saying these things to you, if these are thoughts and fears that just pop up out of nowhere, then they may be due to depression and anxiety.

This is why anxiety and depression are mental health issues: They mess with your perceptions and create a false reality. It can be fixed; you just need to talk to a professional.

No matter what is going on, talking it out will help. You might also learn simple techniques like happiness scheduling (or behavioural activation if you want to be sciency about it) where you actively do something pleasant every day. This will retrain your focus and help push you into a happier space.

As for keeping your family together, that is not your job. I hope it's the low mood that is leading you to think your family members are at odds. If it is not, if your mum and dad quarrel, then let them fix it.

They're adults and you're the kid. Their marriage is not your business. Similarly, guiding your younger siblings is also not your job. Again, your parents are in charge of them.

Your business is to be a young adult – to find out what you like to do and build a foundation for a rich and fulfilling life with lots of friends and hobbies and work you like.

Please don't wait. Reach out right now and get some help so you can reach the happiness you deserve. I'll be thinking of you.

Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In Living

Splash of colour at tiny pencil shop in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar
To meat, or not to meat, that's the ecological question
Feng Shui: How your living room affects the harmony in your home
All about apples: What you should know about cider on World Cider Day
Heart and Soul: A near-missed sextortion
This Malaysian's home reflects her love for traveling and entertaining friends
When using fresh tomatoes, a pinch of sugar makes all the difference
Power of authentic praise at the workplace
Malaysian couple redesigns their flood-hit home into a beautiful white sanctuary
How Gen-Z finds clarity with pen and paper

Others Also Read