The Recovery of Yuen
According to the statistics of World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 350 million patients with depression globally, but only less than half of them have received proper treatment. In fact, the number of depression patients receiving appropriate treatment is less than 10% in many countries. It is estimated that up till 2020, depression would climb up to the second position on the Global Diseases Ranking, only below heart disease. Statistically there are over 300,000 Hong Kong residents with depression to different degrees.
Life in Hong Kong is arguably intense. Work, family life, interpersonal relationships and academic studies may all become the sources of stress. In the Hong Kong Mental Morbidity Survey conducted in 2015, there is one person in every seven persons suffer from varied types of mood disorders, including preliminary depression symptoms. Thus, we should actively look at the disease and find out the source of stress and do not neglect the impact it may bring to us. Yuen is a successful example of facing depression with positive manner.
As a 60 year-old lady, Yuen has retired for nearly 8 months now. Before retirement, she worked as an executive in a bank. Yuen has got married for decades and given birth to a son. Since her husband worked mainly in Macau and Mainland China, he seldom returned home or only stayed for one or two days. The couple were mostly in separation due to busy work-life of Yuen. Therefore, the couple can hardly get along with each other.
Not until one year ago Yuen’s husband retired and moved back to Hong Kong and settled down could this couple see each other more frequently. However, Yuen started to realize that she had more and more conflicts with her husband due to trivia matters. At the beginning, she considered it only the lack of communication because of long separation and difference in way of life which may take time to accommodate. But as time went by, Yuen found it harder to face her husband peacefully. The criticism of him on Yuen’s cooking was a typical example that triggered her temper: too salty once, and too tasteless for another time.
Facing the seemingly endless reproach and criticism from her husband, Yuen stated doubting if it was her incapability of handling simple things that caused all the argument and conflicts. After every argument, Yuen felt stressful and frightened. Depression had made Yuen become quiet and backward, always in the fear of triggering the sensitiveness of her husband with her careless mistakes. To avoid staying alone with her husband, Yuen chose to wander around on street aimlessly. The long-term stress had caused Yuen serious insomnia and bad appetite which led to severe weight loss of 10 pounds in a month.
Noticing the change of mother, Yuen’s son, Jun found similarity on his mother’s situation with the symptoms of depression he used to read about in a post forwarded on his friend’s social media page. He tried to talk with his mother and encourage her to seek professional assistance. Understanding the care and worry from the son, Yuen burst into tear and accepted his help. Jun immediately searched on the internet and discovered that the information he read was provided by "eGPS” services under New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. Jun believed that "eGPS” services could help his mother on the emotion distress and after discussion, he then registered the service for Yuen.
In the first session with the Psychological Well-being Officer (PWO), Yuen poured out all her emotional distress. Having listened to Yuen’s situation, PWO explained to Yuen that she was likely to suffer from depression. Yuen surprisingly recognized her illness after hearing explanation. To help Yuen ease the problem, PWO recommended a therapy namely "Behavioral Experiment” based on Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and suggested that she get prepared for the next meeting by reading the Recovery Story.
In the second session, PWO asked Yuen about her feelings after reading the Recovery Story. Yuen opined that the situation of the character in the story was similar to her, hence she decided to try the "Behavioral Experiment”. Under the guidance of PWO, Yuen finally clarified one of the thoughts when facing her husband’s criticism: "I fail in everything that makes my husband dissatisfied. And conversation never works between us.” So PWO proposed to verify whether this is the truth with ‘Behavioral Experience’. Yuen was willing to discuss with her husband about the solution to the taste of cooking.
Unfortunately, in the third session, Yuen confessed that she did not execute the plan due to lack of courage. PWO encouraged her to make another attempt by inviting her son to take part in the action. With the company of Jun, Yuen eventually managed to discuss the taste of the food with her husband peacefully. Even though still received criticism, Yuen was able to control her emotion and try to find way out. In the end, the husband suggested that she could use a small spoon to measure the portion of sauces when she cooked. This gave Yuen a new idea: "I am able to talk to my husband to sort out things in a peaceful way.”
After ten sessions of practice, Yuen had not only successfully understood the techniques of "Behavioral Experiment” and gotten herself out of the dead end, but also learned to think in a more positive way with flexibility. Taking those unnecessary responsibility off her shoulders, Yuen is now able to communicate with her husband to solve problem. Depression did not defeat Yuen and she also saved her marriage from the brink of separation.
Written by: Ms. Candice POWELL, Clinical Psychologist, New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association