What I Think About the Perception Of Depression
CW: Mentions of suicide.
"I want to die."
When I was an elementary school student, my father used to mumble under his breath while sitting on the sofa.
It was his pet phrase. He’s fine now, but at that time, he always said it. It was usual for me then, so I didn't take it seriously. Looking back, it was not sane of him to mutter such a thing on the couch in front of his 7-year-old child daily.
Back then, he was famous for his strictness in his job field. When I did something wrong, he was unforgivingly tough on me too.
But he’s had an extra sensitive heart and has been the most honest person, with a warm heart than anyone I know, who can't just leave people in need. Very clumsy though.
However, he didn't show that version of himself in public. Therefore, I assumed that some people may find my strict, intimidating, and dignified father offensive.
Such father, being famous for his strict and scary personality at his job, was repeatedly saying aloud his suicidal thoughts at his home. How can one imagine him lying down gloomy?
Everyone has a public and private self. That’s very natural.
These days, however, one of my friends suffered from feeling guilty about taking days off and lying down on the bed for a couple of days. They say that such a tiny thing became an obstacle to trying their hardest, whereas everyone else hangs in there, and it's tormenting and shameful that makes them feel worthless to live.
I wanted to tell my friend to take a day off, have a good rest when it's rough, and that it's okay to work again after the recovery. However, I couldn't give such irresponsible advice. I believe that the heart is so weary that they think themselves worthless to live.
Is it bad to feel down or to let people around know I’m not good?
Is it embarrassing not to be able to give my best, and take a break?
Everyone has endured too much, and yet somehow, no one thinks hiding their emotion is unhealthy. I feel strange in the social atmosphere that whining is embarrassing.
The prevalence of depression in Europe and America is between 20-30%. On the contrary, Japan is at 10% but is outstanding among the developed nations regarding the suicide rate.
Regardless of the low prevalence, the reason why Japan has a high suicide rate due to mental illness seems to be because going to see a doctor is a high hurdle to clear when people feel ill under conditions from mild anxiety disorder or adjustment disorder to heavy depression.
As for myself, I used to focus not on what I wanted but on what others wanted from me while constantly denying my personality.
No obstacle, no fight, or no hate for me. I tried to be as positive as possible as I could ever be. Nevertheless, I couldn't hold myself anymore by hiding feelings of uneasiness and rejection of my senses.
Still, through my depression, seeing my friend and father depressed, my grandmother's menopause-related long-term drug treatment, and my friend's suicide, I completely lost and didn’t know why I had to hide my mental condition. Nor do I no longer know what caused it to do so.
People take care of physical health, but why don't people take mental health seriously, and mock it by calling clingy attention seekers, Men-hera?
Thinking about it brings back memories of being overseas. When I was there, many people took therapy or coaching once every two weeks. In Europe and the U.S., mental health was less stigmatized, and people there seemed to understand how to care for themselves.
I heard that Europe and America have counseling cultures, and many people go and take counseling when there's something wrong with their mental health, similar to when they get a haircut at a hair salon. A survey shows only 6% of people have experienced counseling for their mental health in Japan. On the contrary, 52% of people in Europe and America have. It can be said that people in Japan still perceive counseling as a difficult option.
At the time, I had a stylish and cool friend who took care of me well. She also said that she had therapy before noon, so she was available in the afternoon. And I liked her naturalness. Moreover, I enjoy watching YouTube videos of girls from overseas and often hear and see their attitude toward mental health. I appreciate their relaxed vibe, not to speak of their beauty.
Being influenced by them like the above, I take online therapy once a month to see myself objectively and clear my mind even when I don’t have a mental crisis. It personally helps me tidy things up mentally, and I feel refreshed afterward.
When you’re improving your mental health, it’s important to not keep everything to yourself. First, talk to someone. Just talking and being listened to helps.
However, mental health is not a topic that you can talk about with everybody.
The best part about starting therapy is having a safe place to talk about what’s in my mind with deep consideration.
It was the time when many things happened consecutively to me. The thread of tension was snapped on the day I found out my friend had committed suicide. I became unable to do things that I was able to do. It was my first experience. My bust size went 3 cups down, and my menstruation stopped. The days I couldn’t stop crying passed. The day my mother who couldn’t bear to see my condition found a clinic, and I went to see a psychiatrist for the first time in my life.
I wanted to be frank and bright all the time. But my mental health went out of my control. I felt ashamed and was left alone. I even thought I didn’t want people to know I went to a clinic.
However, if we don't change the social atmosphere regarding mental health, including myself who was languishing at the time, I feel that it will become a society that won't be able to forgive anything even if it is forgivable, making it difficult to live for everyone.
Life is sometimes good and sometimes bad. There are periods when everything goes smoothly and enjoyable, when you can test your limits, and when things do not go well.
That’s why I want to have a consensus of not denying the importance of mental health.
What can I do to change the perception of mental health from something that should be hidden and embarrassing to something natural and healthy?
Still, I feel the hurdles to having counseling and therapy are high in Japan.
Changing the way we approach mental health may be something that will happen a little further into the future.
As for myself, I couldn’t talk about my mental health with anyone, even with close fellows. I was scared to let people distance themselves by exposing my dark side. And I didn’t want to put a burden on others by my telling.
That’s why paying and creating a safe spot with specialists became a big opportunity to improve myself. In a way, I looked back at it was the most logical choice I’ve made.
This time, I wrote this article to engage readers to naturally take care of their mental health through various methods, such as counseling, coaching, therapy, or anything that suits them. When my mental health is not good, I listen to lifestyle or mental health podcasts and do journaling. It’s important to create a mutual care space with your close friends and family. But also, I’m glad if you realize there’s a tool like the above.
Having that reliable space all the time for myself is an anchor, and I don’t mentally drown as much as before. Moreover, I became less judgemental of others and myself.
Don’t keep everything to yourself, and don’t blame your depressed self. I believe that’s also a healthy and natural way of living.
Take it easy this month too.
Thank you for reading this.
Written by Himawari Murano
Translated by Naomi Koizumi
Edited Emiru Okada
Graphics by Claudia MacPhail