by Chris de Serres
The phone rang. It was my first one. I fumbled with the headset and quickly blurted out, “Crisis Line, this is Chris!” Perhaps my tone was too chipper.
I closed my eyes and put my head in my hands. I needed to just focus on this caller. Give her all my attention. It’s a difficult thing to do to give another person our undivided attention. It is why so many people call the crisis line. They feel dismissed, invalidated, ignored, and abused. I can remember many times in my life when I felt I had no one to talk to.
In training, we are taught to listen for an uncomfortably long time. Delay all attempts at ‘fixing’ the caller’s problem. Lead them to their own solution.
Yet here I was struggling with my urge to say something, anything. Yet, all the caller wanted to know was that I was there, for them. So I said ‘mmm’ and ‘wow’ and ‘yes’. That’s all I ever said.
I didn’t really do anything. The caller actually thanked me. It was then that I realized the ‘not doing’ is a big part of the doing in a crisis call.
Every call is different. I laughed with one caller, cried with another. It was okay to be myself here. I am just a stranger whose there to listen. Most of the time that’s all we really need.