The Sunny Side of Crazy
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Tricia Mikouchi’s book The Sunny Side of Crazy is a tribute to mothers who are raising a child who is “different.” The Sunny Side of Crazy follows the journey of a young adopted girl growing up with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The child and adoptive mother struggle as they overcome language and cultural differences as well as severe attachment disorder. Yet the biggest challenge was understanding the dramatic changes in her personality. As a young adult, the child is finally correctly diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Unlike the dark Hollywood version of individuals with Multiple Personalities, The Sunny Side of Crazy shares the joys and struggles of a young lady living with this disorder. As a young adult, she must make the most important decision of her life. Will she undergo a process to integrate her personality or continue to live with the five courageous personalities who have loved and protected her?
Trica Mikouchi was raised in the Midwest and left for the Far East while still a teenager. She attended Sophia University and International Christian University in Tokyo before joining the staff of Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan. After spending 15 years living abroad, she returned to the United States to work with an International Aid Agency and acquire her master’s in marketing. The Sunny Side of Crazy was her first publication and will be followed with A Fish Out of Water Lands in Japan in 2023.
A Wounded Heart
Five-year-old Michiko thought it was going to be the best day of her life. It wasn’t. It was one of the worst.
From the moment she woke up, she knew the day was going to be special. Her mother let her sleep in. “No nursery school today,” she said as Michiko climbed out of bed. Instead of her dreary school uniform, her mother allowed her to put on her favorite bright yellow sweatpants and a Mickey Mouse shirt. Just looking at those cheerful colors made her happy. That was the artist in her, the brighter the colors, the happier she felt.
If that weren’t enough, wherever they were going, Grandmother was going with them. When Grandmother was around, Michiko felt warm, safe, and loved. Her mother would never raise her voice in front of her grandmother. In fact, she didn’t remember her mother speaking to Grandmother much at all. No matter, she thought, for sure, it was going to be an extra special day. Even the gloomy sky, howling wind, and falling rain outside her window couldn’t dampen her spirit. Mother grabbed a hairbrush and quickly ran it through Michiko’s long silky hair.
Suddenly, Papa’s face burst into the room. Michiko shivered as he stared at her for a long moment and then roared, “For God’s sake, how long does it take to brush a child’s hair? Your taxi is waiting.” .
“Come on, Michiko, you know Grandmother hates being late,” her mother said nervously. Michiko smiled as she remembered Grandmother would be joining them. That was all that mattered. The day couldn’t start any better. It had to be an awesome day!
By the time they joined Grandmother in the taxi, the rain had turned into a heavy downpour, common to the muggy Japanese rainy season. As she struggled to close her little red umbrella, Grandmother leaned over and closed it for her. She snuggled closer to Grandmother, expecting to be told how pretty she looked, or at least greeted by her usual “Good morning how’s my little Michiko-chan?”
Instead, her Grandmother looked at her sadly, gently touched her cheek, and barked at her mother, “We’re late again. I hope Miss Sarah waits for us.” Miss who? Miss Sarah? What a funny name, she thought. Why would a foreigner be waiting for us?
Then, she noticed Grandmother was wearing her nicest kimono, which she wore only for the most special of occasions. Grandmother must have thought it would be a special day, too.
Twenty minutes later, their taxi pulled in front of a brightly lit coffee shop. By then, the sky had turned black and thunder roared. Michiko opened her umbrella again, grabbed her grandmother’s sleeve, and followed her into the cheerful little coffee shop. It was called Dunkin Donuts, one of the many new foreign shops lining the streets of Osaka.
The smell of hot coffee and warm donuts filled every inch of the room, and she suddenly recalled being there before. Grandmother brought her here a long time ago, for her fifth birthday. They’d laughed as they shared a huge chocolate donut followed by her favorite — a strawberry one. Now, it seemed like that was a long time ago.
“Irrashaimase! Welcome to Dunkin Donuts!“ called out the cheerful young clerk from behind the counter. She looked directly at Michiko, “What would you like this morning, little lady?”
