Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Calling the Samaritans

Firstly, I'd like to thank those who shared, commented, liked and sent messages of support to me following my 'Letter to C' post on Sunday. I shared the post both on Twitter and Facebook which was an emotionally challenging yet relieving thing to do and the response I received, both publicly and privately, was unexpected and extremely overwhelming. It really enlightened me as to the people that care, even if my brain doesn't always comprehend that anyone likes or cares for me in the slightest.

I have been debilitating over the last six months or so whether to make 'Letters to C' a blog series, so let me know if that's something you'd like to see. I know some of you were wondering who 'C' was, and some of you who knew me from that time knew straight away (but that was inevitable anyway) and each way is totally okay -  but at the end of the day, revealing and outing somebody elses personal life is wrong and is hence why I chose to keep C's identity under wraps for the majority. I don't know whether C will ever read the post itself, maybe they will, maybe they won't.

This week, without going into detail has been a challenging one emotionally, and in the middle of Monday afternoon in an act of desperation, I, for the first time, called the Samaritans.

Now don't get me wrong, I've been in contact with the Samaritans before. When I was a lot younger, most notably my mid to late teens, I used the Samaritans e-mail service a lot. That was back when their helpline was not free and as easily accessible, for a fifteen year old whose parents still paid (and monitored) my phone bill and watched me like a hawk 24/7. The e-mail service allowed me to be a lot more secretive about my actions whilst still allowing me to vent to somebody, even if that somebody was a somebody unbeknownst to me a million miles away, or even if it was a robot.

In the last few months, the Samaritans have changed their helpline number to a free service which does NOT appear on your monthly phone bill. This number is free to call from both landlines and mobiles. Whilst I was absolutely delighted by this news, I never in a million years perceived that in 2015 ever have to be picking up the phone and dialing that exact number.

The Samaritans are a UK (and Republic of Ireland) based charity which provide emotional support to those experiencing distress, at risk of suicide or who are struggling to cope with their emotions. Their 24 hour helpline is supported with volunteers, called 'Samaritans', who give up and dedicate their free time to be trained to be on the other end of the line to support those in need.

It was an email from my personal tutor on Monday morning that triggered the response that maybe, just maybe, deep in my denial that giving the Samaritans a call might just be what I needed.

I rung them once, somebody answered, I hung up (I've, admittedly, done this a few times before, which may explain why I'd never spoken to them on the phone before). I then called back ten minutes later and spoke to a lady called Joy. It didn't solve everything. It didn't magically provide an answer. It didn't cure me, or lure me out of bed, or persuade my brain to shut up and get the writing the 2000 words I've needed to write since, well, a month ago.

What it did do, however, was give me an opportunity to talk. I kept admitting that I wasn't even sure what I wanted to say and I was reassured that it was okay. I was on that phone dialing that number for a reason and no matter if I said anything or not, my reason was still valid. Talking to somebody who wasn't Nathan, my therapist, or my friends (or anyone else who I have to force myself to be happy for at times) was a relief. Joy didn't provide any magical advice, or solutions, or answers but she did listen and I can't express how relieving it was to speak to somebody who couldn't judge, couldn't talk back or argue, and couldn't tell me what/what not to do. With how busy everyone seems to be these days I think we definitely underestimate the power of listening. Pure, selfless, listening.

There were some moments of silence during the conversation and whilst at times I didn't understand why that was I fully understood all at once. I could talk without being criticized or judged, even if the talking was just a load of ranting about seemingly trivial things. Joy allowed me that space to talk which sometimes I don't quite get.

I don't doubt for a second that I'll be using the Samaritans again. To know that it wasn't as scary as I first thought and that it was okay to stammer and stumble on my words or not be able to make sense of why exactly I was calling in the first place other than thoughts of sheer desperation. It was okay to not be perfect for someone else for half an hour or so (even though I fought back tears the whole time, I hate people seeing/listening to me cry). It was simply talking to a stranger who had given up her time to talk to those in a bad place like myself. You can't ask for more generosity than that, really.

The new free Samaritans helpline number is 116 123 for the UK and Republic of Ireland. Their service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and you can also use the email service I mentioned, which is jo@samaritans.org. If, like me you are struggling, feeling desperate and are not sure where to turn, I would strongly urge giving them a call. They won't solve what's going on but they will listen, and I can't stress how in this day and age how important that is.

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