Mind HK Ambassador
I AM... a PhD candidate.
"I’m happy that I reached this point in my recovery, but I cannot say that it’s necessarily positive and that my life was negative before. These are just different takes on life, emotionally enriching in their own unique way."
Where/what has been important to you in your mental health journey? Why?
The Western District Public Cargo Working Area, also known as the Instagram Pier. It is the symbol of my first year in Hong Kong when I felt particularly lost and vulnerable. I would go there every time I felt overwhelmed with emotions, every time I felt stuck. I would have ritualistic anxiety-driven walks around Kennedy Town every other night, with the Pier being the highlight of these walks.
The Pier felt like an oasis of stability; that’s probably why I was so drawn to it when my life was unstable. It was an essential place of comfort for me before I got diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and sought professional help. I would go there to read, to write poetry, to enjoy sunsets, to simply decompress after a long stressful day. Nature is an excellent healer when it comes to mental health struggles. I stopped going to the Pier a while ago. It’s a special place from my past; I don’t see how I can integrate it into my present.
How has mental health affected your day to day life?
It felt like I was at war with myself. Most of my energy was spent on sustaining the shaky inner equilibrium. I had difficulties distinguishing between right and wrong, safe and unsafe, healthy and harmful. Part of me was in the present, part of me was stuck in the past, as if my whole life was a prolonged traumatic flashback. It was hard to keep focus on the things that mattered. The world was black and white. People in general were either very good or very bad. I would put them on a pedestal, and then dethrone them within minutes. My emotional state heavily depended on such arbitrary coups. My emotions were my enemy at the time. I didn’t know how to process them. Overall, my psyche was not user-friendly. I had no idea how much work it would take to change it – that’s probably why I was so eager to do that.
How has the stigma around mental health affected your life?
The most prominent example I can think of is how societal stigma around mental health adds to self-stigmatisation. Both deterred me from seeking professional help earlier than I did. To me, acknowledging that I needed help to cope meant that I was weak. Having this kind of inner dialogue was energy-consuming and counterproductive. Anyone can develop a mental health condition — it feels strange now when I need to explain this to anyone.
How would you describe yourself? What are your labels
The qualities that I value the most in me are my sense of humour, courage, resilience, resourcefulness and curiosity. Having a specific mental health diagnosis is not a label for me. If properly managed, also accepted, it’s a valuable lens one can perceive life through. I don’t think I would have gotten so many insights about human nature if I hadn’t faced the urgent need to attend to my mental health.
Tell us about your life now
I am more in tune with my body, physically and emotionally. I am comfortable appearing vulnerable and sensitive — something unthinkable for my past self. Once I got out of my bell jar, I started noticing the beauty in the most mundane things. I’m happy that I reached this point in my recovery, but I cannot say that it’s necessarily positive and that my life was negative before. These are just different takes on life, emotionally enriching in their own unique way. In hindsight, I’m glad I got to experience both.
What has your mental health journey taught you?
My journey along the mental health continuum taught me to be patient and compassionate with myself. Learning to commit to myself and my own experiences of life has been difficult. The concept of inner child is not accidental in psychology – it did feel like I was nursing a child – a wounded part of me. It’s been a precious experience though and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learnt that being myself is a more interesting business than anything else going on out there.
What would you tell someone who is going through something similar to what you have experienced?
Learn to disassociate from the critical voice in your head. Stay committed to yourself even when it feels like you reached a deadlock. Being kind to yourself is the key. It’s not an easy skill, but it’s definitely one worth developing.
Learn more about depression:
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