Is it a crime to call a suicide hotline when you’re only tentatively contemplating suicide and not on a ledge? This is an excerpt from (my) Steven Richard’s forthcoming black-comedy memoir.
The pain and stress mounted. Everything was a mess. I was in a joyless relationship with someone who was depressed in her own right, the migraines were unrelenting, the abortive drugs running out, and the preventive medication that the doctor had me on wasn’t reducing the migraines at all—instead it induced feelings of mania and thoughts of suicide.
Other than the typical case of teen angst, depression wasn’t something I’d ever suffered from in the slightest. But the side effects from the preventive drug made me not feel like myself, and caused my problems to seem so much worse.
It’s with stunning clarity I remember making the call. Penny and I were sitting in the kitchen reading the news. Then she said she was going upstairs to use the computer. Once she was gone I pulled from my pocket the slip of paper with one of those suicide hotline numbers on it, that I’d scribbled earlier. I wasn’t suicidal per se, but did have the occasional feelings of hopelessness. My goal was to call not when I was most down, but when I was calm and collected enough to have the most rational insightful conversation possible.
“Suicide hotline,” a voice on the other end said.
“Yeah, um…” I gulped hard and continued. “I sometimes have suicidal thoughts, and just kind of wanted to, ya know, talk to someone.” There was a brief pause.
“So, you are not suicidal right now?” I answered, “Correct,” explaining how as of late things weren’t going too well and I sometimes had thoughts of suicide—but not at that very moment.
“We’re gonna have to ask you to call back. We wanna keep the lines open for emergency cases,” the man said.
I was stunned. Was he fucking kidding? Did dude just tell me in not so many words to call back when I had the gun in my mouth? I was seeking a comforting voice and he pretty much told me I was wasting his time. Unhappy about where the conversation had headed I let him know as much by raising my voice and expressing the frustrations of being brushed to the wayside.
He then asked if I was alone and where I lived. Two seconds before the guy couldn’t give a shit, but after he got me all bubbly-blooded it seemed he was aiming to call in the cavalry.
It’s a great confusion that many people mistake frustration for anxiety or depression. Since he’d fallen into that trap I spent the next two minutes convincing him I was fine, and also fearing he’d have my call traced to send someone by.
In a strange way, the absurdity of the situation made me feel a bit better about it all, but did nothing of course to stop the physiological pain and dependence I was suffering.
Do you or someone you know need help?
Typically in articles of this nature there are links to find help at the end. While I recognise the irony in providing them, I am still going to do so. While I did have a terrible experience calling one of those numbers, it’s my hope that it doesn’t happen to someone else.
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