After university, I went to the UK for a co-op program. I found a flat mate through mutual friends. She was an easy person to live with, as we had completely opposite schedules and were therefore rarely home at the same time, other than to sleep.
When her friends would come over, she was funny, generous, and seemed happy. But whenever we were alone together, I was always surprised by how negatively she viewed the world and her life. She was definitely a cup-half-empty type of person.
We only lived together for a year, and then both went our separate ways. I lost touch with her during COVID, but I’m still close with our mutual friend. I just found out that she died by suicide, and I’m gobsmacked. I feel like the writing was on the wall and I ignored it. I am devastated by this news and feel as though I could have stopped it.
Should I speak to her parents? Should I tell anyone?
Guilty by Association
You are not guilty of anything. It is not your fault that this woman took her own life. You barely knew her when you lived together. It was astute of you to recognize that she had strong mood changes, but I assume she didn’t show any obvious signs of self-destruction while you lived together.
You were her flatmate, not her friend or confidante. And if you had mentioned her negative attitude to your mutual friend then, she also didn’t recognize the deeper issues. Neither of you are mental health experts. This is not on you.
I would suggest talking to a therapist to lay all of your emotions out, and hopefully they can help you with strategies to overcome your guilty feelings. It’s natural that you feel badly about her outcome. Discuss your desire to speak with her parents with this professional. They can help you process the purpose and intentions, and if it would be helpful to either of you - or not.
I am so confused and feel like a loser. This is not going to sound the way I mean it but I am a very good-looking woman. I am fit, thin and dress really well. I used to be in the fashion industry, so I’ve always had access to high end designers with up-to-the-minute fashion trends. I have really nice hair and eyes; I get complimented all the time on my looks.
I also have a large group of core girlfriends, who have stood by my side for years and years. We laugh a lot and share great life experiences together. I go to bed at night knowing that I am, for all intents and purposes, a good person.
So why is it that all of my friends – every single one – are married and having kids, and I’m still single? I get along with all of their husbands and love being an “aunt” to their babies. But I don’t want to stay on the outside of this circle. I want what they have.
Why not me?
Stop focussing on your outward appearance and what you don’t have. I hate to say it – but I know my readers will say it if I don’t – you sound a bit shallow. Physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and fades with age.
Focus on the good things in your life: your health, your friends, your job/hobbies. Now try to meet people through interest groups. Focus on what’s in your heart, mind and soul and not what’s on the outside.
FEEDBACK Regarding both questions in your column on March 21st:
Reader – “Both letters seem similar to me. The subjects may be experiencing difficulties resulting from the recent pandemic and lockdowns. In spite of things returning to the new normal, not everyone is able to bounce back to their old selves.
“Perhaps the brothers in the first letter are still dealing with the trauma of it all. Your advice to the brother-in-law is good, but it could go further. (Note: I suggested the brother-in-law go away with the two brothers for some bonding). Perhaps he may need to steer them to seek therapy.
“The wife in the second letter may also need therapy. (Lisi: Agreed. That’s why I suggested she seek professional help). Hopefully, her family doctor may be able to pick up on that if that is the case. She may be depressed. A change in dress habit for the worse is sometimes an indicator of depression.”