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What Happened When I Called a Suicide Hotline

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Since the age of 14, I’ve struggled with depression. Mental Illness has always been present in my family, but I wasn’t quite so aware of it at a young age. However, in my teens, it hit me full throttle. After an assault, which I won’t delve into, I started self-harming and soon became diagnosed with depression. None of my friends knew much about it, and I soon felt isolated and “different.”

Fast forward a few years and I decided to move schools. I was confident I could start fresh, but my low mood came with me. I found it impossible to make friends. I lasted a year and moved back to my original school to finish my studies.

Nothing had changed. Wherever I ran, depression followed. I avoided all social interaction and lunchtimes were filled with anxiety. I soon developed anorexia. I wanted to die from it; then I might be noticed.

After passing my exams and being able to visualize a life away from school, away from my trauma, I began recovery. It wasn’t easy, and it certainly was emotional. But over time I got better. It took years, but I was able to beat it. My body was healthy again and the doctors backed off, but what no one noticed was that my mind was still not well.

If anorexia didn’t get me noticed then what would… a funeral?

I have attempted suicide three times in my life. Twice I was sound enough to know I might be “savable.” The third time is was just luck that I survived.

In all three of those moments it felt like life had no purpose. I felt trapped, as if death was the only way out. Looking back, I know this was just a veil over my eyes by my depression. There was always a way out. However, I know that any day this feeling of complete entrapment could reappear.

After all I’ve been though, it’s important for me to have a reliable crisis plan on hand. I know my mind better than anyone, and I know what helps. Nothing is better than having someone to talk to, in my experience. Someone to reason with and listen to what I have to say. Or even someone to fill the silence when I cannot summon any words. This is where crisis hotlines come to mind.

I’d always secretly thought that calling a crisis hotline was attention seeking — that it was just looking for one more person to cry and complain to. But it’s not at all. I had been given the Samaritans hotline from a pen-pal, and it was stuck on my fridge, hidden under photos so friends and family wouldn’t see it. But one evening, when I felt trapped yet again, and I had no one else to call, I tentatively dialed the number.

Honestly, I was expecting an elderly, patronizing woman to answer and blurt a load of motivational quotes at me. For some reason, I imagined them having a set “template” for conversation, and that once they reached the end, they would hang up if I was ready or not. But the man who answered simply asked what I wanted to talk about. I was in charge and if I wanted to talk I could, or if I wanted to breathe down the phone I could. I felt like at that moment my sole purpose was to stay alive so I could have this conversation, and everything else went away.

I don’t think I made much sense, you never do in a crisis really, but he listened. He let me ramble and he spoke and comforted me. It wasn’t a, “Don’t kill yourself,” conversation, but more of a, “Why do you want to?” conversation. A rational, grounding conversation.

When I became silent, he asked if I wanted to stay on the line or not. If I was unable to answer, he stayed. He was patient. Even if I gave a whimper. And when I eventually felt ready to face the world again, I said thank you and hung up.

I wish I could say thank you to that man. I’ve never had to call again. Yes, I’ve felt trapped many more times, but I have been strong enough to fight. Maybe one day I will call them again, maybe one day a friend will call for me, or I will call for them.

But the important thing to remember is that these lines are here for a reason and that they are not embarrassing or intrusive. There is a real person on the end of the line who cares about you, and is connected to you in that moment. If you ever feel alone, or like there is no other option, I can honestly recommend giving them a call.

You will not regret continuing to live.

Thinkstock photo via alexis84

Originally published: September 12, 2017
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