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

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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

Reason #68 to Keep Living: Habit

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Getting out of bed isn’t always the easiest thing, especially on a day with no work and no plans, when the hours stretch in front of you like gaping crevices you need to somehow jump across. What motivation exists to pull you up and into the shower? What point is there to start your day?

In these instances, we must remember that depression is illogical. Because, at least in my case, I can come up with tons of reasons why getting out of bed is a good idea (maybe even 101!), and even more reasons why staying in bed is bad. But my depression doesn’t care. It doesn’t use logic, and it doesn’t want to hear why it would be a good idea to get up and a bad idea to stay under the covers.

And so, to counteract this illogical sluggishness, this blankness in the brain, we have to trick ourselves. Continue reading

Reason #67 to Keep Living: Quiet Places

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Sumida River, Tokyo

Life can be loud. Traffic on the street, birds in the trees, people talking in a clamour at the subway station, sometimes even your own headphones in your ears — it can all be loud.

Life can also be loud in a spatial or visual sense. Although I’ve generally become accustomed to bustling Tokyo, there are still times that shuffling crowds of people, tightly packed buildings, and bright billboards overwhelm me. They seem to be shouting, and maybe they are — at least in the sense that they all fight, squabbling, for my attention.  Continue reading

Reason #66 to Keep Living: Discovery

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When my employer first told me that I was going to be working and living in Tokyo, I believed that the monotony of my life — at least for the time being — was over. It was Tokyo, after all! The most populated city on Earth! A city I had already visited and hardly even gotten a taste of. Surely, in a year, I could have a significant bite, but never, never the whole meal.

I think I was right about never experiencing all of Tokyo: it’s so massive and diverse that it would take a lifetime to do so. (Without being able to speak Japanese, it would take longer. An eternity.) But I wasn’t right about my monotonous life coming to an end. It turns out that no matter where you are in the world, no matter what city you live in, what people you know, or what work you do, your life will be monotonous if you let it be monotonous.  Continue reading

Reason #65 to Keep Living: Books

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Can you believe that after sixty-four reasons to keep living, “books” hasn’t been one of them? Well, it certainly has, I just haven’t written about it yet.

Of course, there was Reason #37 to Keep Living: Old Books That Stay Young, in which I wrote about classic literature that continues to push, poke, and pinch the heart and brain; there was Reason #17 to Keep Living: Libraries, in which I wrote about those magical places that offer books for free. There was Reason #2: Comics and Reason #14: Story Time.

But there hasn’t been a post for books in general or books in their entirety. This post is for old books and new books and children’s books and comic books and all the books that have ever been written by anyone. It’s for the books that comforted and joked and taught and horrified. This post is especially for those books that challenged, that kept me up at night, made me think, and, best of all, made me change.  Continue reading