Trigger warning: This article discusses mental health and thoughts of self-harm. If you need support, reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are concerned about your safety and need to seek immediate help, call Triple Zero (000).

Two years ago, I was going through a particularly tough time. I was experiencing a relationship breakdown that meant my safe space away from work was no longer a space in which I felt particularly safe. It was coming up to Christmas time and most years I, along with my colleagues, would be excited to spend this time with family watching children open presents excitedly and relax having some time away from work.

This year I held onto my workplace, regretting that the end of the year was coming because I knew it meant that I was going to encounter a period of loneliness I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to handle. I was cherishing my coffee breaks in the kitchenette with my colleagues more than I ever had before, but I felt ashamed of how my life had turned upside down and chose not to confide in them about how I was feeling.

To get to my workplace, I had to take a motorway that took me through an underground tunnel. On my way to work this time two years ago, I looked at the side of the tunnel and thought that if I drove into it I would be making life easier for the people I loved. It was a thought that terrified me, because it came naturally and out of place in my mind I didn’t expect to have.

I arrived at work and stood at the photocopying machine, staring out the window waiting for my print job to finish. One of my colleagues came and stood next to me. Cold instant coffee in hand, sighing as he waited to commence his own print job, he asked me, “How are you going?” We didn’t need to look at each other for me to feel the authenticity of his question and, for the first time since my relationship breakdown, I started talking as we both stared out the window together.

When you release the pressure on a dam like that, and someone listens, the feeling is overwhelming. I didn’t need to hold it in, I didn’t need to carry the burden myself, and for that moment I lightened my emotional load. The Christmas period was lonely, but I was able to carry on as my colleague continued checking in.

I see my story as an example of R U OK? Day in action. It isn’t just something we say on the second Thursday in September, and it isn’t something that needs to be formally asked. We can ask someone if they’re okay on any day of the year to help ease the load they might be carrying. The Christmas period can be a challenging time for those experiencing personal hardship, so here’s a reminder of how to check in with someone before you go on leave and ask, “R U OK?”

R U Ok Poster

Taken from: How to ask "Are you OK?" | R U OK?

If someone is not okay, here are some organisations who can help 24/7:

The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous, because this story could belong to any of us.