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In Mind: Psychologists’ Chair

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Write with your concerns to: inmind@gulfnews.com and selected questions will be answered by a panel of qualified psychiatrists and psychologists. Your contributions will be modified for length and appropriateness, and will be open to other Gulf News readers to comment and suggest solutions.

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'I want to lead a happy life, please help'

  • Posted by Moderator: Biju Mathew
  • Published 11:27 February 1, 2013

I reader who wishes to remain anonymous asks: I recently came across your blog and want to seek an answer for the unhappy life I lead.

I come from a conservative family where we had very little socializing during our school years, only two or three close friends. We were not allowed by our parents to hang around or visit our friends' place, so basically we have been brought up in a narrow-minded environment. I have only one elder sister. We have been a nuclear family staying in the UAE for more than 30 years.

My mom was and still is partial towards my sister and her children. I do not exist for her! I have also been sexually assaulted when I was young by my own uncles, cousins, tuition teacher and brother-in-law! That has left me paralysed mentally and am unable to trust anybody, other than my husband!

I was married off early at the age of 21 to a man who is 11 years elder to me. At first it was not easy, as our mindsets did not match and I felt guilty time and again that I cannot match to his expectations of maturity.

He is a loving man, but is an introvert and seldom does he praises me or shows affection towards me. We have been married now for 10 years and I am expecting my fourth child, which was unfortunately not planned.

I have two girls and a boy and am a full-time working mom, having a hectic life with monitoring kids, helping in their studies and also doing a full time job.

I feel drained and stressed most of the time, and my only holiday was a 10-day sight seeing in my home country after my marriage.  Ever since I am married we have faced a lot of financial low-downs and still continues with loans and stuff and I am unable to take a break.

Now-a-days, I am even more disturbed and depressed as people raise eyebrows that I am having a fourth child with such difficult finance problems, all these reactions have left me feeling very angry and sad.

Everyday I wake up thinking Oh God another day to live. I have lost self confidence to do anything and am usually irritable with my kids and end up shouting and spanking them. Scared to talk to people, even like asking directions on road is difficult, or ordering food, it seems like I can't make up my mind.

Even at work, my colleagues, try to burden me with work and I am seldom heard, I end up taking extra stress and cannot say 'NO' to anybody.

Whenever I try to explain to my husband that all this financial burden is bothering me heavily, my husband refuses to understand and changes the topic to something else.

He does not understand that as a woman I need time off from him, kids and everything.

This feeling of hollowness is killing me. I had aspired for a good life, and love travelling, but haven't been able to travel anywhere, thanks to my husband's silly investment plans.

I would really appreciate if you can help me as I don't want this negative feelings of mine to affect my baby.

I want to lead a happy and content life, but am unable, please HELP!

Carey Kirk (M.Ed, Counseling Psychologist, Program Coordinator Raymee Grief Center) replies: It is difficult for anyone to provide an answer to unhappiness in a short written exchange such as this, but what I can offer are some suggestions and recommendations to try to point you in the right direction towards your goals.
The first thing I would like to highlight is your current level of mental wellbeing. In your writing, you mention feeling drained, having difficulty making up your mind, feeling irritable, and experiencing a sensation of hollowness. These are all indications of depression.

Other signs of depression can include:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in things previously enjoyed
  • Significant weight loss/gain or change in appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feeling worthless
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Body aches and pains with no physical/medical cause

Symptoms of more severe depression can also include recurrent thoughts of death and thoughts about suicide. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, my first advice to you is to talk to a licensed psychologist and/or a psychiatrist as soon as you can.

Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression and can be treated.

After reading your description of your current circumstances, it makes sense to me that you would feel depressed. There are many stressors you are facing such as your financial circumstances, your pregnancy, workload, your relationship with your husband, and interaction with your family. Depression is our mind's way of telling us that things are not right and that something needs to change.

My second piece of advice to you is to sit down and list on a piece of paper all the stressors you are facing. This can feel overwhelming to do, so I recommend you try this at a time when you are in a good space. Don't attempt to write this list when you are really tired, irritated, or feeling particularly depressed. You may want to do this in the company of a friend, family member, or licensed psychologist who can be there to support you.

