are you ignoring these signs too?


I didn’t get sick overnight, nor did I get depressed in a wink. As we say in Chinese, the ice cannot stand at 3ft only in one day’s cold. Everything was accumulated, slowly, stealthily, silently. I dismissed the signs, or rather didn’t even recognize them. Laughed everything off…
Looking back now I realize how there have been so many warning signals, it was just that I didn’t know any better. Moreover, of course, it was my inability to admit that these were signs telling me I was tired, exhausted, drained, and stressed. I tricked myself into believing that as long as I frequented spas to sleep and rest, swim regularly, meet up with friends and have a social life, I would be rejuvenated, and any stress from work or personal life would vanish.

But of course the symptoms persisted. I got stomach aches everyday in the afternoon, just a slight cramp but enough to make me wince in pain. What did I do? I went on typing my emails and filling in the excel spreadsheets – we had a deadline of 12pm HK time after all. The financial industry was crumbling down. I was responsible and I needed to do my job, and do it well.

I was too busy to eat either. Time was of the essence. Lunch was a sandwich or some sushi wolfed down in 15 minutes, dinner was at 11pm most nights with an instant noodles. Then it got to a point I was so tired when I got home I didn’t even want to cook my instant noodles. So I went for cup noodles instead. Yummy, all that MSG!

Then I went straight to bed, and perhaps was able to fall asleep in an hour or so after my mind finally got tired of thinking about what I did that day and what tasks were ahead of me. But then just as about I was to slumber, I would wake up around 2 or 3am to check my blackberry – any news from the US? Has another bank collapsed? I needed to be on top of things.

In the wee hours of morning I would get to work as early as possible, reading my blackberry on the trains whilst being jostled around by all the “salary men” on the Ginza line… tick tick tick tick my blackberry went as my nails stabbed the keys to reply to the inbox. I swear I can win the fastest blackberry typer award if there was one.

I guess that also my face was very pale and green, because my assistant once whispered in my ear, ” maybe you should put some make up on before seeing the client, you look very tired…”

Then came the occasional flu. Was every 3 weeks with the flu of some sort plus a headache normal? I didn’t keep track then. But it was very frequent, so frequent that even my friends commented on it and said “again?” when I said I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay home instead of meeting up for coffee at Tsutaya. I thought it was the air-con in the office, or the change of weather. Now I know that it was because my body was so stressed that the immune system had weakened.

Oh but it’s not like I slaved away throughout the year. I had my annual leave and holidays too – though every time the first few days would be spent being really sick. One time my mum came to visit me, and I was so faint that by the time I got to the metro to pick her up, I actually did just slump down on the road outside Omotesando station. She had to carry her suitcases – and me -back home, call my friend and ask for a doctor to come to the apartment. I had a very high fever apparently, and then stomach flu, diarrhea.

I snoozed all these wake-up calls, and never looked at all of them wholistically in a chain but only as isolated, individual events. The alarm eventually gave way and thundered.

Are you ignoring your warning signals too? Put them together and see if you need to make some changes to the way you are living your life…. before it is too late!

20 Responses

  1. Enoch: Thanks for the important reminder to pay attention to our internal signals. You also make a great point about looking at our symptoms holistically (rather than only as isolated events). The body is so honest and wise…

  2. […] are you ignoring these signs too? […]

  3. […] colds every 2 or 3 weeks, sore throat, swollen gums, dry skin, stomach aches, headaches etc are all warning signals of some sort of […]

  4. […] Your body needs a rest. […]

  5. Sandra says:

    Just came across your blog…. I too went through a severe depression. Ignored all the warning signs you wrote About and even considered taking my own life. It’s been a while….about 8 years but I finally feel joy and happiness in my life. I just want to let you know if you are till struggling with depression/anxiety to keep pushing and you will learn to find joy in your daily life again.

  6. […] finding a job and going to work as a big chunk, and then squish everything else – such as health, family, friends, relationships, hobbies, interests etc – into what we call “life,” and try […]

  7. […] have been down with a humungous migraine this week. Despite my warning to myself with mini headaches in the last few weeks, I was obstinate and tried to push myself an inch further. […]

  8. Pranav says:

    Thanks for this post! I guess a lot of us are not aware and don’t acknowledge that we are burning out. Only when the breakdown happens, do we take action.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Pranav

      Yes I think a lot of us go through that, and I hope more people will be more aware they are burning out before they are burnt out!

      Thanks for coming to my blog
      Noch Noch

  9. Paula says:

    Reading your statement i see my feeliings down. Sometimes i feell an empty head, no focus! You had courage…to stop! Congratulations!…..I need to change it…an opportunity to be me…

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Paula

      Hope you find the strength to stop and change too. It takes a lot of time and patience, but many of us go through the same journey. You are not alone. HOpe you are well

      Noch Noch

  10. Michaela says:

    Been there, doing that and working my way through. Depressive illness – the curse of the strong by Tim Cantopher is a great read and has been a help to me.
    All the best to all of you struggling on with this painful illness.

  11. […] The body knows, not simply through symptoms of illness, but in everyday life, if we would only let the body speak and listen. […]

  12. […] 從某種程度上來說,把找工作,上班當做生活的重心,而忽略了其他事物-例如健康,家庭,朋友,愛情,愛好,興趣等等,這是一項輕罪,我們認為這就是所謂的“生活”,並且還在努力嘗試平衡兩者? 這本身就是一個錯誤的前提,因為我們在努力應付一件事,工作,還有千千萬萬其他的事情。難怪沒有人能找到二者的平衡。 […]

  13. CB says:

    Hi Noch Noch,

    I was trying to read the 10 things not to say to a depressed person, but I only see #1, do you have a link to the full list? By the way, great blog you got here. Thank you!

about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.