Your story. My story. Everybody has one. Each of us hopes for a happy ending and, let’s face it, we all could use a little more light in our days. I find this to be especially true after a week that left my heart heavy. Truth be told, I’m feeling a little scattered so I thought I’d leave my thoughts here.
Finding the Light in the Dark
On Monday I learned that a former schoolmate, someone I’d known from junior high school through to university, had taken her own life. I had long ago lost touch with her but the shock I felt was palpable. I can’t pretend to understand the depths of desperation she must have felt, the helplessness. Nonetheless, I mourn the loss of her, of how I remember her. My heart hurts for her family and close friends. Questions that will never be answered.
The sad irony is that, in the days that followed, my social media streams, when not clogged with political rants, were filled with stories of people I know who have been struggling — and continue to struggle — with mental illness. Friends and acquaintances who have been battling their own demons for years, who have found ways of coping, stepped out of their comfort zones to share their deeply personal struggles in order to combat the stigma surrounding this silent killer.
Everybody Has a Story
Depression. Anxiety. Post partum depression. Bullying. Each narrative is different and yet eerily similar. The feeling of being alone, misunderstood, embarrassed, helpless. The realization of needing and seeking help. I wanted to hug each and every one of them and say, “I’m here for you.” Even though I don’t struggle with these issues personally, I feel like that can’t be repeated enough. I’m here. I will listen. It was a reminder that, indeed, everybody has a story. It could be a friend, a colleague, a family member, your spouse or child.
Each of our stories is different, uniquely shaped by the characters who come and go, lives intertwining, each chapter unfolding to an ending yet unwritten. A bit of a Choose Your Own Adventure. We touch on others’ stories just as they touch on ours and would do well to remember, just as we strive to teach it to our children, to practice kindness and empathy every day. Because you just don’t know what someone else is going through.
Let us dispense with the negativity. Because words hurt, they damage, they leave scars. Listen. Too often we let our own views and misgivings threaten to tear down someone else for the simple purpose of getting something off our chest. Let us ask questions and engage in thoughtful conversation instead of passing judgement. Let us practice restraint and first ask ourselves if a situation truly warrants our opinion. Instead of pointing out someone’s faults, let us celebrate they beauty and inspiration in their accomplishments.
If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.
Let us find ways to lift the human spirit because I believe, despite our daily challenges — kids, jobs, stress, exhaustion — this goes to the core of who we are as human beings. We never quite know someone else’s story quite as well as we know our own. But we can do a better job of helping to create a happier ending both for ourselves and those around us.