You may or may not have noticed my absence on the site recently. I walked away from it nearly two months ago. I told myself and my team that it was because I had a lot on my plate. Work was/is pretty hectic, my personal life was/is in need of serious maintenance and to cap it all off I had to find a new place to live as my apartment was being sold. I was busy, very busy and it made sense to step back and just focus on what was in front of me. I didn’t realise it but two months ago I was about to come face to face with something I’ve been avoiding for a very long time all because of an Anime series.
I like to work! I love being stressed and doing half a dozen things under deadlines and pressure. I love the challenge it brings, I love pushing myself to not only accomplish these goals but to do much better than expected. I’ve always internalised the mantra, if you’re going to do something or be something then make it the best it can be! If that means work a little later than usual, going to bed a little later and waking up a little earlier each morning, then so be it! I was doing something, I was doing something well and people appreciated that and me as a result. This probably sounds like I’m talking about ArcadeCon and if you’ve attended it, volunteered at it or even heard about it, you’ve probably seen/heard how infatuated I can be with the most minute of details. This is what I love doing or so I keep telling myself! There’s only so long you can go before you burn yourself out and even after you’ve reached that point you’ll find just a little more to keep going because you can’t really stop. If you stop, it means you’re not the best, it means you’ll have to face failing and face yourself.
You’re probably wondering where the Anime comes in but I’m getting there I promise.
Last year I announced ArcadeCon was on a break! I stopped doing something I loved but I had the site to focus on. I had gotten engaged. I had the challenges of my job! I kept going! Then two months ago I stopped writing, I took time away to find a house and do all the things that come with that, packing, cleaning, hunting, meeting new landlords and such. It took me four days after finding out my apartment was to be sold to find the perfect house. I’d already done most of the packing and cleaning there was nothing much else to do but wait. The big pause I’d put in my schedule had been put on pause too, I was stuck just waiting before it all came crashing down.
I finished work early just before the long Easter weekend, I had to do a few things so I worked through my breaks, I had to get a kettle in Argos, get my haircut and pick up something quick for dinner. I walked to my usual barber and it was as busy as it normally is but I couldn’t go in. I felt panicked, there were too many people inside, what would I talk about if someone struck up a conversation, or the barber asked a question, what would I do if they talked about something I didn’t know about. I walked around the block twice in the hopes someone would leave and there would be less people there but it stayed busy. I walked by the shop with the kettle in it, I felt too on edge to go in and I pushed myself into the nearby Tesco’s to get some food. I can’t remember what I bought, I was just hoping to get in and out as fast I could. The girl next to me made a joke about a rude customer sounding like Batman, I laughed, I packed my bag and I walked outside. There was a sense of relief then I started crying, I’d no idea why, I just walked home. I pulled my shoes off and climbed into bed and I stayed there for the next five days.
I couldn’t get up! I didn’t want to! I ignored phone calls and messages online! For the first 24 hours I didn’t do anything but sleep. The following afternoon I turned the TV on just to have sound on in the room. I was alone, my partner had to travel for work. I didn’t care what I watched, I just wanted the noise to fill the room so it didn’t feel empty. Your Lie in April, an anime series released late 2014, a romantic drama Anime, not my taste but it was subtitled so I wouldn’t be overly distracted by voices if I couldn’t understand them.
The story revolves around a young piano prodigy who after suffering from a mental breakdown at the age of 12 abandons the world of music. As a teenager he meets, befriends and falls in love with a violinist who also studies at his school. From her he learns that the music you play has life and heart, emotional experiences expressed through sound, free and beautiful.
I turned on my side when the music began, I watched the second episode from the corner of my eye. It was certainly a very pretty show to just look at before I knew it I was engrossed. By the end of the series I would come to understand something about myself.
Kōsei, the series protagonist, had two selves. The one he kept up as an appearance, milling through his life, studies and the other that was buried, pushed down and away because it was too painful to face. It’s only by reaching out, by accepting the help of those around him, who shoulder, support and love him, is he able to face that other self. It’s not easy though! It’s not discovered and resolved across several frames of animation. Your Lie in April confronts depression and anxiety across the entire 22 episodes. It isn’t trivialised or used as a prop for a character. Kōsei isn’t the only person coming face to face with their inner thoughts and problems, his friends and family are all coping with something, some form of depression or some fight within themselves.
With each episode I realised that I was like Kōsei, I’d done everything I could to avoid facing my problems, my thoughts and my self. I took work on not to challenge myself but to excuse my self. If I was busy, if I didn’t have time then I couldn’t possibly focus on my own problems. I had things to do, people to take care of and a life to lead and my problems weren’t really problems, I was just sad. Some days I would have a bad day or two then I’d be fine again.
Doesn’t everyone get like that? Doesn’t everyone wish the world would stop? Go away?
When I was 12yrs old I tried to kill myself. I still have the tiniest scar on my stomach from it. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing I just wanted to not have to deal with my problems. Only in the last while have I realised those same thoughts have permeated throughout my life. What could be wrong with me? I’ve a job I love! I’ve a terrific partner, family and group of friends. I should be happy! I am some days! Other days I just want to crawl under my blankets and wait for the world to pass by.
Your Lie in April made me realise that if anything was to change I would have to stop living inside my head. I saw what shutting out the people who I cared for most and who cared just about me was wrong. I was afraid telling someone I am not doing okay would make me seem weak. That’s not the case! Fighting depression and anxiety on your own takes so much out of you, takes so much strength and energy but just telling one person lightens the burden. It also sets you free! Just talking to one person about how you’re feeling helps so much, I had never realised that until the end of the series.
I cried so much that day, I had been moved by the ending of anime but there was feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time. The show resonated with something inside me and there was a moment when I realised I had to tell someone. By the end of the fifth day, I had worked up the confidence to talk to my partner, to tell him I think I had a problem, that I didn’t feel okay. I wasn’t expecting him to have the answer, I didn’t need him to, I just needed someone to know and that made the world of difference.
Your Lie in April hasn’t magicked away my anxiety or cured my depression. I’m not fixed! I’m now aware of my self, of my problems and thoughts. I’m aware that I have to talk when it gets bad and retreating inside. I’m learning to take the time to take care of myself, pretending I’m doing okay and actually being okay are two very different things.
It might seem silly that it took a Japanese animation for me to realise these things or that I’d write something so personal online. I’m doing this because I’d like to think it might help someone else stop and take the time to look inwards at their self and stop burying their problems. You don’t have to go through it on your own, take the time, spare some of that strength and talk to someone. It might be one of the hardest things you have to face or do but you can do it.
If you need someone to talk to that isn’t a friend or loved one then please use one of these contact numbers:
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!