I didn't see this coming: When people tell their stories

Lyle Mailman speaking to the media on behalf of residents of North Beaver Bank (NS) who are asking Halifax Regional Municipality to return full bus service to the area. December 2019, AMY HOLLOWAY PHOTOGRAPHY.

By October 2019 we were thinking of December publications for The City Voice. The editor suggested a story featuring someone especially grateful at the Holiday season. I said I’d keep my ears open but in my heart I wondered how I would find such a person. Afterall, I interview volunteers and often, people who experience great struggle only to come back stronger. I can tell you, they typically present as pretty grateful. Who could be more grateful? Nevertheless, I decided to keep an open mind.

Around the same time the founder and manager of a Facebook page called Beaver Bank Community Watch began writing a bit more about his personal life and I was struck by both the gratitude he expressed and his generous participation in his community. His name was Lyle Mailman. I already emailed him once. He wrote about his experience with depression and I responded with a message to thank him for his honesty and offer solidarity.

Before making a request for an interview I did what I always do – research. I googled the subject and dug through social media pages. Lyle had gone through a surgery and was recovering. Lyle wore a scar on one side of his face. He was a father. He had ties to a union and to Health and Safety. I thought perhaps the scar was the result of a workplace injury. Lyle volunteered in and around Beaver Bank, particularly with the Beaver Bank Kinsac Community Centre, and was currently leading residents of North Beaver Bank in a clash with City Hall over the cancellation of the city bus serving the area.

I met Lyle Mailman over the phone and learned about the depths from which Lyle has come, and the source of his gratitude.

I didn’t expect to hear about the journey to (and from!) a place where suicide seemed to be the best response. I had no clue that his injury, and his surgery, were related to the experience of deep depression. Had I known, I probably would not have contacted Lyle out of respect for his privacy and fear of triggering bad memories. Yet it was he who put it on the table and he did so meaningfully, with intent. He knows that to hear the stories of others who share similar experiences makes us a little stronger, more hopeful and, as he says, reminds us we belong.

Here is Lyle Mailman’s story as published in The City Voice December 23, 2019, retrieved January 6, 2020.

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