I recently left a job at the University of Calgary; funding cuts, the norm when you work in research. The work was meaningful, the people were the reason I loved going to work every day. I’d miss them more than my quick departure sans mushy goodbye lets on.
Fast forward a month to a potluck with my former coworkers. At the end of the night one of the undergrad students, an intelligent, feisty, beautiful young woman, hands me an envelope. Inside is a beautiful homemade card with pages glued to the inside. Each page has a handwritten note on it from a former lab mate. I decide to save the reading of the card until the next day less risk going into what Oprah calls ‘the ugly cry’. “I have something in my eye, it’s nothing.”
When I read the card the next day I’m overcome by the kind messages. They’re filled with admissions I would never have guessed, things like how much they’ll miss me, how much they appreciated my humour and energy, and how the lab wouldn’t be the same without me. Yeah, ugly cry.
One line stands out from the others:
“I want to be like you someday”
If only they knew the truth. If only they knew that that night after coming home from the potluck I fell victim to another sleepless night. If only they knew that I ended up crying myself to sleep (again) after the mental exhaustion from hours of berating myself set in. If only they knew I spent part of those hours thinking about committing suicide, only thinking about it. If only they knew.
So no, I don’t hope she ends up like me some day.
Correction. I hope that, if she ends up like me someday, she’ll have the courage to ask for help. I hope she’ll be brave enough to tell the truth after she’s lived through one of those lonely nights. I hope that she can be vulnerable enough to share what she’s going through so that she can release herself from the shame that comes along with it. I hope that she stops accepting what shouldn’t be normal as normal so that life can be a little easier. I hope she finds the words to describe what she’s feeling and thinking so that she can be properly diagnosed. (I’ll get my finances in order so it’s less of a hassle when I’m gone. Who should I leave my yoga props to? Why can’t I ever motivate myself to do anything? It must be because I’m bloody lazy. Maybe if, after I kill myself, my life can be used as a lesson to help others. I don’t want to live like this anymore.)
If only they knew the truth.
For the record, I already know that this young woman is brave, courageous, and self-aware enough to live through whatever life throws at her; same goes for the others. My ex-lab mates, who I now call friends, have no idea how much they helped me during the 20 months we worked together. They have no idea what it meant to me to see them every week so that I could laugh and learn and distract myself from myself. I’ll leave it at that, no point going into the ugly cry again.
If only they knew the truth. Maybe the one that doesn’t know the truth about me is me.
Thanks to the Calgary Counselling Centre, and to Mariko, for helping me start to realize the truth.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen
This is a space dedicated to our community, to all of us, it’s a place to share our stories and find hope and get help. No matter what you’re going through, and as dark and difficult as it may be, it can and does get better. Others have gone through it and so can you.