18th of November 2020

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A year ago I read an email. Actually I was looking for another email when I found this one, but I will come back to that later.

The email that I read was from a HR manager at a workplace I used to work at temporarily, inviting the staff to the annual celebration of a new year. This was at the beginning of 2017 and I had worked there for a short period of time at a project in the fall and winter of 2016. The HR manager asked people to notify her if they could attend and those who would be attending should send her the name of two favorite songs for the party playlist. I wrote back conscientiously that I would be attending, that I was very much looking forward to it and that my favorite songs were Let’s dance by David Bowie and everything by Beyoncé (but of course). About two days later I received an email from the HR manager that said: ¨sorry, the mailing list I used was the wrong one, my bad¨. Somehow this message got drowned in my email, so when I came back from a trip abroad at the beginning of february and realised that I had forgotten all about that party I thought of nothing more appropriate to do but to write an email to the HR manager saying how very sorry I was for not attending the party without giving heads up and I also expressed how I hoped the party was a success and everyone had fun. I never got an answer to that last bit.

This email, which I found and read a year ago, was in itself not horrible. What happened was that I realised, two years too late, that I had not been invited to that party at all.

My mental discomfort at that time was on the other hand so extreme that when I read the email, I had a breakdown.

Yes, you read it alright. A year ago when I for some reason decided to read this whole chaotic communication between me and the workplace, that didn’t matter to me at all at that point, I had a breakdown. I totally lost what little I had left of my tired and torn self. The shame and self hatred flushed over me and I cried so much that I could hardly breath. That day I felt the thin shell around myself break and the rest of who I was swept out in the sand.

My mental state a year ago had already started to have some serious effect on my life before I ever read that email. Two months before I had been noticing unusual mood swings. I got angry at my kid a lot, had no patience and had a hard time showing affection. I felt like I had nothing to give the people around me. My husband was on the receiving end of all of this, including tears that appeared more than once a day. I focused as well as I could on being a person and attending to regular stuff: doing the groceries, picking up from kindergarten, doing the laundry. But it became harder and harder to be a person.

I was floating away, who was I really? I could not be myself, I was not there. I was lost. 

After I read the email it became too painful to be a person. The thought of letting myself fall down the stairs at the backdoor side in my apartment became desirable all of a sudden, transferring my pain to something else. Or to walk in front of a moving car at the busy intersection around the corner and make the pain vanish completely. Make me vanish. Completely.

I decided to tell my sister and my husband that I had these thoughts. I had to share this pain with someone, it was too heavy and excruciating to carry all alone. I was moving in anxious circles around myself, I could not stay in my own body. Rolling in the hate for myself and blowing my nose and wiping off the tears on my own clothing. I could not look into the eyes of the people I loved the most. I was scratching myself uncomfortably on the forehead, like Carrie Bradshaw whenever she really had fucked things up. I hated it when she did that and now I was standing in my living room in front of the two of them doing the same thing, exactly the same thing. I felt like I was this disgusting thing that should better just disappear.

After unbearably difficult conversations with my husband and my sister I finally called the mental health emergency line here in Denmark where I live.

I found out that I was sick, seriously sick. I was sick in my mind. After consultation with psychiatrists and other mental health staff I started taking medicine and started therapy.   
I was hospitalised at home for two months and had a weekly visit from a psychologist for one hour each time. If anything came up I could always call. 

Now, when a year has passed, I keep thinking about how much value there is in having people around me that saw me and found me when I was lost.

To have people around me that could help me find the desire to exist again. The pain I was carrying was too heavy to carry alone, my troubled mind was too foggy to see through it alone.

The email I originally was looking for, the one I mentioned at the beginning of this article, was an email between me and a psychologist I had been seeing some years back. I wanted to get in touch with her again. I had been thinking more than once that my mental state should probably be looked at by some professional but I never really got to it.  The fact that I accidentally read the email, from the aforementioned HR manager, saved my life. Because it’s actually the hardest thing to just give up. Fall flat down and not grab anything on the way down. In my case let people know that I was lost. Let people know that I needed help. That email pushed me to seek the help that I needed. I do not care to think of how long it would have taken me to seek help otherwise. 

I’m still in therapy and still taking medicine. Let’s dance by David Bowie is still my favorite song along with everything by Beyoncé. Today I know who I am – except for my three annual existential crises.

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Mental health: The email that made me want to walk out in front of a moving car