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Gen Y Speaks: Feeling lost, I sought psychological help. I am learning much about myself and my past

It was a difficult time for my parents when they found out that they were having a third child that they could not afford. My mum wanted to abort me but was stopped by my late grandfather.

Among other things, the author (pictured) has learned why she had been dating "the wrong kind of men".

Among other things, the author (pictured) has learned why she had been dating "the wrong kind of men".

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It was a difficult time for my parents when they found out that they were having a third child that they could not afford. 

My mum wanted to abort me but was stopped by my late grandfather. Due to their financial situation and being shamed by her mother-in-law for having a second daughter, my mother ended up with postnatal depression that lasted for years.

Growing up, my parents were also constantly pitting us siblings against each other so that we could learn to do our best.

They were the typical Malaysian Chinese parents who put pressure on their children in hopes of seeing us achieve the success they never had.

We were expected to do as told or be ready for repercussions.

In the 1990s, people may often label such repercussions as disciplining a child though these days, some may argue it’s closer to child abuse.

I was never one who would do as told. Every time I was told to do something, I would ask for a justification, unlike my siblings who would agree to whatever they were told to do.

My curiosity was mostly replied with: “Because I am your mother”. Thus, I became the black sheep of the family, a rebel child and an outcast.              

In the last two years, my life has changed so much due to Covid-19.

I went from a full-time digital nomad, travelling the world with the love of my life to being stuck in my estranged parents’ home in Johor with a broken heart, having broken up with my boyfriend of four years.

I returned to live with my parents as my visa in New Zealand has expired and partly because I wanted to see how they are doing in this pandemic even though we are not on good terms.

Furthermore, they are in their late 60s and there is no one else at home to look after them.

With so much going on, I decided to quit my job to take the time to breathe and reflect on all my life decisions.

I wanted to know what I did wrong that led me to my current situation.

I pondered upon every single memory from my childhood days till my adulthood. I figured out many things but it was not enough. 

So, I decided to seek advice from a friend who is a clinical psychologist.

He advised me to seek professional help to understand myself better as a therapist would be able to ask the right questions and guide me in finding my true self.

I was informed that therapy is not a quick solution. In fact, it will take at least three months to get somewhere and can take up to a few years to heal all those years of trauma.

I was more than ready to find those missing answers, so I quickly signed up for online therapy with a clinical psychologist.

My first few therapy sessions made me cry like a baby as I unloaded every pent-up emotion that I have onto my therapist.

It was hard to open up but it is the main reason why I am doing better than ever now.

In the last few months, I have learned plenty about myself; why I am the way I am or why I made certain decisions.

For example, my childhood ambition was to become a lawyer, judge, police or some kind of law enforcer.

As an adult, I did pursue and is still pursuing my career as a fraud investigator. I have felt an obligation to uphold justice since young but never knew why.

Through therapy, I now understand that it was because deep down inside me, I felt that no one ever stood up for me so I feel the need to stand up for the weak and unfairly treated.

I was continuously lied to as a child about things in life and so I have trust issues, too. 

I did manage to divert my trust issues into a powerful tool for my career as a truth seeker who finds liars and cheats to be abhorrent.

The author says seeking professional psychological help was the best thing to happen to her. Photo courtesy of Sabrina Tan

Next, I have also learned why I was constantly dating the wrong kind of men.

I was attracted to men who more often than not exhibit passive aggressive characteristics and who would go hot and cold on me.

Many of them are also emotionally unavailable or unstable. Every time I fell for such men, I made them my priority and lost myself in the relationship.

I fought hard to gain their validation despite them giving me anxiety. 

Even when I knew deep down inside me that the relationship has failed, I did not know how to stop trying and that was usually the reason for my own heartbreak.

Apparently, I was seeking familiarity through these men with whom I was having romantic relationships. It seems that I was attracted to men who are a reflection of my own mother.

Now that I am more aware of the subconscious choice I have been making all these years, I am learning to not be attracted to such men.

We do not have absolute free will on how our feelings are developed but I truly believe that the more conscious we are about ourselves, the better the decisions we make.

My new belief when it comes to relationships comes from a quote by Fritz Perls: “I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations. And, you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I. And, if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped.”

I may not have come from a beautiful childhood but I can choose to create a better future for myself.

In the short term, I am looking to build on my career in fraud investigation by attending more specialised training, including in cybercrime.

Rather than complain about what I have gone through, I would rather seek help so that I can focus on who I can be and who I want to be.

Seeking professional help is really the best thing that I have done for myself. I wish I had sought therapy when I was younger.



A Malaysian, Sabrina Tan previously worked in a financial institution as a fraud investigator for four years. After doing freelance work as a digital nomad for three years in different parts of the region, she is back in Malaysia working as a fraud investigator.

Related topics

mental health depression resilience psychology Gen Y Speaks

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