What’s next for us — and what does it feel like?

I drove my own car out on the streets of Beijing yesterday. An action I would not have thought much of usually had an unusually surreal and eerie feeling to it. Was it true — was I safely out of quarantine and was free to roam around the city as long as I had a mask on and my temperature checked every stop I made?

These three months feel like a blur. Did I really live through the times of panicking and paranoia about COVID19 breaking out in the country I lived in, the decisions to stay in Beijing or not, the displacement living for two months in another country even with family as comfort and reassurance, the webinars on mental health I conducted whilst trying to make sure the kids are asleep and a day of cooking and packing lunchboxes, and the convoluted journey back to Beijing with borders closing down as we are at the airport, buying new flights and rerouting and lining up for 12 hours in the middle of the night just to get to Beijing again and then the nucleic tests and, and, and…? …

from misery to suicide attempt to a new life

Floppie saved my life.

I was huddled in the foetal position on my bed, curtains drawn, buried in my sheets. I was a lump of misery. I spent most of my depressed days in bed or on the living room floor in downtown Beijing. I had lost all my energy and I sobbed impulsively. It seemed natural that after reaching my summit in Tokyo, the logical step was to come down. I just didn’t expect to fall this far down. In my mind, the stretch of nothingness was omniscient. There was one dim street lamp in that darkness, but however I crawled towards it, it did not come closer. There was no hope left in my mind. Floppie stood by me on the floor. …

Is there life beyond my cage?

The green digits twinkled on the screen and my vision blurred. That’s enough for one night, I thought.

I was exhausted, having slept only five hours a day in the past week. But, in some idiosyncratic way, I felt fulfilled for having finished the tasks before me.

Work was on track, and my social life prospered in Tokyo. Life finally felt comfortable. When I moved to Tokyo from Paris, I was determined to have the time of my life and enjoy it instead of indulging in books each weekend. There was no shortage of people around me. There were bankers, artists, lawyers, teachers, head hunters, television celebrities, models, and executives … The effervescence of the crowd and my friends made my head spin. People kept coming and people kept going — I couldn’t keep up! And in the midst of the whirl of colour that was my social life, there was within me a melancholy that was more marked, a profound annihilation. …

There really only is one thing to change…

New Year’s in my household was not as relaxing as I’d hoped it would be.

My daughter had a stomach bug and threw up all night before New Year’s Eve, then it was my toddler son’s turn, and then, as we stepped into 2019, my husband had his turn with the bug. I’m bracing myself for mine!

As painful as it was, I saw the funny side too.

“Let’s start 2019 with a detox, flushing out everything from the body that did not agree with us and getting it out of our systems — literally and figuratively!”

This is a common theme around NYE; many people have grand ideas of making changes in their lives. We think that if we eliminate our perceived cause of stress — be it demanding work, a sour friendship, or a toxic relationship –, everything will be fine. That this might finally be our year. …

Cultural constructs sometimes get in the way of mental health. In China, preserving “face” and image of strength exacerbates the stigma and taboos on mental health.

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Picture credit: Victor Lau

“You CANNOT go to see doctor. It is shameful. Get better by yourself!”

It was sadly that a young, Chinese female executive recounted the response her parents gave her when she told them she had depression.

It would be a loss of face to the family if the friends and relatives ever knew she had depression. …

If today is about taking care of our mental health, then it’s time to take a break.

I feel I am always playing catch up, and when I do have the calendar space to do so, I tend to fall sick. And a bad cold I have been fighting with for the last two weeks — not serious enough to be debilitating, but bad enough to strip me of energy.

I feel I am lagging behind. I see a flux of worldwide initiatives for today — World Mental Health Day. Campaigns, full weeks’ of events, public awareness movements, blog posts, social media updates, Twitter chat, launch of new programmes and research reports etc. …

It is here. Done. An Author now. A reality. And it feels anything but real.

First off, I do not yet have a hardcopy of the book in my hands. Second, I feel overwhelmed, more nerve-wrecking than hold the crying Riviane a few minutes after she was born (I made sure the nurses cleaned her up before giving her to me ha!)

I do not quite know what to do with this.

There was intense adrenaline in the rush leading up to deadline. Self-induced depressive states as I tried to find some inspiration to churn out those words. Days of blockedness when no creative spirit would seep through. Back and forth with the Editor and Marketing team for the last bits and pieces, and I am sure they must be sick and tired of me now — and to this end, so touched by their sincerity and generosity in working together to make this book go from idea to reality. …

new FREE ebook featuring stories from 8 men baring their souls and stories on burnout, depression, mental health — and what to do about it

What makes an author, an author? What makes a writer, a writer?

I mentioned the free ebook on how to help those with depression that I had written a few years ago to a friend the other day. She exclaimed, “Oh! You are an author!”

I felt small in my chair and cringed. Gingerly, I answered, “Errr… I guess so… actually not really… it’s just a few pages put together in a PDF…”

And then my voice trailed off.

I had not thought of myself as an author with a simple ebook. I don’t know if I will even call myself a writer. Insecurities and all that aside, I don’t know what makes an author or writer one. What is the benchmark? I see many people calling themselves “Best Selling Author”, where the “best-selling book” is but a compilation of blog posts. Does that make a book? I suppose so. …

Start up culture not sustainable

Ouyang has been a good friend of mine for almost 10 years now, and I have always admired his cheery disposition and strong mind. The last few years, he decided to partner up to set up his own tech company, which has done extremely well in a short space of time. I thought all entrepreneurs are stressed out (I certainly am!) but every time I see him, he is so bubbly and full of energy. …

I have been trying to write an article on the investment market, on how investors might care — or not — about the entrepreneurs they invest in, not so much on their competence, but more on their mental health. Being an entrepreneur is stressful to say the least, and I have seen many of them breakdown when working with them on their internal management. However, speaking to a lot of investors, the general answer I got was “We do not really care” or “We have not thought about it… it is up to them.” …


Enoch Li

Social entrepreur & Managing Director of Bearapy, on workplace mental health and playfulness. Finds wisdom in Dr Seuss.

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