TOKYO -- A 35-year-old Tokyo man who was once told he only had five months to live due to a visceral disease has been writing on social media about his dissociative identity disorder (DID), caused by the trauma of childhood abuse he had long locked away. Faced with his own mortality, he is now facing up to his past, with the support of his wife and over 10,000 Twitter followers.
Masaharu Hoshida (a pseudonym) of Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward uses Twitter under the account name "Hosshi -- enjoying the remainder of life" (@panda5959). He lives with his 34-year-old wife, 4-year-old daughter and 9-month-old son. Hoshida has worked as a scriptwriter for radio and TV, freelance writer, private secretary to a Diet lawmaker, among other jobs, and has launched several companies. He took pride in being a workaholic.
It was around the time he was working on founding a professional pool league that he was diagnosed with a severe visceral illness. On Dec. 16, 2020, he was told he had "five months" to live. He took to Twitter on Feb. 28 this year and wrote: "This terminally ill 35-year-old wants to find out what 'making a buzz' feels like. Before I depart this world, leaving my dear wife and adorable children behind, I've decided to take up social media. It's because I'm lonely, being unable to get visits (at the hospital). I'm setting sail, telling myself that one like equals one extra day added to my life. Please come along with me for fun."
Looking back on that time, Hoshida says, "I could rarely see my beloved wife and kids because of the coronavirus pandemic, and treatment was agonizing. Nurses are busy (at the hospital) and they don't have time to pay attention to me all the time. I really didn't have anything to look forward to."
When he looked at his phone the next morning, he was in for a surprise.
His follower count, which had been a little over 900, had topped 10,000 overnight. His post from the previous night had more than 11,000 likes.
"I told my wife about it, and she was happy for me, saying that I could 'live another 30 years,'" Hoshida recalls. Likes on his tweet from followers he didn't even know kept growing, and it now has over 280,000 likes. If one like meant one extra day to live, Hoshida would live at least 770 more years.
"Feeling many followers get so close to me, social media became a new place. It's the one thing I can rely on next to my wife," he said. Hoshida then decided to share with his followers his trauma from abuse, something he could never talk about in the past.
Hoshida was diagnosed with DID -- what used to be called multiple personality disorder -- when he was 25. He told the Mainichi Shimbun of his condition, "Another personality appears in me and sometimes they behave strangely, which results in trouble for those around me. I often can't remember anything of those episodes, and I feel sorry about it. It feels terrible."
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare website, dissociative disorder is defined as a state in which "an individual loses the sense of being themselves." If multiple personalities are associated with the condition, it's called DID, and the person often doesn't remember the time the other personalities are in control, interfering with many parts of their daily life. One theory has it that the mind temporarily sabotages part of one's memory as an emergency measure to avoid damage from painful experience, which leads to dissociative disorder.
Hoshida remembers one scene from his childhood vividly: It was when he was about 2 and a half years old, and a relative whom he lived with at the time was about to hit his mother. The young Hoshida desperately stood in front of his mother to try to stop the relative, as he told him, "Stop bullying mom." The man slapped Hoshida into the air. The next thing he knew, his head struck a dresser. Hoshida also remembers being pushed down a flight of stairs when he was about 4.
Even today, over 30 years later, Hoshida experiences flashbacks of being hit by the man like a movie scene. It wakes him up early in the morning two to three times a week, shaking and hyperventilating. Even when he's outside, the memory comes back, and when it does he has difficulty breathing.
"If I'm out (when it happens), I look for places where I can be alone, like a bathroom. I have no choice but to stay there until the symptoms subside," Hoshida says.
He told his future wife about his past and that he was abused after they started dating in university. "I'm right-handed, but I would start eating with my left hand, or forget I'd just had a meal and tell her that I wanted to eat something. I would often get these things. She apparently soon noticed there was something not normal about me." Hoshida says his wife, who accepted all of him, has been his savior.
After his DID diagnosis, Hoshida almost broke off his relationship with his parents. While it was his relative who abused the young Hoshida, his mother would also reprimand him almost every day. She would repeatedly tell him, "You're such a liar," and "I can't trust you." As far as he understood, Hoshida was being blamed for getting into snacks he hadn't eaten and for things he hadn't done.
After he was diagnosed, it finally made sense to him that he was always getting scolded. He also understood that it was caused by trauma from abuse.
