Working to Freedom from Schizophrenia by Yuki in Tokyo

My name is Yuki Yoshida, I'm from Tokyo, Japan and this is my Be Free story:

I had vague beliefs about mental illnesses even after I got sick myself. Like it's kind of scary, or somehow "bad" that needs fixing and better to hide in public so you won't break the "harmony" in the community. And towards myself, I thought I became too heavy of a burden to people around me, and was ashamed of what I had and how I acted. I didn't know how to make it stop, just like people around me didn't know how to talk to me anymore. I lost joy in things I used to love, and thought no one would want me around now that I became something different. So it HAD to get better. I put my hope in it, and so did most people around me.

But when you're dealing with mental illness for quite a long time, at some point you come to realize that they won't just go away overnight.
My initial diagnosis was an early stage of "schizophrenia", which some people suffer for a lifetime. But mine somehow got better in a month. Except, a few months later something else relapsed big time and I ended up in a closed ward again. I realized then that, this time, I wanted to take things step by step no matter how long or painful that road is going to take. Which became my first step to a journey to freedom: to make peace with the fact that however long it may take, I wanted to take it.

The pain was really there, every step of the way. Perhaps it was always there but I somehow developed a skill to bury them under.
I encountered some people with other mental illnesses, who treat their pains and symptoms as their guests; and try to treat them as one no matter how unwelcome they are. The skills I developed over the past years was basically to live AWAY from those, so called guests. But no medicines or treatments worked, and I was at a dead end.
That was about when I met this group therapy thing where people use skills to live WITH the pain and not away from it. It didn't come natural to me at first, but the more I learned the more I felt its potential. Medicines can reduce or ease the symptoms, but these skills helped me to get to know my pain, which helped me to deal with them in better, healthier ways. I could not have done it alone, but this learning process was the second big step.

The third step was when I was watching a show called Castle. There was this one episode where the main character went through PTSD from getting shot in the chest, along with a flashback of her memory when her mother got killed. In the episode, her therapist tells her that her mother's death is part of her, and that she's gonna have to make peace with that, just like she's gonna have to make peace with the scars from her shooting.
These words maybe just words, but some of them clicked in my mind; "hmm, 'to make peace with what's part of me and the scars.'" If there's a title for my journey, these became one: to reconcile.

Back at the hospital, one of the staffs taught me a few things about recovery when I was most hopeless. She said, "When you feel like the illnesses have taken over you and your life, try to remember that these are not WHO you are, but just the parts of what makes you, you." She drew me a circle with big "me" sign on top and a bunch of small bubbles inside it. She explained these small bubbles are what makes me me, and that means any illness or symptoms are just one of the portions and not the other way around. Then she showed me there are many other bubbles that makes me me as well. "You like to dance! That's a bubble!" She continued, "these bubbles can grow bigger and smaller like living things," she said, "and when it's big, it pushes other bubbles and make them compressed. That's probably when you feel it has conquered you. But it grows smaller too. And one day, these growths, especially the illness bubble, will no longer bother you so much and you get to cherish and see all the other bubbles and take time for them."

Another thing I learned about recovery is that definition of recovery can come in different ways, forms, and styles, all depending on everyone with mental illnesses. We might tend to label what's normal or what it looks like to "have gotten better", but the only person who can decide that, is that person with the mental illness. This is a right that I was informed by that same staff who taught me about the bubbles; that I get to decide my own definition of recovery.

I'm still figuring out today what that definition is to me. I still go to hospitals twice a week. I am still on a journey to freedom and recovery, but I've come so far to a point where I get to have a job, do things I like, and hang out with people I love. And because of what I went through, I've been working towards this one, big dream: to connect people who needs help but don't know how to ask for it, to people who wants to help but don't know how to do so. My focus had been on mental health care, but when I saw what Brian started, I felt something similar to what I want to do in the future and wanted to be a part of it.
The gap between those two ends are serious issue in Japanese society today. And because my own personal journey has been about reconciliation, it is still a big theme, perhaps, for me to spread it and help others with it likewise. Thank you so much for taking your time to read this. I am sending you love from Tokyo.


You can contact me through my Instagram (@subarashiitaniska)