Reason #78 to Keep Living: Writing

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And, just like my post on books, I have somehow never given writing the spotlight as a reason to keep living.

Writing has always been a love of mine, but it has also been a continual frustration. (If you write, you know what I’m talking about.) When I was working full-time, trying to explore a bit of Tokyo, and completing assignments for my online courses, I had hardly any time for my own personal writing. When I did have the time, my writing came out garbled and confused. I was out of practice. I had no good ideas. Not even any decent ideas. I wrote awkward and bizarre story after awkward and bizarre story. I was angry and tired.

Why did I like writing in the first place? I couldn’t remember.

Then, I quit my job. Continue reading

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Reason #77 to Keep Living: Looking Forward

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My dad used to say that he never wants to retire because when you retire, you die.

But this isn’t true. For example, the average Japanese person lives far past retirement. There are more centenarians here (people who live to the age of 100 years) than anywhere else in the world.

Don’t worry. I won’t let this turn into another long spiel about Japan. The point is, many elderly Japanese people are more active, both physically and mentally, than elderly Canadian or American people. I’m not saying this is the sole cause of their longevity, but it can’t hurt. They go to the park and exercise; they volunteer in the community, cleaning up garbage around their grand kids’ schools, sweeping up the roads, or running classes at the local community center; they read and play musical instruments and bike, bike, bike.

The elderly Japanese fill their lives with not only things that keep them busy (like watching TV or listening to the radio), but with things that give them purpose. Things to look forward to. Continue reading

Reason #76 to Keep Living: Partnership

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Although the word ‘partnership’ elicits a sense of formality or legality, here I mean partnership as more of a long-term friendship or relationship. I mean it as the pact you make with someone, however overtly or implicitly, that says you will be leaning on each other now, counting on each other, working for each other.

Partnership means there is someone out in the world standing up for you and standing by you. Making you laugh, making you talk, making you go to work, go to bed, making you tea (or coffee, or a smoothie, or bringing you milk and cookies).  Continue reading

Reason #75 to Keep Living: Milk and Cookies

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The air turns colder outside. I went from using air conditioning one night to pulling on my heaviest pajamas the next. However much I wished for fall during that suffocating summer, I didn’t expect it to come so soon, or so suddenly.

I certainly didn’t expect it to bring such a chill, grinding into the marrow of my bones, sliding up behind my ears, and tucking in between my toes. I find myself frozen when I sit down to write.

But here is a hot mug of milk and a chocolate chip cookie. Some heat to melt the stiffness in my hand. Some sweetness to warm me inside and out.

For now, at least. Then bed, then the lull of blankets and pillow. Continue reading

Reason #74 to Keep Living: Community

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Is it strange to say that in Tokyo I feel more connected to the people around me than I ever did back home, in little London, Ontario? Is it odd to say that I feel less like a number, that in a city with a greater population than all of Canada, I can walk down the street and feel part of something — part of a community.

It feels strange, it feels odd, but is it really? In a country where people are culturally trained to show common courtesy, to bring their garbage home with them, clean the toilet seat after using it, and be quiet in the evenings, is it really so bizarre to feel a sense of camaraderie with these people? Continue reading

Reason #73 to Keep Living: Rain

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It rained in the middle of the afternoon today, with sunlight still pushing between the clouds and mixing with the droplets on the way down. What brought me outside was a grumble of thunder in the distance and the thought that maybe the heat had subsided (it’s currently unbearable).

While stepping out onto the balcony, I came face to face with, along with the rain, my own stagnancy. My own inability to accomplish, create, or produce — I had spent most of the morning trying to write and being unable to. The longer I stood, the more the rain washed this feeling of inadequacy off me, down to the pavement below the balcony, down to the gutter where even the rats couldn’t pick it out.

I’m always wishing for sunlight, but sometimes it’s the rain that does the job. It’s the rain that gives us reasons when the sun’s been blotted out. Continue reading

Reason #72 to Keep Living: Forgetfulness

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There is no greater happiness than getting lost in new, daily adventures to such a degree that you forget to write your bi-weekly blog post.

Although on one hand I would love to be a flawless, hyper-organized person, on the other I realize that forgetfulness is a key to relaxation, and relaxation a key to mental health. I have spent this past week in exploration and lazy forgetfulness — I’ve forgotten about work, about the stress of paying rent, about studying, eating healthily, counting calories, exercising regularly (my sincere apologies to my last post on exercise), and anything else that ties my brain up in a tight knot.  Continue reading

Reason #70 to Keep Living: Distraction

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Warning: distraction is not a long term solution for anxiety, depression, or any other mental trouble you wrestle with on a day to day basis. It won’t solve your problems or teach you anything meaningful about yourself. It certainly won’t do the dishes, get your body into the shower, or finish that story you’ve been working on for weeks.

Distraction, when indulged in too often and too deeply, can be downright dangerous.

From time to time, however, distraction is magnificent. There is nothing better than, in the midst of stress and emotional disaster, to plop down in front of a favourite TV show, start up that old, familiar video game, or settle into a perhaps not-so-intellectual novel. To alleviate pain even temporarily — especially in healthy, or at least not particularly unhealthy, ways — is a small but notable victory.

To give ourselves a break, to laugh and relax, are essential practices in the game of snakes and ladders that is mental health.

Recently, I’ve plunged into phone games, TV, and long-distance running to distract myself. Some distractions are better than others, but I do what I can to get through the day.

What distractions do you indulge in?

Keep climbing that ladder, keep watching for snakes. Keep finding those reasons to keep living. Continue reading

Reason #69 to Keep Living: Caretakers

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There is hardly anything more valuable to a sick person than people to take care of her. I am lucky enough to have always had caretakers, and the story of my struggle with mental illness can’t really be told without their inclusion.

The photo above is from a time in my life when I felt very taken care of. It’s blurry, out of focus, just like everything was at the time; but still there was a sense of being grounded, of stability, of feeling the earth under my feet. That’s what caretakers provide: a rock to cling to within the waves.

So here’s to the parents and siblings, friends and boyfriends. Here’s to the people we chat with online and the ones who come over for tea. Here’s to the caretakers who give relentlessly and believe in us relentlessly, who read stories to us in bed, take us to the hospital, and help us to the bathroom. Here’s to the people who feed us and give us a place to sleep, who make us shower and exercise — who grab the extra big tissue box and glass of water when we have drained ourselves of tears.

Here’s to the people who never give up, even when we have.  Continue reading