Reflecting Back on My Initial Diagnosis: Part 3

Author: Scott Walker

When I returned to Japan, I was fortunate to be part time at work. At the time, I was a participant in the JET Programme through the Japanese government where I was able to work in the public-school system. I spent four days a week as an assistant English teacher and one day a week teaching two adult classes on my own.

Even though I was working part time, I was wiped out all the time.

Being on four different medications quite often made me feel like a walking zombie. I knew that I needed to find a psychiatrist and was VERY nervous about it. Many questions raced through my mind. Would they speak any English? Would they be able to fully understand my concerns and issues with all these medications? Would they be able to get me off some of these meds and help me get my life back?

With the help of the Board of Education staff, we found a psychiatrist for me in a nearby town. Before going to the initial appointment, I asked a friend to join me. She wasn’t working at the time and spoke perfect English, so I figured she’d be the ideal person to bring along. She kindly accepted my offer to accompany me to the appointment. When we met with the psychiatrist, we learned that he had spent some years studying in Boston so he spoke English at a very high level! I was feeling very fortunate for that. The psychiatrist understood my concerns about feeling wiped out from all the medications. Right from the initial appointment, he told me that we would work together to get my medication down to a more manageable level.

On the way back from that initial appointment with the psychiatrist, my friend who accompanied me told me that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well a few years prior. The synchronicities for me were pretty mind-boggling. For both the psychiatrist and my friend.

After getting back to Japan at the end of January 2000, I was slowly tapered off three medications. By June of that year I was strictly taking Lithium. At the time it was known as the “gold standard” of bipolar medications. Before going to New Zealand that previous Christmas, I had started taking courses towards a Master’s degree in TESOL (teacher of English as a second language). I was taking it as a distance student from the University of Surrey in the UK.

My plan was to stay in Japan and teach English for a third year with the JET Programme and earn my Masters at the same time. After that third year I intended to travel the world teaching English. It was also my intention to do a one to two-month trip in South East Asia (Thailand and Indonesia) later that year.

I ended up staying in Japan until the end of June. My contract for teaching English with the Japanese government was supposed to end in the third week of July. Thankfully they let me use accumulated vacation time to finish my contract early. Once back in Japan I stopped taking my Masters courses. The University of Surrey was extremely accommodating and only charged me a modest administration fee. They refunded nearly 100% of my tuition that I had already paid! Another big decision I made was to not travel the world teaching English. Although some of my plans had changed, I was thankful for my time in Japan and all of the accomplishments that I had achieved there.


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