“From Survivor to Healer” is
China’s first drama focusing on mental illness. Lead by Shawn Douand Vivi Miao, who respectively play psychiatrist Yan Shu Ren and psychologist Sun Shu, the drama tells us the stories of several patients that are based on true cases and shines a light on a wide range of different mental illnesses and disorders. There are both timeless and highly topical cases, such as an eating disorder triggered by an inferiority complex or depression due to excessive pressure in the highly competitive entertainment industry.
The drama doesn’t discriminate between “patients” and “healthy people” and even blurs the line between them. Minor psychological issues that everyone faces in different forms are equally depicted, as we also get to know the hospital staff’s personal stories over the course of the series. Another important storyline is the male lead’s own mental illness that becomes more and more evident throughout the drama. By showing us that even doctors can fall ill, the drama makes an effort to normalize mental health issues.
“From Survivor to Healer” raises awareness about mental illness while simultaneously fighting against the many existing stigmata. As the first Chinese drama to do so, it constitutes a new milestone and deserves far more attention. But the drama is not only a must-watch because of the important topic it tackles. Its production value, the amazing OST, the endearing characters, the mature relationship between Shu Ren and Sun Shu, and its ability to perfectly balance seriousness with subtle comedy to help viewers better digest the heavy topic are equally worth mentioning.
Since the most important aspect remains the topic of mental health, this article will delve into what we can learn from “From Survivor to Healer” to improve our own mental health.
Please note: I have no background in psychology or medicine. The points listed in this article are just the conclusions I drew upon watching this drama.
Let your emotions out
“Everyone’s mental world is like a can. Some people have a big capacity, some people have a small capacity. Every day, different things happen. We experience different moods. All these will be kept inside this can. As time passes, there are more things inside it. So, we must regularly clear our mental can. Or else, if there are too many things, that can will crack.”
These lines said by Shu Ren’s mentor and boss Chen Yuan Geng (played by Chin Shih Chieh) perfectly describe how we have to let go of our baggage before we explode. Suppressing our emotions will only fill up the can. We have to face the things that haunt us in order to be freed from them.
An application of this in everyday life would be speaking your mind when there are differences between yourself and the people around you. Having a good fight is better than restraining yourself and brings less harm in the end.
Having people by your side that show you love and support when you go through difficult times is essential in order to get better. We tend to distance ourselves from our loved ones because we don’t want to burden them, but getting through it alone is extremely difficult and in no way a sign of weakness. That’s why we should accept help and allow ourselves to have a shoulder to lean on. If there is no one who can support us, for whatever reason that may be, we can always reach out to professionals. That’s what they’re there for, after all. You don’t have to already be severely ill before seeking professional help.
Sometimes, it’s even better to have a stranger, i.e. a professional, accompany us than family or friends. People who have known us for a long time often can’t see things clearly anymore. There’s also always the danger that the relationship will get strained, so we can’t fully confide in those that are close to us.
Take small steps
“Not drinking is a good thing, but don’t always push things into the future. What’s the good of making a vow? You must have courage. Just say, ‘I, Liang Xiaotian, will stop drinking from today onward.’ Start from a small goal. Do not drink for one day. […] A small success is better than a failure of inspirational words.”
Shu Ren says these lines to an alcoholic patient who is full of hope for the future and vows to never drink again towards the end of his treatment. His words left a deep impact because I realized that I often set my personal goals too high as well. When we are determined to achieve something, we tend to forget how difficult it can be to get there. When that happens, instead of being happy about the progress we’ve made, we only see that we have failed to reach the goal.
Even one small step takes a lot of effort and courage. We shouldn’t forget that and be proud of every step we make. It will then get easier to move forward another step.
Try to stay positive
Even if you can’t see the end of the tunnel, don’t forget that it’s there and that you’ll reach it at some point. The drama repeatedly shows us that we’re not alone. Everyone has their own demons to fight, and everyone can defeat them. If you look closely, you will always find at least one reason to have strength and move forward. Most of the time, it’s a person we love.
We also shouldn’t get hung up on our backgrounds either. As Shu Ren and Sun Shu say, there is no need to let it determine our happiness:
– “We don’t get to choose the kind of family we’re born into. But no matter what sort of family you’re born into, rich or poor, that can’t determine our happiness or sorrow. The range of our human emotions is equal.”
– “True. It’s true that we can’t choose our past, but for the present and our future, we can all make choices.”
No matter what the past had in store for us, we can always choose to live a different present and future. It’s up to us.
To end this article on a happy note, here’s a gif to remind you that after rain always comes sunshine!