We’re Not Okay, But We Can Get Better

Leo Hidalgo
Leo Hidalgo

I don’t mean to make light of a deeply serious issue here, but I do want to say something. Just put that knife/ bottle of whatever/ rope down for a few minutes and just hear me out. You can always take that final step later. Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s not pretty, but it does change.

At the very outset, I want to tell you that there is no judgement coming your way, because whoever judges hasn’t been where we are now—hasn’t looked into a future so bleak that this seems like the best option. Since you and I have, let’s just talk. Just the two of us.

I know it’s terrible right now. If we think about it for a moment, it’s always about betrayal, isn’t it? Someone or something lets us down in such a bad way, and we just can’t get past it. We can’t even see if we’re meant to get past it. Or how. It could be anything—friends, lovers, jobs, money, our lives, our bodies—all the promise that we held that amounted to nothing. I’m here to tell you, it’s hogwash. Maybe you can’t see clearly through the tears clouding your exhausted mind, but we’re missing a critical piece of information. And it isn’t about how to get over the betrayal.

We’ve tried, of course. So far, for months or even a couple of years, we’ve been handling our shit. We’ve been to the friend dinners and laughed at the jokes and bought pretty things and sounded enthusiastic about the future. We’ve done it, faking it till we hopefully made it to the other side. But there’s always that moment that arrives, stealthily, usually at a time when we’re blessedly distracted by something else. It’s that shockingly clear moment that convinces us without any doubts that nothing will ever change. That’s when we decide—this is it.

You don’t know who I am, but I will tell you about my moment. It was around 4 PM on a Wednesday. I was sitting in a conference room with a few of my colleagues. Someone nudged me and I turned smiling to look at him. He was saying something, and the only way I could understand was if I read his lips. His voice could not break through the very familiar cocoon of white noise I carried around with me. Then he laughed and so did I. I turned to the others, all laughing faces, and I grinned some more. I sensed that the joke was directed at a mutual colleague and I nodded and laughed again. The meeting ended and we shook hands in agreement over God-knows-what, I waved them goodbye amidst promises of next week.

Then, I went to the nearest GP, complained about insomnia, got myself a prescription of some pills, topped it off with some purchases at a wine shop and I was good to go.

This was it. No more isolation, no more numbness, no more. Time for a self-induced reset.

To this day, I don’t know if I would have gone through with it. On my way home, I stopped at my favorite coffee shop for that one last cappuccino. And there, while making my final phone calls to friends and some family, a semi-stranger walked into my space. He took one look at my face, and in a moment of utter kindness, he told me that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t wrong to feel this way and that I didn’t have to hide my unhappiness from people. It was okay to despair, it was okay to feel lost and it was okay to feel like we were living on the edge of desperation, clinging on to that disintegrating veneer of normalcy.

And I wept.

So this is what I know. In our case, we are ahead of the curve. We actually have a chance. Because if we take a moment and look away from our broken hearts, we’ll see that the others around us are broken in their own unique ways, treading gingerly around that same chasm of desperation. We can finally acknowledge something that most people spend their whole lives trying to hide from. And it is this—We. Are. Not. Ok. But. We. Can. Be. Better.

How to be better:

1. Put away that knife/ bottle of whatever/ rope for at least a month while you try the next few steps. You’ve already been through so much, what’s another month, right?

2. Find someone to talk to who’s not a friend. Friends give sucky advice and usually they just want you to feel better. They’ll say anything, not realising sometimes how unhelpful they’re being. It’s not their fault. They don’t understand that everything sucks balls right now—including them—and you’d rather not play-act to make them feel better about their efforts. Also, there’s an added benefit of paying a stranger to talk you through your wallowing and it’s this : Zero Guilt. Now, you can really feel it and let it all hang out and they can’t complain if you’re boring or repetitive. It’s awesome.

3. Consume dark chocolate. Not by the boatloads but I’m all for one small bar a day. Total serotonin overhaul because, science.

4. Stop trying to distract yourself. This is a biggie. Your friends, bless them, will ask to meet you, will want to make sure you’re all right, will want to make you think of other things but right now, you need to sit down at the edge of that chasm and get used to the view. No more hiding. I would recommend foot massages. From strangers. While you learn to get comfortable with your reality.

5. Make a new friend who has no connection to your life and friends from before. It’s not a BFF we’re looking for but just someone who sees us as we are today and not who we used to be. There’s no pressure to live up to your past and you get your first rehearsal at a new normal.

I’m writing this ten years after my betrayal and I’m telling you—It. Got. Better. The very next day. And then the next. And the next. And slowly, I came to understand this one thing—endings are too final. They leave very little room for maneuverability… Unlike a full-stop, I’m more for a semi-colon; there’s always more… TC mark

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