You are not alone

Sometime in August 2004, I don’t remember the exact date, I was woken up in my Kawasaki, Japan dormitory by the police.

A few officers were in Hello House East knocking on doors. Apparently I was the first person who answered. The officer at my door greeted me politely in passable English, and then showed me a name on a piece of paper and asked if I knew that person. I didn’t recognize the name, so I assumed that he lived in Hello House West, the nearly identical dormitory next door. I told the officer that he should ask Seiko the landlord, and gave him instructions on where to find her. The officer thanked me, gathered his colleagues who were knocking on other doors, and went to find Seiko.

I had never been woken up by police before. I assumed something was wrong, but I was still tired so I went back to sleep.

Later that day I found out the reason why the police were asking. The name on the paper was a teacher who lived in Hello House West. He had killed himself earlier in the morning by jumping in front of a moving train on Nanbu line. The officers were trying to find out where he lived so they could figure out how to contact his family.

I can’t imagine how horrible it would have been for the parents to receive the phone call notifying them of their son’s death. The other residents of Hello House West took the news very hard. Most of them missed the next few days of work while trying to deal with the situation. I am sure the memory has stuck with them in the years that followed.

I am writing this post in 2014, 10 years after the events of my blog. I notice that in my original posts I wrote a lot about what I was doing in Japan, but almost nothing about how I was feeling. If I had been, I am sure that my family would have been worried regularly. Being away from friends, family and everything familiar to you can be incredibly difficult at times. Some days the feelings of isolation and loneliness can be crushing.  Homesickness can overshadow all of the positive new experiences you are having. You start to second guess all of your decisions, and feel like a failure.

If you are away from home and everything seems terrible, you are not alone. Everyone has the same feelings at one time or another. Talk to your friends / roommates / co-workers about it; they have all been through the same thing. Keep in touch with family or friends from back home; they want you to be happy. If you are regularly unhappy you can always move home. Having a good support network goes a long way in helping you work through the rough times.

Hurting yourself is never a solution to your problems. If you feel like you are going to hurt yourself, PLEASE call someone. There are several free counseling and suicide hotlines in Japan that have English speaking staff. One of the biggest is Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL) www.telljp.com 03-5774-0992. Don’t be confused by the name – they offer nationwide service. If you are not in Japan, information on local resources is only a Google search away. Since you are reading this online, you already have the technology you need to find someone to listen.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.

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