The importance of having conversations

Written by Chisato Hotta, DSW, LPCC, LMFT

When I was 18 years old, I moved to Japan and lived with my boyfriend at the time. When the relationship became abusive and I moved out, I decided to go to school and stayed in Japan. After going through a kidnapping by someone I considered a friend, I was scared of the world. It felt like I was in darkness and there were no safe spaces. I started not being able to leave the house. I shut myself out from others. 

One day, I reached out to one of my professors and asked for help. My professor connected me to a colleague of his, a psychiatrist, to help me. Japanese mental health treatment is different from mental health treatment in the United States, since most times, mental health treatment starts with medication. Before I knew it, I was on 10 different types of medication.

However, one thing that was very helpful was when I shared that there are parts of my kidnapping that I do not remember. My doctor looked at me and said, “you know, sometimes, we do not remember things because that is our brain’s way of protecting us.” I mulled this over in my head multiple times. I realized that I was being too hard on myself- I felt there was something wrong with me for not remembering. But the truth was that I did not remember because I was trying to protect ME.

I realized that NOT talking about my experiences, I was allowing this person to continue to do what he was doing. So, I started talking about my kidnapping to others. We had quite a few mutual friends, and I had distanced myself from them, due to fear of being seen as “crazy.” He was a very smart, high achieving person, who was also very liked.

One day, a male friend approached me and said that he knew someone that went through what I went through by the same person. Speaking to her, she had been kept by him for 3 days- and to her knowledge, that was usually his “normal.”

He had kept me for a week. We spoke about what happened with each other- although there were differences, there were enough similarities that we could see the pattern. She expressed relief that she could talk about what happened, without the fear of judgment. She was already judging herself so harshly; she did not want to hear it from others. I understood that, so much.

It has been a long time since those days. The person that kidnapped us was never prosecuted or anything. But, I do know that because I spoke about what happened to so many people, for years, many women decided not to meet with him for their own safety. If I had decided to stay quiet, more women could have, and I truly believe- would have- gone through the same trauma that I had gone through. Speaking out, helped those women, and also helped me to look into the mirror and say, “I am okay- I protected others and I am protecting me.”

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