I've been there myself
For many years Samaritans has been a charity close to my heart. In my teens I frequently self harmed, and when I was 20, I attempted suicide, yet I didn't call Samaritans in the lead up or afterwards. Knowing what I know now I wish I had. If I had, maybe things might have been different and my attempt might have been diverted. Maybe.
Unbeknown to me I was in the early stages of pregnancy with my first child when I took my overdose. Fortunately and miraculously, he was unharmed.
Now in my mid 30s, I have had another three children. Thankfully I managed to turn things around. Sometimes when I look at my eldest son I can't believe that something so remarkable came from a time when I felt so lost.
From darkness to light
I was lucky, I had a great partner (now my husband) who saved me, quite literally. However, the thought of how different things could have been has always stayed with me and over time led me to Samaritans.
I started volunteering at my local branch in Scotland just over three years ago. Every shift I'm reminded of just how lucky I am. Not everyone can get off a self-destructive path, or wants to, or indeed has the support or resources to.
Anyone who volunteers for Samaritans knows the variety of calls we receive, but in my experience, more often than not, loneliness is the common theme. I have at times wobbled and wondered if I'm doing the right thing by volunteering. Then there's always that call that reminds me why I do this. Often it’s from somebody who simply doesn't have anyone else, and who is painfully lonely and I'm urged to carry on.
There are calls that have affected me; I had a silent call that stayed with me for a while because of what I could hear in the background.
I also had a call with a middle aged man that lasted over two hours. Over that time he talked a lot and he cried a lot. Being there for people like him is what makes it worthwhile.
I regularly find it hard being a listener. I find it especially difficult taking calls from young people because the natural thing to do is to picture your own child in their situation. Therefore, I have had to find ways of switching off.
It's 20 minutes by car to my house in the countryside and I use this time to listen to music, to think and then I make myself let go. As I turn off the main road onto the lane there is a long line of trees on a bank, silhouetting against the sky. I've seen some dramatic skies on the way home from shifts including some incredible sunsets.
Driving past these trees means I'm almost home and it's at this point that I usually feel myself relax, even if it's been a difficult shift. The final moment of letting go comes with shutting the front door and then creeping into my children's bedrooms to check they are asleep. Watching them sleeping is when I'm reminded of the fragility and beauty of life, and also of the sadness that so many people carry, alone, and yet again I realise, just how lucky I am.
- Hear from listening volunteer, Jamila
- Hear from listening volunteer, Rodney
- Hear from listening volunteer, Jerry