Mind HK Ambassador
I AM... a rock climber.
"Learning to acknowledge my emotions has improved my self-acceptance - no matter if it's my strength or weakness, it is part of me."
Where/what has been important to you in your mental health journey? Why?
Rock climbing is not only my safe haven, but also a place that forces me to face my struggles. Before I sought mental health help, I suddenly experienced shortness of breath, heart palpitations, severe trembling, and thoughts of death during one of my rock climbing sessions. I soon realised I was experiencing a panic attack. I could no longer derive as much joy from rock climbing as before; my interpersonal relationships also became strained. My condition deteriorated, panic attack episodes came more frequently and, eventually, the joy and satisfaction I got from rock climbing for years transformed into fear.
How has mental health affected your day to day life?
I came to the realisation that all the emotional reactivity was due to my PTSD. The most impactful experience was the memory flashbacks, which is a common PTSD symptom. Visions related to my traumatic experiences would involuntarily appear in my mind. It would be fine one second, but once the pieces of my traumatic experiences appeared, I would experience heart palpitations, breathing difficulty, trembling, loss of my ability to think, and tears. I also became hyper-sensitive to repetitive loud sounds and was afraid to visit crowded places.
I resorted to binge-eating as a way to ease my anxiety, but this brought even greater stress into my life. I was gaining weight, which affected my rock climbing performance. Sometimes I would plunge into my depressive emotions and did not want to do anything, rendering me unable to feel the joys of my life.
Despite the arguments with my family members being quite sparse, my emotions felt chaotic and sometimes I would say words I didn't mean. Initially I could still work, but at later stages when my concentration and memory were negatively impacted, I had a hard time remembering my next tasks.
I truly loved it and giving up seemed impossible for me. During one of my rock climbing sessions, I decided to learn how to fall. If I felt any discomfort, I would return to the ground, readjust and try again. Although panic attacks would appear occasionally, I had learned how to cope and not give up because of the fear of a panic attack.
Now that I am on my recovery journey I have regained the sense of joy when rock climbing and my excitement for life.
How has the stigma around mental health affected your life?
At first I did not understand mental health problems. When I was feeling depressed, I thought I was being problematic until I discovered such behaviour was ‘self-stigmatising’. When my emotions or behaviours upset my family and friends, I thought it was all my fault. I now understand that it is impossible to be happy all the time, each emotion has its own meaning.
I learned to understand myself, appreciating how I fight hard to conquer my negative emotions and panic attacks.
How would you describe yourself? What are your labels?
Cool - As described by my friend.
Genuine - My friends describe me as a genuine person. I think this is because when I am with them, I feel so comfortable that I can be myself.
Introverted - My strength and beliefs do not originate from other people or how I socialise, instead they come from my judgement of the world and myself.
What gave you hope during your recovery?
Hope appears on-and-off during despair, but memories with my family and friends have kept me from giving myself up.
I have been seeing my clinical psychologist for more than half a year. Apart from letting me cry vigorously and release my emotions, she has taught me to observe my bodily reactions and record my thoughts.
Hope is not a panacea, it won’t appear out of the blue. Instead, its occurrence depends on actions. I can feel myself improving little by little and I will always remember the confidence other people had in me, the reminders my psychologist shared with me and the moments of joy with my friends.
What has your mental health journey taught you?
Facing mental health problems is similar to studying. Your effort doesn’t always equate to your results. I have learned to reflect on whether the method I am adopting is useful and what changes can be made.
I have learned not to invalidate my emotions, no matter positive or negative. Everyone needs to release their emotional pain - preventing someone from having emotions is unreasonable. Learning to acknowledge my emotions has improved my self-acceptance - no matter if it's my strength or weakness, it is part of me.
What would you tell someone who is going through something similar to what you have experienced?
I wish every suffering soul will find their inner peace.
If others are indifferent to your struggles, it is not your fault. Having faced emotional struggles, I don’t want to give false hope. However, allow yourself to live in the world you love. Cry whenever you want, laugh whenever you feel like it. You are the one in control of your life.
Learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
Learn more about physical activity and mental health: https://www.mind.org.hk/mental-health-a-to-z/physical-activity-and-your-mental-health/about-physical-activity/
Seeking help in Hong Kong:
List of mental health services provided by local NGOs:
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