Daily Dose of Sunshine is the latest K-drama to take Netflix by storm. It’s a disheartening show about the treatment of people who suffer from any sort of mental health disorder and how it affects them. The show doesn’t just cater to the patients; it focuses on everyone in the system in the Korean work culture. The show’s commentary is very basic and straightforward, and at times it feels extremely overbearing, making it quite a melancholic watch. But at the same time, it comes off as a helping hand for those who may not know how to cry for help when they need it most. It can be a draining experience, and yet, it’s an eye-opener. While the show’s main focus is on nurse Da-Eun and the struggles of the nursing world itself, specifically when it comes to the psychiatric ward, it delves deeper into the effects of the work culture and social hierarchy on the workforce.
Yu-Chan’s story begins with a good-paying job at a decently big company. Yu-Chan is terrifyingly good at his work and tends not to say no to any of his seniors at work because of the fear of being let go or mistreated. Unfortunately, this is what leads to further mistreatment. After a certain point, Yu-Chan begins to fold under the pressure of the work. Every day he gets piled with more work until he has no breathing space. Yu-Chan begins to feel suffocated by the pressure everywhere—work, home, and just simple things like checking his phone—which start to cause anxiety. Finally, he has a panic attack, which leads him to quit his job without saying a word to anybody about what he’s really been through. Yu-Chan’s panic attack is depicted very beautifully in the show through water. The water fills up the room he’s in and suffocates him, leaving him with no escape. What Yu-Chan is facing is much more of a common experience than imagined, as the show expresses that most of the patients the hospital receives have some sort of panic disorder.
What Yu-Chan does, though, is ignore the problem and pretend it’s something that can cure itself over time. He begins to work in his parents’ restaurant and sets himself in that groove pretty soon. Yu-Chan’s fears return to take hold of him when he comes across an ex-colleague. Now, outside of the office, so much later, after everything is supposedly “normal,” Yu-Chan finds he can’t breathe again. He feels the water rising around him. Fortunately, Go-Yun, his friend, and a doctor at the same hospital as Da-Eun shows Yu-Chan the way to treatment. They talk about how panic attacks are habitual in nature, and for example, if you’re afraid of the dark or have faced some trouble in a bus, the attacks will return every time you’re in a situation involving dark spaces or buses.
With Go-Yun’s advice and Da-Eun’s words, Yu-Chan decides to go to their hospital and get treated. The show really pushes one to believe that the nature of the illness, i.e., mental or physical, doesn’t matter and everything should be treated equally. Yu-Chan begins to take medication regularly and feels more at ease than before. After some consultations, working on himself, and trying to do the things he couldn’t before, Yu-Chan slowly gets his groove back. The doctor explains to Yu-Chan how, in such a situation, he needs to find some people who can be his seat belt or safety net. Yu-Chan is lucky to have supportive family members who never questioned his actions when he quit his job. But at the same time, they were also part of the stress he was facing. On the other hand, it’s always been Da-Eun who has helped him get out of his hole.
Yu-Chan has had a one-sided crush on Da-Eun for the longest time, but by the end of the series, it becomes clear that she’s like his comfort character. Always shining brightly for him when he needs her. Because both of them end up sick, all they can do is worry for each other rather than just be there for each other. What they need to do, though, is just channel some of that same energy into themselves rather than just worrying about others.
As a nurse, Da-Eun is an excellent listener, and that’s her biggest strength in helping people get better. Together, Yu-Chan and Da-Eun push each other to get better, but at the same time, they make sure each of them gets breaks and worries about themselves too. When Yu-Chan is ready, he feels like he’s being a terrible model citizen. His criticism is internal rather than external, and he wants to go back to a high-paying job so that he doesn’t feel inadequate or useless anymore. Instead of hiding his struggles, though, he voices them out at the job interview. Even then, before his name is called out, he struggles with his fear but uses the tie gifted to him by Da-Eun as his “safety net,” loosening it to stop his suffocation. Of course, this is just a visual representation, but thinking of Da-Eun alone is helping Yu-Chan feel better. He gets the job, but on the first day, a senior from his old office shows up and tells his new company that Yu-Chan doesn’t have the habit of saying “no,” and all his work was always meticulous, leading to approvals easily, so his nickname used to be “toll tag.”
This leads his new senior to treat him like trash and overwork him too. Quickly, Yu-Chan returns to the old pattern of working too much for no reason, getting stressed with no sleep, not eating on time, etc. He decides to gather the courage and tell his colleague about his panic disorder, but instead of receiving sympathy, he gets told he’s not busy enough and that he should suck it up. While in the washroom, Yu-Chan sees the water building again, and he fears this time he will not be able to save himself. Lucky for him, some plumbers arrive, and it seems it’s not water from his imagination but real water, and he is doing just fine. But this encourages Yu-Chan to stand up for himself and step away from work on time to take care of his own health, mentally or physically. This leads to a change in the work environment too; Yu-Chan gets sent off from work on time at 6 p.m. and is as efficient with work and himself as ever.
Of course, a single person can’t change the world, but Yu-Chan’s actions are greatly impactful in a workspace where hustle culture is the only thing that is appreciated. He is encouraging his colleagues to notice how efficiency is related to one’s own health, rather than struggling for no reason at all. Although Yu-Chan felt like he was drowning when he panicked, his new self is the little tear making the waterfall, so other people don’t have to face what he did.