I was concerned about her friend, because it had already been four years since she had stopped going to high school. I wondered what on earth she was going to do if she doesn't go back to school or get a job like this.
"She is wasting her precious adolescence.
While she is locked in her room, we, her peers, are studying, falling in love, working, enjoying our young days, and moving forward with our lives.
If this situation continues, she will be the only one left behind."
I couldn't stand to think about her life.
One day, I found an article(*1) on the Internet. It was an interview with a young man in my country who was in a similar situation to hers. I got surprised because it looked so much like my friend. So I decided to write an email to the editor of that media.
My name is Catherine Bardinas, currently 22 years old and lives in the Philippines.
I have read your article: "Interview with Filipino Hikikomori."
I got very interested in the part which says that it was presumed that hikikomoris are normally only found in developed countries, but it is not the case as for the conducted interview.
I am writing to you as I would like to share a story of a personal friend of mine whom I think is also a hikikomori.
One day, suddenly she stopped going to our highschool. When we visited her and asked about what her plans are in life moving forward, she just shrugged her shoulders and said “I don't know”.
Time flew so fast that it has already been four years since she isolated herself from the society and mainly just stayed inside their home.
Both of her parents are already old but still working, so someone is supporting her, but I still worry a lot about her future. I try to give her options with regards to studying again or looking for a job, but she doesn't want to do anything.
I really hope that there will be more awareness regarding hikikomori and that we will be able to find ways to help them cope and have more positive outlook in life.
I salute the cause of your blog. Please don't hesitate to email me back if you have any comments or suggestions.
God Bless and More power!
Several days later, I got a reply from the media.
It was written as below.
Hello Catherine Bardinas,
Thank you very much for your email, and also for reading our HIKIPOS
Yes, as you say, hikikomori is not only a phenomenon in developed countries but also in developing and poor ones.
I understand very well your concern for your friend who stopped going to
school four years ago, and your wish to find ways to help her out and have a more positive outlook on life.
That also tells that you are such a kind and tender person.
However, I imagine that your friend would have a different sensibility and mentality from you do now. As far as I read your mail, I presume that no matter how much you might do to her, she would have little chance to come out of her hikikomori life. Because she is in her present situation for her own internal need, which she cannot even put in words to conduct you.
If she graduates from her hikikomori years some time in the future, it must be done of her own volition. Until that day, I suppose the best thing you can do is just to be emotionally with her.
In other words, I recommend you not to push her to get out of hikikomori, and not to meet her when she doesn't want to, but to continue subtly showing your intention that you will stay being her true friend whatever might happen.
That is all I can say to you for now.
Your mind to care for her is so beautiful that I was moved by your friendship with her.
Deputy Editor-in-chief of Hikipos in charge of Foreign Affairs
This reply took me by surprise.
I had assumed that if I received a response, it would contain advice on how to help her out of her room where she shut in, for her to return to school or start working.
However, while this may be advice, it was the opposite of what I had expected. It was almost saying, "Leave her alone."
If this advice is correct, then all the kindness, gentleness, and friendship I have been thinking about for her has had its value inverted.
How can that not upset me?
However, after thinking about it for a while, it seems to me that what this advice is saying is more correct.
I was flexible enough to turn my thinking 180 degrees.
I wrote back.
Thanks for getting back to me, I really appreciate it.
Thank you for the great advice. There is still so much that we don't understand about hikikomori.
I now realized that it is best to not force her to go out for study or work.
Actually she told me before that at the time when she started not going out; she experienced some sort of bullying in the school and this has caused her so much damage.
Back then we've only advised her that the world is just really a harsh place to live and it's a sad fact that not everyone will be kind to you.
We didn't really expect that her stopping from school and not going out will continue for such a long time and the worst is that she may never be able to cope with it.
I used to have the wrong impression about hikikomori. I thought that I should constantly convince my friend to either study or work. But as far as I read your mail, it sounds to be actually best that we understand them as much as we can, and we genuinely support them without causing further stress.
I still deeply worry about my friend, especially about her future as her parents are also growing old.
I text her from time to time, but I can't call her as she doesn't normally answer it. I also visit whenever I am free as I do work as well.
I guess that the best and all that I can really do is to remind her that her family and friends will always be there to support her.
I will continue to pray and have hope for my friend whom I already consider as a sister. In the Philippines we say
"Habang may buhay, may pag-asa"
which translates to
"As long as there is life, there is Hope."
I wish that these words could be an encouragement to someone.
Hello again Catherine,
Thank you very much for your reply.
I am glad to read that you understood what I meant.
I was in the same situation as your friend for 4 years before. I still return to it from time to time for short periods even nowadays.
So I imagine your friend is afraid of visits and phone calls. I think it would be better if you text her short messages sometimes, without urging her to study or work, just to let her know that you think of her.
"Habang may buhay, may pag-asa"
As long as there is life, there is Hope.
Indeed, that is so. That is a good saying.
A hikikomori has a contradictory mindset.
She probably doesn't want to see anyone, but she does want to see someone too. She would want everyone to leave her alone, but would not want her to be left behind too. Though I am on the side of hikikomori, I can understand why "normal" people who are not hikikomori are confused as to how to deal with such a hikikomori person.
At last, I have a question for you.
Could I make our correspondence an article on Hikipos?
Thank you very much for your cooperation with us at Hikipos.
"Does he want to create an article with our correspondence?" I wondered if something like this would make it into an article.
But I had no reason to refuse. I wrote back.
O.K, I am giving you permission for our correspondence to be edited Hikipos article considering the following conditions:
1. Kindly change my name for privacy security
2. The article should be written from the point of view of a friend of hikikomori, because that can be helpful to the people who has a friend of hikikomori but doesn't know much about hikikomori
Some months have passed.
I found some photos of my country in another article of Hikipos.
It was the article based on our correspondence.
My name was altered to Catherine Bardinas, which seemed likely but unlikely to be in the Philippines, and it had become the style of description from my perspective and it was based on our correspondence, so it seems to have been inevitable that some parts of my monologue became fictional.
Reading it though, it was surely an interesting exchange that we made.
I now understand why he wanted to create an article with our correspondence.