I was snoozing away at the Suicide Prevention Hotline, where I volunteer. Suddenly my supervisor shook my shoulder and woke me up.
“Tippy, take line three. It’s Egan. He’s a regular. I think I can trust you to handle this guy.”
Egan Obendorfer. I’d never heard of him before, but I was fairly new to this job.
“We Care Line. Tippy here. What’s up, Egan?” I yawned, while wiping my bleary eyes.
“It’s in my hand right now. I’m ready to do it.” the shaky voice on the other end said.
I felt my heart explode into overdrive. This was a real one. This guy really meant it. How could an idiot like me possibly talk him down? I just wanted to throw down the phone and quit, right then and there. But I couldn’t. A life was on the line. A drop of sweat dribbled down my neck.
“Let go of it!” I gulped. It was the only thing I could think of to say.
“Oh no, I’m doing it. I’m lifting it up to my mouth right now.”
“Wait! Think of your wife!”
“I don’t have a wife. She divorced me. I’m opening my mouth wide now.”
“Your children! Do you have children? Think of them!”
“My children hate me.” this insufferable self-inflicter said. Why do people have to be so difficult? Then I heard a dog bark.
“Your dog! What would your dog do without you? Think of him.”
“Her. And she bit me this morning. I’m putting it in my mouth, right now.”
I heard a kind of slurping sound, like he was sucking on the end of it. I plugged my ears, anticipating a loud bang. But then I realized I had to listen, in case he had some final words. And he did.
“There, I did it. And I’m going to do it again if you can’t talk me out of it.” he finally spoke.
Did what? How do you commit suicide twice?
It took a few more minutes of dialogue for Egan to explain that he has an eating disorder. He worries that he’s eating himself to death, so when he goes on a binge he calls the Suicide Prevention Hotline.
On this occasion he had a bucket of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Buttah ice cream in front of him. Delicious stuff. Even his dog was begging for it, and all cause to bite him earlier in the day had been forgotten.
This gave me an idea, and I convinced Egan to share his ice cream with his dog. And this renewed his relationship with his best friend.
Egan only ate half a bucket of ice cream that day, and his dog got the other half. So I was pretty successful, if I say so myself.
There are many Egans in this world. Suicide isn’t always a sudden event. Some people commit it slowly, whether by eating, drinking, drugs, smoking, or maybe by just not taking care of their health. Their deaths are not usually entered into the suicidology statistics. They’re sneaky at killing themselves.
But at least I was able to help this one person. And after the call, I felt content enough to catch a few more z’s. It had been a good day.
Disclaimer: My Suicide Prevention Hotline is fictional. If you’re feeling hopeless and would like a skilled, trained counselor to talk to, try calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They’re real, and available 24/7.