Content warning: explicit discussion of suicide.
My body has dragged itself through some noxious filth on its way to the here and now, and getting through it has been hard work. My first suicide attempt was at 11 and my most recent seventeen years ago when l was 23.
I haven’t magically stopped thinking about suicide since then, just implemented strategies to minimise my obvious risks in this area.
Not talked about much in this blog (Just heavily alluded to), I’ve white watered through some big traumas over the last few years/decades/centuries. One of the best oars l used to paddle through the torrents of shit has been this amazing 24 suicide intervention service we have in Australia called Lifeline.
You can call 13 11 14, anytime, anywhere in Australia and (mostly) speak to a trained volunteer who can hear what you need to say, help you breathe and try to find a way through your pain.
A few years back, l spoke to Lifeline four times in one week, twice in the middle of the night. I’m not sure I’d be here without those calls, not sure the PhD would have been submitted, the evidence given, or the awesome new job of a lifetime aquired.
Job of a lifetime as Team Leader Books, Lifeline.
I manage the team of volunteers who collectively give over forty hours a day to sort, research, price and the 200,000 books that go to Lifeline Southcoast’s Big Book Fairs every year.
We handle thousands of books each week, sorting the wheat from the chaff and finding the occasional oddity or treat.
Team Awesome in Books work miracles, converting two cages of books each day into 800 books, cleaned, researched, priced and packed. And it’s my volunteers who make that magic happen.
I’m living the high life: working with heavy machinery, playing with books, talking endlessly about food and dropping all of the puns.
And there’s dinosaur teeth!!!*
*There were dinosaur teeth one time. Thanks, Noel!
But there’s just one little problem with this dream new job: sometimes l do unpaid overtime.
I bring home bags of books that we can’t sell to donate to community libraries, deliver boxes of text books to disadvantaged schools, spend hours on big shiny computer with fast internet at home because it’s easier than doing it at work. I even do things around the workplace that have nothing to do with Books but just need doing.
One of the bigger risks in the Community Services Industry is burnout. We work in these fields because we care, but then we give too much (because we care) and break ourselves. One of the key risk factors for burnout is when the individual doesn’t feel/see the positive values of what they do.
As person living with a chemically imbalanced, post traumatic body/brain combo, I’m obliged to remain aware of this and implement good self care.
I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to achieve my dreams and goals for this job but also to do it within my allocated work hours. Taking work home, in bags and boxes and brain, has been something I’ve been feeling guilty about, berating myself for. A colleague who I’ve brain blended on this topic keeps asking me why l do it, which got me thinking (funnily enough) about why l do it.
I don’t deserve to beat myself with any more imaginary sticks and so gave the question due thought. This is the answer.
Remember that (mostly) in my Lifeline blurb above? One of the calls l made to Lifeline that week wasn’t answered.
The extra time l give is my way of volunteering, just the same as the volunteers on Team Awesome do. Putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak.
Which, apparently, can help me stress less according to this postcard I’ve been toting round for years.
Every book that goes through Team Awesome and comes out as Big Book Fair stock is more money going to put trained volunteers on the phones, answering those calls to 13 11 14.
Every minute of effort l give beyond my position description and contracted hours, is a few more fibres in the safety net for people like me. Every minute l give (donation you drop off, book you buy, hour you volunteer), increases the likelihood that that vital phone is picked up at that vital moment.
My tiny contributions, some overtime here, a quick delivery there, serving a few shop customers one the way out the door? These moments are me volunteering, giving back for the many answered calls and filling gaps to get as many calls answered as we can.
Luckily, I’ve already done all that thinking about safety nets in unusual situations, and so can go into this blend of employment and volunteering with more of those strategies in place.
I can’t tell you how I made it through the next few hours after my unanswered call, but I did. I could have requested a callback or gone online, but l went it alone. If that phone had been answered, getting through that night would have been easier. I know that because every single time I’ve called Lifeline, I have found whatever I’m struggling with easier.
If you have found my post difficult and are thinking about suicide, you matter and are important. Please talk to someone who can listen.
If you are in Australia, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Disclaimer: this post is written by me as an individual and does not reflect the views, policies or opinions of Lifeline Australia or Lifeline Southcoast. Lifeline does not request, expect or assign tasks or hours beyond my position description and happily pay overtime when needed.