I’ve never needed streaming television more than I do now. This coronavirus pandemic has begun to affect me in ways that I never could have expected. I’ve watched everything in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Swedish and Belgian that I could find. I’ve always loved Asian horror because it’s simply the scariest. What I never expected my heart would need is Asian Rom Coms, all Asian Drama, K-dramas, C-drama, J-drama, coming of age series and kPop soundtracks. I’m not even a Rom-Com girl. But Asian Rom Com series just hit in a different way than their American counterparts. They are pure and innocent. I find myself smiling a lot.
If you’re not familiar with this genre, acquaint yourself. These series can also sometimes fall into the categories of K-Dramas, J-Dramas and C-Dramas. If you’re wondering why I am out of the blue recommending these shows, I’m going to be 100% honest with you. I’ve been really stressed during this pandemic but I’ve been keeping it all neatly bottled up inside because this issue is so huge and insurmountable that keeping a lid on my feelings about it is the only way for me to mentally survive it.
As many of you know, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 when I was 27. I haven’t had a manic or depressive episode in over a decade. To be honest, the only “depression” I’ve truly ever experienced was the result of an overly stressful coming of age time in my own teens when my dad was a volatile alcoholic and again in 2012, when I lost our third baby. I actually feel like both of those instances were completely normal responses to the situation however, I am not trusted to assess my own emotional well-being. My point is that this pandemic has me terrified for my own mental health.
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Rather than feeling like I’m depressed, at least not anything like I’ve ever known, I’m feeling anxious (again, I feel under these circumstances is a pretty normal reaction for anyone) but what’s scaring me is this walking a tightrope feeling in my gut that feels like mania is lurking right beneath the surface, just waiting to break through. That terrifies me because I’ve never had an episode since becoming a mom. But, I’m also not who I was in my 20’s, I know the disease I’m battling. I know it well. I’ve researched it, made peace with it and embraced it. I’ve had extensive training on how to move through it and how to get myself off the ledge. Still, it’s scary. The feeling that any wrong move can send me freefalling and crashing towards earth as my daughters and the Big Guy watch on. That scares me the most.
Luckily, I just had 2 weeks off of school (Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that I’ve gone back to school to get another Masters of Science (this time in Digital Marketing) during a pandemic?) but today, I went back. It gave me the time I needed to look more closely at the situation and realize what’s happening; to get my bearings. When I had my miscarriage, I had this same walking a tightrope feeling, I survived it with binge-watching the UK version of Shameless…all 10 seasons. I’m the kind of person who needs to feel her feelings and I write to process but when it gets to be too much, I start to short circuit. Recently, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to write. I can’t even will myself to commit my thoughts to keyboard. That means for my own mental health, I have to let go of the overthinking and I have to relinquish control and numb myself to relieve the pressure.
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Before I knew what my diagnosis was, I used to drink to do this. I was in college so it seemed pretty normal. Didn’t every anorexic 100 lb girl drink 6-12 beers a night? I did. I don’t do that anymore. Seldom do I have even 3 drinks in a year these days. Caffeine and alcohol are on my “in moderation” list. Sleep for me is supposed to be 10-12 hours a night, to maintain normal. I live on 4-6, if I’m sick, I can force 8. My insomnia is my constant companion. I’ve noticed it’s gotten worse these past few weeks. My bedtime is frequently at 4 am. I know this is not normal but nothing brings the sleep, not even the sleep medication. This is a trigger warning for me.
My point to all of this is that Asian Rom Coms are currently saving my sanity. I need their quiet, sweet, romantic, coming-of-age endearing storylines to focus on and laugh and cry with to process my emotions in small quantities. These series are literally my emotional support series’. When I’m in a manic episode, I become obsessive so binge-watching is better than eating or shopping. The alternative is giving myself over to the erratic, reckless and self-satisfying darkness. Instead, I’m choosing to quiet my mind by anesthetizing it with the calm voices of Asia’s finest young actors. I’m enjoying them so much; I’m thinking of trying to learn Mandarin (because speaking 4 languages is not enough) …this could be the mania talking but I’m going to give it a try with no expectations (that’s how I know I’m still aware of my behavior).
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I know that the pandemic has brought about its own unique challenges for everyone, I’m not the only one whose mental illness has been reactivated in the wake of the world being on fire. I’m not special (look at me not having grandiose thoughts of self-importance). I’m not saying that Asian rom coms are the answer to saving the world’s sanity from the Coronavirus pandemic, but I’m not saying they’re not either. They are very entertaining, add levity, laughter and cathartic sobbing when needed and unlike the typical American teen dramas we are used to there is not any of the excessive drinking, juuling and sex scenes. It’s just endearing and thoughtful naïve first love, the kind we had in the beginning and wish for our own children to someday experience. Plus, the people, the music, the language and the culture are so beautiful to watch and learn more about. Right now, I’m truly thankful for Netflix and Rakuten Viki.
