Mind HK Ambassador

Coby’s Story

Coby, Mind HK Ambassador

Mental health advocate, creative artist

Where/what has been important to you in your mental health journey? Why?

The toilet at the Psychiatric Hospital. I clearly remember sharing a delicious bar of chocolate with another patient in the cubicle, hiding from the nurses. Hong Kong psychiatric hospitals are really strict when it comes to chocolate; it is not allowed in the room and can only be consumed in the visitor area.. Sharing this delicious bar of chocolate was perhaps the best moment during my time in the hospital.
Although the hospital rules were strict, it was a peaceful environment and the regular routine and structure helped me to regain a sense of stability. Before my admission into the hospital, I had two major bipolar episodes in six months and my emotional state had been fluctuating. It was a difficult time for my family and I. My time in the hospital was an important step in my recovery.


How has mental health affected your day to day life? 

Before my condition stabilised, my poor mental health significantly affected my day to day life. I had anxiety and panic attacks, with my stressful work environment being the main trigger. Once, I couldn’t breathe, function or even read the traffic light. I also experienced physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations. During a manic episode, my thoughts raced and kept me awake until 6 in the morning. I would then be exhausted the next day (although strangely full of energy, as a result of my mania). As a result of my poor mental health and the manic state I was in, I also developed an excessive spending habit and ended up in debt.   


How has the stigma around mental health affected your life? 

There were instances where after telling my friends that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, they would respond by asking whether that meant I would hit someone out of the blue. With that being said, I do not feel ashamed about sharing my mental health story. The other day, I shared my diagnosis with a colleague and explained my symptoms of bipolar disorder to her. She immediately said that she was glad that I told her about this, because then she could look out for me if an episode occurs. This was very kind of her!

How would you describe yourself? What are your labels? 

Creative. I like art, sewing, cooking and interior design. 

Extrovert. I usually have lots of energy I enjoy meeting friends and joining activities.

I am also very positive and optimistic.

I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder 1, which is characterised by extreme highs and lows. Personally, I primarily get the highs, which can at times seem like a good state to be in. Unfortunately, it can sometimes spiral out of control and be difficult to manage, such as when I have too much energy, spend too much or can’t fall asleep. 


What gave you hope during your recovery?

My family’s support played an important role during my recovery. My dad visited me everyday when I was in the psychiatric hospital; he brought homemade soup and fruits. My husband also visited me in the hospital; I could feel his love and care for me. In addition, I got support from the government healthcare system. I have a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker and psychiatric nurse to follow up on my care. With all the help and support they provided me, I had a fairly smooth recovery. On top of this, I work on my physical health with a personal trainer regularly to provide further motivation in my recovery. 


What would you tell someone who is going through something similar to what you have experienced? 

It will take time to recover. However, you are not alone. Someone, whether it be a friend, family or a healthcare professional, cares about you and will try to help you through this. Also, having bipolar disorder, depression, or any form of mental health condition is more common than you think. Please do not feel ashamed, or hopeless, as there are professionals out there who can help you.