Last year, almost in desperation, Cheng* and husband came to EMCC to seek help for her two children. A year later, she sees herself and the world in a completely different way.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what led you on this journey with your EMCC counsellor.
Cheng: I am in my 50s and have two grown children. Last year my husband and I went to EMCC to seek help for our children who were both going through depression.
But we discovered that we, the parents and especially my husband, were actually part of the problem. So we started with couple counselling. But then my husband withdrew because he wasn’t comfortable talking about himself.
When your husband withdrew from counselling, what did you do?
Cheng: I had found the couple counselling good for me, so I decided to continue alone. Now the sessions were more focused on me. I learnt how to better manage my relationship with my husband and children.
I learnt to set boundaries. Previously, whatever they asked me to do, even when I was exhausted, I would do it. Things like going out to get food for them late in the evening or taking care of the pets that they had wanted to adopt but later couldn’t look after.
I learnt the importance of self-care. Now when I’m tired, I tell them I can’t help. I have learnt to express my emotions.
I also learnt not to feel guilty about it. Now I feel more in charge of myself.
You and your husband then tried mediation. How did that help?
Cheng: The mediation sessions were quite tense. Mediation helped me to know more about my husband and to ask for things I couldn’t do for myself.
Although my husband didn’t talk much during the mediation, he did bring up some points which helped me to understand he had no intention at all to work on the relationship.
I learnt that if the other party isn’t willing, there’s no point. Even if I were to work very hard at it. It will be a waste of effort. I was disappointed but am learning to accept the situation. I learnt to let go.
How are your children now and how is your relationship with them?
Cheng: My relationship with my children is fine. My older child became more open to counselling and is no longer on medication for the depression. Our counselling session together helped us to communicate. I came to know my older child cares about me and respects me. My younger child also understands me better now.
When they were younger, I fell into depression over our marital issues. For many years, I was afraid to show them my sadness, afraid that my emotions would trigger their depression. I learnt through my counselling sessions that sharing emotions can bring my children and me closer together. I also learnt to empathise with them.
My children are learning self-responsibility and to respect others. They learn to give advance notice if they want me to do something for them. They know I can’t be running here and there doing things for them. But I am always here for their emotional support.
What are your hopes now for the future?
Cheng: My hope now is to see my younger child recover, to heal, get back to normal life, live on and carry on with confidence and self-responsibility. For myself, it helps me to know that I’m an example to my two children. I need to stand strong for them.
What would you like to share with our readers?
Cheng: When I was asked by EMCC if I would be willing to share my story, I was more than happy because I want to help others.
When I was “in the box”, I felt tied up and I couldn’t see a way to help my children. I had no hope.
Counselling helped me to look out of the box and I began to see there were many ways on the outside. Step by step, I learnt about my own ways of self-sabotage and began to embrace my own empowerment.
If a person is in a situation where they are confused and don’t know what to do, it’s good to go for counselling. Your counsellor can guide and help you to figure out how to get out of the box and find a way forward.
Never give up. Always look for help to find a way out. Always pursue hope.
*Cheng is not her real name