"I wasn't lying then. I wanted my mother to suspect there was something going on with her son, maybe an illness," Hoshida said of his childhood. "It's still frustrating and pains me to think about why she couldn't trust me more or love me more."
His mother later apologized to him after learning about his condition, but Hoshida, already bruised psychologically, refused to accept her apology.
On March 8, Hoshida launched a YouTube channel and manages it along with his Twitter. In his first video, he introduced his channel as follows: "(By sharing) my experience, I hope I can contribute to reducing the number of adults who strike children even by one. I don't want them to hit them even once. I want them to trust children. These are the wishes that I have (for this channel)."
For more than 10 years, Hoshida has been working as a volunteer at children's nursing homes and other places to help children who had been abused. He said, "Many times, I've seen children self-harming unexpectedly or vomiting. I felt that they felt empty inside without getting unconditional love from their parents." Hoshida has gone hiking with the children and held small concerts in hopes that they will find peace of mind.
On YouTube, he also confesses his worries about being a parent himself. He says, "There is a term, the 'negative chain reaction' effect, that refers to an abused child growing up to be an abusive adult. I'd been terrified, thinking I might abuse my daughter when she turned 2 and a half years old."
When she turned 3 in the winter of 2020, Hoshida and his wife rejoiced and cried happy tears. He recalls, "I never struck her. And I could believe myself that I would never abuse (my children). I was that scared."
Hoshida spent some 10 years not contacting his parents, but while he was hospitalized his mother reached out to him via his wife. It was news about his mother also getting hospitalized, though at a different location.
"I loathed her to the point I'd say I won't attend her funeral, but when I heard that she was being hospitalized, I was worried sick," Hoshida said. "I started remembering that I was loved. It came back to me how she would wake up early every day to make me a bento for lunch and the smile she had on her face when she complimented me on my grades."
So on April 1, Hoshida took to Twitter and asked his followers what to do. He tweeted: "My mother is also going into hospital next week, but I don't have the words or the courage to reach out to her, after severing our relationship almost completely. I talked to my wife and she saw right through me, telling me, 'You want encouragement, don't you?' ... My mind goes blank when I'm alone. Can you guys help?"
Hoshida was then showered with words of encouragement by his followers. One person replied, "It'd be a shame if you missed this opportunity," while another wrote, "It only has to be 'Hey, it's been a while.'" One reply read, "If you have even the slightest wish to tell her something, I hope you will."
Two days and over 2,000 likes later, Hoshida texted to his mother via the messaging app Line. He wrote: "Good luck on your treatment ... As your son, I wish for your recovery and safe release from the hospital."
He then received a bit of a formal reply from his mother, which ended, "Thank you."
Exchanges between mother and son then resumed. When she told him that her release date from the hospital had been postponed, Hoshida wrote back, "I've spent half a year in hospital, so don't take it too badly."
He says of his reconnection with his once estranged mother, "I can now communicate heart-to-heart with my mother for the first time in 10 years, but sometimes when I send her Line messages I'm reminded of my childhood. When that happens, I hyperventilate and my mental state is disturbed."
While the sense of discomfort with his mother has not completely abated, Hoshida still feels he has taken a step forward. His mother was subsequently released from hospital, and Hoshida was also discharged on May 7 to switch to home treatment.
In addition to Twitter and YouTube, he also posts on blog platform Note (https://note.com/hoshino_crescent). He introduces himself as "having a crush on my wife." Hoshida says, "I'm madly in love with my wife, even more so now than when we met. Just being by her side, the number of sleepless nights due to flashbacks is gradually falling."
Hoshida's videos of his children are also full of heart. "I don't know if I can be with them until they grow up. But those (videos) preserve the precious moments that are happening today so that my children will remember them, and they serve as messages from their father that he loves them."
May 16 marked the "five-month" limit given by his doctor. On May 27, Hoshida was readmitted to hospital after his condition deteriorated.
Still, he has updated his goals: writing an autobiography and getting to 50,000 Twitter followers. He also wants to raise public awareness of the "help mark" -- a badge worn by those who need support and special care while out. Hoshida is also a help-mark user.
"I can still move my eyes and hands whether I'm at home or in hospital, so I'll keep going forward at my own pace, with my phone and computer as my partners," Hoshida said.
(Japanese original by Yuka Obuno, Digital News Center)