I don’t think I ever mentioned this story before, because it happened before I started this blog. Not too long before. I work nights in a well known, reasonably priced supermarket… Friday nights are usually the worst because there are a lot of people that have been out drinking and decide to head to the 24 hour supermarket (we close at 22:00 on a Saturday because of Sunday trading laws). So on a Friday the chances are very high that I’m going to have to decipher what drunken language is being spoken at me in order to do my job and help the customer, fortunately I work in the clothes department so not too many customers come to me.
One Friday though, a young lady approached me and asked me to help her find the cardigans. I knew she’d been drinking because I could smell it and she was a bit unsteady on her feet. I took her over to her drunken heart’s desire and she told me the pills she had taken were rubbish because she wasn’t even sleepy. It being about 02:00 I assumed she was referring to sleeping pills. She then said she’d taken all of the pills. ‘Oh shit.’ I think to myself. I don’t know much about sleeping pills but it’s probably not good to take them all.
I did my best to discourage her from doing it again and the conversation awkwardly continued. I’m just a store assistant, who doesn’t really like strangers, that’s why I like working nights.
Then I realise she isn’t talking about sleeping pills. She’s talking about several different kinds of doctor prescribed anti depressants! ‘Oh shit some more!’ And she’s been drinking… ‘Shit shit shitty shit!’ I didn’t really know what to do at this point but she was still being very specific about the cardigan so I told her if she would just stay put I’d check the warehouse and come back right away. I did just that (the “magic has everything” warehouse did not have the cardigan but I found some similar ones).
When I came back she was on the floor pulling a can of lager from her handbag… She was ashamed of herself and embarrassed to be seen in such a state, but she’d just tried to overdose on her medication so she was clearly too depressed to pick herself up and dust herself off. If I’m honest I don’t think she could have picked a better staff member to break down in front of. I’m not boasting or putting down my colleagues. I just have a lot of experience with depression. Both my own and my families.
I sat down on the floor with her and had a very long chat (wee skipping work). We talked about all sorts. I wanted to figure out the reasons she had to keep going. She has a daughter, a young one, about four years old if I remember right. But she didn’t think she was a good mother, in fact she thought her daughter would’ve been better off without her. ‘Hell no, nothing beats a mother right?’
I asked her if her daughter liked going to the park. Obviously the answer was yes. And who did her daughter like going to the park with most? Mummy of course! The conversation went on like that for a while until it clicked with her that no matter how bad she thought she was her daughter would miss her mum every step of her life. When she finished school, got a degree, got married, had her first child, she was going to want her mum.
She let me call an ambulance and I hoped from that point on she would be okay. Not fixed, but on her way to it. I had always imagined that she would be embarrassed by the night and avoid the store whenever possible. And I also imagined that that would be my first and only encounter with this woman.
I was wrong. She came in this evening, knowing that if she was lucky I’d be working on a Friday night still. She didn’t entirely remember what I looked like or much about that evening. But she got herself drunk enough to be courageous (not something I entirely condone). And she found me, just to say thanks and by me flowers (because flowers are a thank you gift right?). It’s been months. And she remembered enough to know that when she was down there are people that care. I had apparently had an impact on her life, one that required thanks. I have to say I’m chuffed. She’s alive, not fixed but getting there. I’m so happy for her.
So the most important thing for me to say is that when people are drowning in depression they need someone to hold their hand out and help pull them back above the water. It only takes a conversation to remind people that they are cared about. Some of my colleagues afterwards told me I should have just called the police. But I will never kick someone while their down like that and I hope you won’t either. Hold out a hand and pull them back up.