Domestic helpers are invaluable in helping many Malaysian families strike the work-life balance that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. Many domestic helpers form strong bonds with the family they work with and form decade-long relationships.
We also hear or read about stories regarding abuses of domestic helpers and the sad plight they are subject to. But my experience comes from the other side that is less spoken about.
My parents hired our maid, Gina, when I was five and like many families with working parents, I spent a large part of the day under her care. Gina was one person when my parents were home and another when they weren’t. I was beaten and verbally abused by Gina on a regular basis.
Looking back at it now, it is easy to see that the solution was simply to tell my parents about what was going on at home.However, the fear that grips an eight year old is very real. Particularly when Gina often threatened to hurt my family if I told my parents about it.
It was a vicious feedback cycle of getting my self-esteem torn apart, which fed the fears, which in turn worsened the abuse.My perception of the world and my surroundings become gloom and I genuinely believed that I was stupid, useless and that nobody loves me.
School life was no better and I was being made fun off constantly by the peers. Perhaps it was due to my lack of confidence which fed the bullies in school. Perhaps it was my appearance and my unruly hair. The reason for the bully is not really the point.
My reaction to the bullying is not unique in any sense. I become withdrawn. I did not socialize and was always afraid of being ridiculed by my peers. I felt alone and disconnected from everyone else, yet I was afraid to reach out. Then I gained weight and the bullying worsened and the bullying continued into my college years.
I shut myself in and many people just assumed that I was a loner or had a bad attitude.Since I was bullied for my looks, I decided to put my efforts to working hard on my studies instead. I figured since I can’t change how I look, I could at least try to be smart.
I was accepted into medical school and continued to work hard. However, there is only so much pressure we can take before cracking and it was during the third year at university when all the anger, loneliness, distrust and sadness had become too much to bear.
Studying was the one thing that drove me and at that point in my life, and as my grades started to slide, that only lifeline seemed to be slipping away.In the pits of my despair, I reached out to a friend to speak to our psychiatry teacher and I was subsequently diagnosed with severe depression.
In the sessions that followed, I tearfully poured my heart out to him.The beatings, the name calling, the loneliness, the pain, the anger, the fears and all the other jumbled emotions I had within me, I laid it all out. For the first time, I was heard.
I started to learn to forgive, to break free from the words and actions that have in many ways shackled my mind. With medications and intense counseling, I started to change my perspective and begun my healing process. There is no shame in speaking out, there is no shame in seeking help and there is definitely no shame in crying your eyes out.
I am now 34, I have completed my studies, completed my internship and compulsory service. I am a doctor and have begun following my passion as a baker as well.
There have been plenty of ups and downs since my treatment and I still struggle to find my way in life. I have finally told my parents about what went on back then and the wall of secrets between us has been torn down.I have forgiven them. But most of all, I have forgiven myself.
I am still learning to engage and communicate with people and to overcome my fears and anxiety. With each hurdle crossed there is a new found confidence and I am steadily moving forward.All things considered, I am grateful and consider myself fortunate to be able to learn the things I did, when I did.