Category: suicide

Saving Egan

Don't flush your life away. Call We Care Line!

Don’t flush your life away. Call We Care Line!

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.

A Suicide Disclaimer

"Le Suicide" - Edouard Manet

“Le Suicide” – Edouard Manet

I mention a Suicide Prevention Hotline several times in my About pages. And I’ve posted about it. You may be wondering, is this real? You may also wonder if I’m making light of suicide. Perhaps it’s time for a disclaimer.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. It’s a serious problem.

One of my blogging buddies, Elyse, at FiftyFourandAHalf, once posted about her own attempted suicide many years ago. It’s a funny post, but also a serious post. It’s a detailed description of an involved set of circumstances that eventually led to a sudden decision to kill herself by tetherball. Elyse points out in this post that many suicides are spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Suicide is a heavy subject, and one that many people don’t like to think about or discuss. I don’t blame them. Nothing gets gloomier than the idea of taking one’s own life. But it’s important to think about if you want to avoid being suicidal. So I try to lighten the topic with humor.

I believe suicide begins long before any impulsive decision to commit it. It begins with a mindset. The mindset we allow ourselves to fall into can lead us down a dark path toward a precipitous brink.

We turn ourselves into time bombs, waiting for just the right set of circumstances to trigger the explosion of suicide. I believe that many suicidal people have no awareness of the dynamite lying dormant in their psyche. They don’t recognize their own self-destructive potential.

My Suicide Prevention Hotline shtick is about revealing the kind of mindset that leads to suicide. For example, my Donald Who? post concerns itself with people who take politics so seriously, they easily become disappointed and depressed. Such people are suicidal, in my view, whether they realize it or not.

Suicide prevention begins when we recognize we’re on the path to our own demise. We all get on that path from time to time. The earlier we notice, the sooner we can change course. That’s why it’s important to be able to think about it. (And I mean think, not contemplate.)

I also believe suicide isn’t always such a bad thing. We all have suicidal tendencies to some degree. It’s a necessary part of human nature. For example, who wouldn’t risk their own life to save someone they love? What we have to guard against is taking our suicidal tendencies to an irrational level.

When we can recognize the mindset that leads to suicide, we learn how to avoid getting into such a frame of mind. Staying out of that frame of mind makes us less suicidal, and a whole lot happier.

And now, here’s the disclaimer:

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.

Donald Who?

2 Out of 3 Lives Saved, at We Care Line!

2 Out of 3 Lives Saved, at We Care Line!

Ring! It was my turn to pick up the phone at the suicide prevention hotline, where I volunteer.

Me: “We-Care Line. How may I help you?”

Caller: “Hi, I’m calling from the Make America Great Again campaign. I’d like to speak with you about Donald Trump.”

We get these calls all the time during an election year. Usually they’re robocalls, but this one happened to be a real live human being.

Me: “Who? Donald Rump?”

Caller: “Trump. Donald Trump.”

Me: “Never heard of him. So what about him? Is he having a personal crisis right now?”

Caller: “No, not all. We’re calling to make sure you get out and vote for him in the primary, and encourage your friends to vote for him, too.”

Me: “So, this Donald . . . Grump . . .”

Caller: “Trump. TRump! Donald Trump. I can’t believe you’ve never heard of him. Everyone knows about Donald Trump.”

Me: “Trumpet. Gotcha. Used to play one in band when I was a high schooler. So, tell me. Why should I vote for him, and what’s he running for?”

Caller: “He’s going to make America great again. And he’s running for president.”

Me: “You know what else is great?”

Caller: “What?”

Me: “God. God is great.”

Caller: “Oh yeah, yeah, sure. God is great. And Grump, I mean Trump, is gonna make America great again too, just like God.”

Me: “God is great.”

Caller: “Yes sir, I know. Now can I count on you to support Gonald Dump. I mean Donald Trump?”

Me: “Perhaps. But first I want you to chant with me. Chant: God is great. God is great. God is great.”

Caller: “God is great. God is great. God is great.”

Me: “Allah akbar.”

Caller: Silence.

Me: “Allah akbar!”

Caller: “Uh, wait a second sir, are you Muslim?”

Me: “No. But that means God is great, in Arabic. You know, God is great in any language. So would you be willing to chant Allah akbar with me?”

Caller: “I think not.”

Me: “Then I won’t be voting for Ronald Dump, or whoever he is.”

Caller: “It’s Dronald Tump, I mean Donald Trump, and I can’t believe you’ve never heard of him!”

Me: “Sir, your voice is shaking. You seem upset.”

Caller: Sniffs. “I am kind of upset. I’m having a bad day. Do you realize how hard it is to call people all day long and ask them to vote for Gonald Ronald, or, ah shit, whatever his name is?”

Me: “Tell me about it. Tell me more.”

For the next fifteen minutes he poured his heart out to me. I listened carefully and then gave this poor man some wise counsel. I advised him that political activism is the most frustrating job you can ever take on. I told him that politics is very unpredictable, and that even if this Donald guy got elected, he’d probably do things differently than what his supporters were hoping he would do. That’s politics. It’s depressing, and it sets you up for disappointment.

By the time the call was over, I had convinced this poor soul to put the phone down, quit his volunteer job, and walk out of the Make America Great Again headquarters. I don’t know where he is, or what he’s doing right now, but I hope his new-found freedom from political activism will open bright, exciting doors to his future.

And then he can make his life great again.