“Depression is not something that should be discriminated against, overlooked, or ignored”
Roughly six years ago, I experienced my first depressive episode. My former business partner and I had a learning center in one of the most elite school districts in Hong Kong. Our business shot from 20 something students to over 300 in just one year. Our monthly salary (after deducting all expenses) went from HKD 1,5000 (about USD 2000) to HKD 300,000 (about USD 38,000). That was pretty much the peak of the business. That was when the storm came.
My former business partner and her husband stole all of the teaching materials (books, worksheets, teaching tools and resources) and every penny one night. I am sure that they did it in the middle of the night as before I left the center, everything was still there, but the next morning...the whole center was empty with just the furniture.
For five consecutive weeks from July to August, she would bring along her husband and a few decorating workers to stir up commotions every day. Each episode, she was the one who walked around the center screaming and accusing the receptionist and me of stealing money. Although we had CCTV proofs (recorded and duplicated to use as evidence in case we had to go to court), she would say we had faked the video. I am a Catholic. Not faithful but I follow His words. My former business partner would disturb each class and tell them that I was a fake Catholic, that I knew some voodoo magic, and that was what I had used to rob her!
The most absurd thing she did was to have the decoration workers beat up my father right in front of the teaching staff, students and parents- all for greed. As I said, the learning center's business was booming, and she did not wish to share this accomplishment with someone half her age.
The stress was tremendous, and I became so lost. I had to pour all my savings into the three shops we had rented. Three! The approximate rents were HKD 200,000 in total (about 25,600 USD) PER MONTH! I went from rich to broke.
A childhood friend of mine offered me a free psychological evaluation. I was diagnosed with depression. It even caused me to have anorexia. I lost 20 pounds within two weeks, which led to hair loss and kidney and liver deterioration. Each day, the two things I would put in my mouth were glucose water with a bit of salt and hot coffee. The smell of boiled vegetables made me dizzy and, on bad days, it made me vomit. Almost every piece of clothing in my closet was too big for me. My mother would frown and shed a few tears seeing me so skeletal, but I would tell her “Don’t worry. I can manage.”
I lost sleep too- sleeping barely eight hours a week. Stress and the amount of work took away the resting time, but I felt awake! I FELT awake, but my body didn’t allow me to move much. Walking up one flight of stairs was exhausting, and I had to stop two to three times to catch my breath.
My dear friends who were also my teaching staff would buy me the food I loved and made sure I ate...at least a few bites. Only two spoonfuls of food could last me an entire day. I didn’t even want fruit, and I LOVED fruit.
I refused to start taking medication because I didn't want people to see me differently. Sadly, I had shared this with a few people, and they isolated themselves from me. However, I was blessed and fortunate enough to have this fantastic friend come into my life and pull me out of it. He gave me lots of advice on re-establishing my business, began to teach at the center and helped me create teaching materials to ease my load, took me on multiple short trips to de-stress, and talked to me every day and night to make sure I was safe and calm. That went on for two years, and in the end, I gave up all three shops and rented a much nicer one that was spacious with very low rent! This friend and I have become best friends. We are like brother and sister now!
Just when I thought I could see the light and my life was taking a turn for the better, two members of my former teaching staff cost me business loss because of their irresponsibility and breach of contract. Firing those two teachers added more stress and a heavier workload. Two weeks later, another teacher resigned. How was I able to find a replacement in such a short time? I had to take her classes and combined them with mine. It wasn’t easy to teach students that were at different levels because they were learning about different things. Splitting my brain into 16 was not an easy task. Sigh...
I fell into another depressive episode.
This current episode is not as severe as the one six years ago. I didn't seek any medical help, in the traditional sense, but I have been using herbs to help my mental wellness. I also set different, small, and easy-to-achieve goals for myself and have added more work tasks to help structure my time myself when I am at home.
So far, herbs, goals, work, and study are working for me. The small goals are one of the things that help me remain focused such as clearing my skin, shaping my brows, arranging flowers and so on. I need to have a to-do list. Otherwise, I would start to feel lost and have an anxiety attack.
I need to give myself pep talks regularly to not lose myself. When I notice myself slipping into that state, I must tell myself to forget about it for a moment, find something else to do, or remove myself from the scene for a minute or two to say to myself that "things will be alright" or "suck it up and keep moving."
I’m not too sure how long this battle will last, but I hope it will vanish one day soon. Depression is not something that should be discriminated against, overlooked or ignored. Even if one has not gone through it, they can offer their ears and shoulders for those who are experiencing it. Having someone there for you makes a significant difference and definitely can help bring you to the road of recovery.
So far, the business is growing steadily with a fantastic team and a more precise direction in mind. At the same time, I am involved in three education-related projects (two in Beijing and one in Taipei City) WHILE studying continuously. All of these commitments have pretty much filled up my spare time. Although there are always little panic attacks here and there, I am so ever grateful to have my parents, my best friend, my boyfriend and my eight cats by my side to keep me sane and calm. With the determination to recover from depression and develop my business faster, I hope things will become brighter soon.