Hey, I Didn’t Sign Up for the Suicide Hotline!?

Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. You are so very beautiful, and so is life. You have so much to live for. Someone will miss you. Stay. Paige Carter

After drawing my mind map yesterday. I realized that I keep a lot of things stuffed away in my head and tippy toe around unpleasant subjects. There are some things that are going on that I shouldn’t be embarrassed about, but I am anyway. Go figure.

One topic that has been developing over the decades is that many members of my family and even their significant others seem to call me when they want to bare their soul. I always end up wanting to say “uh, I’m not a priest, should you really be telling me all this?” I really don’t know why they want to talk to me of all people because I never struck myself as a tea and sympathy kind of person. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the times I’ve gotten the call “my life sucks, I want to die and perhaps even have a plan in place, to die.”

But maybe that’s exactly why they call me, because I tend to tell it like it is, or at least how it is in my opinion. Last week in the space of 24 hours I ended up running a suicide hotline for 2 family members. Not my favorite choice of activities, but sometimes one has to do what one has to do. Then we have a long talk, end up laughing and tell each other that we love the other and end the call. After I get off the phone with them I shake for hours like I was just in a car crash or something equally terrifying, another near miss.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t immediately freak out and start telling them all the reasons they shouldn’t do what they are planning to do. I just ask “ok, what is going on, why do you think you are in this state of mind?” In other words I take them seriously. And they tell me a long litany of woes. And woes they usually are, truly painful. I usually say something along the lines of “wow, if I was in your boat, I might be considering that too. I’ve contemplated writing a suicide note after a bad case of the runs.” I guess what I’m trying to put across is that it’s not that unusual to have suicidal feelings when your ass is stuck in a huge crack. I have these urges myself from time to time, but I’ve learned to recognize them as a symptom that there is something going on in my life that needs major renovation. I don’t panic and act on these thoughts. It’s a solution tis true, but it’s really like shooting a mosquito with an elephant gun, and it is soooo…final. No do overs.

So we talk about what is going on in their life and what they might be able to do to get in a better place mentally. If they seem stuck in a loop of “I just want to die,” I insist they go to a hospital. “But, I don’t want to, it’s not that bad.” My reply is “Well, yes, it is that bad if you are saying that you want to commit suicide. You need to go to the hospital.” Their insistence that it’s not bad enough to go to the hospital usually succeeds in giving them a semi-graceful way to climb back from the ledge.

It takes its toll. I’m usually left worn to a frazzle. I know it is not my responsibility to keep them alive, but I still try to help. But sometimes after listening to their tales of misery, poverty, substance abuse, bad relationships, etc., I find myself wondering if they really would be better off dead. That’s right, you heard me, and I did just actually say that, I admit it. These are my feelings at the time. Perhaps this is a case of care giver burn out. I felt that way when my grandmother was dying from heart failure. Everyone kept hovering, panicking and trying to fix her. My feelings were along the lines of “she’s obviously suffering, afraid and miserable. Can’t we just hold her hand, make her comfortable, and let her go?”

But, it’s not that cut and dried when someone is younger and wants to end their life by their own doing. I guess the most important thing to do is take them seriously, hold their hand and try to walk with them out of the quicksand and back to safer ground.

9 responses

  1. Yes, a blessing and a curse. You must be a good listener. But what a burden! I’m sorry that your family comes to you instead of going to the hospital. It must be draining.

    1. Particularly now a a days. We used to be able to put mentally ill family members in the hospital at least for 72 hour observation. Very difficult to do that now.

  2. You have a gift (and a curse — as Monk would say).

    I just have one question, the next time you have the runs, call me before you do something drastic. 🙂

    1. LOL ok I will call you if I feel the need to get drastic. 🙂

  3. A blessing and a curse for others to see you as their goto confidant. Take care. 8)

    1. Many times it feels more like a curse than a blessing. Maybe I shouldn’t be so…available?

  4. As you said, it´s not that cut and dried. People confide in me because I´m a good listener but there are times I wish I were not because it´s not a free ride for me, because after absorbing their troubles like a sponge, I feel like shit. Most of the times, they want to be listened but are not willing to take what it takes to come out of the unpleasant situation. And I get another phone call after a while, same subject, same problem.
    You must be a good listener too and an honest person too, that´s why you get those phone calls.

    1. “they want to be listened but are not willing to take what it takes to come out of the unpleasant situation” Oh God, that is so true. I keep hearing the same stuff, over and over and over……

      Thank you for listening. And I do end up feeling like a dirty sponge. That’s a great analogy.

      1. Maybe we should try to make a career out of it!! and get the money to clean up our sponge!!

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