My name is Coby. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. My parents are both Chinese and working class. They tried their best to provide for me and my siblings; they paid for our school fees and tuition fees outside of school. Even though they had financial limitations, they paid for my university fees in Australia. Growing up in an Asian family was tough, as my parents always had high expectations. At school, I sometimes got over 90 percent, but they would ask “what happened to the other 10 marks”. It felt like they never appreciated my hard work.
In Hong Kong, people always have high expectations – this is the culture. For instance, if you are dating someone and in a serious relationship, they will expect you to be married within 7 years. If not, it is said that you will have bad luck in your relationship, or even break up. Luckily, I was married just before my 7 year anniversary. People then expect you to have a baby immediately after marriage. It can really be stressful.
The work environment in Hong Kong is also highly competitive. People like to compare themselves with others and compete at everything, no matter what. As I worked in a majority female company, my colleagues liked to not only compete on work performance, but also compare and comment on the size and brand of engagement rings! They even compared how gentle and sweet our pets are. I think these kinds of behaviours can be harmful to our mental health and wellbeing.
In Hong Kong, we barely talk about mental health – in Asian culture this is the norm. I had never even heard about mental health until I started struggling with my mental health. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2018. Some of the contributing stressors were my stressful and competitive work environment and wedding planning. At the time, I did not realise the impact the stress was having on me and my emotional wellbeing. I did not know how to manage the stress. I thought I could handle everything.
I would say thank you god for giving me this diagnosis. It made me realise how powerful stress can be and gave me a good lesson on how to manage it. With professional support, and personal reflection and awareness, I am living in recovery. These days I have a stronger and more positive mindset. I know how to deal with stress. I have strong self-awareness. I notice that I often have physical symptoms, such as acid reflux or heartburn, when I feel stressed. When this happens, I do exercise and meditation to release my tension.
I share my story as a Mind HK ambassador because I want others facing a mental health condition, especially those of Asian culture and locals in Hong Kong, to know they are not alone.