Ask The Therapist: “We used to have a happy life until Shahista came into our lives…my mother started feeling insecure as my father started showing interest in her…”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“We used to have a happy life until Shahista came into our lives. She is a wife of my father’s worker and also served as a maid in our house. My mother started feeling insecure as my father started showing interest in her. Even after she was kicked out, he gave her a place to stay in the servant quarters in his farm house. My mother has been so depressed because of this. She has no home other than this, no parents, no supportive brother and my father’s teasing behaviour is breaking her down. I don’t know what to do for her. Help!”

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

That sounds like such a difficult situation for both you and your mother! I can only imagine how hurt you both must be feeling that this time. This can often be an emotionally trying scenario, so let’s see if there is something we can do to help you manage whatever it is that you’re experiencing in all of this.

Knowing Your Role

It is incredibly difficult to watch a situation like this unfold right in front of you. You might have the urge to do so many things to fix it, and the truth is that when it comes to human nature and others, there is very little we can do to change the situation. Your role in all of this depends on what is within your realm of control and influence, and that is mostly your words and actions. Remember, there is little to nothing that can be done about the way other people feel or choose to act. In the case where you’re looking out for your mother and holding space for her, I would also invite you to be mindful and curious about your own feelings during this time.

Looking For Support

As I stated before, Anon, your mother is going through a difficult period, and while you can be there for her, she will be the one to pick herself back up when she is ready to. In the meantime, perhaps you could encourage to her in terms of how she can take care of herself at this time:

  • Speak to a professional: at a time such as this one, when we see someone we care about going through something so difficult, it might be best to encourage her to speak to a counsellor, who will be able to provide her with the space to speak about her experiences in a safe space. Of course, you can only encourage, the rest is up to her.
  • Identifying sources of support: while there might not be any immediate family members, perhaps she has relatives or friends that she might be able to confide in? There are also several women’s shelters that might be able to help her get a better understanding of her rights in a situation such as this one, and provide her with the support that she needs.
  • Encouraging her to embrace what she’s feeling: what has happened to your mother is heartbreaking, and I can only imagine the kind of pain that she must be experiencing right now. She is allowed to feel those emotions, and to let her come to terms with what has happened. She might experience a wide range of emotions from anger to sadness or even envy at this point. Assure her that what she’s feeling is okay.
  • Helping her explore her options: sometimes we can get caught up in that feeling of being “trapped” and not having a choice. It might help to bring into focus the things that your mother does have control over, and knowing that she does have a choice at the end of the day. This framework could bring back that power and control that she might not currently be connected with.
  • She might choose not to get help, and she might choose to stay where she is, and that’s okay: as I said before, there is very little control we have over other people and their actions and emotions. It’s important to remember that you cannot help someone who is not ready to help themselves. She may just need more time.

Remember To Take Care Of Yourself

In my work as a therapist, one thing that I have often seen is how children tend to take on the responsibility for their parents’ happiness and emotional well-being. While it’s okay to support your mother through this, Anon, I would really encourage you to look out for yourself as well. Do check in with yourself and notice what you’re experiencing, if it gets too much, it’s okay to take a break or to even talk it out with someone who you can really trust to hold space for you emotionally. The most that you can do in this scenario is be present and supportive, for yourself and your mother.

Anon, at the end of the day, this is an incredibly difficult situation – and how that unfolds is something that only your mother and father can decide amongst themselves. At this time, the most you can do is be there for her, and for yourself in whatever way you can be.

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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