Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset: Picking Yourself Up Against All Odds

Reading Time: 6 minutes

By Sabrina Tong (23S03Q, Peer Helper) and Yong Zhe (23S03H, Peer Helper)

Cover image by Johnathan Lim (23S03M)

My parents are divorcing, my boyfriend broke up with me and I failed all of my CTs. How do I remain positive when my whole life has gone downhill?”

Dispirited Danielle

Dear Dispirited Danielle,

It seems as if times have been tough for you lately. The loss of your family, a treasured relationship, and another blow in terms of academics: these are distressing circumstances on their own, and the combined effect of all those events would be a blow to the gut for anyone. Yet, your question illustrates a tenacious spirit that will be important in toughing out these dismal periods. We think that it is admirable that you are looking for ways to remain positive even when your life is, for lack of a better phrase, falling apart at the seams. 

So, how to remain positive? Perhaps it’s good to start by defining “remain positive”. A “positive” person customarily evokes images of happy, smiling people. Yet, it would be heartless to ask you to ignore the hardships you are going through and plaster a forced grin on your face in the pursuit of positivity. 

Thus, let us reframe positivity such that it is more applicable to your situation at hand. Healthy positivity would be to cope with your negative emotions through certain thinking strategies without denying your right to feel distressed. We must reassure you that no matter the regret, misery and distress you are going through right now, your feelings are absolutely natural. There are three aspects you could focus on, so as to avoid being overwhelmed with your emotions.

Self Reliant Suggestions

Even after talking to others, it is still crucial to settle your inner turmoil, so you no longer get drawn into a whirl of negativity within yourself. When negative thoughts such as “It’s my fault this happened” or “Why am I not doing well” rise to the forefront of your mind, try not to suppress or recoil from them. Instead, you could try labelling these emotions. This may help you identify what you are feeling and why you are feeling this way. For example, “I’m feeling guilty that this happened, because I think that I had a part to play” or “I’m feeling regret that I’m not doing better, as I think I have the potential to do so”. 

Emotional labelling aids in giving you a deeper understanding of what happened, how it affects you and what you can do going forward. Creating distance between unpleasant emotions that seem insurmountable and unwieldy might give you the ability to accept why you are feeling this way, and give yourself the tools to break free from the control of these emotions. You could even try writing these thoughts down on pieces of paper and then either holding on to them to reread, or shredding them, representing a release from these shackling emotions. Ultimately, this is your journey, so try your best to be kind and patient with yourself. 

Giving Yourself Time

Perhaps you have already exhausted all avenues of help, but are still feeling down. This is the time to wait out your feelings as the dust settles down. It is typical to have moments of helplessness when emotional wounds are still fresh. It will take time to heal such wounds as you process your feelings.. Hence, it is imperative that you allow yourself the time to heal and recover from your misfortunes. 

The loss of your relationship must have been a huge blow, especially if it had been unanticipated on your end. We would like to reassure you that with the passage of time, your hurt may be alleviated, even if only slightly. You could aid this by looking towards the future, anticipating yourself feeling better, and preparing for the time when they feel better (such as by asking yourself, “how will I feel when all this has passed?” followed by “how will I prepare to receive this emotion?”), such that you do not dwell exceedingly on your pain. Even spending some time in self-introspection with music playing in the background could help. (Breakup music, anyone?) 

Social Support System

If you find yourself struggling, you could turn to peers to confide in. Perhaps those around you have already sensed your struggles, but have not found a suitable way to approach you, or think it is not their place to do so. Nevertheless, they may be willing to help you once you reach out to them. Hence, if you haven’t asked your friends for help out of fear that you may cause inconvenience, do consider doing so! You   might be wondering how to choose which peers you want to confide in. A suggestion would be to seek out peers who are understanding and who might be able to empathise with you or have had similar difficult experiences in the past. Otherwise, you could also seek out our friendly Peer Helpers at or come to My Rest Space when it is open! 

Even just ranting about what’s going on in your life right now might alleviate your worries a little!. If you wish to improve your academics, you can also seek the help of your friends! You can consult them on studying techniques or arrange study sessions with them, as doing so  can also keep you motivated and on track for your studies.

While it sounds like you are disappointed in your grades, it is important to remember that the CTs are a checkpoint for yourself. If you have some time, look through your test papers and pay heed to your mistakes. Perhaps the marks you lost have arisen from a moment of absent-mindedness, or from unfamiliarity with the content. Your tutors and classmates will definitely be there for consultations, or even brief clarifications through text (they don’t bite!) if you wish to seek help. 

Secondarily, another support system that one may overlook is your civics tutor. If you do feel you would prefer a trusted adult who is familiar with you and has taught you for a few months, do turn to your CTs for help. From our personal experience, your CTs are always ready with a listening ear and sound advice, accrued from years of life experience. (Now, we realise this might make them sound old, *gasp*, but our point is that an adult could give you a new perspective on things because of their maturity.)

Finally, your parents. Now, this might be a more contentious suggestion, as a divorce can be an incredibly emotionally charged affair, and your parents, being human like us, may be facing similar mental and emotional obstacles. Even so, if you deem both yourself and your parents ready, perhaps a heart-to-heart would do some good for both parties. Your parents will best understand what you’re going through with regards to the divorce after all, and you may be able to gain some closure if you glean more information on the situation at hand, e.g. what made them decide divorce was the best course of action. The best way to deal with this is to ask directly yet sympathetically about what you want to know, and not push if your parents seem unwilling to share. They themselves too are processing the separation, and will tell you in their own time. 

If you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone, seek out a Peer Helper (if there is one in your class or CCA) or approach the friendly RGC counsellors for a quick chat (or a long one, whichever tickles your fancy).

Ultimately, we want to assure you that you will recover from this. It’s normal for everyone to experience agonising experiences in our lives. You are definitely not alone in this journey. We believe that you can overcome this challenge and come out stronger than before with time, support and a strong will. Fight on!


Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset

If you need anyone to talk to about any issues you might be facing, do drop by My Rest Space near Marymount gate and talk to one of our peer helpers! We’re open on Tuesday from 2.30 – 4.30 p.m, Wednesday 11.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m., Thursday 2.30 – 4.30 p.m. and Friday 1.30 – 4.30 p.m. If you would like to meet a peer helper on a regular basis, do email us a request at or fill in our request form at our website!

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