Daily Dose of Sunshine is the kind of drama that sets a standard. Once you realize what someone is capable of, you stop accepting anything less from them, and this drama gives you exactly the kind of expectations from what you might see in the future. With its sensitivity to mental health through a careful mix of optimism and reality, this is something we haven’t seen before. Here is a recap of it.
What happens with Deul Re and Yeo Hwan?
We believe Deul Re’s story is to show that even without a mental health condition, your entire life and mindset could be shaped or limited by the actions of certain individuals. Deul Re grew up with a neglectful mother who only ever tried to take advantage of her. She never paid any attention to her daughters, and Deul Re had to put herself through school and college by working extra hard, and she was always scared that it would all be taken away from her. She also developed some self-esteem issues since her mother never appreciated her despite everything she did. Deul Re recognized that her mother was a toxic woman, but she was still not able to let go of the expectation of her approval. That is why, when Hwang Yeo Hwan initially asks her out, she refuses because she thinks that once he realizes her situation, he wouldn’t want to be with her. He really has to bend over backwards to get her to go out with him, which is once again put in jeopardy when Deul Re finds herself in poor finances due to her mother taking out loans under her name. But Yeo Hwan is persistent, and bit by bit, he wins Deul Re’s trust, and they start dating.
Around this time, Deul Re’s mother, Mrs. Min, comes back into her life and wants to live with her daughter. When she sees that her daughter is dating a doctor, she tries asking him for money. Yeo Hwan understands Deul Re’s situation, and this time, when she tries to break up with him so that he won’t be harassed by her mother, Yeo Hwan tells her to try cutting ties with Mrs Min instead. It had to be something that Deul Re had considered many times before but couldn’t bring herself to do. Now that she knows it wouldn’t be wrong, she does exactly that. She leases out her house, covers her mother’s debts, gives her the leftover money, and tells her to never come back into her life or she would face the consequences. After this, Deul Re goes out for dinner with Yeo Hwan, and she is finally free to do what she wants with her life.
How is Da Eun diagnosed with depression?
The word is not used in the series, but we suspect that Da Eun is an empath. She gets way too affected by other people’s emotions, and while that is a valuable asset in nursing, it can also be detrimental in many ways if you can’t detach yourself from others’ emotions and pain. Da Eun was initially in internal medicine, but she was considered a ‘burden’ by her department because she worked a little slowly and with respect to the patients’ feelings, which ended up increasing the workload on other nurses. Therefore, the head nurse of her department asked her to transfer to psychiatry, where she might be a better fit. As expected, Da Eun worked better in the psychiatry department, where her empathy was an asset, and the patients liked her more. But Da Eun was upset once she learned the real reason she was recommended for that transfer.
What we eventually realize is that Da Eun was often unable to pay attention to her own needs. The fact of the matter is that self-care is as important as caring for others. But when you are an empath with traces of being a people-pleaser, you find it a merit to compromise on your own self to accommodate others. You may do the best you can, but you will find that you will always fall short because, for some reason, you believe that everybody else’s well-being is your responsibility. When one of Da Eun’s patients dies, Da Eun is deeply affected by it because she constantly thinks that had someone else been in her position, they may have picked up on the signs that the patient was sending and prevented his suicide. This grief causes her to have dissociative dementia, which means that she forgets that the patient died and goes about her day as usual. Once this is spotted, she is put under observation and asked to care for herself. Da Eun does all that. She eats right, she makes time for exercise, and she works more diligently than before. Throughout this time, we can see that she is pushing herself with the sentence that she ‘doesn’t want to be a burden.’ That statement truly did a number on her. But you can only ignore your grief for so long, and one day, Da Eun breaks down. She takes time off work, but Da Eun’s way of giving herself time means that she simply doesn’t want to get out of bed. She is depressed, and one particular day, she doesn’t even realize that she has tried to kill herself. Her mother places her in the hospital, and Da Eun starts her treatment.
How does Da Eun’s treatment go?
The first step of treatment is acknowledging that you have a problem, which is what Da Eun refuses to do. She thinks that her depression could be cured by staying at home, and she thinks that everyone is overreacting by placing her in a hospital. She doesn’t take her medicines and generally considers everyone to be her enemy. But what serves as a wake-up call for her is when she remembers how she was brought to the hospital. Da Eun had been thinking that she had walked in front of a car in a daze and then passed out and woke up in a hospital. But what had happened was that she had repeatedly tried to throw herself in front of cars, and Dr. Dong had to restrain her and call an ambulance for her. Once Da Eun realizes just how severe her problem is, she becomes receptive to the treatment.
