Author found himself waiting on a subway platform, with the train aproaching, thinking “If I just take one little step forward, I won’t have to go to work tomorrow.”
Working in Japan can be incredibly stressful. Many companies demand that employees work tremendous amounts of overtime, often unpaid, but that’s only part of the issue.
Children are taught, from a very young age, to take care of their responsibilities and not cause trouble for others, lessons that stick with adults and make them feel guilty about the prospect of quitting their job and forcing the coworkers they leave behind to pick up the slack. Japanese companies also have a strong preference for promoting from within, meaning that leaving an organization often entails starting over at the very bottom rung at your next one.
Add all of these factors up, and it’s not easy for many people to walk away from even a bad job. As a matter of fact, some eventually start down the dark line of reasoning that it would be easier to walk away from living entirely.
It’s a situation Japanese Twitter user @sodium knows too well, and which he’s documented in a self-autobiographical series of manga illustrations. “People say ‘If your job is killing you, why don’t you just quit?’, and here’s the reason why some people can’t,” he tweeted, along with the following series of illustrations.
「死ぬくらいなら辞めれば」ができない理由 1/2 むかーしの体験談と、そのとき思ったこと。よければ拡散してください。 https://t.co/tImNNIOG56—
しおしおしいしおしお (@sodium) October 25, 2016
Long ago, even though I didn’t think I wanted to commit suicide, I almost did
At the time, I was doing 90-100 hours of overtime each month (which was a lot less than some of the other people working in my company). Every night I had to sprint to the station and could just barely make the last subway train home.
“All right, somehow I made it.”
I’d never one thought that I wanted to die, but, while I was waiting on the platform, with no one else around, something suddenly occurred to me.
“Right now, if I just take one little step forward, I won’t have to go to work tomorrow.”
“One step. Just one step. That’s all it’ll take.
Then I won’t have to go to work tomorrow? Wooooow!!!”
It seemed like such a wonderful idea.
“One step. With just this one step…
I won’t have to…”
What was I thinking right now?”
After this, I did all I could to find a new job, and eventually I did.
When people hear about someone killing himself because of overwork, I think a lot of them think things like “If your job is killing you, what don’t you quit?”
“It’s not like you’re going to die just because you quit your job.”
“If you kill yourself, you’ll lose everything.”
“Your friends and family will be so sad.”
“You won’t be able to see what happens next in your favorite anime and manga.”
But when you’re in that situation, you lose the ability to see those things clearly. It’s a terrifying place to be.
You’re walking on a narrow ledge, with a steep cliff on either side.
“I stumbled again. There are so many bumps on the road, and it’s always uphill. It’s hard to keep going.”
There are all sorts of branching paths and doors [labels: “new job,” “working holiday,” “ditch work,” “quit,” “take a day off”].
When you’re feeling OK, you can still see them.
“This path really is tough. What if I try that one over there instead?”
“If I quit, I wonder if I really can find a better job somewhere else…”
「死ぬくらいなら辞めれば」ができない理由 2/2 イジメで自殺するような子も同じような状況に陥ってると思います。 洗脳前に動くのが大事だ！洗脳されかかってたらとにかく寝るのが大事だ！ https://t.co/dzqLFZB8Db—
しおしおしいしおしお (@sodium) October 25, 2016
If you’re an earnest, serious-minded person, you’re all the more likely to paint over those signs showing you other paths.
“I worked so hard to get this job.”
“What if I can’t find anything else?”
“I don’t want to be a burden to m parents.”
“My coworkers are working even harder than I am.”
“Rent, utilities, grocery bills.”
“How can I take a day off when we’re so busy at work?”
“I still have student loan to pay back.”
“I’ll cause trouble for everyone in the office.”
“I’m just being lazy.”
“If I quit now, I’ll regret it forever.”
“If I can just get past this rough patch.”
“There are people who have it worse than me.”
“I can still manage.”
“I just need to try a little harder.”
Over time, working such long hours robs you of your sense of reason, and makes your whole outlook darker and darker.
“Just a little more. It hurts. It hurts. I’ve got to keep going.”
Workplace harassment turns into wounds that go on hurting.
You can’t see the signs you’ve painted over. You can’t hear the voices of the people who care for you.
“Just have to keep going.”
It’s like you’re broken, and the only thing you can think of is to keep walking on the path you’re on.
Before you realize it…
“Gotta keep going.”
…your whole world…
…looks like this.
“Wait…how…am I supposed to make it up this?”
There’s nothing but darkness to your right, and nothing but darkness to your left.
“It hurts…I can’t walk any farther…”
“I have to keep going.”
If you don’t decide to make changes while you’re still at the stage where you think you can handle your problems, you won’t even be able to make that decision.
1. If you feel like you keep painting over the same healthy exit, that’s a sign of a problem.
“Look for a new job? No, I can’t. But… No, no way. But still… No… But…”
2. If it’s affecting your health, take time off from work and give yourself the time you need to think. See a psychologist. Get some sleep. Even if you can sleep, se a psychologist.
3. If you can’t even do that, find a safe place to sit down on your way to work, and call an ambulance. If you think you can’t go on, just sit down!! At least do that.
↓ This guy definitely needs medical assistance.
Even just one night of good sleep can sometimes help you see things more clearly.
“Wait, have these other paths and doors always been there?”
“People really care about me.”
Everything else starts from there.
There are so many different paths in the world.
Please, don’t forget this.
@sodium’s manga has struck a chord with a huge number of people in Japan, with both parts of his reflective manga being retweeted over 100,000 times. Its message is important for anyone dealing with unhealthy levels of stress or depression, regardless of nationality, and hopefully will serve as a reminder that there are professionals ready to help those who’re losing sight of positive ways to alleviate their emotional and psychological suffering.