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To the Man Who Publicly Humiliated Me When I Was in a Depressive Episode

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To the man who publicly humiliated me in the midst of a depressive episode:

It has been two years to the day that I was belittled, screamed at, sworn at, and made to feel like garbage. I have thought about your words every single day for the past two years. Maybe it’s because no one had ever spoken to me in such a way in my entire 25 years of life, or maybe it’s because I was feeling things so deeply during my episode that what you said cut deep enough that it was impossible to heal on its own.

I have spent the last two years blaming myself, being terrified of the same incident happening again, and picturing you every time I am driving behind another car.

I was leaving a work event at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in less-than-ideal weather. I had been driving my trusty 2004 Corolla, which was pretty good in the snow — but on this day, it failed me. I was leaving an icy parking lot and turning onto an icy, slushy street where I couldn’t stop my car. I ended up sliding into the vehicle stopped at a stop sign in front of me. When I say it was a minor bump, I mean it was a minor bump. There was no major jolting and no significant damage, but that did not stop you, the passenger in the other car, from making it the worst day of my life.

I can still remember the look on your face when you abruptly jumped out of your car and started screaming at me. I have tried to block out the things you said to me for the past two years. Parts of your words, I successfully blocked out, but unfortunately, other parts are burned in my brain.

Don’t get me wrong — I would be frazzled and upset too if someone bumped into my car too. But the difference between me and you is the way I would have spoken to the person on the other end. Perhaps it’s because I am a sensitive person and care about not hurting other people’s feelings, or maybe it’s just because I respect humans enough not to publicly humiliate them with yelling, cursing, and name-calling.

The work event I was leaving just so happened to be your daughter’s college graduation. Many people were leaving at the same time, so many people heard and saw what had happened. I hope the people who witnessed this situation understood that it was an accident. By no means did I intentionally bump into your car, but it feels like you intentionally reacted the way you did.

I have spent two years reliving this day in my head. I wish I had waited an extra few minutes before leaving the parking lot. I wish I had better control of my car. I wish I was not the “stupid little girl” you said I was.

I have spent two years working through the effects your words had on my mental health, both alone and with my counselor.

I have spent two years being afraid of you, but I am willing to bet you have probably not thought about me once.

I think that’s the hardest part about all of this. Knowing that your actions, choice of words, and overall demeanor has had such an incredible impact on my life but mine have had nothing on yours.

Every time I drive my car (which has since been upgraded to a newer Corolla with better traction and braking systems) I think about you, the man who publicly humiliated me, but more importantly, I think about how extremely sick I was at that moment and how you still made me feel worse.

This particular depressive episode was my first one after having a two-year stretch of good mental health without medication. All depressive episodes are different, but this was the worst one I had ever had. The feeling of having come so far only to be right back where I started years prior was extremely difficult for me. At this point, I had gone to my doctor and gotten back on my medication, and I had set up appointments with my counselor. Unfortunately, the medication hadn’t kicked in, and I was an absolute mess. It had taken everything in me to actually show up for that work event that day, and I couldn’t wait to go home and cry. Needless to say, after the incident with you that day, I cried for days.

I often wonder if the incident would have had as big of an impact on me, if I was in a healthier mental state. I think the answer is “no,” though. During my depressive episodes, all of my negative emotions are so heightened that it already feels like the end of the world without someone publicly humiliating me. I think about your reaction now, and if I was put in that situation again, I would hope to handle it differently. Instead of breaking down crying and being apologetic to you, the man screaming at me in the middle of a busy intersection, I think I would have asked you to calm the fuck down. I may not have chosen those exact words, but I think I would have the ability to lessen the tension and reassure you that your vehicle was fine and all damages were minimal — just one scratch — and would be covered. When you screamed at me to call the police and turn myself in for reckless driving, I think I would have. I would have called so someone else could witness firsthand how you were treating me and how your reaction was not justified considering the minor damages. I think if I were who I am now, I would have realized that your reaction was likely a reflection of your character and not a reflection of mine. I have spent two years feeling sorry for you, the man who made me feel like a worthless, careless, stupid human being.

While working through this event in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, I have come to realize that because of my mental state during that time, this incident was extremely traumatic, but it does not define me. I am finally at a point where I can talk about that day without crying and I can think of your name without feeling like I am going to be sick.

To you, the man who publicly humiliated me during a depressive episode, I am sorry, but I am not sorry for accidentally bumping into your car anymore. I am sorry that you don’t know how to express your emotions. I am sorry that your wife and daughter might have to listen to your anger, and I am sorry that they have probably endured much more than the 20-minute scream-fest that I endured. I am sorry that you do not seem to understand that accidents happen. I am sorry that you are so full of anger and that you may have learned your anger from a life that wasn’t easy. I am sorry you will maybe never come to the self-realization that I have come to. Above all, I am sorry to myself for letting you linger in my thoughts and make me think so poorly of myself — I deserve better than to think of you.

Getty image by Nisian Hughes.

Originally published: February 15, 2022
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