Pushing too hard

Filed in Health

Sometimes, the harder you try, the worse everything gets. I equate this situation to pushing on a door to open it not realising that the door opens inwards toward you rather than away from you. In such a situation, pushing on the door will obviously bear no results no matter how much energy you use (unless you're superman and you break the door down completely). The only way through the door is to relax and give the door space. You'll then be able to open it (by pulling) and move through.

I had depression for two to three years. My father had a mental problem called burnout syndrome (a very general term) for a couple of years. In both cases, trying to overcome the problem only made it worse. My father had to stop all forms of work involving thinking for six months to a year. During that time, he worked on a potato farm. I wasn't there for that part of his life because I was studying at university so I don't know exactly what he was going through. This rest time however was the only chance he had of recovering. For me, relaxation was also imperative. If I ever exerted myself, my body would relapse into a situation worse than previously. I simply had to accept the situation and move on slowly.

Friends and co-workers at TVB didn't understand. They simply told me to 'buck up', 'encourage yourself', 'stop being so lazy' and other similar statements usually with good intent but unwanted results. Even my doctor didn't believe me. It's unfortunate but true. Until you've suffered this type of problem, you'll never understand its effects or its reality.

You're not the only one that suffers though. Everyone around you suffers too, especially your family.

What I realise now that I didn't understand then is that we're not in complete control of our emotions even though we'd like to think we are. The chemicals and hormones running through and controlling our bodies have far more control over us than our minds. Sometimes, there's nothing we can do about our behaviours.

There are many situations where it is better to stand back a little than to push forward. There are many people who you'd like to convince to behave differently but it won't happen just because you talk to them or encourage them or perhaps even try to force them. For example, one of our dogs is scared of oncoming cars. Every time a car approaches, he dodges off into the roadside grass and pretends to be looking for something. He hopes that the car won't see him and will consequently leave him alone. We tried desperately to change this behaviour. We tried yelling at him, comforting and reassuring him and even complementing him. Nothing worked. It's not a behaviour that's going to change overnight, if at all. It's a part of his makeup and we'll have to accept it.

People can be the same way. If you know someone with a problem that presumably they should be able to overcome by will power alone and nothing you've said has changed them in any way, don't try so hard. Instead, stand back and support them by simply being there when they need you. With the reassurance they gain from knowing you're there for them, they'll relax over time and they'll then have the ability to change for the better.

This is obviously very difficult to understand. I know because it's extremely difficult to explain. I can only hope that my examples helped you to understand at least a little.

Important. Not all depressions are the same. Not all depressions are mental although the symptoms might be. Not all depressions can be solved through psychology intervention. Most importantly; with depression, nothing is at it seems.

I've been there. I know.

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19 Responses to “Pushing too hard”
  1. Jess says:

    Hi Kwok Wing,

    I like you very much, and i think you are a great actor. Do not give up, yet, as you said, don't push yourself too hard~ There are many people that support you and I am one of them =)

  2. Corona says:

    Yes, I know what you mean. Pushing too hard at the wrong time just make you run into a loop and become more frustrated. Sit back can let you see the situation more clearly. At a certain stage in life (as you age), you get to learn how to accept things as they are. This is so different from what you were taught when you were young.

  3. Pekkle says:

    初初諗住打英文..不過我用英文又好似表達唔到我想表達0既意思..哈哈~所以都係打番中文啦...=D
    我有睇到你0係壹周刊0既訪問,篇訪問真係好impress我,我覺得你好有決心,可以放棄原有優厚0既生活條件0黎到香港去追尋自己0既夢想..真係唔係好多人可以做到呢~I really appreciate to you~~演藝界係一個講求際遇0既行業,所以我都好認同上面Jess所講,"don't push yourself too hard".你唔係花瓶0黎0架..千祈唔好咁睇自己~有時唔一定要人賞識先可以肯定自己0既價值同能力~你有咁多觀眾支持,已經證明你所做0既0野係值得..唔一定要用紅唔紅0黎衡量自己係咪成功呢~~0係我心目中..you are a successful artist~=)

  4. Ailie says:

    Agree. My experience is, depression is like an old friend, although it comes spontaneously. And it returns sometimes. All you can do is sit back and relax, talk with yourself, give yourself a treat, accept its presence, and wait for the day it departs.

