New beginnings Mok Moon-shing
Before I visited Mok Moon-shing in his new home in Shek Kip Mei Estate, my impression of him remained as it was three years ago: a man old before his time, mumbling to himself with his head down. But that was then. This time, the moment his wife opened the door to let me in and I saw the toys on the floor and the crayon etchings on the wall, I realised that the man standing before me no longer lived in shades of grey.
Like him, Shing’s second wife was a psychiatric patient. Four years ago, he was working as a patient care assistant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He met Ying one night while he was stationed at the accident and emergency department. “I was a patient care assistant, so when I saw a patient wandering around by herself, it was only right I showed some care, right?” he asked, laughing. Talking about how they met, Shing was uncharacteristically cheerful.
Ying was half his age. She had just moved out of the family home and started living on her own. She was having a hard time with her family, and Shing soon became a friend and counsellor. The two lonely souls soon became close. Today, they are married and have a son of their own. Until he met Ying, Shing had always been on his own. He kept a hamster for a time, and liked to watch it move around the cage.
Adjusting to a work environment is difficult for Shing, so he doesn’t hold any job for long. He has no stable job and few friends. He spent some time in rehabilitation, cut off from the outside world, and now finds it difficult to follow a social conversation.
Ying lives an even more closeted life; except for Shing and their son, she rarely meets other people. However, both husband and wife are wiling to brave the outside world for their son. “I don’t even say what I’m doing is to set an example for my son. As long as other people no longer see me as a walking bomb, I feel I’ve recovered.”
Shing fell ill 16 years ago when he was 40. Decades of hard work of trying to make ends meet took a toll on his health. His first marriage fell apart after he became sick. Looking back, he said, “I still can’t tell if it was a blessing in disguise, or plain misfortune.”
In some ways, his illness gave him a break from his busy and monotonous life. The respite seemed to have renewed his enthusiasm for life. Today, he’s a volunteer counsellor for psychiatric patients. Not only has he found himself a new family, but he also regularly visits his eldest son, who also suffers from a mental illness and lives in a rehabilitation facility. Shing is an active member of the SoCO concern group advocating for the rights of psychiatric patients.(Excerpts from the book Life and Times)