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Counselling and Psychological Services

Connecting better with others

I’ve been an introverted person all my life, and have experienced anxiety and depression the last few years. I’ve successfully applied CBT and mindfulness in the past, and I’d like to find a similar approach to help me relate to others and be more comfortable around them.

Thanks for your question, it’s great that you’ve been able to address some issues you’ve had in the past. Regarding current challenges, a few questions to ask yourself are:
– what worked in the past for you when you connected with other people/ made new friends, and what helped you to jump over those first hurdles ?
– did you feel as anxious as you do now, or does it seem to be more difficult in your current situation?
– If this is the case, what do you believe makes it more difficult now?

Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly (ideally every day) and other techniques you have implemented in the past would be a helpful first step to manage your anxiety in social situations.

A further step could be exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations slowly but steadily by talking to fellow students before/ after lectures instead of avoiding it (even if you feel awkward). Keep these conversations short and simple, then asking to go for a coffee or have a snack together could be a next step. Continue reading “Connecting better with others”

Failed exam

I feel so depressed after seeing my mid-term result. I feel so ashamed and keep blaming myself for not trying so hard. I sometimes feel that what should I do if I cannot pass my final exams? How can I motivate myself and concentrate in my study?

Thanks for asking this question, as I’m sure there are many other students having a similar experience right now. It sounds like there are a number of different things going on for you, and it might be helpful to take a step back from the situation. Do you feel like your results were due to lack of motivation and concentration in your study? Or do you feel like you did your best and still didn’t get the marks you wanted? Do your emotions of shame and self-blame come from knowing you didn’t try your best, or from something else?

As you can see, it’s important to first consider what the issue is and where your emotions are coming from before you address them. If you feel like you need to work on how you study, you could try implementing study techniques such as breaking work up into chunks and scheduling study time. If you’re struggling with motivation, it might help to consider whether there is anything else going on in your life that could cause you to feel demotivated, or if you’re simply someone who needs some tips to get a task started. However, if you think that you have tried your best, it might be a good time to think about why you’re feeling such strong emotions around your results, and to get some help in managing these feelings. Continue reading “Failed exam”

How to cope with unrequited love?

I’ve been having feelings for a girl for a while. She knows, but is not interested. I have decided to stop pursuing her, but still cannot get over the uncomfortable feelings that this brings. Back when we were close, she had the habit of showing me pictures of guys that she thought she’d like to date. Whenever I think about the possibility of her ending up with someone like that someday, I’d find it hard to accept that I will not be able to bring to her what she needs, and that I can’t be loved.

Thanks for your question. The journey to finding a secure loving relationship can be a challenging one. It requires us to make ourselves vulnerable and to risk rejection. It sounds like you are now clear that you will not find the love you want with this girl – so you are at a difficult point in that journey. Finding that the love you hold for another is not reciprocated naturally triggers a strong emotional reaction.

You are far from alone in experiencing unrequited love. Many people experience this in attempting to find a satisfying loving relationship. It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt. Many people question if they will ever be loved when in this situation. However, just because this did not work out as you had hoped does not mean you are unlovable and will not find love with someone else in the future. I know it is very hard right now but have confidence that in the future you will love and be loved. Continue reading “How to cope with unrequited love?”

Being gay and coping with my family

Since moving to Melbourne I’ve started dating guys. I know I’m being true to myself, but I know that my family back home would not accept me if they knew I was gay. They keep asking me if I have a girlfriend yet and it’s making me really anxious not being honest with them…

It seems like living away from your family is allowing you the freedom to be yourself. It must be very difficult that the freedom does not extend to being honest with your family about your sexuality. It is a common experience to have concerns about telling your friends or family that you are gay. This is especially true for people from more conservative cultural or religious backgrounds.

Family members may take some time to get used to the news that you are gay. Since family and culture are so unique, it might be helpful to explore your feelings about coming out with a counsellor. You could call the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard’s free phone counselling, information, and referral service between 6-10pm on 03 9663 2939. You could also make an appointment to see one of our counsellors at the University of Melbourne Counselling and Psychological Services. Continue reading “Being gay and coping with my family”

I’m extremely shy, how do I make Australian friends?

I have been in Melbourne for two months yet I don’t have many new Australian friends, I’m shy to initiate conversations and it’s starting to make me self-conscious. It’s hard to make friends in uni as I only see them once a week in lectures or tutes.

Many international students face a very similar challenge in the first year of their studies. It can be hard to form a connection with other students, especially if you only see them once a week. However it may be worth taking a chance and trying to start a conversation with someone, perhaps a comment about the content of a tutorial or about the course in general.

Other connection opportunities come with actively looking for like-minded people who share the same interests as you. So ask yourself what your interests are beyond your studies. You could start by looking at clubs and societies in the Uni. I’d suggest using the Student Union as a hub for such information. Check out the clubs website.  Joining a club could also get you more in touch with Australian students. You could look for opportunities to engage with people outside of the Uni as there is a lot going on in Melbourne. You may want to look at The Desk which is designed to help students at Australian Universities work through common difficulties such as those you are describing.

Keep in mind that two months in a new environment is not a long time. So you might need to approach this with some patience! Build on existing acquaintances, and accepting invitations from where you can branch out. Remind yourself that other “freshmen” have similar needs to you. Continue reading “I’m extremely shy, how do I make Australian friends?”

Is my boyfriend becoming a control freak?

My boyfriend and I have been together for 14 months. He has always been a bit jealous but lately he’s become angrier when I meet with friends and he won’t talk to me afterwards. I really love him but I don’t know how to make him feel reassured. I also don’t want to lose my friendships.”

Thank you for your question, which is a very important one because there are probably many other people who are experiencing something similar but don’t feel they can talk about it. It’s not easy when you love someone but at the same time don’t feel okay with things they do – things that hurt you.