Next, take two new sheets of paper and give them the following headings:

  1. 'Things I Can Change'
  2. 'Things I Can't Change'

Now look at the list of stressors you wrote. Assign each stressor to the appropriate sheet of paper. Again, it may help to have someone there with you to help you gain perspective and ensure you are placing things into the right categories.

So many times in life we don't stop to make an accurate distinction between the things in life we can and cannot control and we end up spending our energy and efforts on stressors that fall into category #2. This only makes us feel stuck and serves to increase our feelings of hopelessness and depression. Keep the sheet of paper with category #2 ('Things I Can't Change') aside as a reminder to not waste too much of your energy on these items.

Next, turn your attention to the paper with category #1 and pick one item that you can work towards changing first. One stressor you noted that I would place in category #1 is your inability to say no to people. This lack of assertiveness is driving your problems with your workload. It is unlikely that your colleagues are purposefully trying to burden you with workload. It is more likely that they continue giving you work or asking your for help because you have not sent a clear message about how much you can handle. It is ok to say no to people's requests, but it can feel scary if you are not used to doing so.

I recommend doing assertiveness coaching. Assertiveness is not something anyone is innately born with nor is it a quality we naturally acquire with time. Assertiveness is a skill that we have to learn and practice in order to be good at. There are many books on assertiveness coaching on the market and this is also something that most licensed counselors and psychologists should be able to work with you on. Once you can say no to people, you will have the ability to save yourself from taking on unnecessary demands and will have more energy (and also more time).

We all need time for ourselves in order to maintain our wellbeing. You do need some time off. Is there anyone (relative, trusted neighbour, friend) who could watch your children for an evening or during the day on a weekend so that you can have a break? Your new skills of assertiveness will also help you to stand up for yourself and ask for this time.

Sometimes, and especially if we are battling with depression, taking on these tasks can feel overwhelming and it can be difficult to know where to start. Other personal issues might also surface in the process, such as your history of being sexually assaulted. If this is the case for you, I encourage you to enlist the help of a licensed counselor or psychologist who can be there to guide and support you on your journey towards establishing a happier life.

Write with your concerns to inmind@gulfnews.com and selected questions will be answered by a panel of qualified psychiatrists and psychologists. Your contributions will be modified for length and appropriateness, and will be open to other Gulf News readers to comment and suggest solutions. Let us know if you would like GulfNews.com to withhold your name from your letter should it be published.

Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of psychiatrists are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.

Comments (11)

  1. Added 10:23 February 5, 2013

    Once the baby arrives into the world, please discuss with your husband that 04 children are enough, given your financial situation. Our duty is not only to have children but also to take care of them and give them the right amount of attention, love and financial support. Secondly, please start setting limits to how much you take on in terms of work ( do not leave your job, otherwise your situation will become worse) and there is no point in changing jobs unless you first learn to be more emphatetic as even then people will burden you with work. Also, on weekends, take an hour out for yourself, go for a walk or run or jog. Do you have a maid to help you with your chores; if not, get one ( if finances do not allow you to sposor a maid, get a legal maid through the cleaning companies, who will work on hourly basis ) . Do not expect from your husband to resolve your problems; you need to help yourself. Stop expecting from your mother too . Try to socialiase a bit -- if you head for a divorce , the children will suffer and it also seems that you care for your husband and you only seek him to understand your situation . I hope you have told your mother about the abuse and if not, even then, cut off ties with these relatives ( it does not matter if he is your mother's brother etc; if these relatives can respect the sanctity of a relationship, you do not need to waste your precious time maintaining them) . Try to save money for yourself .... hope the above helps and do not worry, you will still get the chance to travel if not today, some day . We do not always get what we want, but i am sure you will agree that you are still better off than many others ... try to count your blessings :-)

    Vidur, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 09:29 February 5, 2013

    Respected Madam, The Universe is such that when you throw a ball to wall it comes backs to you (that means It bounces back to you). What ever you think that is reflecting back to you). Do verbalize/visualizing positive things in your life that will reflect back to you. So I request think positive and be happy from morning to evening until you go to bed. After every night, dawn is coming. After all these difficulties one day will sure come with happy days. Every day take some time for yourself and relax and mentally free that will energizer you. God bless you with good life.

