I remember the first time I truly considered ending my life.
I was sitting in my bedroom, remembering a confrontation that had taken place at work a day or two previously. And I couldn’t get the racing thoughts out of my head.
Confrontations scare me. So many memories and challenging emotions from my childhood always race back into my head when conflict happens.
There is an underlying sense of “not safe” that hides at the edge of my consciousness. Most days, I’m able to ignore it, but when confrontation happens, that “unsafe” mindset rears its ugly head and abducts my brain. All I want to do is run and hide.
The Conflict that Sent Me Over the Edge
I was training a co-worker on how to complete a month-end financial report. It was a very complicated, manual Excel spreadsheet. I had shown her how to do it the previous month, but wanted to check her work this month, because it was her first time completing the report on her own. I wanted to make sure she had everything she needed to succeed and confirm that I had done all I needed to do in training her.
Apparently she didn’t like that. After I asked to review her work, she scheduled a meeting with me and spent several minutes practically shouting at me. “I know how to do my job! I don’t need you hovering over me and watching my every step. Stop treating me like one of our office assistants!”
My mind began reeling. She was basically yelling at me. Her eyes were angry and bulging. My heart beat increased and I felt that tension rising in my gut… I wanted to run. I needed to get out of there! But I also knew that, as an adult and a professional, I needed to somehow try and work through this conflict in a constructive way.
So, after listening to her for a few minutes, I began explaining my perspective. This was her first time doing the report on her own. I only wanted to make sure I had done a good job training her and that she would be prepared for success. I emphasized that I was not going to do that every month, but just wanted to give her some further details this month on the portions she hadn’t completed properly, so that she would have all the tools she needed to perform well in the future.
No matter what I said or how lovingly I tried to phrase it, she kept shouting the same thing, over and over. “I know how to do my job! You don’t need to be reviewing my work! Don’t treat me like a child!”
Finally, I got up and left the room. We were getting no where. If she didn’t want my help, then I would just let her fail. I wasn’t going to try working through it with her any longer.
What My Brain Told Me
The thing is, I had spent the whole previous year working on my ability to keep my head in the midst of conflict. I’d thought I was making progress, but apparently I wasn’t. Once again, that fear response had risen in my body, and once again, my mind had shut down. I’d gotten up and left.
At home, I continued thinking about the event. Perhaps I would never be able to handle conflict. Except, isn’t that a pivotal part of being a leader? My whole life, I’d wanted to do something great… make some great contribution. But… if I couldn’t handle conflict, what would I ever be able to contribute to society?
There must be something inherently broken about me… out-of-order. Some part of my spirit that just doesn’t work properly, and can’t be fixed. I’ll never be able to live out my calling. I’ll never be able to truly live!
So… why try?
What My Friend Told Me
Those thoughts crippled my mind for the next several days and, for the first time, I was actually considering whether or not I wanted to end it all.
Then my friend Millie came over. She asked how I was doing and I told her I was just crashing. I shared the above story with her and how disappointed I’d been in my reaction.
She was like, “What? Why? You handled the conflict just fine. Your co-worker was the one who didn’t handle the conflict well.”
That took me off guard, so I asked her what she meant.
“You handled the conflict. You listened to your co-worker’s side of the story and then shared your side. You were looking to communicate and understand one another, so that you could both move forward in a positive way. She is the one who wouldn’t listen. She repeated the same thing over and over again, and never even heard what you were trying to say. She is the one who didn’t handle the conflict well. You did fine.”
I was shocked. I hadn’t even considered that perspective, but it made perfect sense.
What I Learned Through This Experience
I don’t share this story to bash my co-worker. Nor am I trying to say I’m such a saint, because I’m not. I wasn’t blameless in that event and there were things I could have done better, especially leading up to the conflict.
However, I do share this story with the goal of demonstrating that we need other people (like my friend Millie) to help speak hope into our lives.
Sometimes our minds play tricks on us. When we struggle with unhealthy thinking, it’s easy to filter out all of the positive evidence and hone in on the negative evidence, contributing to a low self-esteem and an unhealthy view of the world. That’s what makes some of us want to give up.
I’m thankful for my friend Millie and the conversation we had that day. It changed my perspective on a few things.
Handling conflict well doesn’t mean being the smartest, most commanding person in the room. It means aiming to love and serve well. It’s about the heart, not being in control.
Conflict and confrontation are hard for me. That probably won’t ever change. I may never be able to handle conflict without some level of fear. But I can learn, and am learning, positive coping methods to manage those stress levels. I will continue getting better, as long as I don’t give up.
We can’t always trust our own interpretation of an event, especially if it’s causing us to plummet into hopelessness. It’s always worth it to open up to a trusted friend and get an outside opinion.
Suicide is never the option. Don’t give up. There is always a way to find hope!
Thanks for reading!
May you be blessed and find fresh hope in your journey!