When all else fails, ask
I was wondering if you might be able to help me. Earlier this year I tried to kill myself.
I haven’t attempted suicide again, but I have called 911 at times when I wanted to hurt myself. I’m having a really hard time overcoming my depression and addiction to drugs and alcohol. Many people I love have died or left me because of my problems and I feel so alone. I also feel guilty for calling the police when I need help, but I don’t know what else to do. I don’t want to bother anyone. I just want to feel better.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you for reaching out and for agreeing to let me publish your letter. I’m glad to help, especially with a problem that affects so many people. Please know that even though you are feeling isolated, you’re not alone. And by asking for help, you are bravely helping others.
My best advice to you, M, is to keep asking. Ask for help whenever you need it. Ask anyone who will listen… the police, the 911 operator, Your Pal Erin, the loved ones that have abandoned you…ask us all. Ask even though you’re scared that we might ignore you or dismiss you as crazy. Ask even though there’s a possibility we just might tell you “no.”
Every time you ask, you create an opportunity for human connection with someone who might understand what you are going through. There are more of us than you realize, M. Even though I’ve never actually tried to kill myself, I have felt suicidal. It was a powerless, scary feeling to be so far at the end of my rope that I didn’t know if I would make it through the night.
In these moments, I have reached out to people who love me, people who don’t know me…even people who don’t particularly like me. For the most part, their responses have been compassionate and always provide me with a new perspective. Even being told to “put on my big girl pants,” helped shock me out of my despair and reminded me that I am stronger than I realize.
Be gentle with yourself when you feel guilty for reaching out to strangers, M. Lack of human connection has made me do some pretty wacky things. Once when I was out driving, I stopped by an open house and pretended to be an interested buyer just for the sake of having some company. Another time when I was on my lunch break at work, I went to confession and admitted to the priest that I wasn’t Catholic, but a frustrated Episcopalian who had no idea what the hell I was doing with my life.
Even though my woes might seem trivial in comparison, my desperation and loneliness were just as real; they’re horrifying to admit and painful to remember. And the only reason I didn’t wind up hurting myself is because I was willing to ask anyone for help in my own weird, backward way.
You didn’t mention how many times you’ve called 911, but you’ve only hurt yourself once. Since then, you’ve reached out to trained professionals who have the actual ability to help you whenever you feel like you can’t help yourself. That shows a strength and willingness to live that you can be proud of.
It sounds like your addictions could be part of a cycle of depression and self-medication that’s leading you into further depression. AA and NA are places where you can commiserate with people who understand where you’re at and are willing to show up for you anytime you ask. It sounds like I’m stealing a page from the Capitan Obvious Handbook by pointing that out, but when you stop and think about it, the idea of people who are willing to help you anytime just because they’ve been in your shoes is pretty cool.
Thanks again for reaching out, M. If you ever want to talk in person, you can reach me Monday afternoons from 1:30 – 2:00 p.m. on the Ask Your Pal Erin radio show on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah Soundings. The show will be available online at savsoundings.org in just a few weeks and on the air soon after. I hope you give a call sometime to let us know how you’re doing.
In the meantime, I’ll be holding you in my best, most positive loving thoughts.
Originally published in Connect Savannah (p. 69)