I see a doctor in Hong Kong who helps manage my medication for depression and gives me talk therapy. On my sixth visit I am getting less questioning and more of an opportunity to express my current condition. The doctor asks me about my circumstances, which are constantly changing. He asks about my relationships with my parents, which have been a great source of stress and worry. With every visit I am able to respond more readily and to provide a clearer story to illustrate my situation. He remarks that I have made impressive improvement to my quality of being.
Today I talked about my new English teaching job prospect. It’s exciting to experience the aroma of a good meal cooking in the oven, yet still being unsure of how it turn out. That’s the metaphor I am using to describe the feeling of waiting to hear whether I’ve been hired for this job to teach young children phonics and run playgroup classes in a middle class neighborhood of a big cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong. I feel anxious about getting this job, and not getting it. It is good to let out this source of anxiety to someone who can reflect back a realistic and positive point of view about my situation.
Before leaving, the doctor asks me about my depression, and to describe with some subjectivity what it is like to be in my shoes, experiencing it. I come up with a pretty gnarly reply saying that when I am depressed, I tend to dwell in my thoughts. They usually wander to somewhere in my past to an experience that made me unhappy, and then I bring that unhappiness to the present moment. For example, I say to myself, the reason why I am not satisfied right now is due to x, which happened in the past. It is a pretty destructive habit that goes on in my mind, and it is something that the medicine is helping to treat.
After the doctor’s visit, my aunt brings me out to a cafe for some cake and tea. I may add that she is also trained in psychology and art therapy. Our discussions over food usually come back to me and my mental health, something I have been struggling with over the course of my young life. This time we chit chat about relationships, a potential next topic that we can cover in our art therapy sessions for me. Our dialogue goes something like this:
Me: “I am usually a kind person, and I always have tried to be a nice person from a young age. Sometimes though, I become mean, and it just comes out of me. I lose control of how to express myself kindly. I think it may be due to some of my hardships in the past, especially when I was treated unkindly by others.”
Aunt: “You have a longing for healthy long term relationships. We all desire this. Can you live on a island by yourself and survive?”
Me: “No, I would go out and look for people to communicate with.”
Aunt: “Right, or even you would go to a flower or a fish to talk to.”
Me: “One of my friends told me I lack social skills, and I was surprised, but she was right. In college, I went through such a rough period of depression, I forgot how to speak. I stayed at home in bed under the blankets for days. I didn’t have anything to share, have discussions, or ask questions about.”
Aunt: “Did you ever think about your relationship with yourself when you were depressed?”
Me: “At that time, I realized I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t have a relationship with myself, and when I decided to seek treatment for my sickness, I started to consciously cultivate that relationship.”
Aunt: “It is the most important one.”
Aunt: “The way to get to know yourself is to OBSERVE your personal traits and qualities — not to judge or criticize yourself but simply to observe. Do you think you can write down your observations about yourself so that you can get to know who you are?”
Aunt: “Good. And next time we see each other you can share, and then we can work on some social skills. It will be like a training and you can learn how to navigate social situations with more ease and comfort.”
It rocks to have a loving family member who is truly committed to helping me. When I am looking for answers, I can bring up any topic and trust that she has the power to reflect what I am searching for. Over Amelie cake (pistachio, chocolate, apricot, raspberry, and vanilla) and pineapple iced tea, I get my psyche rebooted with loving support. Even just forty five minutes of honest conversation can help make me feel better. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and love for my Aunt who brings me to my doctor’s visits and supports me that way.