I’m now programmed to reach out during a mental health crisis. This took years of psychological focus. I used to introvert myself, cut off the world, turn to drugs and alcohol, self harm and, if it got really bad, make suicide plans. I don’t do that now.
After a lot of internal work with external help I’ve learned to pick up the phone and send as many texts as it takes until someone I trust and love responds. Sometimes it takes a lot of messages before I reach the person I need. And I want to tell you, that’s kind of how it is when you don’t go to the crisis lines but opt for friends and family instead.
I don’t tend to call the professional crisis teams, I suppose I don’t feel I want to clog up their lines when perhaps I have other options. I’m not saying that’s the ‘right’ way to feel – if you are a danger to yourself at all, call the crisis lines now. For me, when I feel the darkness setting in, the first thing I do is reach out to friends and family. But what happens when they don’t respond? When I’m in crisis, alone, afraid, confused; a mess.
I don’t tell them I’m in crisis over text straight away. I start with “how’s it going?” “Are you free?” or “fancy a chat?” Because the most important thing I’ve learned about reaching out is that you need to ensure the person you’re reaching out to is actually available, that they can cope with your crisis right now. It’s about respecting other people’s boundaries. Your friends and family may not have the headspace or emotional capacity to listen at the moment you need someone to. They are not trained professionals, they might not know how to deal with it. And that’s ok. Try someone else. I bet the right one is waiting for that text or call. You may think you know who you need but what do you do if they’re not available? You move on. You might need to do a little leg work to find out who your helper is in your particular crisis, and it might change from crisis to crisis. Keep trying. Someone will be available somewhere. Keep reaching out until you find them.
Your crisis may not be handled by even your closest friends. That doesn’t mean they don’t love you, don’t care about you or are not there for you. They are. They care. But they could be having their own struggles, their mental health could be rocky, they could just not have their phone with them. I want to throw water on the flames of “they don’t care” and reduce any feelings of guilt from those friends that perhaps have missed that crisis call and found out later that their dear one was in trouble. It’s ok.
I’m recovering from a two day bipolar episode, thankfully they are rare these days. And, on reflection, the people that did answer me turned out to be the exact people I needed at the time. To those that didn’t, I want you to know you didn’t let me down, I’m not upset with you, I don’t question how much you care. You weren’t there then but that’s ok. I know you’re there keeping me in your thoughts always. That’s enough.
When our time is right and our stars align, you’ll be there.
Take care all x