I am 15 years old and I am feeling a deep and uncomfortable heaviness in my mind. There is a lot of negativity happening around me and I am forbidden to talk to anyone outside of my family. My mother and father are quarrelling quite often and are very loud. I know that everyone in the housing scheme can hear them when they get started. My older brother has taken up with bad company, and I know that he is smoking weed when he is with them. I have been noticing, too, that my uncle has been very ‘friendly’ and this makes me uncomfortable, but my mother thinks nothing is wrong with how my uncle shows his affection. I am now going into grade nine and I have a lot of subjects to do, and this year I am expected to choose subjects. I just found out, too, that my best friend is migrating to England. I am so distressed right now. My grandaunt is [also] very ill and I am worried that she will die. How can I be the best daughter, niece and student when all this is happening around me? I need your advice.
It seems quite a lot that one so young will have to process. With everything you have shared, there are a lot of matters that need to be addressed. I can understand the “deep and heaviness” in your mind. You are overwhelmed emotionally, and rightly so. First, let me hope that you feel safe despite the quarrelling that is taking place between your parents. You are old enough to share with your parents that the way they cope with their issues is affecting you, and you may go as far as to suggest that they seek a mediator or counselling to help them resolve the issue(s) they are having at this time. Unfortunately, parents at times do not realise that children are a part of the family system and when there is discord in the home, the children are also affected. It is common in our society that the things that happen in the home are expected to stay in the home, even when external help is necessary. I am thankful that you sought this medium to talk about the issues – to get the help you need to be “the best daughter, niece and student” that you can be.
I must say that your life experiences will be interesting, at best, and revealing, at worst. You did not identify, or you may not even know, the cause of the issues between your parents; however, the situation with your older brother will only be adding to the current issues in your family. If he is, indeed, using marijuana, he may need specific counselling through the National Council for Drug Abuse. They offer an excellent rehab programme for substance users. The reality is that the use of substances, including alcohol, tobacco and ganja, continues to be significantly higher among males than females in Jamaica, thus making your brother a part of this group of young persons who need specialized assistance.
The matter with your uncle ought to be addressed immediately. You MUST impress upon your mother exactly what your uncle does that makes you uncomfortable. It has been my professional experience that once you feel uncomfortable … then something is wrong, or off! Your uncle will need to address the way he shows his affection. He must also be made aware of the discomfort you are feeling and made to stop immediately! Inappropriate behaviours usually occur with persons known to the victim, regardless of the relationship – family members, close friends, even professionals. I trust that you will stand up and speak out, and definitely NOT be afraid to act!
NOT YOUR FAULT
You should understand that none of what is happening is your fault. Events happen in our lives that we have no control over; we just have to process them and hope that experience builds us, and we become stronger for experiencing it – whatever it is. Your grandaunt seems to be an important part of your life. I empathise with you. The reality, F.C., is that persons in our lives will die – as death is a part of life. When our loved ones die, we feel sadness and hurt at their passing. I will, therefore, encourage you to spend as much quality time as you can with your grandaunt. You may do things that you both enjoy together. Perhaps you may read to her, make her as comfortable as you are able, etc.
Grade nine is an exciting yet challenging time in your academic and social life … and over this aspect of your life you have some control. It is, therefore, your responsibility to ensure that you are the best student that you can be. You should try to take notes, read over those notes, use your textbooks, complete your assessment pieces, revise for your tests and definitely participate in class. With all the events happening at home, you need to get involved in an extracurricular activity at your school. This will give you the space to develop socially and help you to find yourself – by engaging in some fun-filled activity, you ought to get that emotional release that we all need.
Your best friend is migrating and this will cause you some concern. S/he will not be physically with you, but you certainly can keep in touch using social media, Skype, phone calls and, who knows, you may even explore visiting England at some time … your friend may even return for brief visits, too. Participating in an extracurricular activity has its advantages. Not only will you be interacting with others of similar interests, but this may afford you new friendships. I sincerely hope that your situation improves. Might I also suggest that you visit your guidance counsellor and talk to him/her about your feelings. Be well.
Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD Counselling Psychologist firstname.lastname@example.org