Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reach out. Listen. by DrowseyMonkey

I want to thank my guest for this insightful post. Funny, or serious, she writes from her heart is very sincere. So please make sure to visit. DrowseyMonkey !


Awake in Rochester and I have been chatting a bit since her post Immersed in Liquid where she spoke of the recent suicide of Suzanne, someone she met through blogging.

In my comment on that post I mentioned that I volunteer on a crisis/help line. I've been doing that for about 6 years now. During that time most people who've called are not in the process of suicide but many do want to talk about it. Sometimes they feel it's an option for them and quite often it's something they've attempted in the past.

Suicide is a very complex issue and I am in no way an expert on the subject. What we do where I volunteer is listen. It may sound easy and rather passive but the reality is listening is not that easy to do especially when you're listening to someone in physical or emotional pain.

Think of conversations you've had recently - chances are there was a lot of talking but not a lot of listening. This, of course, is perfectly normal and it's how we interact socially.

Now think of a time someone told you they felt sad or that their life wasn't fulfilling. Chances are you reacted like most of us and you tried to cheer them up, told them about all the positive things in their life. It's a normal response.

What we're taught to do on the crisis line is to listen to a person's pain. Not try and convince them their life is good or that they're over-reacting ... rather we listen respectfully and without judgment.

Listening to someone talk and asking open-ended questions allows them the time to move through their feelings. Suicide has such a stigma in our society that very few of us talk about it. So allowing someone the space to do this can be very helpful for them. Often people realize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary situation and they are then able to decide for themselves that suicide is not the right choice for them at this time.

Being the listener can seem rather passive at times which is one of the reasons it's so hard for most of us. We want to save people. Tell them how great they are and how great their life is. Of course we do! But when someone is really depressed that kind of conversation may make them feel like you're not listening to them. Which is actually the opposite of how you want them to feel.

When someone does die by suicide I think the hardest thing for everyone left behind is the feeling that they could have done something to make a difference. That if only I had done "this" or "that" the person would still be alive.

There are situations when suicide is a little easier to understand, for example when someone is suffering from a physical illness and their quality of life is deteriorating. It's still a difficult situation but most people empathize with someone in that type of situation. It's more difficult to understand why someone who seems perfectly healthy on the outside chooses suicide.

Someone I knew died by suicide last Fall. It was someone who had attempted before but in the past had reached out for help. This time they chose not to reach out. It was so hard to accept at first but ultimately I came to the realization that it was their choice. They knew where to call for help but chose not to and I have to respect that decision and move forward.

That may sound a bit detached or harsh, but it's not. It certainly hasn't been easy moving on, but with the help of others I'm doing that. Talking about how you feel is always important and I have a great group of people in my life who listen and give support. It works both ways of course because many in my life also knew the person who died and they're grieving as well.

As I said earlier, I'm certainly not an expert ... but there are lots of great places to get more information. One organization I really recommend is Living Works. I hope you check out their website there's so much there plus they also run workshops in many places around the world in the hopes of making communities "suicide-safer".

If you're thinking of suicide reach out to someone. Isolation increases thoughts of suicide. The thoughts are normal so don't be afraid to talk to someone about them. If there's no one you can talk to then call a crisis or suicide hotline, most communities have them. Don't keep your thoughts to yourself. Talking really helps and keeping it inside makes things worse.

If you're grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide ... again reach out and talk to someone. If you don't feel comfortable talking to someone you know call a crisis or help line ... that's what they're there for.

Check your local community for numbers to call, or check Befrienders Worldwide. They have a great list of organizations available around the world.

Reach out. Listen.


Mike Golch said...

I agree about reaching out and not staying cloded in.I have walked that raod and have made several attempts at taking my own life.I know deep down in my heart susicide is wrong.not I do talk about my feelings,with my psychiatrist.I do not close myself off as I once did. I have blogs that I visit where reading the blogs make me feel better.

vishalini said...

Hello hi i found your Blog quite intresting.Well i am Vishalini from india i'm also quite new to this blogging world.So now i am searching for my new friends.i found you in my one of my friend's blog friend's list.I hope you can be my one my friend forever.So i have added you in my blog roll.Hope you will also add me in your friends list.Anyways my dear friend happy Blogging....And stay in touch.Bye.

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Mike Golch,

Mike, I'm glad that you have a professional to go to. I hope that you stay open & honest.

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi vishalini,

Welcome to the wild world of blogging. It can be addictive. I once heard that starting a blog is like watching grass grow. It takes time. Just keep on commenting at different blogs that you like, and you'll make friends in time.

Olga, the Traveling Bra said...

Excellent post...I think the world would be a better place if EVERYONE just talked less & listened more.


Amias said...

I so admire anyone who takes the time to listen to others pain's not easy, and for it to work, a person must have a talent for listening.

I really appreciate this article, it has been very helpful. Thank you both ... God bless.

S'onnie said...

This was a good blog, I have had friends commit suicide and it is very hard when you are the one left behind. It took me a long time to realise that it was their choice and sometimes there is nothing you can do to change that.

Awake you are in my thoughts as your grieve your blogging friend. I do believe that while you may have never bet your friend, the relationship can be just as intense and valid as a 3D relationship.

Hungry Mother said...

Great post! I learned a lot about depression a couple of years ago and realized how important it is to have help lines available.

Giggle Pixie said...

Beautifully written. Thank goodness for people out there who do what Drowsey does.

Babs (Beetle) said...

Sadly, we don't do enough real listening in this world. As Drowsey says, we always try to make people feel better by talking instead of listening.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post Drowsey. It all sounds so obvious but we fail to put it to use.