  5. 河國榮 says:

    I appreciate the comments, but please note that I'm recovered. The article was written for the benefit of other people who are going through what I went through, or more specifically for the friends and family of those people. Support your depressed friends but don't push them. Only time and relaxation; the relaxation from knowing that they have friends and family they can depend on; will allow them to recover.

  6. tiffany says:

    I got depression too, and just my husband and my two of my best friends know my situation.
    I haven't told my mom and dad because I don't want them to worry about me. I havn't told other people, because I know they won't understand. People would just accused me of being lazy, or they would tell me to cheer up.
    They just don't understand, even if I take medication, I just can't control my emotion.
    So, I do hope people in Hong Kong would understand more about depression and be kind.

  7. Christine says:

    Hi there,

    I have noticed you on TV qutie a few years ago, but I have only recently get to know you a bit better by reading the interview on the magazine and listening to the radio interview from Radio HK.

    I am impressed by your move to HK, ( I guess most Hk ppl would agree after they read your interview). U r one of the most respectful aussies I know, because of ur effort to make things happen and you have great respect on others culture. I am so glad that you have overcome the depression and glad you stand out and letting people know wht depression is like.

    Cheer up mate and do not give up on your career, we all have time like this. I am sure my friends in HK know you and remember who you r. If u want a concert I guess u will have a few singles first, let us know when. Maybe u can post them on this site, in mp3 format?! I will be ur fans and will keep reading your blog :)

    Cheers

  8. timmy says:

    try your best,do your best.
    問心無愧 is ok!!!
    be happy!
    people of hong kong will always support u!

  9. Vicky says:

    Hi there,

    I was pretty impressed the first time I saw you on TV. It's a story about a group of Chinese working in a big tea garden in the late 19th century/early 20th century, in which you played a villain. Not sure if it's your debut but it was shown in 1988, the year you joined TVB. I was then a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

    I was even more impressed when I knew how you got the name "Ho Kwok-wing". You mentioned your admiration for Leslie in "K-100", didn't you? I remember it so well because I myself am a big fan of Leslie. I've been madly in love with him since I was 11.

    Depression. How traumatic it can be! It's depression that took the life of my dearest Leslie. You know, I was devastated by his death and got soooooooo depressed for more than 6 months. Thanks be to God – I've got over it but honestly, my outlook in life has changed. Anyways, I'm very glad that you've recovered too.

    Are you from Sydney (I learnt from the Next Magazine interview that you used to study at Sydney University) or Brisbane (you mentioned in one of your blog entries that you and Mrs. Cheung's daughter would often calculate the 2-hour time difference between Queensland and Hong Kong)? I've been to Brisbane before. No offence, but some of the Australians I came cross were a bit rude and arrogant. I felt like I was dirt under their feet. You, on the other hand, are very approachable. I mean it.

    Hey, I enjoy reading your blog. It's really a good read. You're very talented indeed. Never give up and keep going. I'm 100% behind you.

    Cheers and hope to see you around!

  10. Sean Wan says:

    Hi Greg,

    This is Sean from Los Angeles. I came from HK and have stayed in L.A. for 7 years.e My friends and I think you are a greater artist. No matter what kind of movie it is, like comedy, action or romance, you can do it well. Keep going.

    from Your oversea supporter

  11. Mi (gal from montreal, Can.) says:

    Hi again Greg,

    I do believe that depression is something you just have to fight with your mid/willpower. It is a wonderful thing that you can get rid of it. You should let more people know about how you got through that. I know many people are still suffering with depression. Maybe your story can give them hopes and power. I love reading your web, it is super interesting~!

  12. nicky says:

    Hi Greg,

    I'm happy that you're recovered. I really agree with you and Tiffany. I have mood disorders 情緒病(generalized anxiety disorder and Social anxiety disorder),now I used to consult psychologist periodically. I found myself feeling distress when I'm alone few years ago, after the death of my dad. I can tell you that my friends don't understand me even I've told them I'm consulting psychologist...my husband thought that I just want to find someone to talk to because he didn't see any problems on me.

    It's really true that Hong Kong people have no knowledge of depression and mood disorders. They believe that everyone has pressure in H.K and tell you " you worry too much" , one of my friend said that's a "富貴病" ....you can imagine how frustrated I was.

    Thank you for telling your story to let more people knowing this illness :)

    cheers

  13. nicky says:

    Hi! It's me again!

