"During the time I was in hospital, I met many good and caring staff. They helped me to think positively. This has made my attitude change. Now I understand that there were still a lot of people around who were caring and supporting me."

About my culture
At the beginning
Dealing with it
Getting better
Thanks to 
Your personal perspective
A piece of advice to others
Download a PDF version of Sherry's story here (96.71KB)



About my culture…

I came from a very traditional and conservative Chinese-Cambodian family background. I have one older sister, one younger sister and two older brothers. When we were young my brothers and sisters and I used to play a lot together.

My hometown is called Phnom Penh. We lived in a small and friendly part of this community. The environment was very good - everyone supported each other and everyone knew everyone’s business. It is a very nice place to live and there was a lot of building going on in the city. In Cambodia my father used to work as a shop assistant and my mother was a housewife who stayed home to look after the family and us.

When I was nine years old, the war broke out, I remember I was at home at the time and my father was at work. The communist party started the war and fought against the US. As a result my father fled to Vietnam.

Our family was separated in 1975. My mother, myself and my brothers and sisters left Phnom Penh and escaped to the countryside. We were living on a farm in the countryside. We needed to work for us all to survive. As kids we used to pick up branches of trees and wood to use for cooking, to carry water to the kitchen, to sow seeds… for a half day. My job was also to keep an eye on the cows. After doing these chores we also went off to school. Life was a bit hard as the US withdrew the troops and the communist party took over power there. In 1978 the Vietnamese force liberated Cambodia.

Then we went back to Phnom Penh but the city was very messy and out of control. We stayed there for a year until 1979. My father arranged for us to go to Vietnam, so we went to Saigon city to live. During this time, my father worked repairing and selling watches. My mother was still a housewife and looked after us. My father thought education was important so hired a private tutor to teach us French and other subjects.

In 1993, when I was about 26 years old, my mother’s younger brother in New Zealand was able to sponsor our family to migrate to Wellington in New Zealand. All of my family members went there.

Life in New Zealand was very good. My uncle rented a home for us. I started working as a shop assistant in the supermarket and studying English at a TAFE college. I was working for a half day and studying for the other half day. I found living with two cultures was very hard. Our life before was easy, when we stayed in Vietnam, we learnt Vietnamese more easily as young people. When we lived in New Zealand we needed to learn English as adults.

There was a Buddhist temple nearby and we went to the temple regularly. We also had some friends who married New Zealanders and they sometimes went to the temple too. New Zealanders did not really understand our culture. I found New Zealand people were very friendly. We tried to explain our culture to the New Zealanders who were interested in our culture.

In 1998, I married my husband who was Chinese-Australian. I knew my husband through a friend of my mother. My husband was living in Australia. So we moved to Australia and settled in Sydney. Before coming to Australia, I heard that Australians did not like Asian people; they look down on Asian people. When I came here and gave birth to my son in the hospital, my thinking had changed as I found Australian people were very friendly and supportive. I have found it very comfortable to live here.

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At the beginning…

After marrying we lived with my husband’s mother and his niece. His sister often came as well. I was not happy living with them. It was a big family, they knew what they wanted for themselves and did not seem to care about others.

In 1998, I was not happy, and found myself starting to have problems. I recognised that I was easily becoming upset and cried a lot because of things that I was not happy with. If my friends told me about their happy story, then I would think why was it not the same for me, why was my life so hard? Then I usually started to cry.

In 2001, my mother came to live in Australia. So I moved out to live with my mother. I still worked as a shop assistant. I was working so hard that I forgot about my health. When I moved out from my husband’s family house my husband did not move with me so we separated. Until last year I was undecided if I should divorce him or not.

I did not think that I was sick, but I could not sleep at night. I got insomnia problems until early this year. It may be because I did not have enough sleep and worked so hard, I was working full time, six days per week. I had migraine for days. I took Nurofen. When I took it, my migraine went, but if I did not take it, it came back again.

My mind was always racing. I was suspicious and found myself having problems. I wanted to see a psychiatrist so I went to see my family doctor. He referred me to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist said that I had depression problems. He prescribed some medication, but I did not think I had this problem so I did not take medication. I still could not sleep at night, so my GP prescribed some sleeping tablets, but these did not help.

