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I’m in my 20s, struggling to find the energy to live

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I am a female part-timer in my 20s, and I am unable to find motivation in anything I do. I am at a loss as to how to deal with this situation.

A few years ago, I suffered from depression and took leave from work. When I returned to work about a year later, I thought I would make a clean start and do my best. But I became ill again, which even culminated in a suicide attempt. Now I work part-time a few days a week.

As I have gotten somewhat back into shape, my thoughts have turned to what I will do in the days ahead. But I still feel listless. People of my generation seem to be living their life to the full: getting married, having children, enhancing their careers. But I have neither a longing to emulate them, nor envy toward them. As I think, “Even those who look happy are living with lots of woe in their hearts,” I cannot help but also feel that life itself is quite empty.

I have tried my utmost to rouse and motivate myself by believing that I have to live life with all my might, but in vain. I feel as if there is a gaping hole in my heart, or that I have been drained of my energy to live. I have few friends, and no boyfriend.

What should I do, feeling vacant at bottom, to motivate myself to live the long life ahead of me? How can I regain any kind of forward-looking frame of mind?

T, Tokyo

Dear Ms. T:

I am deeply touched by the feelings conveyed in your letter. To the question of “What should I do to motivate myself to live the long life ahead of me?” I had a difficult time deciding on how I should answer. But I will share a few of the things that occurred to me when reading your letter.

First of all, I was struck by your ability to observe and imagine. There are not many people who can grasp objectively their own generation and imagine their underlying thoughts — even to the extent that they are aware of everybody’s shared sense of emptiness — without becoming envious of the outwardly florid displays of those people.

Next, I was impressed by your ability to express. In your letter, your feelings are conveyed precisely and succinctly, and your writing style is highly evocative.

Here, I would like to make a proposal. You have tried to make a clean start and do your best, in other words you have made valiant efforts to rouse yourself. Even now you continue to attempt to regain a forward-looking frame of mind. However, I suggest: Why don’t you let go of those feelings?

Instead, you could just simply pass your days in an unconcerned state of mind, and observe ordinary details of daily life. Write the things that impress you in your notebook, and record how you have felt or thoughts that thus occur to you about daily life, while continuing your part-time work.

It doesn’t matter how trivial the matters you choose to write down are. This will be your story. It seems to me that each and every word you write will provide you with clues to filling up your emptiness.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from Feb. 12, 2017, issue)Speech

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