    I read this news today:

    http://appledaily.atnext.com/template/apple/art_main.cfm?sec_id=4104&showdate=20050519&art_id=4897526

    我不是想評論他是否適合做主管, 但如真的因為他有此病而被歧視, 是否太不公平呢?
    我記得壹週刊曾訪問過余醫生,他的媽媽有精神病而啟發他立志做精神科醫生的,而能夠成為十大傑出青年, 亦肯定他對社會有重大貢獻吧, 是否可悲呢?

  14. 河國榮 says:

    regarding the doctor's situation:

    there are a number of ways to look at this.

    first, if he has depression, he will need to rest before he can recover. therefore, being laid off from work would in the long run be good for him. unfortunately, if he's a typical HK person, he probably has a serious mortgage to worry about. being without an income might not be an option.

    second, if he has depression, his work is going to be affected, especially if he is in a supervisory position. there is a lot of stress involved in a supervisory position and stress does not mix with depression. they are mutually exclusive. if he can't afford to leave work, he should at least consider a lower position without the same level of stress, probably in another institution where they don't have a bias against him. again, this might not be economically viable.

    fyi, different people have different susceptibility levels to depression, and the susceptibility is often inherited. my susceptibility came from both my parents. this doctor's susceptibility probably came from his mother. so while his mother's condition gave him the ambition to became a great doctor, she may also have given him the cause for his depression today. it's a catch-22 situation.

    without the ability to rest, he will have to take medication to cope with the demands of work and daily life. if at all possible, I'd advise him to reduce his expenses and then his work requirements. he may then be able to recover and become an even more remarkable doctor in the future.

  15. nicky says:

    Hello Greg,

    我都很同意你的觀點, 他需要待病癒才可繼續工作,因為始終會影響他的判斷.但如果雙方能在一個真誠,開放的溝通下去解決的話,我想會更好呢. 希望他早日康復, 再為人們服務啦!
    送你近期最愛的歌:
    六月
    曲/詞: 藍奕邦
    編曲/監製: 藍奕邦/李漢金

    別 恨自己生於這悲情世代
    怎麼永垂不朽 轉眼亦已不再
    像 六月天空都會忽然飛霜
    把它當 美景仔細慢嚐

    慘 偏偏醉人漂亮 偏偏嘆為觀止
    哀傷偏要是最博得俗世讚賞
    淚光閃得明亮 亦可教人欣賞
    勝過自彈自唱

    @我對天 高聲一再呼喊 從無回覆一下
    也許它根本當凡人是個笑話
    淚滴變成飛花 人們無需念掛
    愛不到我就算吧
    (抱不起我亦能抱著雪花)@

    難道你們都感到害怕

    想 天天笑容燦爛 可惜世情冷酷
    當中喜與怒樂與哀未到我揀
    萬種悲歡離合 逐一化為灰燼
    連同白雪花遍地瀰漫

    Repeat @ with ( )

    我也想 今生不再哭泣 樣樣事都不怕
    也許先要把最殘酷視作笑話
    淚滴變成飛花 人們無需驚訝
    再多悲壯亦能笑一笑吧
    唯願我從此不再害怕

  16. Arthur Heng says:

    Nice tip to know, thanks. But how bout your dog's ... vehicle-o-phobia? Lol. Did you figure out someway to fix that prob now?

  17. 河國榮 says:

    no. it's one of those things you can't change, or at least without great effort. for example, people with fear of heights will probably always be scared of heights.

    in these situations, you accept the person's behaviour and accommodate them when necessary. with Samson (our dog), we sometimes pat and reassure him when a car goes by and he shrinks off to the side of the road. it helps a little. at least he knows that he can trust us and has someone to rely on if he needs help or protection.

    you can learn a lot about people from dogs. there are many similar behaviours.

  18. ChicagoABC says:

    Having seen a Cantonese-fluent European man act in many of my mom's TVB dramas over the years, I finally googled him and found your blog. Wow, quite a fascinating life you lead. Living in a foreign country and going from medicine to acting. Anyways, yes I think the Chinese have this philosophy that anything can be overcome by perseverance and "trying hard enough." However, I think it is damaging sometimes. Because people do try very hard, and have relapses and blame themselves when their problem is not fixed. Such as: Why do I still have this problem when I am trying hard? I must not be able to do anything right. I think the best advice for anyone is that people should keep trying, but not be so hard on themselves when things don't work out.

  19. CHUNG says:

    我都有過 Mood Disorder ... 最終都克服了!
    We all work hard together la!