So yes, it has been a long time since I have posted here. About three years. What have I been doing in all this time? What happened to my hobbies of cooking and nail art? Well to put it simply, I had fallen into a depression and I am now coming out the other end of it.
On March 11th, 2011 there was a huge earthquake in Japan. I was here for that. I was on the 7th floor of a department store in the middle of a lesson and we felt a small shake, and then the world turned upside down. My student clung to me and was wailing. It was then I realized how big and serious this was. I was working in the Shonan area and we are known for having awesome beaches. After we cancelled classes for the rest of the day, we were told to evacuate the building and to find high ground because there was a tsunami warning. None of the trains were moving and the buses that were moving were packed. There was no way to reach my home that was over 45min away. Thankfully a student’s mother saved me and my friend and allowed us to stay with her and her daughter while we waited for the father to get home (He literally walked all night from Tokyo to get home). I remember laying down in the futons the mother had laid out for us and trying to call my aunts to see if they were ok. No calls got through, everyone was calling loved ones, the lines were all busy. I was able to call my home in the states. My younger brother answered because he was awake at this odd hour that I called. I told him not to wake up my parents and to leave a note on the counter that I was ok and to contact me on Facebook. I am so grateful for Facebook. It was the only way I could communicate to anyone that I was ok, and for me to check if all my friends were ok. I remember freaking out as I watched my iPhone battery dying. I had to conserve it’s battery and watch how many times I checked Facebook to check on my friends. (I now carry power cords and a portable battery with me everywhere)
I tell you this all in detail because this was the cause of my depression. My PTSD. I didn’t even know you could get PTSD from an earthquake. I always associated it with soldiers fighting in a war, or a trauma from something that happened from a person’s childhood or horrible experience. I was very naive on the many aspects of it. It’s still hard for me to think of it this way. I like to call it my PTESD (post traumatic earthquake stress disorder). But it wasn’t only this that had contributed to it. I am a person who likes habits. I like to know what to expect from a situation. The unknown scares the crap out of me, and I don’t trust people for a long time. Unless you know me really well, I would seem the opposite. Completely open and trusting of everyone. NOPE, not me. Maybe when I was five.
The thing is, I was supposed to move into my new apartment on the 13th. I had packed everything away, I had eaten or thrown out food (I wouldn’t have a fridge or stove for the first 2 weeks), most of my stuff was inaccessible. I was also getting ready to leave the job I was working at and starting a new one in less than a month. For me, these are two huge changes that cause extreme stress. And to throw an earthquake/tsunami and then a couple days later a nuclear scare on top of it all. It was just too much for me. I was able to keep it in for a few years. I busied myself with making lessons for my new job and decorating my apartment etc. But about the end of the second year, I started to notice a huge change in myself. I was extremely moody, didn’t want to talk to people and sleeping a lot. I started to order pizza 2-3 times a week because I didn’t even want to talk to the people at the cobini (convenience store). No human interaction was ideal.
Of course I gained about 25lbs since 2012. All that pizza… I still order pizza pretty regularly. I feel like I have forgotten how to cook. It takes forever to put together something I used to throw together. But I am slowly reteaching myself, and rediscovering my love for cooking.
This past year has been a year of healing and rediscovering myself. I am so lucky to have friends and family who loved me even though I am really good at shoving people away by jackhammering (push seems too nice) the right buttons. I tried to reach out to a therapist at the end of 2013 but the guy, while certified in the states had to collaborate with a Japanese doctor to write scripts for him. This made him very expensive. $180 per hour and he was all the way in Tokyo. I couldn’t afford that and was feeling desperate. He tried to do what he could through email. I think even from my messages he could tell how low I was. I was so embarrassed but I knew I needed help and I called my friend. She found me a doctor and went with me to my first appointment. When I met her I was hyperventilating just from the train ride. I think I really freaked her and myself out. At this point I had to take two weeks off of work, but I was stressed because I couldn’t afford that. I was put on medication and was slowly recovering. I had a goal to get off the antidepressants before my trip home. I didn’t want my family to see me at my worst. They saw bad but not worst. They gave me what I needed and what I always know I have from them. Unconditional love. My mom chanted with me, we are buddhist, and renewed my faith. I knew I had the strength to overcome this hurdle. My dad chatted with me, and actually helped me to uncover the timeline of my feelings. He was the one who said the depression could be a result of the trauma from the earthquake. I brought it up to my doctor, she looked at what I had talked about in the past and agreed then told me about PTSD. My poor brother took the full force of my anger multiple times and never fought back. Just allowed me to get it out. I feel so bad for this now, I know I must have seemed crazy. I needed an outlet. It was the wrong one but he let me have it. I am so lucky to have the family I do. No one else could have gotten me through this. I returned to Japan, with a better understanding of myself and my emotional triggers. My true healing started from this point.
