Guest Blogs

“Dim Sum For the ADHD Soul”

In Hong Kong, I’ve found dumplings, wife cake, and milk tea. Yet in this city of precious few English-speaking therapists, I feel I am starving, wasting away without treatment or support for my ADHD.

My hunt for an ADHD therapist in Hong Kong has degraded into a round robin of unanswered phone calls to medical professionals.

Not many American or British shrinks work in this primarily Asian city, and the one that I’ve found charges such an astronomical hourly rate that I might as well fly home to New York for a session. So what about the Chinese mental-health professionals who dominate this city? So far, the prospects are dim.

First there is the language issue. Since I don’t speak the local dialect, most resources and conversations are lost in translation.

“Hi, my name is Jane and I’m looking for a good psychiatrist who specializes in…” is cut off with a crackling phone in the background. “What who you are, looking for Buddhist, what?” the voice says.

How does psychiatrist sound like Buddhist? I try speaker slower, slow, then very s-l-o-w and reach a dead end when the phone goes dead. Did I get hung up on? Again. If the English doesn’t work, I try Mandarin Chinese, which offers mixed results since the primary language here is Cantonese. And my attempts to translate ADHD into Mandarin have been received by silence or the phone flat-lining.

I’ve Googled and Yahooed a long list of search terms — “ADHD support groups and Hong Kong,” “Comordity and ADHD and Hong Kong,” “Psychologists and psychiatrists and Hong Kong.” In desperation, I’ve emailed the AA group, and am planning to take that get-help route in due time.

The few psychologists and counselors who have surfaced via web searches don’t know much about ADHD, but say they treat anxiety and depression and can tackle relationship problems. Good, because the search is so depressing that I’ve nearly stopped complaining about my dating drought. I need to save myself first, and the challenge to do this off of home turf has mushroomed.

Oh, how I miss living in shrink city.
I am nostalgic for the pages upon beautiful pages of shrinks in New York. In Manhattan, I clicked through the in- and out-of-network professionals, picking, choosing, and trying them out like a new pair of shoes. I took for granted the vast resources at hand back in the good old USA. Many of my friends could recommend therapists, and copious neighborhood hospitals meant that help was always just a taxi ride away.

As the father explained to me, “Over here, the family network is where people turn when they have problems.”

Great news since I don’t have a family of my own, and I’m not particularly inclined to share my inner-most demons over tofu and dumplings at family gatherings. I’d much rather discuss the latest celebrity gossip, the stock market, or my adorable 3-year-old nephew. So attend gatherings, laughing at conversations I half understand, and hungering for help more than any food. My stomach is full; my soul is empty.

The few times I’ve shared my worries and treatment interests with the grandmother and the aunt, they’ve told me to eat more and worry less. I feel like I am talking to rocks, or living in a bubble where others can’t hear me.

This city and its culture don’t seem equipped to deliver mental-health treatment, which is reserved for those people standing on bridges and high ledges. Despite the little lagoon of tears that has formed over my recent emotional woes, I’m stubborn and refuse to give up. This is an ADHD gift too — the refusal to give up and to ability to fall down and get up repeated times. And right now it is one of the few lifelines that has sustained me, and kept me afloat.