You may remember me talking about my cousin who took her life years ago. And I remember her mostly because I don't have any answers to why she did it.

Her family still stops anybody from talking about it and unfortunately the rest of us stop "out of respect"
No, it's not out of your respect, you are hiding something !

I haven't forgotten but I am going to call the suicide hotlines one day when the time is right and ease my sadness.

Ghost Dansing said...

i just got back to read this.... i'm glad your friend gave you this to post.

Pagan Sphinx said...

A very excellent post. It's nice to get information and words of wisdom from regular, real people. The mental health establishment can make people feel crazier than they actually are.

Thank you for this, Drowsey and Awake for posting this. I've just added myself to the list of bloggers. Will be back whenever possible.


Amias said...

There is no links below this one on the wonderful poetry ... my dear you have talent for expressing your deep feelings, and should explore it. Darn it, put a comment link on them, they are very revealing! Should have their own link!

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Amias,

Oh your sneaky! LOL!

I took off the comment link to my poems because I didn't want anyone to think that I wrote them to get sympathy, attention, or anything. I'm getting more visitors who don't know me. It was a true expression of what I was feeling. That day was a bad day, and I did a lot of crying. I don't know why she was able to touch my heart so quickly, or get so deep inside, but she did.

I'm still amazes me when I hear you say that I have talent in this area. Thank you.

Awake In Rochester said...


At your request comments are back on. ;)

Speedcat Hollydale said...

I think that many fail to realize that some people have depression follow them always, even when smiling and laughing with you. Chemical imbalances in the brain can cause many to feel overwhelmed and sad all the time. Listening is not always enough. I know there are a lot of ideas out there on just what the right solution is, and I have never been to happy with the way the medical profession seems to medicate EVERYTHING.

It will probably not be very popular with other comments here, but my own viewpoint is that the best help comes from above.

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Olga, the Traveling Bra,

I'm sorry. What did you say? Your bra strap is in my ear.

Yeah, I'm really getting to like that little Monkey. ;)

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Amias,

I didn't think that just listening mattered so much. I'm so glad that she wrote this post. I learned a lot.

Jessica said...

Important post. Wow-what you said makes a lot of sense. It's important to listen, and I think human nature being what it is we forget that a lot.

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi S'onnie,

Thank you. I appreciate that. I'm sorry to hear about your friends. I didn't know it was so prevalent.

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Hungry Mother,


*passing so bread to you*

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Giggle Pixie,

Yes, Drowsey did a beautiful job! A+++

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Babs (Beetle),

Well, that would have been my mistake. As a health care worker I feel like I have to fix it. But that's not the correct approach.

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Jaffer,

I think I'll let Drowsey respond. She might drop by soon.

I hope that you find peace.

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Ghost Dansing,

I am too! This is a great post!

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Pagan Sphinx,


Drowsey Rules!

Awake In Rochester said...


Hm, do I smell another guest poster? Sounds like you know some stuff.

Just click on therapy, therapist, or words like that in the label cloud below, and you will see why I'm NOT going to a therapist.

I've suffered with on & off depression for sometime now. I guess I should see someone, but I need to be comfortable.

I'm not keen on drugs either. Look at what happened to Meleah. It just made her worse, and the "professionals" wouldn't listen to her.

Moral of the story- Get off drugs, and find a smoking, Italian, man. LOL!

PS- You will always be popular with me! My blog is open 24 hrs a day. And we serve free chicken wings at 2:00 A.M. ;)

RiverPoet said...

Drowsey, I hopped over here from the note on your blog. I wrote about Suzanne, too. Her suicide affected me deeply, particularly because I've been suicidal off and on. My mom modeled it for me well. She repeatedly tried to kill herself while I was growing up. I had to know how to check her pulse by the time I was in kindergarten, and how to dial for the police (no 911 back then).

It's terrible for the survivors who have to deal with the loss and feelings. I'm glad people like you are there to help the person think about NOT doing it. So many lives are touched.

Peace - D

Stinkypaw said...

Very true that it is hard to simply listen, especially when it's to someone close to us. I've done it, and after my father suicide I didn't have many "if only" or "what if" because I also knew it wasn't about me, but all about him and how he chose to see his life. Like Drawsey wrote, it was his decision and I respected it.

We were strange (I guess) because we openly talked about his suicide and to this day, I'm so happy we did. That is one thing I will never regret.

Drowsey Monkey said...

Thanks everyone for your input. Suicide is very complex as is the reasons for why people get to that point.

Help comes in many packages, for some the medical system for others it's a different path.

From my own experience I never stayed with the first therapist I was with because she wasn't helpful. Just like any job, some people are good at theirs and some aren't, therapists are no different.

The same can be said for medication. I'm a huge believer that medication doesn't work alone, you need to combine that with therapy - and finding the right combination takes time.

But not everyone chooses to go that route and that's fine - we're all unique and what works for one person may not work for another. We each have to find what works for us.

The best thing is removing the stigma. It's great to see here in all the comments that people seem to be talking about these issues in their own lives. That's a huge ripple in the pond of life. You're all making a difference in how people think about this subject and that's so significant.

Thanks everyone. And thanks to Awake for allowing us all to think and talk about it! That's so important.

LadyBanana said...

This is a wonderful post... so very true.

I could add more but not right now, just like to say well done Drowsey and Awake :)

A. said...

Interesting. I'm struck by how similar your "just listen" mantra is to training I received as a hospice worker. You can't tell a person dying in a hospice to "get well", after all. I suspect we are just so scared of death that we just try to hurry the unpleasantness along with cheery thoughts.