People in recovery giving back to society and finding themselves as volunteers
There is a saying that ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’. Unfortunately, not many of us has sufficient ability to help others. For many of us, squeezing time to join volunteer work in busy life is very challenging, not to mention someone who has recovered from mental illness and get out of depression to regain courage to face other people in the same situation. However, going out of darkness with support from outside and stretch your hand to drag those who are still stuck in the pit may bring plenty of satisfaction and happiness.
Suffering for Years and Being Mentally Unstable
Suffering from bipolar disorder for more than 30 years, Cheong Wai’s emotion has been abruptly switching from extreme high to depression uncontrollably. Beginning from the 80’s, Cheong Wai’s memory for being sent to psychiatric hospital has long been vague, ‘There was a time I was sent to Castle Peak Hospital (CPH) because I totally lost control of myself and had to be tied on the bed to restrain actions. My father told me that I intended to beat him when he visited me. However, I lost the memory of such incident.’
After receiving the treatment, Chong Wai’s illness had been improved for quite a while. He met his wife when working in a factory in Shenzhen in 1996 and gave birth to their daughter. However, due to busy working life for ten years, he failed to take medication on schedule which had led to the relapse of his illness. He did not only lose his job, but also became bankrupted because of failure to repay debt. Luckily, Cheong Wai was introduced to New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association and has been arranged to live in Kwai Chung Shek Lei Halfway House for three years now.
Taking Time to Get Accommodated
When Cheong Wai first arrived at the Halfway House, he found it hard to adapt with the new environment. With nothing left of him, he became mentally unstable again and could not see his wife and daughter. Besides, he was anxious about the regulated life with time frame in the Halfway House. The idea of leaving the house had popped up more than once in his mind. Fortunately, under the help of social workers, he gradually understood that engaging in work was not the only kind of beneficiary activities, resting was one of them too. Cheong Wai learned to adjust his mind and try to integrate into the new environment. Now, the Halfway House is like a boarding school to him, and he has made quite a few friends here, ‘I like staying in lively atmosphere and taking part in various activities. I also like to share my thought with roommates.’
Encouraged by the social worker, Cheong Wai has joined the volunteer team ‘We care’. His first job was to join the coastal cleanup activity at Tai O and watch the white dolphins, ‘As a person that would easily get anxious, such activity in which smiling faces could be seen on every face and sunlight shed on every participant has given me great peace in mind.’ A variety of volunteer works, such as accompanying the patient with a stroke to go outside with wheelchair or visitation to the elder people living alone has offered him a new perspective on life. ‘In an earlier visit to elder people living alone, I realised that a roommate was in low mentality with dull facial expression. It reminded me of my earlier status. Even though I may not be as intelligent as others, I feel thankful that I may still be able to help others in need.’
Experiencing Life in Volunteering
Now, Cheong Wai is working in Kowloon Bay, mainly handling paperwork. He has good relationship with families and friends. He also goes out for gathering on weekends and participates in volunteer work sometimes. He is enjoying life with manageable pressure. Recalling his previous experience from low self-esteem to finding value in life, he has stumbled through unforgettable path, ‘I knew little about mental illness before even if I suffered from it. I was afraid from people with similar illness. However, people in recovery of mental illness are not necessarily aggressive, they could be fragile too.’ He said that volunteering is beneficial to him, thus he encouraged people who have recovered from mental illness to join volunteering to thoroughly walk out of darkness and seek new meaning of life.