Distraught

April 10th 2022

Today I feel like I failed a fellow human.

I was on the train back from a weekend away and towards the end of a 5 hour journey from Essex which I’d split in half by going for a walk around Hyde Park.

The train was just pulling through gloucester, and Cheltenham was the next and final stop.

Through the gap in the seats in front of me, I could see a guy about my age in tears. He wasn’t bawling, or fighting them back, he just had his face screwed up and he let the tears drop down before wiping them away.

He was facing me, and I briefly caught his eye, but I looked away because I didn’t want him to feel embarrassed.

I knew that I wanted to check if he was okay, but I didn’t know if he’d be alright with me asking him so publicly on the train, and we were only a few minutes away from the train’s final stop.

He cried for the rest of the journey. I couldn’t tell whether he was crying through guilt, or grief, or heartbreak, but he looked distraught. As far as I’d realised, it had come on quite suddenly.

And here’s where I failed him.

When the train pulled into Cheltenham, he took some time readying his things, and I thought I could talk to him on the platform. When the train doors opened, though, I bumped into someone I used to work with. His parents were on the train and he was there to pick them up. I had to have a brief conversation with my old work friend, but by doing so I lost the crying man in the crowd.

I don’t know what I would have said to him. Probably something like “are you okay?”, and then reacted to whatever he said.

Maybe he wouldn’t have appreciated being approached, but I do feel like I failed him for not doing so. Whatever it was in that moment that was troubling him, he should have known that he wasn’t alone in it. That there was a complete stranger who cared about how he felt.

I hope he’s okay. He was upset enough that he didn’t care about crying so publicly, and I don’t know what to make of that. I just hope he’s okay. And I wish I could have helped.

After heart disease, suicide is the leading cause of death in men my age, and mental health is a topic that is important to me. But today I had an opportunity to practice what I preach, and reach out to someone who may have needed it, and I failed to do it.

Until tomorrow, I hope he’s okay.

Jacn

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