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What Happened When My Friend Questioned Her Worth After Calling the Suicide Hotline

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At work one day, an old friend approached me, and without saying anything, started writing something on a piece of paper. I was preparing for the worst. But what she wrote was not what I expected:

I’m having a mental health crisis. I called the suicide helpline. How do I get back my dignity, my integrity?

I had never encountered this question, because it never made any sense to me, and it still didn’t.

This friend of mine was in pain, and she felt like she needed help. So she reached out for help to friends, to family and eventually the suicide helpline. My first thought was one of sadness. Did she really think her self-worth, her identity had been shattered by the fact she reached out for help?

I asked her, “Are you safe? Do you plan to hurt yourself?”

Thankfully, she told me she didn’t, and by the look in her eyes, I knew she was telling the truth. But what should I say next? I wasn’t prepared for this. But I tried my best.

I told her reaching out for help was not weakness. It did not define her identity, and it certainly didn’t make her any less valuable.

“But why am I valuable? Why am I worthy of life?”

How do you answer a question like that? I was speechless for a moment because I didn’t know what to say. But here is what I did say.

I told her she was a beautiful, intelligent, vibrant human. She was deserving of as much of a happy life as I was. She was valuable because she was there, in that moment, alive. Many might have said she was valuable because of the relationships she had. But I didn’t say that. Our value isn’t determined by the way others see or value us. She asked me what people would think of her now that she had asked for help.

She said she hadn’t told people about any of this, which made me feel good she felt she could come to me for help. But it also made me sad. It made me sad because she was alone, she felt she had no one else to turn to for help. She said she felt judged by those around her, that people were looking down on her because she had called the suicide hotline.

Having been in her shoes, all I could tell her was what I needed to hear when I was where she was: you can’t read minds. You can’t assume what others are thinking about you, and you can’t put the pressure of “What are other people thinking?” on yourself. I told her she needed to come to terms with who she was, with how she saw herself in the mirror.

Regardless of what you’ve gone through or what you are going through now, the relationship you have with yourself is the longest relationship you will ever have, and the most important one as well. That friend of mine was struggling not with others, but with herself. We all struggle with this, all of us. So at the end of the day, we have to look in the mirror and think, “What am I looking at right now?”

If the thought is anything other than “I am looking at a beautiful life worthy of being lived,” you need to know you deserve better. You can keep fighting the battles. You have proven you can make it through what you have gone through up to this point, which means you can keep going.

Keep going. I may not know you, but I know you can make it. I believe in you.

Getty image by sabelskaya

Originally published: February 11, 2020
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