For me, I know that Asian rom coms can’t fix mental illness but just like psychiatric drugs, behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy, in my recovery, they definitely have their place. Here are my favorite Asian Rom Coms for beginners. For reference, my top 4 are the first 4 on the list below. Also, this list includes Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese recs. Don’t worry if you don’t know the languages, that’s what subtitles are for and honestly, even without subtitles, you can enjoy these shows. Seriously, Asian Rom Coms can help us all survive the pandemic. TBH, the worst thing about Asian Rom Coms is that they end and I want more seasons.
Top Asian Rom Coms to watch for beginners
Chinese/ Netflix /2018
Dong Shancai is determined to excel at her dream university, where she encounters an elite clique of dashing, popular high-achievers — and finds love, Dao Ming Si. Starring Dylan Wang and Shen Yeu.
A Love so Beautiful
Chinese / Netflix/ 2017
The ups and downs of school, family and growing up test the love between a budding artist, Chen Xiaoxi, and her handsome but indifferent classmate and neighbor, Jiang Chen. Starring Hu Yi Tian and Shen Ye.
Go Go Squid
Chinese/ Rakuten Viki/ 2019
At 19, Tong Nian, a brilliant IT programming student with stellar grades and an equally impressive social media following, is winning at life. She never has a problem meeting new people. But all that changes the day Han Shang Yan walks into her life. Starring Li Xian, Yang Zi and Hu Yi Tian.
I Hear You
Chinese/ Netflix/ 2019
Love blooms between a bubbly, aspiring voice actress and a cool, enigmatic violin-maker after they cross paths on a reality TV show. Starring Riley Wang, Zhao Lusi and Zhang Jiongmin.
Miss In Kiss
Taiwanese/ Netflix/ 2016
A quirk of fate sends an ordinary, sweet-natured high school girl and her father into the home of the school genius, on whom she has a huge crush. Starring Dino Lee and Esther Wu.
Put Your Head on My Shoulder
Chinese/ Netflix/ 2019
As Si Tu Mo’s graduation is nearing, she is confused about her future plans. She tries out all sorts of things all the time and is unable to make her own decisions. Starring Lin Yi and Xing Fei.
The Liar and His Lover
South Korean/ Netflix/ 2017
Love Story of a genius composer and a high school girl who sings. She falls in love at first sight but it’s never that easy. The drama is based on the popular Japanese manga Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru by Kotomi Aoki. Starring Lee Hyun-woo and Joy with Lee Jung-jin, Lee Seo-won and Hong Seo-young
South Korean/ Netflix/ 2015
Almost 40, Ha No-Ra’s son is about to go away to college and her husband wants a divorce the moment the kid’s out of the house. Ha No-Ra goes back to school and meets Cha Hyun-Suk, an old schoolmate who is now a professor. Unknown to her, Cha Hyun-Suk had the biggest crush on her in high school but she never noticed. Starring Choi Ji-woo and Lee Sang-yoon.
My First First Love
Korean/ Netflix/ 2019
Due to various personal reasons, some of Yun Tae-o’s friends move into his house, where they experience love, friendship and everything in between. Starring Ji Soo and Jung Chae-Yeon.
Hello, My Twenties
Korean/ Netflix/ 2016
Five female housemates and college students meet and live at the Belle Epoque. While strangers at first, they are able to bond and connect over the traumas they experienced while growing up. Together they juggle the perils of adult life. Starring Ryu Hwa-young, Park Hye-soo, Park Eun-bin, Han Seung –yeon , Han Ye-ri, Yoon Park and Shin Hyun-soo.
Good Morning Call
Japanese/ Netflix/ 2016
A teenager has finally gotten her own apartment. The only problem is that she’s sharing it with the most popular boy in school, and they have to keep it a secret. Starring Shun’ya Shiraishi and Haruka Fukuhara.
Korean/ Netflix/ 2019
In a world in which an app alerts people if someone in the vicinity likes them, Kim Jojo experiences young love while coping with personal adversities. Starring Song Kang and Kim So-hyun.
Korean/ Netflix/ 2017
The quiet life of an extreme introvert is thrown upside down when his company hires a cheery and outgoing new employee who’s not all she seems. Starring Yeon Woo-jin, Park Hye-soo and Yoon Park.
Accidentally in Love
Korean/ Netflix/ 2018
A popular singer decides to go back to school, becoming the center of attention there and meets an ordinary female student who is more than he ever imagined. Starring Guo Junchen, Amy Sun, Zhao Yiqin and Yuan Hao.
This is just a beginner’s list of some of my favorites. There are so many more and I encourage you all to check them all out. I highly recommend you check them out and if you do, please come back here and leave me some comments. I’m fairly new to the genre but would love to discuss it with all of you, especially if you’ve watched them or have recommendations of K-Drama and Asian Rom Coms that I should check out, bonus points if they have Li Xian, Dylan Wang and Shen Yeu in them.