Ever since I was a small child, I always enjoyed being a helper. Anytime someone was in need, I was very happy to be there to offer whatever I could to make the situation better. As is often the case with caregivers, I was always comfortable being the helper and yet struggled when I was the one who needed help. I always thought it was best just to be tough and figure things out on my own. I was wrong.
Last week I reached out to parents to ask how they were coping with the current global situation. Overwhelmingly I heard, “I’m doing fine, I just am not sure how to help my child”. As I have stated many times before, I am huge proponent of modeling the behavior we want to see in others. This response led me to reflect on the loss of my grandfather that I experienced when I was 8 years old- the first significant loss I had ever experienced.
My grandma and grandfather were Irish immigrants. They lived through incredibly difficult times, such as the Great Depression and the second World War. They culturally embraced the idea of stoicism, and passed that value on to my mom. I can remember driving in the car with my mom the week after my poppa had passed, and my mom told me how proud she had been of me for not crying at his funeral. At the time, I remember feeling very proud. Yet, I look back now and I think about the message that was sent to my little 8 year old brain- “When you’re sad or scared, it is best not to show it”.
I share this because if we want to help those we love, I strongly believe we need to do so by modeling. If you have not done so already, why not have a family meeting this week? During the meeting, you can start by sharing appreciations with each other as family members. Then you can have an honest conversation about how everyone is feeling. Trying asking “what” and “how” questions, i.e. “What scares you the most during this time?”, or “What are you finding most challenging about quarantine?”, or “How can we as a family best support each other?”. In your willingness to be vulnerable and share your own feelings honestly, you may invite, or even give permission, for your children to do the same. For many of you, having these conversations will be enough and will help people feel more at ease.
If you suspect there might be some deeper challenges with anxiety around the situation, then it may be time to ask for help. Again, I truly understand how difficult this can be, especially if we are having a hard time articulating exactly what kind of help we need. Sometimes it’s just enough to share how you’re feeling: “I feel sad.”, “I feel scared”, “I’m having trouble sleeping and have lost my appetite”.
You can definitely reach out to me if you need someone to talk to, and I also understand if you would prefer to speak to someone outside of school. Here are some additional resources:
TELL Counseling provides trained and licensed therapists for counseling sessions as well as a free hotline. www.telljp.com
TIP Counseling, located in Futakotamagawa, also provides therapists who have been trained and licensed in the US or Australia. www.tip-nikotama.com
Tokyo Mental Health provides therapists who have been trained and licensed in the US, UK, or Australia. www.tokyomentalhealth.com
The International Mental Health Professionals of Japan website offers a database of internationally trained therapists throughout Japan. You can search profiles and see exactly where therapists were trained and licensed, their specializations, office locations, fees, and whether or not they are accepting new clients. www.imhpj.org
Unfortunately, most therapists do not accept Japanese National Health insurance. If you have foreign health insurance, or if your company offers an EAP, you may be able to be reimbursed for sessions. Otherwise, most therapists work on a sliding scale and therefore may be able to offer flexible fees.
If you want to explore the option of medication, Dr. Morita at the Higashi-Shinjuku Kokoro No Clinic speaks English, has office hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and accepts Japanese National Health insurance. http://www.higashishinjuku-kokoro.com/english.html
As difficult and challenging as things are at the moment, I continue to be optimistic that much good will come from this time. Until then, please let us continue to support each other and offer/ask for help when needed!