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

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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

Reason #64 to Keep Living: Sacrifice

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Letting loose a little with Mario in Akihabara

The older I get, the more difficult it becomes to sacrifice money for a less stressful life. All I can see in the future are expenses upon expenses, and, like usual, financial uncertainty. Where will the money come from for me to possibly go back to school, get a vehicle, or eventually “settle”?

These thoughts make me want to stick with my insane full-time job here in Japan. Long hours, more than occasional six-day weeks, and confusing commutes would be worth it for some saved money at the end of the year, right?

Wrong.  Continue reading

Reason #63 to Keep Living: Feeling Bad on My Own Terms

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Although we all know to some degree that the cliche, “existence is suffering,” is more true than we ever thought it could be, it’s often difficult to reconcile this suffering with the need to keep moving forward. What I mean is that it’s easy to forget how to feel bad strategically, so we can continue through our daily lives. It’s easy to forget how to be indulgently sad, or how to feel bad at the appropriate time and place. Continue reading

Reason #61 to Keep Living: Surprising Myself

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Looking in my bathroom mirror recently, I can’t help but feel surprised by the person I see. The expression on her face is always a bit alarming, balanced somewhere between total exhaustion and relief at being home finally at 8:30 pm. The hair on her head doesn’t have any opinion: it’s pulled straight back into a ponytail, braid, or a variety of other methods that help her pretend it doesn’t exist during the day.

And those eyes… I try to not even think of those eyes, let alone look into them. They’re tired, always. They remind me of how much older I’m starting to look, how much older I’m starting to feel.

Surprisingly, despite the rush of this new life in Japan, despite the stress, the busyness, and the millions of tiny frustrations and disappointments, I am getting along just fine. Continue reading

Reason #60 to Keep Living: Building New Homes

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Finding a new home: the bus ride from Nagoya to Tokyo

For a long time I have underestimated the comfort and necessity of a home base. I’ve always idolized the notion of living life with no ties, of jumping from place to place, of being unattached to material possessions. I was discussing identity with my boyfriend recently, talking about how places, things — even people — slide away so easily and abruptly. And here we are, continuing on, somehow still ourselves.

So I don’t need a home base for definition or security. I’ve realized that more and more throughout my travels from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Krabi, Nagoya, and now to Tokyo. What I do need a home base for is comfort at the end of the day. Continue reading