In Japan, in my Japanese class I had made two instant friends. They met me at one of my lowest points, and they also loved me unconditionally. They got a lot of my crazy while in Japan. Again, I’m good at pushing people away, but they just pushed back and let me know I wasn’t alone. When these two people can love me when they met me at my worst, I knew I had made friends for life. I hope someday I can show them the better parts of me. I love them and recognize them as family.
Another person who has helped me heal, is my chiropractor. I threw my back out and my friend who took me to the doctor recommended him. His office is a 5 min walk from my house. I started to go to him regularly and he explained to me about how my body works, and how it deals with stress and anxiety. I’ve had a problem with my hip feeling like it dislocates sometimes when I walk, for about 10 years. I went to several doctors before but he is the first to give me a reason why this happens. I have learned about my body and stretches I can do to help myself when I am unable to see him. In Japan, Chiropractors are not covered by insurance. I pay 6,500yen for each hour. But I will happily give him my paycheck, because what he has taught me about my body and my mind, and how it is all connected is priceless. Also, he has doubled as a second therapist and his English is very good. He also accepts my American side and when I broke down crying realizing what I was doing to myself and that my pizza diet only contributed to my downward spiral, he surprised me by giving me a hug. You may be thinking “so what” but in Japan you don’t really hug. As an American who needed comfort he adapted to help me. It’s one reason I love the city I live in. It’s a mix of culture, just like me.
One more person who has helped me is my coworker. For as long as I can remember my mother told me don’t say negative things. The karma will come back around. I was always like” yeah whatever” until I was in college. Then I finally understood this. But I only understood half of this. My coworker tells me it’s human nature to think negatively about yourself and your situation, but don’t speak the words out loud. You are listening to yourself. You must tell yourself, “you are enough” and things “couldn’t be better.” My mother texts me guidances everyday, but it’s not the same as having her there with me by my side. Because I see him almost everyday, through him I understood another layer of what my mom had told me. It’s not just about other people. It’s about myself too.
Why did I feel the need to poor my soul out today. I thought about how I haven’t posted in this blog and realized that it was one of my interests that just stopped being fun to me. Another sign that I was falling into depression. I felt like it would be therapeutic and I hope if someone needs help they can find some comfort in my story. I feel like depression is such a negative thing to talk about. It’s hard to understand if you haven’t gone through it or lived with someone who has it. I thought I knew because my friends had it, but people with depression can be pretty good at covering up how bad it actually is. I’m still on sleeping medication because of insomnia, but I am at a point where I’m not shy about talking about what I have overcome. This topic needs to be talked about more. I remember feeling so much shame. I should have gotten help months before I had my breakdown. Even in Japan like back home in the US, depression is whispered, ignored, and shameful. You can’t just choose to be happy. It is not a choice that you just switch on. It is a war, not a battle that goes on in your mind and body. The chemicals in your body are literally out of whack. It is not a choice. It is a serious medical issue that needs to be recognized and openly talked about and accepted.
A year ago I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and now I am basking in the sun. I still have struggles, but I know how to handle it now. I feel like I have turned poison into medicine. My first true understanding of what this saying I’ve heard since I was a kid really means. I have grown from this hard experience and have come out stronger. I don’t know if the war will ever end, but I know I can win each battle that crosses my path.
So now that you know my tough journey, I hope if you see the signs of depression in someone you love, just be there for them and know it means the world. It is life.