You don’t know the impact you have on this world until you are gone and by then, it’s too late.
This morning you woke up dead. You made your way, rubbing the sleep from your eyes, heading to the washroom to get ready for your day. Your sister is in the bathroom doing her makeup like she always is when you get there, but today each time she tries the tears make tracks down her cheeks, makeup smearing everywhere.
You finish getting ready and head downstairs for breakfast. Your mother sits there, her hands in her head. Your favourite food sitting there untouched and cold. Your father is there too. The air is strained. You can feel the tension between them. Each blaming the other without saying as much. You wolf down your breakfast and head out the door.
You arrive early for work, as usual and prepare for the coming day. You set out your to do list, check your emails and make sure everything is ready for when your boss comes in. Everything in its place. Everything perfect. Everything that needs to be dealt with, itemized, prioritized.
You head down the hall and make yourself a tea and settle in. Your day always begins before everyone else’s and ends long after everyone is gone home to be with their families. This is all you have. This is all you’ve ever had and you throw yourself into your work. You’re extraordinary. Irreplaceable. But you’ve never seen yourself in that light. All you see are the mistakes. The imperfections. Never good enough. After all, there’s always room for improvement. You believe that, but you’ve always been harder on yourself than anyone ever could be. You’re just a failure in your eyes. Just another assistant. Just a worthless pinprick in a world full of people who are far superior to you in every way. Your time, your opinion, none of it matters. But you still try, try so hard because you can’t stand being anything less than perfect. You’re so afraid to make a mistake. So afraid to admit you’re wrong. You’ve created this idea of how your life should go. A timeline and you haven’t reached a single milestone. What you don’t see is all the things you’ve accomplished, all the things you are.
But you woke up dead. No one can see you. No one knows you’re there. 8 AM rolls around and your coworkers exchange a look. You’re always here. They whisper and wonder. Could you be sick? Your boss arrives, but thinks nothing of your absence. Maybe you just stepped away for a moment. He’s not worried. He trusts you and knows you are responsible. That if anything happened, you would’ve told him, like you had always done. Even when you’re sick, he finds you sitting there, ready to take on work. Even if you’re dying inside, you will never let your facade crack. He will never see your weaknesses. To him and to everyone, you can’t be anything less than a polished professional. To show otherwise would be unthinkable.
By 9 o’clock, there is talk around the office. Surely someone must know where you are. Someone must’ve seen you. They talk to your work best friend, but she hasn’t seen you since she dropped you off at home on Friday night and she hasn’t received a message from you since Saturday afternoon. People are starting to worry about you. She sends you a message and waits, but nothing.
They knew you as the girl with the easy smile and upbeat attitude. You always had a kind word for everyone and you tried your best to make everyone feel welcome. You were shy and quiet, but that didn’t stop you from becoming involved. Your laugh was infectious. You kept to yourself mostly, but you had a reputation. Everyone who knew you knew one thing. You were reliable. They could trust you to keep your word. Always.
But no one knew that deep down inside, you hated yourself. That nothing was going right for you. You didn’t want to go home at night. The fights were getting worse. The screaming, the crying. Doors slamming, plates smashing. You tried to tune it out. Closing the door, plugging in. But no matter how you tried, locking yourself in your room was never the answer. You felt like a prisoner within your own home.
Left to your thoughts, you began contemplating ending it all that after a while, it became the norm to dwell on these thoughts. You would muse to yourself as you entertained the thought. You just couldn’t keep this up anymore. You just weren’t strong enough to keep fighting. You stopped feeling a long time ago. Everything was cold and numb now. Sometimes you would hurt yourself just to make yourself feel something. Everyday was just about going through the motions. Anxiety and paranoia consumed your life. Over and over, you kept telling yourself that no one could ever love someone like you. That you would never amount to anything no matter how hard you tried. This sad existence was all you had.
You were just tired of trying. You’d come home from work feeling tired and you would go to work tired. An exhaustion that wasn’t just physical, but reached into the depths of your soul. Your body had just given up. You couldn’t keep going on like this for much longer. How could you when you couldn’t even make a difference? You were just a drop of water in an endless sea.
