(Mainichi Japan) April 17, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Emotions on the one-month anniversary of the earthquake
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:震災から1カ月 /東京

More than one month has now passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

We have all spent the time since then in our own ways, but there may be those who recently found themselves vividly remembering that day one month ago, once again being assaulted by fear or sadness.

There may even be those who have become physically ill, even as they were just getting their lives back on track.

A person's emotional state becoming highly unsettled on the weekly, monthly, or yearly anniversary of some big event is a known phenomenon in psychiatry, and it in itself is neither a disease nor is it abnormal.

One cause of it can be emphasis placed on such anniversaries by television programs and newspapers.

However, as much as one tells oneself that "this is not abnormal," the emotional disturbance itself can be very hard to bear, and some people may take a further emotional hit by seeing a reversal in themselves after they thought they had made progress in recovering.

In the case of the recent disasters, the continuing aftershocks and developments at the nuclear power plant may have aggravated this anniversary phenomenon.

Preventing the occurrence of this anniversary reaction might not be possible.

However, just knowing of its existence should take away some of the emotional burden of those experiencing it.

If you find yourself thinking, "Lately, I feel somehow anxious, and I'm often crying," you can then think, "Ah wait, this may be my reaction to the one-month anniversary.
It can happen to anyone, and it's OK," and it may become easier to let those bad feelings pass.

Furthermore, if one intentionally makes oneself aware of anniversaries and then passes them with an activity like offering a silent prayer, then I think one can reduce the feelings of uneasiness.

Thinking about it, after a disaster this huge, it is only natural that the path to recovery will not be a simple and straight one.

It is extremely normal that people would feel anxiety during anniversary periods, going from having somewhat positive attitudes back to gloomy ones, and from having energy to losing it.

Even if there are ups and downs, as long as the end result is recovery, there is no problem.

No one should feel bad about themselves if they experience stalls or setbacks on their road to recovery.

In fact, I worry about those who have made themselves consistently positive and optimistic since the disaster, and whether built up exhaustion won't at some point overcome them, coming out all at once.

Amidst all of this, I don't expect that anyone can completely be their normal selves, and it's no mystery if something happens to our emotional states.

Without being surprised or caught off-guard by any changes we find in ourselves, we should move forward, doing what we can, while not trying to do the impossible.

There is nothing wrong with such a path to recovery, even if it's a bit of a zigzag. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

毎日新聞 2011年4月12日 地方版

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