I Need More Independence

24 December, 2019
Q As-Salamu Alaykum. I need some advice. Firstly, I've been having epileptic seizures since I was about maybe 1 year old. Then it stopped for a while until I was 15, then I started to have seizures again. I'm 23 now. I've continued to have seizures, but they're starting to become lesser and weaker, Alhamdulillah.

Secondly, my family owns a convenience store that sells alcohol, pork, lottery, and cigarettes, besides some halal products. I've been working there for about 8.5 years. They started to treat me harshly when I was about to turn 13. They made me do child labor by working with them in the convenience store. When I come back from school, I would go to work with them. I was working on the weekends, and holidays, and in the summer break.

To this day, I am working there and at the same time, I am still treated like I was nobody, like I wasn't their blood brother despite my age of 23. I started having nearly all of the symptoms of depression such as fatigue, loss of interest, loss of energy, feeling worthless, tiredness, hopeless, and even committing suicide. Alhamdulillah I'm still here alive and well. The depression was gradually decreasing at age 18.

When I was working with my family at the store, I wasn't getting paid for it. I just take some money only when needed and write it down so they know I took it. I've been trying to find a halal job in my area but can't find one that suits my experiences. My question is, would it be a good idea for me to run away from my family or move somewhere else and live by myself?

Answer


In this counseling answer:

• Get some counseling.

• Tell them that you want to take some responsibility for yourself as an adult.

• Perhaps you want a small paycheck so that you can feel some independence.

• Learn some communication skills.


Wa ‘Alaykum As-Salam,

I can understand your heartache and frustration. You do have a disability that may cause you problems in a very unpredictable manner. I also understand how passionately a young man will desire a sense of independence from his family and to be able to live on his own – especially in the States.

However, you are not alone with being in a position where this is not always possible given the current economic climate. Now that we have more and more men living at home with their birth parents and families of origin, we are working out how a family can transition in such a way as to honor that manhood of a young man who is also going to be living in the home of his family of origin. This is new to the West, but there are many factors that are moving the culture of the West toward this direction. Yet, with that said we are a very diverse mixture and changing the culture.

Miscommunication & Misunderstandings

Of course, I do not know your family and I do not know how they treat you. However, your family’s situation might be the case of miscommunication and misunderstandings that can arise partially out of the need to feel a sense of individuation. Additionally, I do not know your culture of origin; yet, this also needs to be taken into consideration when analyzing why your family may have decided to divide responsibilities, who receives money, and in what manner from the business.

In other words, it is quite possible that your family loves you very much and wants to provide you with the security of having the vocation within the family business and the safety of having the care available to you which you need. They may not understand your desire for individuation and a sense of independence and autonomy. In their minds and heart, they may feel that they are providing you with a home, food, clothing, and protection; all of which are very difficult to acquire on your own. They may feel that a family is a collective unit rather than everyone getting their own paycheck and spending it separately. Indeed, the family business may not make enough money to fund everyone’s individualized autonomy but may provide enough to create a decent lifestyle if you remain with this collective family model.

I Need More Independence - About Islam

Of course, I do not know. But, I might guess that they did not know if you would be all right and safe going to college and venturing out to work for another company on your own and living on your own given your seizure condition. In fact, they may not know that you are feeling this way.

In addition, they may be hoping that for their providing you with a meaningful place in the family business, a home, protection, and care, you will, in turn, take care of them in their old age. I certainly cannot say this is what they are thinking and feeling, but it is a possibility.

The Solutions

My suggestion is that you get some counseling. Since you are in the USA (as I am), I can tell you that at your age you can get your own medical insurance. I would ask your family to provide you with your medical information, your medical or insurance card, and all the information related to that.

Tell them that you want to take some responsibility for yourself as an adult Then, on your own, make an appointment with a counselor. Talk to your counselor about your feelings and ask if there is any way that your insurance will pay for family counseling. Once you have family counseling, you go alone and talk to the counselor about your feelings. Over time, you might be ready to have another family member come to your counseling session so that you can effectively communicate your authentic emotional needs to your family.

Perhaps you want a small paycheck so that you can feel some independence. Perhaps you want to work toward even greater independence or gain additional marketable skills by going to college or a trade school. Your family may have needs they also want to communicate to you about. Perhaps you desire greater independence and you want to expand and learn additional skills etc., while at the same time, your family is afraid that they will lose the family business if you leave.

There seems to be so much that might be going on underneath the surface here. So, no, do not run away. That will not solve anything and you will put yourself in a week position. Instead, seek out counseling and learn some communication skills. See what you can achieve in your relationship with your family and in your own personal growth using this method instead.

To normalize your experience about working as a “child”, understand that many children in the USA would have felt privileged to work in their family store and to be born into a family that has a store. As for me, my family did not own anything, but I sold magazines, carved soaps and did garden work at age 8 and 9, then onto babysitting at age 10 through 15, and landed my first job in a store at age 15. I have been working all of my life.

Work is a part of life. I don’t believe you are so upset about the fact that you have worked so much that you feel you have not had an opportunity to feel like an individual, or that you have “come into your own” as an adult and that you would like to feel respected for being an adult. This is where counseling comes in.  Take things one day at a time. Usually, with some communication and mending hurt feelings, a family can come to an amicable solution.

Salam,

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Maryam Bachmeier
Dr. Bachmeier is a clinical psychologist who has been working in the mental health field for over 15 years. She is also a former adjunct professor at Argosy University, writer, and consultant in the areas of mental health, cultural, and relationship issues.