Sleep didn’t come easily to you anymore, subsisting on 4-5 hours of sleep each night. Stressing about every little thing. Your to do list was endless. There was always going to be work to be done. You’d never be done, never have the satisfaction of accomplishment. Each time you finished something, there was always something to take its place. You could never just enjoy celebrating the small victories. There was always something to be done. And soon, you found that crying was the only way you could get any sleep at all. You’d just tucker yourself out each night, waking up with reddened eyes. Nothing a little makeup couldn’t fix. And soon, it didn’t matter anymore. You stopped taking care of yourself. What was the point? Who were you dressing up so pretty to impress? No one would care to look your way anyways.
But still, something drove you to keep concealing it. Every morning, you put on a smile and you go out into the world to what you did best. Pretending that everything was okay. You try so hard at your job, but for what? Why did it matter so much to you? Nothing you did ever made a difference.
It’s 10 AM and the call finally comes. You stand at his door, about to drop off your latest report and you just watch as your boss’ face collapse. He stops, unable to react, to feel.
How could something like this happen?
To you. Someone who felt so replaceable, you don’t understand. There would be others like you. Others who could do your job so much better than you. But there aren’t. There aren’t people out there who can learn on the job as fast as you did. There aren’t people out there who are as committed as you to your job. People out there aren’t as meticulous as you were.
You called yourself crazy. Psycho even. The way you wanted things just so. You were organized beyond organized. Your systems had systems. And you always made things more complicated than they ever had to be. But they worked for you and no one else could see or understand. You found joy in this, even if you didn’t see it. Everything had its place. Everything had a purpose.
You went for a walk and you never came home that night. They found your body floating in the river, miles away from the place you called home. You just wanted the numbness to go away. You wanted to feel something. Anything.
The water looked so beautiful. So calm, reflecting the colours of the sunset. Sunset had always been your favourite time. The way the colours intermingled gave you a sense of calm in a life that you felt none. Nature had a way of making you feel when nothing else could. It made you want to return to it, become a part of it. That’s all you could think of when you plunged into the cold water.
For a moment, you felt alive. Truly alive. Blackness and burning. Peace. Then nothing.
It seemed so long ago you were happy. Truly happy. You had disappeared inside yourself. You didn’t want anything to do with people anymore. Each day came and went and you became more and more alone because inside you were safe. You could continue to live in the utopia you had in your memories. You could go back to a time when you could still feel emotions. You lost touch with the world around you, but that didn’t matter because you found solace in your solitude.
Once in a while the real you would slip out. You would feel, express anger, sadness, disappointment, jealousy, but you would always apologize for it. It wasn’t proper to show people how you truly felt. You always had to pretend. To be courteous, even to those you hated with a burning passion. While there weren’t many of those in your life, the hatred made you feel more alive than anything. So you sought it out. You would put yourself into situations that would hurt you. That would make you feel those toxic emotions because feeling those was better than feeling nothing at all.
At your funeral you see faces you never expected, paying their respects. Tears, real, actual tears being shed for you. You never knew that so many people cared. Or perhaps they didn’t. Perhaps they were only showing up to be seen. To pretend to show the world they cared, when they really (rightfully), didn’t give a shit about you. You find it hard to believe that anyone would’ve gathered here today for you.
The only ones you truly know about are the ones who you call your closest friends and family. You study the faces of your friends and family twisted in anguish and you wish you could stop their pain. These were the people you loved the most. The people you would’ve done anything for. The people you would’ve protected with your dying breath. And yet, they sit here today, doing the only thing they can. To gaze upon your lifeless body and ask themselves why. To ask themselves what they could’ve done to help you. But there’s no answer. The only one who would’ve known is you and they can’t reach you anymore. You never knew that these were truly people you could’ve gone to. To talk to. But it’s too late. Your choice brought you to where you are today.
Seeing their pain, you wish you could take it all back. But it’s too late.
*inspired by a (fictional) story I read about someone who committed suicide and saw the impact they actually made on those around them and combined it with a prompt I had written on years ago (prompt: you’re attending your own funeral). If you are experiencing feelings or thoughts of suicide, please reach out. There’s always someone who cares about you. Or please call your local suicide crisis line. There’s always help out there if you need it. And always, I’m here to listen if you need. You are loved. Do not forget that.