This post will be a little different. It comes with a trigger warning, as it contains descriptions of a time when I seriously considered self-harm.
Part way through 2011 I started what was my first full-time job. I had graduated from my first university qualification, just, a Bachelor of Engineering, majoring Product Development. The next logical step was to get a job where I would spend time learning and mastering the craft of helping find and fill market gaps to better serve consumers. The company I worked for was welcoming, the factories I worked at offered advice and expertise as they were able, and to an extent I was encouraged to work hours that suited me – so long as I completed the work required. I caught the train to work, which gave me plenty of time to read books on the way, and there was a short walk once I arrived at the destination station to prepare for the day at hand.
Over my short time in the job I realised the position did not allow me to help people in the ways I wished to. The primary concern for the companies was to earn revenue. Necessary to stay in business, but helping people was a by-product, or it wasn’t. Three or four months into the job I stopped catching the train and started driving my trusty Honda Accord, Heidi, to work. This meant I could get up later and still arrive to work at a respectable hour. Each day I started going to sleep later because I didn’t want to get up the next day. I am unable to articulate specifically why, but it was a struggle. At the time this didn’t occur to me that it might be a symptom of a larger problem, that there were bigger things going on in my life that I needed to focus on and sort out.
I struggled to break down thoughts of untruth; that I didn’t deserve the job, I want good enough to do it, and even more than that, that I deserved to feel the darkness that was dragging me down. For over a month, perhaps two or even more, I’m unable to recall, I survived on 3-5 hours sleep a night. I was in bed at a reasonable hour, read a book instead of spending time on a screen, but was unable to let go of whatever stress and worry I held. It was a harrowing part of my life, more so than I realised at the time.
One morning my depression reached a peak worse than it ever had, or ever has since. On my morning commute to work I looked intently at the median barrier and with disturbing clarity wondered what would happened if I turned Heidi towards it and tried to flip it, as if performing a stunt in an action movie. My brain disguised the thoughts of self-harm by focussing strictly on the physics of what would happen if I did this.
At that moment there was no little voice in my head telling me it was a bad idea. There was no voice saying this thought was something out of the ordinary. Even so, I sent my sister a text message, while stopped at traffic lights. She responded by picking up the phone and calling me. We decided it would be best I not work that day. I let my workplace know, turned my car around and drove back home to meet my sister for lunch. I still remember the cafe we went to.
Without her response and care something worse could have happened. It may not have been that day, or the next, or even the one after that, but I might not have been here to tell this story.
It was my way back into town that I began to turn fully towards God. I did not have the strength to cope with what was going on in my mind, my heart, and my soul. The years since have included many ups and downs, successes and failures, but I thank God every day for the people who are there when I need them. Turning to and having faith in God is a process I am still in the midst of and probably will be for the rest of my life.
Everyone has times when they need others to lean on for support. Some of us are blessed to have close family and friends to lean on at these times. Sadly, this is not true for everyone. Not everyone believes in God, that He has our back if we only turn to him in times of struggle and success. If we only pray. Choose kindness and lift up those around you when you can.
Life is not easy. Turning to God and having faith does not mean we will cease to experience struggle. It means we have a rock to turn to, to be our fortress when we cannot cope by ourselves. This we are not called to do.
Over the last three years I have made it one of my missions in life to pour goodness into the world wherever and whenever possible. I am not the pioneer of this ethos, far from it. If you are looking for an application of this the movie Pay it Forward expresses this philosophy brilliantly.
Without that car trip in 2011 I may not have reached this turning point. I may have reached it later. My time on this earth may have ended sooner. I will never know. But, I know I am better for making it through this trial and out the other side.
Turning points need not be as life-changing as this. Every day we make decisions, as seemingly mundane as how to get to work, whether we drink our morning coffee in a takeaway cup, or how we greet others who we know, and who we don’t.
What has been a turning point in your life? How did it affect where you are now? Are you in the middle of what might becoming a turning point?
Choose kindness, and you choose to be a haven for humanity, a part of someone else’s positive turning point. Kia kaha my friends.