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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Don't be shy to ask for help

Rika Kayama

My mother, who is living on her own in Otaru, Hokkaido, has been seeing a physician regularly as she is aging and has chronic health conditions. The other day, I accompanied her to her clinic when I visited her.

    The physician, whom I met for the first time, looked a little younger than I am, with a gentle smile on his face. When my mother complained about her lack of physical strength, the doctor tenderly asked her, "Are you eating well?" In response, my mother said, "I don't feel like eating much." If this conversation had taken place at our home, I certainly would've snapped back at her, "You deserve a lack of physical strength because you aren't eating right. You should make a better effort to eat!"

    Alas, the physician told my mother, again with a smile, "That's a bit of a problem. Are you eating half a serving of rice? Why not eat a little more?" My mother replied, nodding, "You're right. I will try my best."

    That's how it went throughout the examination, at the end of which the doctor turned to me and said, "You work in Tokyo, don't you? You must be busy, so you don't have to accompany her here regularly. I will contact you if anything comes up."

    When I looked at my mother, she was also nodding at his words. Tears almost welled up in my eyes as I had been expecting him to tell me something like, "Why are you making her live by herself? You should be living with her as a daughter."

    I was amazed to learn how it can be soothing and open up your mind just to have a third-party professional mediate between you and a close family member, in a relationship that would otherwise be filled with selfishness and emotional codependence, or accusations and complaints.

    People today tend to be tightly wound up, thinking, "We shouldn't be depending on others. We should work it out on our own," resulting in stress mounting within the family. This can often result in an exchange of harsh words or a build-up of mutual contempt. Instead of plunging into such an abyss, it's better that we ask for support in order to maintain our emotional health so that we can feel compassion and affection for others.

    "Thank you in advance for your future support, doctor," we said, as we left the examination room with a smile.

    When I get back to Tokyo, I would also like to tell my patients and their family members, "Take it easy. Please count on us." (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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