It was a crowded room, full of happy people celebrating. Dozens of people milled about, swilling drinks, sampling canapés and generally enjoying the festive atmosphere.
It was one of many Christmas celebrations I’ve attended over the last few weeks… except this one was different.
This time, I looked beyond the happy, smiling expressions plastered on everyone’s face, and I actually noticed the pain in the room.
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Like the woman next to me, who had recently made the decision to end her 10-year relationship.
Or the woman across from me, who was grappling with a terrifying and life-altering cancer diagnosis.
The man standing across from me, who admitted that over Christmas, his struggle with depression had deepened.
The work friend of the host, who earlier this year lost a baby; the friend of a friend, whose dad had recently passed away; the stranger behind me, who confessed that her daughter had a debilitating eating disorder.
Or the host of the party – who, despite looking flawless in a floor-length white gown, had recently been delivered a health blow that will see her endure at least two surgeries in the coming months.
And these were just the pains that I knew about… There would have been countless other stories in the room that were “hidden”. Hidden heartbreak, hidden pain, hidden discomfort, hidden struggles.
When news broke of Annalise Braakensiek’s shock passing, I was reminded of this party – and of that fact that far too many of us are going through difficult times in our personal lives, which are not always reflected publicly.
Tragically, Annalise was an ambassador for R U OK? day, posting recently: “We have to break the silence on mental health because it happens to the best of us. (And in the worst situations) Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have helped me through my dark clouds…. now I’m strong enough to help my loved ones who unfortunately are not in the best place right now.”
Perhaps we live too much of our lives through and behind the lens of perfectly curated social media filters, where there are too many opportunities to hide our reality? Annalise’s recent Instagram posts painted the picture of a fun, sociable life, when in reality she was clearly in pain.
If you’re not okay, please reach out – no problem is insurmountable. Contact BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. RUOK? is a suicide prevention charity that aims to start life-changing conversations.
If you are in immediate danger call 000 now. If you require advice or assistance, the following services can offer counselling and support:
Lifeline 13 11 14 | visit website
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 | visit website
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 | visit website
MensLine Australia 1300 789 978 | visit website