Dear Thelma: I've been laid off, and am now ill and depressed


Do you need a listening ear? Thelma is here to help. Email lifestyle@thestar.com.my.

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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 centres in malaysia).

Dear Thelma,

I graduated from an overseas institution and got hired shortly after by an MNC there.

From Day 1, my boss did not give clear guidance but was always picking on me, abusing me using harsh loud tones, shouting at me and never giving me any resources.

She even barred me from doing professional work by constantly giving me menial tasks (like putting stickers on things) as well as an unmanageable workload so much so that I have to do overtime.

Due to constant shouting by my line manager, I suffered from severe anxiety and depression and even chronic tension headache. This progressed to fibromyalgia, a long-term chronic body pain affecting my back, limbs and head.

I tried speaking to HR, but my manager pretended to be amiable in front of colleagues. The rest of the time, she would be shouting at me frequently in every meeting.

She provided no assistance whatsoever in my work review. She got annoyed easily with whatever I did, whether reporting to her in advance for direction or after work was done. No other colleagues were mistreated; she's always nice to them.

She failed me for my probation despite my being a support to everyone's work and showing a keen interest to learn.

She would shout at me and point out that I was wrong even when I was right. In my work, she would delete my wordings and rephrase them, though they meant the same thing, and exclaim that I was wrong. And I had to apologise to her and thank her.

The manager claimed I was disqualified and never did anything right. But the director claimed I had been helpful and productive.

Due to my crazy workload, I could never go home on time nor allowed to stay back to complete my report whereas everyone else was doing so. Always, I was the exception.It has been four months away since my layoff. Due to my health condition, I took about two months to recover.

I find life bleak. I have been applying for jobs, both in and outside Malaysia, but hardly get a response.

I'm trying to earn some money, but my parents have barred me from working in a nearby coffee shop because it seems this could lead to lowballing in the future if I get any other job offers.

I am on treatment for mental disease. I really pity my dad for having to spend money on this.

I really want to stand on my own two feet but everything seems so unpromising and rejections are the only answer I get.

I really appreciated my life until now. I cannot believe that, though I have been helpful and kind, I have been used by people to achieve power and wealth, such as my manager who got promoted twice in half a year despite her attitude.

I am left with nothing. I lose my pals and happiness. My life is hollow.

I have tried applying for upskilling courses to land a job but nothing has worked out and it's been a waste of money.

I really don't want to burden anyone. I miss being happy and loved. I am not the only one; I know that many people around the globe have also been laid off, especially those in the tech field. Things are so difficult.

I feel sorry for being alive. I am not accepted or forgiven.

Thanks for listening.

Fresh grad


I'm sorry you're having a bad time. I'm glad you wrote in.

First, you are depressed and anxious but you have mental health support. That should help. You don't say what kind of support, though.

If the support is a psychiatrist who prescribes medication, then please add regular talk therapy. You would benefit from talking over what's going on in a safe space.

You have some complex issues, so look for want a professional who has a Masters Degree in Counselling, Psychology or Social Work. If money is tight, look to the numbers on this page.

The rest of your problems fall into three categories: Fibromyalgia, present work, and past work.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder causing pain and fatigue. This means it will affect your physical as well as mental health. Fibromyalgia is draining! There will be times when you're sore, low on energy, and this will spill over and affect your emotions.

Aside from finding a good doctor and managing it as well as you can, factor this into your career planning. It is best to have a job where you can sit and preferably with flexible hours and a work-from-home option.

You don't say what kind of jobs you are applying for. I suggest you start with a clean sheet and figure out all the options.

A good start is to consult onetonline.org and mynextmove.org. These are giant, free career information websites. They're American but they work well for generating ideas.

Plug in your job title or degree and see what jobs you are qualified for. Onetonline is particularly useful as it has a Related Occupations section listing careers you can walk into with no or minimal retraining.

Make a second list of gig-style work: Call centre work, Grab driving, pet sitting, and perhaps, if you like kids, working in a kindy as a part-time carer. Maybe a short course in a practical skill like bookkeeping?

Should you include coffee shop work? I'm concerned that it may be very hard on you physically. However, I like your idea of being busy and earning. Plus, a coffee shop job will give you super customer service skills. And employers love people who like to be busy.

The job market is changing rapidly and I'm not sure if it would impact on future earnings as your parents fear. Can you reach out to a person in HR and ask? A relative, perhaps? Or friend of a friend? Get proper, current information and factor this in.

It may be that for this first year, you want to work a mix of part-time jobs and gigs in order to build experience. That will make you stand out and be more employable.

Finally, in that year, I think you should talk to a counsellor about your recent job experience. Bullying is common in business, especially with young people. This won't be the first and last time you come across difficult people.

Talk it out and read books on toxic workplaces so you can spot and avoid, and also cope better.

I hope this plan puts you in a better spot for snagging work you will love. Good luck and know I'm thinking of you.

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