Stressed-out student is worried about disappointing parents

Even when the situation seems hopeless, there are things you can do to bring change.

Dear Thelma,

I'm an 18-year-old student. I quit my foundation course in an engineering college after less than a month because the environment there was terrible. I am now pursuing A-levels tailored towards law, but I do not want to do my A-levels in Arts.

I'd rather do my A-levels in science, especially in medicine. I have hinted to my parents many times that I am miserable doing my present course.

I have suffered from depression and have anxiety issues since I was 16. I have been having restless nights because I ponder too much about my future.

My parents always said they could not afford to pay for my medical studies. I have cried and moped but they still put their foot down. I feel guilty about troubling my parents, but I also feel so hopeless. Please help me. - MuddleWuddle

Thelma says:

Many young people share your predicament. Their ambitions and their parents' wishes are different. So, out of a sense of filial duty, the young follow their parents' wishes.

Parents have the decisive say as they are paying the fees, leaving their children unhappy but are too wrought with guilt to speak up.

It is a difficult position to be in, often resulting in depression and anxiety which affect the youths' ability to do well in exams. Then, they feel even more guilty as they think they are letting their parents down. It's a repeat cycle.

But it doesn't have to be that way. The decisive factor here is you speaking up ... or rather making a choice to do so.

You can do this in many ways. You can sit your parents down and tell them how you feel and what you would like for your future.

Your parents could be open to listening to you. Sit with them and map out possible courses of action.

Or, you could do some research and find out your options. After that, you can discuss them with your parents.

It is hard to predict how they will react. It seems that the main deciding factor for your parents is the cost of your studies, which is a legitimate concern. All is not lost, however.

There are many scholarship options available. You have to look for these opportunities. There are resources online, and even in the newspapers. Each scholarship programme has different requirements and you need to see which ones suit you and your abilities best.

You can even approach universities or colleges and explore options with them. Some universities offer study grants and even scholarships. Whatever the arrangement is, you would have to make the decision with your parents.

There is another possibility. You can put your head down and finish this course. Work a few years and save your money. Then, you can enrol in a course of your own choice.

You'd be an older student, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. If you choose this course of action, there will be a few sacrifices to make. But, if you really wantto puesue your interest in medicine, it could be worth it.

So, there are options available to you. These may not seem like what you want to hear or do. What these options show is that you do have a choice. You are not helpless. What is required of you is making difficult decisions.

Any decision you make will require you so think carefully. It is best to discuss these options with your parents. They want the very best for you and if you reason with them they will hear you out.

Perhaps what you need to do to prepare for this potentially difficult conversation with your parents is to handle your depression and anxiety. If, as you say, you have suffered from depression and dealt with issues of anxiety since you were 16, you need to get professional help.

Depression and anxiety are serious medical conditions, and require proper attention. If left untreated, it can develop into a debilitating disorder.

There is no shame in seeking help for issues like depression and anxiety. It is far better to have them treated by professionals than to suffer in silence. Psychological and psychiatric treatment is accessible in the public health care system which makes them affordable for Malaysians.

Your situation is not hopeless. Neither are you helpless. You have options.

All you need is to take that brave step towards making your decision. Every hero's journey has its obstacles and challenges. You are the hero in your own life. Go on. Take that step.

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