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Lifeline – 13 11 14
Words by Angelica, 26 SA
She leaned across the edge of the rail, her body pressed into the cold metal. She felt guilt spread from her throat to her veins, into her entire body. Her head pounded and all she could think about was the relief that lay below her. The refreshing cool of nothingness. The light raindrops brought her back to present. She snapped out of it. She had to get ready for work.
Train into the city in the morning, coffee from the usual place on the walk from the train station. The sweet, elderly barista handed her a free chocolate button, as usual. Such a bright and sunny day now, with no sign of rain. Everything seems normal, but that’s what makes it so strange. How can you feel a storm building up inside when it’s so lovely outside?
She made it to the office exactly one minute early, as she usually did. She greeted her colleagues with a smile that hid everything she was really thinking. Just get through the day. Look like you’re paying attention at the 9:00am stakeholder meeting.
Lunch time. This is when it gets really hard. Without work to distract you, all you have left are your own thoughts. She took a small bite from the Vegemite sandwich her mum had made her. It’s all the nerves would let her eat without feeling like she would choke. She slid on her noise cancelling headphones and hoped it would distract her.
It’s the daily afternoon coffee run. She didn’t really want to go, but she didn’t want anyone to be suspicious of how she was feeling. Still, her hesitation showed. “It’s your last day of your internship, you have to come!” Her favourite colleague, K, gestured for her to come along. She obliged.
3:05pm The conversation.
They started walking toward their favourite coffee shop at the end of the street.
“You’ve done such an amazing job with your case studies and have some really impressive writing skills. What are you thinking you’ll do when you finish your degree?” She didn’t know how to reply. She wasn’t really planning for a future. After she finished this internship, that was it.
“Oh, I’m not 100% sure yet. I think I might apply to a few government jobs and see how I go.” Without death as back up, she didn’t know. K told her she had noticed she had quietened down the past week.
“How is everything going with you?” It was a loaded question. Just as she had started her internship her unwell father had been admitted to hospital, and her boyfriend of nearly three years had broken up with her.
“Oh, they’re ok. Things have just been a bit rough at home.” She had really been enjoying her internship and had done her best to keep it together, but it had been hard to be completely present lately. “I am really sorry to hear that. That sounds really tough, and I need you to know you have done such an amazing job, there is no way anyone could have ever known. Is there anything I can do to help?”
She was gobsmacked. All those niggling thoughts in her head that told her she wasn’t good enough, she wasn’t doing enough or paying enough attention -that she was constantly fighting against -were just thoughts. She was good enough; she was doing enough, and she had a bright future despite the darkness she felt.
“No, it’s okay. Thank you for asking – I don’t think I would have acknowledged how I was feeling without you asking.” They put in their coffee orders and talked shop as they walked back towards the office.
She smiled. She felt seen and appreciated.
The conversation wasn’t a solution to her mental health struggles, but it provided an opening to explore how she was really feeling. She went on to get help, found that government job she considered applying for, and is still in touch with K to this day.