It takes a while, and Da Eun is forced to confront her own past and the way she has constantly ignored her needs. After her father passed away, Da Eun’s mother had to take on a lot of work along with household responsibilities, and Da Eun had to hold back on expressing herself as she did not want to burden her mother. This is Da Eun’s recurring problem that keeps pushing her—the fact that she thinks she might be a burden. That has caused her to become closed off, eventually leading to her depression. Da Eun starts working on that, and over time, the doctor tells her that she can go back to her normal life. The ailment will never really go away, but as long as she is functional enough to go about her daily life with a strong support system in place, she is good.
However, Da Eun has trouble getting back to work. She fears that everyone knows about her, and they will think of her as weak and treat her differently. But with some encouraging words from Head Nurse Song, who is having similar trouble with housing due to her sister’s schizophrenia, Da Eun realizes that she loves her job and she doesn’t want to leave all that behind, so she decides not to quit yet.
What Happens To Da Eun And Deul Re?
The biggest problem with Da Eun returning to work is the prejudice she is up against. Da Eun was told by Ms. Song to hold back the news of her inpatient treatment, but it wasn’t long before the entire hospital came to know. One of the patients had seen her there and told his brother, who spread the word to everyone. When Da Eun comes back, before she tells people herself, one of the patients’ mothers creates a ruckus and reveals Da Eun’s history. While the rest of the nurses are supportive of Da Eun, the patients’ families want to boycott her, and even the patients themselves keep giving her a side-eye. HR wants to fire her, but when the doctors take a stand, the department is forced to back off. However, people are protesting outside the hospital that they want the hospital to apologize and for Da Eun to quit her job. This arc is aimed at showing just how deeply rooted the prejudice against mental health patients is.
The families want their loved ones to get better, but they fail to understand the complexity of the condition they have. We might say that understanding is not as necessary as empathy, but then it is the former and not the latter that affects how we treat them going forward and also how we treat others with the same condition. Da Eun has trouble standing up for herself, so the Head Nurse speaks on her behalf, and when she points out the hypocrisy of the families, the situation is contained to some extent. But the real problem is solved by Go Yun’s meddling. He gets the director to say that they will stand by Da Eun, and anyone who disagrees can take their family members elsewhere. That trick works, and all protests come to a halt. In real life, Da Eun would probably have been fired. This is the one element of fantasy that the show has allowed itself, and it has proven that as long as a community learns to support and understand one another, mental health will get the acceptance it needs and deserves.
During Daily Dose of Sunshine‘s ending, we finally get a lot of sweetness. It was always sprinkled throughout the series, but in the final episode, it took a heavily optimistic turn. When people were against Da Eun working as a nurse, one of the things said in her defense was that since she herself had gone through the experience, she would be a better nurse than before. Da Eun gets to prove it when she empathetically helps Byeong Hui, also earning an apology from her mother. Da Eun continues to deal with depression while trying to find her ‘sparkle, as Go Yun once put it. Deul Re decides to follow her passion now that she is free from her financial burdens. She wants to work on a cruise like her friend, and she starts training to sing and dance to join the group. She hesitates because she doesn’t want to be away from Yeo Hwan, but he encourages her to not hold herself back. He tells her that he will wait for her while she realizes her dreams.
Soo Yeon is still overworked and on edge, but she is trying to find her balance as often as she can. Our favorite turn is when Da Eun starts dating Go Yun. He was sweet, patient, and funny, and he created good timing instead of waiting for it. Also, the bit about his knuckle cracking being healed by his lady love’s presence was one harmless way of treating a quirk. Yu Chan seems to have gotten over his crush on Da Eun, and he is rooting for her relationship with Go Yun. But things at his job still don’t seem all that good. One of his earlier colleagues meets him there, and she talks him up to his new workplace. But that starts creating an environment similar to what caused his earlier meltdown. He tries to set the pace with his co-workers, but he is just told to bury himself with work so that his mental health doesn’t become an issue at all. Therefore, knowing that he can’t repeat this, Yu Chan simply refuses to work more than eight hours a day, no matter the consequences. Eventually, the message is that tough choices are a part of life, but they are inevitable for your happiness. It still wouldn’t mean that you would be perfectly happy, but the attempt is necessary.
Daily Dose of Sunshine was a completely arresting K-drama. Each moment holds your attention like nothing else, and you end up wishing that it was just a tad bit longer. We would recommend this drama to everyone, and we hope that it gets the sequels it deserves.