Click, Click, Click
Click, click, click, ###, click, click, click, ###.
Those were the six numbers I entered into the number dialog box on my cell phone.
Immediately, a new dialog box popped up; I entered the word HOME and pressed send. I took a sharp intake of breath, for this was the beginning of the end of the escalation of my grief, the diminishment of my spirit, the tearing apart of my soul.
A quick reply followed, the words scrolled across my cell phone screen: Hi, this is Crisis Text Line. You’re not alone. By texting further with us you agree to our terms.
The Crisis Text Line exists as a way for those in the midst of an emergency to get immediate help. Many, unlike myself, have no one to reach out to when they find themselves overwhelmed by emotional and physical pain that requires intervention by experienced caregivers.
Originally, the helpline was an 800-telephone number. I kept the number handy in my directory ready to call if I finally reached the end of my rope. However, what I really wanted was a way to text someone and have a brief SMS conversation to allow me time to calm myself and think rationally.
Last year I saw a Facebook page that showed exactly what I wanted. I remembered the six-digit code and the word Home. I was relieved the word was HOME and not HELP, calling HOME was not as threatening as calling HELP.
I am fortunate, I have several people who come to my home to help me keep my household in order, do the heavy lifting, cleaning and food preparation, all part of a plan originally instituted to allow my beloved and myself to live independently in our own home till death do us part.
Death did do us part. Six months ago, my mate and lover crossed over the Vail to her new journey sailing the vast reaches of the Universe. Sailing alone without me; we were inseparable.
Now I am alone.
As friendly and caring as my caregivers are, I find the primary reason they take care of me is that I compensate them. Their compensation goes a long way to allowing them to be here frequently at the expense of their own lives.
Although my family would go out of their way to give me comfort, they live distances away, distances in time and in keeping to their own already established schedules. If I were going to need prompt help, it undoubtedly wouldn’t come quickly from those sources.
Like others, I have many acquaintances and a few close friends. Friends are friends because they understand me and care about me, although I am not their principal preoccupation. I have no preconceived notion of what my friends are able to do for me if a quick response was needed. The refrain, “I am here for you,” only goes so far. In reality they may not be “here for me” when I need them the most. For example, I get disappointed when I call and get voicemail or when I text and get no response. That disappointment only increases my feeling of loneliness.
My difficulty with being alone is that my loneliness can enter a downward spiral, descending into a black hole so deep that rational thoughts get left behind. I fear I may take my life to end the fall into darkness. Mine is not an unusual situation, the Covid-19 epidemic has left many lonely and unable to find comfort in the touch of a close friend or loved one.
Now I am alone, except for the intuitive communications with my Angel, whose advice lately has been, “Call the Crisis Text Line!” Angel doesn’t have time for pleasantries, she doesn’t mince words, when she is concerned for my safety, she is a woman-of-action.
Years ago, I first encountered the helpline when I became interested in how I would handle my increasingly suicidal thoughts, triggered by my memories of the abuse of my past and my understanding that my loved one may not be here for me, that I would most certainly be alone.
The other reason that I never used the helpline was out of fear that the service would overreact to my emotional pain and call authorities ‘for my own good’ to prevent me from carrying out any perceived suicidal plan. After all, they have a responsibility to save. Once outside help had been summoned, it would be an additional nightmare of intervention and perhaps psychiatric hospital care, the attendant meds, greatly increasing my burden of coping, taking care of my beloved and holding a job.
I once read about a man in China who patrols one of that country’s highest bridges. He does so out of the goodness of his own heart trying to get the attention of jumpers before they go over the edge. Saving them was one thing, the next part of their journey would be the hardest part of their lives including the countless hours of counseling and psychiatric treatments to bring them to the point where they would be able to love themselves. I wonder if a life of counseling and treatment would be right for me? Would I simply be better off moving along to the next part of my journey into the Universe? I consider that to be a rational question considering my understanding of how my energy exists within the Universe. I am only passing through; why make my journey here on earth any more difficult than it is?
There is a true story of a very troubled man, a military service man in top physical shape, but suffering from bouts of severe depression and Schizophrenia, who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. On the way down he questioned himself as to why he jumped and he made a deal with himself that if he survived, he would live a life of service to other sufferers considering suicide.
Because of his superb physical condition, he survived and has dedicated his life to appearances with audiences wishing to know more about how to manage their own lives of mental discomfort and questions.
Personally, my grief does not follow any particular linear plan. Mine appears to come in waves of more painful emotions spread farther apart in time. It has been six months now, six months of increasing loneliness and emotional pain. Not only emotional pain but unrelenting physical pain, which only yields to prescription meds, but still, the physical pain is the result of a broken brain and fractured soul because of the loss of my beloved.
Hey, I’m Clara and I am here for you. Will you share more about what’s going on? These were the very pleasant and comforting words of a woman who typed into the dialog box on my cellphone.
(Me) My spouse of fifty-two years passed away 6 months ago. I have very caring family and friends. Nighttime is the worst so I thought I should have a back-up person if my mood gets low. I slowly pushed the keys on my ancient flip phone hoping not to make too many spelling errors and in keeping with the new shorthand of text messaging, the new world of SMS, the world of description not to exceed 160 characters per entry.
(Clara) That’s an incredibly difficult situation to be in and you’re strong for reaching out today. It’s hard when you’re alone and everything gets overwhelming.
Immediately I understood that Clara, if that was her real name, got it. I lowered my guard.
(Me) I feel relieved now to be able to connect with someone fast.
(Clara) It’s always good to talk with someone. I can tell you’re a compassionate person and care very much for others.
I was not sure how she knew that, but it was comforting and built up my depreciated self-image.
(Me) Don’t want to be a bother. Txt is better than the phone. Plus, I feel you may be impartial.
(Clara) Your peace and mental health are important. It’s understandable to feel like you may be a bother but it is important to remember to take care of yourself however you can. By reaching out, you’re taking the first step towards feeling better. You’re no bother at all. I’m here to support you and I’m glad you reached out.
Our text exchange went on and I got the impression that Clara didn’t want me to disconnect the call. Clara reiterated someone would be available 24/7 if I needed to text back. She asked me if I wanted to keep talking or end the call? I preferred to end the call.
At the end of our text session an automated message sprang up asking me if I wanted to complete a brief survey as to how my text session went. I was too worn out from the stress of making that text call, I put the phone down so I could reflect on my emotional state.
I looked at the time, it was 6:19 p.m., I began the text session at 5:50 p.m. Thirty minutes with brief periods of time while each of us typed our responses. I was surprised and relieved by how easy it was to make a connection.
Feeling less alone and knowing I had made some progress towards taking care of myself without the involvement of family or friends, I got ready for bed. Finding myself too tired from the emotions of talking to someone new about my problems, I elected not to read but to turn out the light and try to sleep.
Later that night I found myself sharing my bed with four of our cats, a seldom occurrence. The cats felt my tension and unhappiness; they decided to be there to comfort me.
I slept fitfully, I knew that I must address my suicidal thoughts, having a knowing ear was helpful but not enough. It was medicinal but not a cure.