Hello there. Hope you are staying safe and healthy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and that you and your loved ones are doing well. If you have lost a loved one, friend, colleague or acquaintance to this pandemic, or to any other incidents, my sincere condolences to you.
I am writing this as a reminder for us to check on others and look out for each other, but first, how are you doing? Check in with yourself daily… am I cranky today? Am I sad? Am I feeling lonely? Why am I so emotional today? These are all questions I have been intentional about asking myself lately because I am in a situation that I’ve never been in before. Mostly indoors for the past five weeks alone in a country far from my family and close friends, and I miss them. I miss punching and pinching my friends, I miss hugs, and that’s ok, that’s normal. I acknowledge that, mope for a bit, then count the things that I am grateful for; like my health, a job that makes it easy to work remotely, a loving family, some solid friends, the ability to workout, and the list goes on! That changes my mood eventually to one of gratitude and a motivation to reach out to others! Ok, back to the post!
A few years ago, actually, it’s been more than 10 years now… I was somewhere in Asia. It was unplanned, I was headed somewhere else and my plans were changed last minute. It was completely out of my control and I was unhappy with the change, but I had no choice. I ended up staying with a friend for a week, and looking back, I am so glad that I ended up staying with her at that time. The loss of time and cost of flights that I had to forego and rebook seem so minute in relation to what I learned and experienced that week.
Unknown to me, my friend had been battling depression for quite some time. To exacerbate the situation, she had also experienced several losses that year, including the loss of a long-term relationship. She had just been dumped by her boyfriend of 7 years- the man she thought she would spend the rest of her life with. So she felt overwhelmed and helpless, yet unable to express how she felt because every time she mentioned her sadness to friends and (often well meaning) family members, they said things like ‘you’ll be fine’, ‘get over it’, ‘it’s been a few months now, you should really be over this’, ‘give it to Jesus, He will heal your heart’, ‘God will bring someone better, you’re better off without him’. While these people most likely cared about her and meant well, what their responses communicated to her was that something was wrong with her. That there was a reason why she was not able to stop feeling the pain and just ‘get over it’, so she withdrew and isolated herself from everyone, little by little. Some tried to stay in touch at first, but eventually gave up; unknown to them, she was sinking deeper and deeper into depression.
Then she received a message from me saying I would be in town for a week or so and wanted recommendations for a cheap and decent hotel. Somehow, she said “nonsense, what hotel? You’ll stay with me!” and that’s what I did. Most nights, we just watched ridiculous tv shows, some nights, she cried and I just sat there with her, other nights, I cried too and held her. My one week stay was prolonged for sure, but I was there for as long as she needed me to be. It was with her that I first watched “When Harry Met Sally” and to this day, whenever I see that movie, I am transported back in time to my friend’s sofa.
One day, she came home from running some errands and said. “Thank you Sarah for everything. When I went out today, I was so tired and decided to end it all, I was done. I was standing on the edge of the train tracks ready to jump, then I remembered you were here and that we were having fun, that I could talk to you, so I came back home. I’ll be okay, I finally contacted a therapist and will start sessions again, but I just wanted to say, thank you.” She will probably never understand how much those words shook me! The thought that the police could have come over that night to inform me of her death shook me in ways I can’t begin to describe.
This memory and this story was blocked out of my mind for years because it is an intense one for me but I want to share it now because there are people around us right now who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. You may be aware of some but unaware of others, but I want to remind you to reach out. Take a minute and reach out to someone that you know or suspect is struggling. Say hello, send a silly GIF or a meme, or a voice note. Being there for someone could be the difference between life and death. I am not saying this to scare you or put the responsibility for someone else’s life in your hands, not at all. The thing though is that most of us have no idea how many people we have encouraged in the past by our words, messages and compassion. So I want to cheer you on and say, keep reaching out! Most of us will never know how much we have impacted others for good and helped them and that’s ok. We are in our little ways, making the world a more compassionate and emotionally safer place.
What happened to my friend, you may be wondering. I stayed with her for another week after the avoided incident, then had to continue my journey. We stayed in touched for a few years after that and she was doing well, healing and recovering well. She also got married and started a new life and the last time we talked, she was in a good and healthy place.
So, think for a minute… how are you doing? How are you feeling? If something is hurting or bothering you? What is it? What can you do about it? Then think about someone else who may be hurting, afraid or alone. How can you reach out to them?
If you are reading this, and you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please reach to someone that you can trust or reach out to me. You are not alone. You may feel that way, but you are not alone.