憂鬱 (Yuutsu): When Mental Health Is Mistranslated
How could I navigate my Japanese-language emotions in pursuit of a Western psychiatric label?
The Magic School Bus,
Crazy Like Us,
aha! Instead, the DSM provided only disappointment. Awash in checklists and qualifiers, all I found were metrics for what an insurance company would pay for and what amount of distress would fall under the category of “Mental Disorder.”
Even so, later that semester I found myself in the waiting room of the undergraduate mental health center, wishing I had found a label to describe how I felt, so I could stride into the office, sit in the chintz armchair and spit out a diagnosis, easy to understand and easy to treat. I was left only with confusion for how to translate this yuutsu. How could I navigate my Japanese-language emotions in pursuit of a Western psychiatric label? Did my heart have a cold? Should I be medicated, in therapy, or both? Was I depressed, anxious, or disordered? I tried each word out, spinning them like coins on the tip of my tongue. Every time, they fell flat and false.
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When he asked me how to say “I love you” in Japanese, I translated linguistically, but mistranslated culturally.