An e-mail I sent Aug 27, 2013 to 1-800-suicide. Is this what it means to get “help”?

I sent this letter to the person in charge of 1-800-suicide the day after I made a call to them. This was only a few days after I got out of Mount Auburn Hospital, where I was abused. I was scared to death after what they did to me. Because of the actions of a number of hospital personnel, I was questioning whether it was truly worth it to go on with my life. I had no one to talk to at all. It was 3am. What was I supposed to do? Many people have parents or siblings they can call at 3am, if they really need to. I had no one. 

I needed to make a decision. I needed medical care, but was scared to death to see a doctor. I had been badly traumatized and the sight of a doctor or medical facility scared me so much that I feared I’d never see one again. I knew any medical appointment I made with my “health plan” meant whatever doctor I saw had access to my records. I had set up an appointment at a walk-in clinic for Sunday. Should I go to this appointment? I was told this was a GP I was seeing. But what if he insisted I see a shrink? I knew I was flagged in their system as….as what? Just another mental patient, I guess, a waste of their time. So why bother? I knew I’d get shitty care anyway.

It was 3am. I needed to make a decision within a few hours. Cancel? Or go to the appointment?

I was stupid enough to call 1-800-suicide. Why?  Cuz the last thing I wanted to do was to call the local crisis team. If I EVER did that, I was sorry every time I called. I wanted to call out of state where I could be sure no one knew me. I figured that meant an unbiased opinion.

Oh boy was I ever wrong. That was the last time I called 1-800-suicide, for sure! I sent the following e-mail the next morning to the complaint person who runs the deal.

Hi George,

I believe it was Saturday night/Sunday morning at around 3am when I phoned 1-800-suicide.  I have no friends I can call at 3am and no family.  There are no available “talk” lines open at 3am and my own local crisis team cannot be called without giving them my name and location.

I did not wish my mind put at ease.  I can put my own mind at ease.  What I needed was help making a decision based on the facts I was going to give her.  No special medical knowledge was needed.  I am not good with people but others do have this skill and can help me, and this was what I needed at 3am.  It very well could have ended up a life and death matter, but I was finally able over the course of those wee hours and the following day to make the decision and I made the right one. 

Regarding the call itself, I first asked where I was calling to make sure the call hadn’t been routed nearby or to my local crisis team. Then, I asked if the crisis worker had set a timer and was going to cut me off and give me a “one minute warning” at 9 minutes and then hang up after 10 minutes.  These calls are a waste of my time because I have had cognitive trouble and cannot express myself efficiently.  It takes time.  My ability to efficiently express myself is impaired even further when I am stressed out.

The crisis worker demanded to know if I was suicidal.  I said, “I have anorexia nervosa.”

She insisted that I phone a “talk line” instead.  I said, “Do you understand what anorexia is?” 

She was clearly insulted by this question and sounded annoyed when she said, “Yes, I do.”  Then she proceeded to blast me for making an “inappropriate call.”  I really don’t need to feel so unwanted and like no one wants to listen, especially since that’s one major reason why I starved myself in the first place.

Two weeks ago, I went “full code” at an emergency room because of self-starvation.  I am lucky to be alive today, but my kidneys are working only partially and that’s permanent damage due to starvation.

No one working in the suicide field can tell me that they truly know what anorexia is and then put me off like that worker did.  Anorexia is the desire for thinness over life itself.  Anorexia almost killed me.  I now desperately want to live.  Is there a crime in wanting to live?

Finally, after getting further lectures from this worker about my “inappropriate call,” I hung up on her.  All I know is that I was phoning from Massachusetts and she was in Connecticut and it was around 3am this past Sunday.  I can get you the exact time if that’s helpful off of my cell phone records.

It is my dream to start a helpline for eating disorders that does what no other service provides.  I would like to start a line staffed by real people with lived experience with eating disorders who have known first hand what it’s like to be scared about what is happening in body and mind and have no one to turn to.  We would be open in the wee hours, when a service like this is truly needed.

Have a nice day.

Julie Greene

***

“George”” never wrote back. I sort of knew he wouldn’t. People like me didn’t matter anymore, I figured. My opinion was considered completely worthless, as was my life. I had starved mainly because my family and many in my community clearly didn’t give a shit about me. The abusers at the hospital had only served to reiterate that fact. They never even saw me as human.

If society saw me that way, as subhuman, what was the point of going on? I vowed over and over that what I needed was to get away. I didn’t know how yet.