R U OK?
Why I couldn’t stand up and talk on R U OK day without feeling like a hypocrite.
Today is R U OK day.
I was asked by work to give a small talk at the morning tea they were having for R U OK day.……
I couldn’t do it.
How could I stand up there and tell people about making sure your workmates are ok when exactly 2 months ago today I was sitting on the floor of my shower balling my eyes out. Heaving with a heavy heart not wanting to live any more. That when I did finally drag myself out of the shower I then started googling ways to kill myself. Devised a plan on how to end it all.
At peace with the plan I had made, I simply got up and went to work the next day and no one around me was none the wiser. No one picked up on the fact that I was ready to end it all that very Friday night and no one would know or discover me for at least for 3 days until I fail to turn up to work the following Monday. From an outsiders view looking in, nothing had changed with me overnight. I still performed my job that day as if everything was normal. I laughed, chatted and did what was expected of me all the while knowing that this pain, self-hatred and deep despair of nothingness would be over soon.
How could I get up and talk to people about keeping an eye on your colleagues and check in on them from time to time when no one picked up on any of the signs I was subconsciously giving, that I was in trouble and needed help, needed to be checked in on. No one in this office genuinely cares. It’s all a big joke to them.
When you hate yourself as much as I do, you try your best to show up all the while hiding what is really going on.
Maybe I should be flattered or humbled that I was able to hide it as well as what I did that I was actually asked to make a speech. That no one suspected that something was going on, that I didn’t draw attention to the dark sinister cloud that was bearing down on me. After all, that was what I wanted, to be left alone, to look like I was normal, to uphold a fake front while outside the safe confines of my home so that when I did get home at the end of each day I could collapse, relax and stop pretending that I was OK, that everything was fine, to let go of the façade I put on when I did have to go out so that people wouldn’t ask questions.
I was succeeding. I looked like I had it all together and that I was a stand up member of the workplace, that I could be relied on to do such a task. So when I declined and said I couldn’t do it, the person who had asked me should have realised that something wasn’t right. That person was one of a few who knew I had had struggles in the past, that this topic of R U OK is close to my heart, that I am an advocate to encourage others to access the company benefit of the EAP (Employee Assistant Program), that at one stage when I felt good about myself I was even prepared to put myself out there and share my story to senior management as a learning tool.
Why did they not ask why I had done a back flip on my empathy for this topic?
Why was I shrinking away from this opportunity?
People need to realise that asking someone if they are ok doesn’t need to be triggered because they suddenly notice something isn’t right or is out of the ordinary. It needs to be ask regularly and genuinely even when things appear to be going well for someone.
It is human instinct to hide our deep dark troubles. When I first entered the work force 17 years ago I was taught that when you are at work you are here to work so leave your outside issues, problems and dramas at the door because you are here to do a job. When you walked through that door in the morning you put on that mask and you hid whatever was going on at home and didn’t tell or show people that you weren’t OK. Over time I have gotten better at knowing what signs people pick up on in me when I’m struggling and have gotten better at hiding the signs that show that I’m not OK.
While there is a push to change the sigma, as someone who has struggled I can see it’s still got a long way to go. Honestly I doubt I would ever just go knock on the door to my boss’s office and say “hey do you have a minute to chat, I’m suicidal”. Actually I wasn’t even able to do it that night I started planning. I scrolled through my phone looking at all the names of contacts I had and each one I came to I would pause, look at, consider what was going on in their life and move on. No one in my phone needed me to call or text out of the blue and says “Hey I need help, I’m suicidal” and I certainly wasn’t going to call my family. They were travelling at the time and the last thing I wanted to do was to put that stress and worry on them while they were so far away from home.
Although things are evolving and changing there is still a lot of old school attitudes and it’s because of this that we need to ask R U OK more often than when we notice something isn’t right with a friend or work mate. Don’t just ask it as a fleeting question or out of habit but purposely go out of your way to go up to your work colleague and look them in the eye, show kindness and compassion and ask R U OK. They may be ok, there may be nothing going on to cause concern and their life could be all sunshine and rainbows but you just never know what is going on behind those eyes, that your genuine kindness may just save a life.
I’m a tough cookie to crack and over the 10 years of learning to manage and live with my depression I have put up a wall around myself which means I rarely disclose to anyone outside those in my inner circle about my struggles. On that particular Friday, I somehow managed to find something deep inside me that prompted me to reach out to my psychologist for emergency help as well as my GP, although it took another 3 weeks before I told my family about what was going on because I felt it was my burden to bear.
I don’t know if any of this would have worked for me on that Friday when I was preparing to end it all and there is no point looking back.
Ultimately no one knew what was going on and no one asked.
If you or someone you know is suicidal please contact LifeLine on 13 11 14 and seek support. You can get past this.