Monday, February 24, 2014

Insightful Conversation with Grandmother and Mental Health Facilities in Japan

As I headed towards visiting my grandmother, and getting completely lost in the maze of the Tokyo train system, I had time to let my brain do its own unwinding.  (Even if I was also looking through figures for art pieces and trying to acquaint myself with the back and forth of past emails for the next project). 

View from the train as I was back tracking from getting lost near Ome

My grandmother and I in the lobby of her retirement residence, where we had the most wonderful conversations about her insights in her late 80's, life experiences, and point of view.  Lunch was really good at the cafeteria where I got acquainted with other residents too!
She reaffirmed my motto in life to try to "live life without regrets".  She was mentioning how others in the retirement residence who speak of how they 'could have' 'should have' 'would have' 'wished they had done' 'had the chance to try', etc.  There is a part of me who identifies with the mental health field; and if I 'could have' I would be in psychiatry, psychology, or something to do with therapy and medicine.  If I chose that route it would be an immersive and completely dedicated journey I would have to pursue, and right now is not the time, neither was it prior in my 20's; I never discount the possibilities and forever remain an open book, but it did accelerate the gears in my mind... thought of future generations, not repeating mistakes or history that which wasn't helpful or useful.  Made me think of when I worked as a first grade teachers assistant (where I got spat in the face by a little boy who got suspended, lol, humour aside, was he replicating the ways in which his father treated his mother?  Where did he learn this behaviour?, etc), and how if I had a child how I would do things differently so that she/he is best equipped with necessary skills and tools to live fully and completely in such a busy world fraught with so many obstacles and challenges.  Or the time I worked in the NICU shuffling papers for the nurses, overhearing some of the developmental struggles that some of the cases may encounter due to being born so premature, etc. But then they had me cleaning breast pumps, LOL!  Crazy experiences!      

Reading through a few publications of Psychiatry, and Psychology in Japan I realised a few things: 

1) When it comes to Youth, it is still very research medicine based (although this is crucial it is only a subsection of the whole).  And official hospital treatment programs for teenagers to early 20s is lacking (although there are voluntary charitable groups here and there, there are hardly any incentives from a government policy perspective for hospitals or clinics to take on mental health).  

2) I have yet to come across an Eating Disorders specific treatment facility or program; the number of women I encounter on a daily basis who suffer immensely, (some visibly so, where as majority of others well hidden), those who have contacted me through one video I put up about eating disorders in Japanese, on my Youtube channel, it pains me and am urged to change this situation.  Eating Disorder treatment is so specialised and difficult that only those who are aware of its multi-faceted approach to treat these problems as well as the inner mindset and workings of those who suffer, the sensitivity of eating disorder as a mental illness from a medical, psychological, social dynamic is paramount and can tackle such issues.
Trying in my crap Japanese... back when I was still in Toronto... 

In the last post I wrote about my struggles with body image and negative self talk, of which I have necessary tools, experience, and health to recognise, fight, overcome, and create other modes of renewed evolved thinking to defeat such muddy waters.  But this really made me wonder as to those who do not have these coping tools, support in the mental health and medical community (in the form of treatment facilities, or programs), enough strength to face such issues head on, think clearly, and work through a complex mental illness such as Eating Disorders.  

When I was much less self aware and knowledgeable in my teens, whilst going to high school in Tokyo, heading head first into Eating Disorders (Anorexia and Bulimia), there was no such prevention/awareness/education/support/nor treatment programs at hospitals or anywhere for that matter.  And in Tokyo there are major societal, cultural and systematic differences and obstacles which aren't present elsewhere like in North America (in Toronto I was able to get necessary medical help and support, and even that was risky without any guarantee of regaining health; re: stats for treatment and full recovery of eating disorders).   

3) Often, those at the top in medical communities here are male; although sympathetic and understanding they will never fully embody living and being female in such a society and the struggles that come with eating disorders (although men do suffer as well, just not as high a rate as females).  And in Japanese systems such as medicine the hierarchy favours men, as it is still quite a male dominated society (although there have been huge strides and improvements).  The systems and ways are so ingrained within the male psyche in Japan, of those in such powerful positions.  *Want to call me feminist? (as a few have commented in my Youtube videos of past); I do not identify as such, as I don't believe in fitting into neat boxes or roles, I respect men and the roles they play in society and everything that makes them differ from me personally.  I'm just telling it as it is, and what I'm seeing in the mental health/medical world.     

Such a great clip that challenges female/male stereotypes and perceptions (which is reciprocal, both ways).

Maybe it is time to start thinking about gathering information and researching to set up a facility specialising in Eating Disorder treatment in Tokyo... would that be an impossible task?  Never impossible but probably close.  

The things that go through my mind on a given Saturday while getting lost, on a train to visit my grandmother, in Tokyo.  
A few links I found interesting:
-School of International Health Sciences, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo; Developmental Medical Sciences:
-National Institute of Mental Health/National Centre for Neurology and Psychiatry:

Sorry for the long one, but I think it is important to discuss openly about issues like these, any thoughts?  

Those of you who are struggling with disordered eating: go to former blog post here: please seek help from a professional as the sooner you get treatment the better, but you are not alone, one step at a time, there is hope for recovery.

Ok, gotta get ready for work tomorrow, good night:)

Sending *SMILES*



  1. Insightful post.

    Lovely how you spent time with your grandmother.... I take care of my father who is in his 80's and now needs supervision. I find it hard to not have some regrets as the years progress, Marie. I guess I am simply trying to find my way in this short life we have here. Simply trying to improve myself and be of good value to others where possible.

    It appears you have some real interesting thoughts/ideas developing on helping people in Japan coping with eating disorders. Best wishes to you as you continue to pursue such avenues. Sometimes it takes a unique person, someone like you, to help others measure new approaches and come up with new solutions. :-)

    Warm regards,

    1. I truly appreciate your input Dave. We are all trying to find our way in this short time that we call life. It is such a learning adventure, and process. I hope to contribute somehow in Japan if I can, when I can; it is difficult juggling everything but always trying to keep moving forwards and making progress.
      Thank you again.
      Please do take care.