    RAJAMALLU, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 11:37 February 2, 2013

    Madam, just think that today is a brand new day for a brand new you! Despite all odds, life is beautiful! Do not dwell in the past. They are over. Think of the lessons which you learned from your experiences. These should not happen to your children so whatever that should have been done to avoid those to happen, do it for them. Your parents, sibling and husband are givens. Whatever they are and whatever they do, you cannot change them so it's up to you to change your thinking and your action patterns so as to leave a positive impact among your children. On your pregnancy, ignore what others will think of and say about you. Be very proud that you become God's co-creator again -- a gift which is not given to others despite their financial treasures. Embrace a positive thinking because what you think and feel will affect the baby in your womb. On money matters, we have a God who is the Greatest Provider. He knows the desires of your heart. Seek His divine intervention for you to redeem yourself in all aspects including financial. Talk to your husband that you need time for yourself and for yourselves, just for you to get recharged. He will understand it for sure. He's the father of your children so try your level best to preserve your bond, to remain unaffected by life's storms and withstand the tests of time. Watch online videos on self-empowerment, staying positive and living a purpose-driven life. This is a temporary journey on earth so make every living moment a meaningful and enjoyable one. How? It's in your mind. Be happy. Worry not. Relax.

    Mari Herrera, Dubai, Philippines

  4. Added 19:33 February 1, 2013

    I believe that everyone has his/her own problem, and that they are all the same whether it is big issue or a small one. But the most important thing is that we see it as a challenge to grow more in faith with God and to mature as an individual. Seek help from family and friends, and never cease to pray. Remember that no matter how big your problem is, our God is way bigger than it.

    Elaine Pascua, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 17:14 February 1, 2013

    respected madam,, May god give you the courage to face this difficult situation.. Try to be positive. God is great believe that god will help you.. In this world millions of people are suffering more than you can think .. express gratitude thanks for all that god has given to you.. try to be happy with your kids and have a positive approach to your husband.. When difficult times come .. always say to yourself this will also pass away.. Everything is time it will change and you will be happy.. Take deep breaths ,,, drink water,, try to remain in present moment.. Dont think of past or future. only present is in your hands... Take care of yourself ,,, and eat healthy.. Children are gift of god.. do not regret and feel negative for them.. try to remain peaceful .. and always pray to god.. , thank god for all that you have.. May god bless you

    sethulakshmi, shaarjah, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 16:47 February 1, 2013

    Respected Ma'am, This is all your thought and stress. There is solution for everything. Me and my mother, she also came across this stage and she was more disturbed than what you are. When they get tense, they all fight each other, even i have seen they calling to india and fighting. Ma'am, the first thing you have to do is control yourself in each time you get tensed. Relax and take a deep breath. The most important thing you should do is, u should prepare yourself to deliver the healthy baby which is gift from GOD. Then i advice you to speak to your husband and do go to yoga classes. Avoid discussing your tensions to so many people. Many will advice you, help you, but some will make use of you and at the end you will loose ur family and urself. Raise you hands, pray to GOD, ask him for a solution and i am sure, he will send his angels in ur sleep and in ur dreams, they will show you the way. Ma'am still life is there for you. You love ur husband and ur children. They need u and u need them. Keep smiling. I am sure u will surely have a change. In each prayers i perform, i will pray for you too. God will bring many many circumstances in the form of tensions, troubles, problems etc..to check how we react and how much we call him. This is also just like that. I tried it and i feel better. I dont say i dont get tensions, i do get, but i pray pray and keep praying whenver i get time. We have to find time for ourselves and adapt to it. Then you will see, that everything is fine and getting better.

    Anonymous, Middle East, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 15:29 February 1, 2013

    Pray to our creator but continuously faithfully you will see the difference..... God Bless.

    Shahida, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 15:21 February 1, 2013

    Every day morning when you wake up say thanks to God for giving this wonderful day to live, giving you a loving husband and 3 sweet little kids, there are millions of people who doesn't have even a place to sleep, surrender your life to god, one day you will be the blessed and all your sorrows will be vanished, look forward for a better tommorrow and be prepared to welcome the new life to this world with cheers, God Bless you

    Godwin Stanley, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 14:38 February 1, 2013

    You need to consult a psychatric and you should stop comparing your life with others life. Every human in this world lives a different life, you cannot expect every one to be treated in a similar fashion. Whatever you have with you appreciate that and stop thinking negetive.

    Shadab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 14:08 February 1, 2013

    Regular exercise like walking,swimming and cycling will help you feel better.

    Abdul, Abu dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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