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I'll never forget the first word I heard from that first call I made to the National Suicide Hotline all those years ago.
"Talk," said Gary, the hotline operator that I ended up talking to for four hours straight in the middle of the night.
I opened my mouth, but choked back more tears as I struggled to find the words. I cried and I cried at the one word Gary the hotline operator said to me.
Talk. That's the one thing that I hadn't done up until that low point in my life.
Talking was such a foreign concept for me after my mother died from cancer. I was 14 years of age back then. I'm an adult now (if you can even classify 20 years of age as "adult" nowadays), but looking back, I wish I could've opened up more before I called that hotline. But… it was just so hard to.
After my mother died, I moved to a new town, new state, and new region of the country. I was the new kid in town, starting as a freshman in high school. As a quiet new kid with no friends, I was practically destined to be labeled as a loner in school. And honestly, I was.
I'd enviously look at the other tables in the cafeteria and library where kids my age would converse with one another, carefree about real problems in the world. How could I be brave and talk to them when I was a new kid? How could I talk and relate to them when I had witnessed my mom suffering from cancer just a few short months prior? How could I relate to anyone who hadn't had experienced the major life changes that I was experiencing at the time?
The truth of the matter is this: No one should have to suffer from the pain of loss. No one should especially have to suffer from the indescribable pain of witnessing the death of someone who they loved and lost.
But I did.
Which is why I felt that I had to keep quiet. Which is why I sat alone at the lunch room tables. Which is why I kept to myself for a full year and a half after my mother died.
That is, until I reached my breaking point.
I nearly almost ended my life when I was a sophomore in high school. I remember the exact date and roughly the same time too that I almost did it. Almost.
It took me a while to reach my breaking point. It was gradual, by no way immediate should I add. But I reached it. To this day, I still can't believe that I almost did. Again, almost.
If it wasn't for Gary, I would've died the night I called the hotline. If it wasn't for Amy, another hotline operator I talked to for hours and hours a few years after I talked to Gary, I would've died back then too. If it wasn't for that one person on that hotline who listened while I talked, there's no way I'd be writing this right now.
I've experienced life in ways that the high school freshman-and-sophomore me wouldn't have dreamed of since those fateful phone calls.
I graduated from high school, which is an achievement that nowadays may seem to be "expected", but for me it meant a lot because my mother didn't get the chance to walk at graduation since she had me when she was a teenager. I decided to go to community college right after high school and recently graduated Summa Cum Laude with an Associate of Arts. And two weeks before I walked the stage at my community college graduation, I found out that I got accepted to my dream college with a full tuition scholarship…
My point is this: There's no way in hell I would've been able to experience life like this without someone who listened.
To every National Suicide Hotline Operator volunteer who has spent countless hours just listening to the vulnerable souls on the other end of the phone, I thank you. Thank you for doing what you do, thank you for putting in the time and giving people like me - someone who has experienced tremendous life changing episodes in life - a chance to talk.
It's not easy to talk, but you are the ones who listen. Thank you.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------If you or someone you know who is in need of someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Hotline via 1-800-273-8255.