Dear Thelma: I want to hurt my family for making me suffer

Dear Thelma

I lived a very happy life until I started college. Then everything changed.

I have been diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder, and it is very hard for me to cope with my studies.

I failed three semesters, and the college kicked me out. I am currently studying with an art teacher. Drawing cartoons is my key strength.

I like to spend a lot of time on the phone to kill time and enjoy myself.

I feel my parents are unfair to me as they won't let me do what I want. They are very demanding and want me to strive and do well.

Because I am on the phone quite often, they threaten to take it away permanently or change the WiFi password on the desktop computer so I can't go on the Internet.

I am angry, and once I was even tempted to do them deadly harm.

I don't understand why my brother can get away with everything and pretend not to know about my situation. How I wish I could punish him so he can really understand my pain and suffering.

I understand that parents want their children to succeed, but this is too much. Thelma, please help! I can't take anymore of this! - Unhappy

Dear Unhappy

You don't say how old you are, but with three semesters of college behind you, I'm guessing you're in your late teens or early 20s. It suggests you are an adult, but you seem to be living at home with your parents funding your art teacher, your phone and everything else. Therefore, you are not independent.

To complicate matters, you say you have been diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms. You don't explain more than that, but generally speaking, ASD comes with social communication difficulties, restricted or repetitive behaviours and other issues. I'm going to take a wild leap and suggest that this may be preventing you from communicating clearly.

I think you've hit the nail on its head when you say that parents want their kids to succeed. You are still young, and perhaps they think that you don't realise how incredibly difficult it is to get a job, make a decent income and manage a career.

Frankly, I don't think anyone really gets how tough that is, and it's probably just as well. The enthusiasm for challenge when you're young is what gets you through those first career building years.

However, that doesn't help you, does it? I think the way to resolve your issues is to put yourself in their shoes, see what they see, and then work through them logically so that you can come to a proper agreement.

While I'm glad you have a brother, what he does isn't really an issue here. He has his life with its own challenges, and you have to chart yours.

Now what exactly are your parents thinking? From the sound of it, they are doing everything they can to ensure you have an education so that you can be independent. I suspect that they were very worried when you failed your three semesters, and that they are now concerned that you are on a similar path with your art studies.

So the first thing is to evaluate how your art studies are going. Do you have a unique talent that will ensure a good career? If not, how do you leverage on this fantastic ability of yours? Think about this and discuss it with your teacher.

You will need to plan to accommodate your ASD as well. Be practical with this. You should know your strengths and weaknesses, so play up to the former and plan around the latter. If you have a doctor or other support person, it may help to consult with them.

I think that if you come up with a solid career plan, your parents will worry a little less. They won't stop entirely, because good parents are always super concerned for their kids, but it does mean you can negotiate your phone habits.

Again, take a look at how you use your phone, especially at how it affects your studies and your health. For example, are you distracted during class? Or does it interfere with a good night's sleep? If so, you have to adopt sensible habits.

When you have all the information you need, have a frank and open discussion. Please remember to negotiate, not just say what you want. This is about give and take.

Finally, as your parents pay for your phone, it would be a courtesy to plan to pay for your own subscription as soon as you can.

If you have a break coming up, consider a holiday job or internship where you can earn a little money. It will give you a taste of a career, and will help you take a step towards independence. Talk to your mum and dad about this, and also consult your art teacher to see if there are any jobs in particular that may also help you further your studies.

I hope this helps and look forward to hearing of an amazing new cartoonist in town.