When I eventually decided to ask for a divorce, my husband did not want to divorce. I had a big argument with my husband at the time. I had never got any help from him. He did not care about me at all and I ended up looking after my son by myself. When I was upset I would tell my friends but I was afraid that my friends would look down on me. I also felt If I told my son, he may not understand me and why I wanted to divorce his father. When my son was not happy with me, he started showing no respect to me. He found it was hard to accept when I was blaming his father. He thought his father did not do anything wrong. Because I never told him why his father and I would argue. I just did not want him to be worried and I knew he would not understand my viewpoint.

Because the argument was very bad, I thought the whole world was against me. Therefore I got even more upset and one day I took a whole packet of sleeping tablets to commit suicide. My mother did not know and she thought that I was sleeping so she did not want to disturb me. I took tablets in the morning and slept from morning till the night-time, I did not come out for lunch and dinner. After that my mother checked and realised that I was trying to commit suicide. She was so scared and called the ambulance to take me to the hospital.

During the time I was in hospital, I met many good and caring staff. They helped me to think positively. This has made my attitude change. Now I understand that there were still a lot of people around who were caring and supporting me. My psychiatrist tried his best way to treat me. The psychiatrist prescribed some medication. He said that this medication would help me a lot.

My boss also came to hospital to visit me. I asked if she still would employ me if I have this illness, she said that I only need to recover and when I got well and recovered she still would employ me.

My own family members were very supportive and caring. They looked after my son very well. My family suggested I go on holiday overseas for enjoyment. So I went to China with my mother. My relatives there were very supportive and caring. Every morning they drove me to the hospital to have acupuncture and to do some tests about psychological thoughts. The doctor there prescribed me some medications to take daily. Every day I took two tablets. These treatments helped a great deal to restore my sleeping patterns. After that I felt very good.

When I came back from holiday, I stopped having acupuncture treatment but I took the tablets. These types of tablets were only available in that hospital so when I finished these tablets, I asked my relatives in China to buy some and post to me. I also took the medication, which was prescribed by the psychiatrist here as well.

The psychiatrist said that I had depression; they did some tests for me. In China, the doctor did the test with a computer. In Australia the doctor did testing by asking some questions.

I got information from all my doctors including my Australian psychiatrist, which was very helpful. All of the information was in English. I could understand most of the information and I preferred the information about my condition in English.

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Dealing with it

I don’t think that my illness greatly affected my life or my family members. It didn’t seem to affect my working ability. When I came back from China, I went back to my part-time job and my boss was happy with me.

Doctors, hospitals, and other staff were supportive. My mother, relatives, and my boss all received support and information about my condition. I found the most important thing to help me recover was my psychiatrist prescribing the right medication. I did not have any side-effects from my medication.

Another thing I found helpful was the caring and support from staff. Staff seemed to understand what I had been through and tried not to make judgments. They listened and supported even when I talked about something that did not make sense.

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Getting better…

There are many ways to live life. Don’t choose the road that leads to a dead end. Choose other ways to lead you to a bright future. My recovery journey was not very hard. I learnt from others to choose the road, which could lead to a bright future. I have hope for my son and have faith in my work.

I felt loved and cared for by my family members and the health professionals. I realised that our life has days and nights. Sometimes you were happy and other times you may feel not happy. When I was not happy, I knew it was night-time so I went to sleep and did not think so seriously. When I got better. I found everything became easy and bright. I used to worry so much, now I learnt that I should try not to care a lot about any other things or other people‘s opinions.

One of my friends told me “we are so lucky to live in Australia. If you have any problem, everyone will give you a supporting hand to help you”.

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Thanks to…

Thanks to my mother and my supportive friends and staff. In hospital, there was a Vietnamese support worker who helped me a great deal. She talked to me, she said that “you have a son, you love him. You have your mother, your mother loves you, she doesn’t want to hurt you, so you should love yourself like you love your son”.

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Your personal perspective…

I think that my GP understood me very well, as I have been going to see him for more than 10 years.

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A piece of advice to others…

To deal with everything we need to look for the bright side. Don’t worry too much. Everyone should accept other people’s opinions and see them as things for you to improve. You need to have hope and develop faith in what you want to do and achieve. You will be successful. Please try to listen and give love and care.

Download a PDF version of Sherry's story here (96.71KB)

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