It sounds like you generally have good experiences with your boyfriend except when it comes to your friendships. It seems like you’ve tried different things to reassure him but he still feels insecure or jealous about you having other people in your life, apart from him. One suggestion might be to take a step back and have a closer look at your experience of the relationship more broadly. There are some easy tools that can help you evaluate this. Are there other things that your boyfriend does that make you feel hurt, put down, or controlled? Do you have to watch what you say or do in case he will become upset? Has he ever threatened you in any way? Continue reading “Is my boyfriend becoming a control freak?”

Unclear Relationship

I have been in online contact with a man since 2010. He has never called nor dated me. However, I really want to be with him. Before I left for OZ for my study, I asked him to meet and he refused. He said he will marry me after graduation, though he has not yet met my parents. He has never called me even though I am far away. I feel hesitant to start a new relationship as I still want to be with that old guy. Do you think he loves me? Sometimes I feel I am so stupid.

Thanks for your question. It seems you are going through some conflicting emotions at the moment, and it sounds from the tone of your question that you are looking for someone to be objective and honest with you about this ‘unclear relationship’, so be prepared for an honest Ask Counselling response!

You state that the man you have been chatting with for the past 5 years has never called you or wanted to meet you in person, despite your requests to do so. I believe you need to trust your instincts about this, and ask yourself if there might be some reason – unknown to you – that he would want to avoid talking or meeting with you in person. 5 years seems a long time to be sharing intimate details with somebody, without at least being curious about speaking to them on the phone or making an effort to meet them in person.

With online relationships, it can be hard to know for sure whether what someone is telling you is ‘real’ or not. People can paint a picture with their words, which may not reflect the reality. When you exclusively chat online you don’t have the same benefit of being able to read a person’s non-verbal cues, as you do when you meet someone ‘in the flesh’. Successful long-term relationships are based on trust, intimacy on many levels, commitment, and shared experiences. As such, it’s important that you honestly reflect on your feelings, and ask yourself whether you can really trust in a long-term promise of marriage after graduation, particularly if you have never had the opportunity to talk (either via phone or in person) after 5 years.

You might find the following information about online dating useful: Continue reading “Unclear Relationship”

Is it worth it all, this studying?

My mother is working very hard to support me. I feel guilty because her business is not going well and she is tired and stressed. I could get a job to help cover my living expenses but it is hard to study and work. I am worried about whether I will be able to get a good job when I graduate, to one day take care of my mother financially. Is it worth it for me to spend so much money to study here? My future seems so dim.

This is a common and difficult dilemma you face. Many parents make sacrifices to support their children in study. For International students there is even more of a financial cost. It is understandable that you care about your mother. You are juggling many competing demands and seem to be feeling a little overwhelmed by your situation. I wonder if you have tried to discuss your feelings with your mother. Often students don’t want to worry their parents more by sharing the pressure they feel. However, your mother would be concerned about you feeling hopeless about the future. It can be helpful to have an open discussion about this. In this way you might discover that despite the stress it is very important to your mother that you have this opportunity.

It is wise to carefully decide if you can manage paid work as well as study. Sometimes when students take on too much paid work it impacts on their academic work. This can lead to failing subjects and further increase the pressure by requiring you to repeat subjects and increase the length of your course. Continue reading “Is it worth it all, this studying?”

Am I bisexual?

I’m 21 and I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 18 months. It’s all been going fine, but recently I’ve noticed that I’ve been attracted to a girl who I’ve met a few times, in a sexual way. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do – is it normal to have feelings like this and just pretend they’re not happening? Does this mean I’m bisexual? Should I tell my boyfriend?

It sounds like being attracted to someone else has led to questions about your relationship and your sexuality. Keep in mind that being attracted to someone else is normal even when you are in a committed relationship. Think about your values in relationships before you act on anything. Is honesty important to you? What would you like your boyfriend to do in a situation that he was attracted to someone else. Secondly, you are confused about having sexual feelings for someone of the same gender. Yes this is normal and it may or not have meaning for you.

Bisexual is a term that some people choose to use when they are attracted to both genders. So having sexual thoughts about another woman doesn’t mean you need to call yourself bisexual. That being said, your sexual identity may be something you want to investigate further, and some careful exploration around these feelings might help you decide whether you want to share them with your boyfriend. You can find some more information on bisexuality here and details on telephone counselling here. Continue reading “Am I bisexual?”

Fear that you forced someone into a relationship.

I’m having a huge crush on a girl, who seems to show no interest in me. She wants us to remain friends, but I’m not sure if I should remain hopeful and still pursue her. My fear now is that if she agrees to date me, maybe she only does that out of pity, gratitude, or maybe she is just lonely.

Thanks for your question, unrequited feelings are very hard, especially when you’re around someone regularly, like a friend. You’ve said she has no interest and wants to remain friends. Does that mean you’ve already expressed your feelings to her? If you have been up front about your feelings and what you want and she has given you her response, then consider whether there is a clear reason to think she will change her mind. If not, then it’s important to be respectful of what someone else wants. However if you have not expressed your feelings, then the question is perhaps whether you think the chance to date her is worth risking the possibility that things won’t work out?

It’s not unusual in the beginning of relationships for one person to have stronger feelings than the other, and when you really like someone who has not seemed interested early on this can often lead to insecurity. People’s feelings grow at different rates, and in the early stages of dating we may feel vulnerable as we work out where the relationship is heading, if there is a chance for feelings to grow and whether it is worth continuing. That’s something you can really only work out once you’re already dating someone.  However, self-doubt can still linger, and it’s hard to say how likely it is that someone would enter a relationship that they don’t really want to be in. Continue reading “Fear that you forced someone into a relationship.”

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