How could she possibly choose? It didn’t matter. Her mother immediately replied, “Just two coffees and a plain donut for the child, please.” As her mother waited, Grandmother gently took Michiko by the hand and led her toward a booth where a foreign lady was sitting. It was the first time she’d seen a foreigner closeup, and what she saw frightened her. The foreigner’s hair and eyes were so light they appeared colorless, like a dead Japanese. She immediately sensed danger and hid behind Grandmother. “Here, sit next to me,” Grandmother said, as she pulled Michiko forward, picked her up, and slid her into the booth. Moments later, her mother followed, briefly bowed to the foreigner and sat down.
Grandmother was the first to speak.“ Thank you for coming Miss. Sarah,” she said. We think it’s time for the child to leave. We can’t wait any longer. My daughter is pregnant again, and the baby will be coming soon. This child needs to be living in another home.”
This child? What child? Wait! A sickening fear overcame Michiko. She wondered if she could be the child they were talking about? Leave? Leave where? Go where? She struggled to focus. What was she hearing? How could that be?
As loudly and clearly as if he were standing next to her, Michiko heard Papa’s voice repeat the words he’d spoken many times before: “You’re a bad girl Michiko, you’re a bad, bad girl.”
Her mind raced. Was she being sent away because she was a bad, bad girl? Was she not good enough for her family?
She slid down in the booth and turned her attention to a table nearby. A little girl her same age was giggling and wiggling as she tried to push a donut between her mother’s tightly closed lips. When her mother finally opened her mouth, the little girl slipped, and milk quickly flowed over the table and down to the floor.
Michiko froze. Her heart beat faster. She held her breath, sat up straight, and stared directly at her donut. One second, two seconds, three seconds, four, breathe. The little girl began crying but her father started laughing. Michiko couldn’t believe it! Soon the little girl’s mother joined the laughter. Mopping up the mess and gently drying her daughter’s tears, “Satoko, it’s okay! But, you do this every time we go out. You need to be more careful.” Her parents continued to hug her and laugh.
Michiko closed her eyes and let her mind wander. For a brief moment, she dreamed of being that little girl, felt that mother’s arms around her as she promised everything was going to be okay.
No! She was bad, and bad girls don’t deserve families like that. She hugged herself tightly and began to rock back and forth.
The foreigner’s voice interrupted her thoughts, and with a jolt, she was back, still confused and worried. She looked across the table and studied the woman sitting next to her mother. She spoke Japanese fluently but looked dead, like the ghosts in her storybooks. She decided she didn’t like those storybooks, ghosts, or this foreigner.
Finally, her mother spoke in barely more than a whisper, “My husband will not raise Michiko any longer; she’s not his child.”
Then whose child was she? What did that mean? She felt like crying but held back her tears. Crying would make no difference. It wouldn’t change anything. She had stopped crying long ago. Then, the woman spoke again, and this time her words were terrifying, “I know someone in America who would be a wonderful mother.”
Another mother? Did she hear that correctly? Another mother? Another country? A country where everyone would be colorless and speak words she couldn’t understand? Would she have a foreigner for a mother? That couldn’t be! She was Japanese! She wouldn’t be herself anymore.
Nothing made sense. Where was she going? What would happen to her? Was she going to a country called America? Thoughts and voices intruded. Whose thoughts?
Whose voices? She didn’t know.
“I don’t want to be here. I wish I weren’t me. I want to disappear. I want to melt away!”
“You need to stay. You need to hear this; you need to know.”
“You’ll be okay, Michiko.”
Okay? That would not be possible. How could she be okay? Was she there to be given away?
The foreigner looked at her mother, “You need to decide what you’re going to do.”
Her mother didn’t say anything. She never did. Not when she should have, like when Michiko walked to nursery school in the rain, and Papa drove right past her. Or, when she was left alone in the bath with Papa while her Mother put her little brother Takashi to bed.
Miss.Sarah reached for her raincoat. Michiko waited. Mother had to say something. She was her Mother! She couldn’t give her away! She’d be good if she could stay.
But, as if reading Michiko’s mind, her grandmother quickly said, “Michiko needs to go. She needs a new family, and she will be better off in America.”
And her mother?
Her mother said nothing at all.