Chatting from Alex’s Eyes: Part 1

With every hour I volunteer at IMAlive,  I get more stories and more new difficult and heart breaking situations a person’s life can be in. Every story is worth our attention. With some, we connect more because of our personal experience while some we feel the hurt so much it seeps right through the letters on the screen. I’d like to share one of those latter experiences as it’s exactly the reason why I gladly offer my time and energy to people who can’t see past their troubles anymore.

I think I was within my first year and the call that came through made the hairs in the back of my neck rise. It was not exactly what she said, it was how she said it. It might be hard to believe but also, in chats, feelings come across. It was the sheer hopelessness that was in the tone.

The person on the other end was a woman and life had been hard on her. She had lost everything she had- job, money, people. She had tried multiple times to get up again and lost even more in the process, In that moment, she was holding on for dear life and had no expectations; no confidence of being able to get out of the misery that she felt her life had turned into. In that darkest hour of her life, she turned to us. And I took the call, I had the noble task to find that tiny sliver of hope that made her decide to chat with us. 

Needless to say, it was a long and intense chat. I was glued to the screen and felt desperate to find something, anything that could be of help or maybe just for comfort. As time went by, I was mostly listening and oh, so slowly taking baby steps to find her more safety. 

I was anxious to explore possibilities or people that might have been overlooked. We eventually found an option that she felt was safe and trustworthy. Her troubles were still there but the hopelessness had lifted long enough to see and find that one person that made her feel more supported and less alone.

We sometimes talk about missing a hug button and that was definitely the time I would have used it if it was there! This chat will always be in my mind as an example of how dark our world can get and what it takes to see the tiniest light again. Taking small steps in the right direction instead of rushing blindly to a solution. We all want to feel better as soon as possible but it usually has taken a lot of time too before we feel so downright awful; why not take time to find the right direction?

I still feel so humbled that person trusted me with their life and all the bad things in it. It is a privilege to have this position.

Volunteer’s of the Month – February Denise & Kai

Denise from Luxembourg

With a “strong feeling of wanting to contribute to this world,” Denise completed IMAlive crisis responder certification in April of 2020. Focused on a goal to “facilitate peace and well-being” for those experiencing crisis, her tenure of volunteering began during the early critical months of the Covid pandemic when people around the world were struggling – some for the first time – with the realities and repercussions of new and continued lockdowns. Supervisors are quick to laud Denise’s patience and gentle demeanor with those she chats with, offering her chatters the same understanding and opportunity to take their time sharing whatever is on their mind while keeping safety from suicide first and foremost in the discussion. Denise has a keen talent for reflecting what a person in crisis is feeling in a way that is conversational and warm and encourages them to say and share even more by relaying to them in her phrasing that she wants to understand all aspects of their experience. When it comes to developing a safe plan and exploring resources, this rapport seamlessly gets challenging chatters focused on their options and sources of hope. She does a great job of keeping her supervisor informed of where the chat is and where she thinks it may be going, as well as accepting, seeking, and implementing any feedback received along the way. Denise endeavors to improve her skills with every chat, and her assessment of how a chat is going or went are thoughtfully bent toward the task of continually growing those skills. This combination of traits, dedication, and skills make Denise a delight on shift and an asset to our chatters. With a joyful smile we congratulate you as a Volunteer of the Month for February!

Please join us in congratulating our Volunteer's of the Month for February Denise & Kai!
Kai from Washington, USA

July of 2020 saw the start of Kai’s volunteer service with IMAlive; he felt compelled to join the cause of crisis intervention and suicide prevention based on a personal foundational belief “that my greatest asset for becoming an IMAlive volunteer is my open-mind” as well as a knack for “constantly learning how to silence my own biases (even those that I am not aware of), which is particularly important when speaking to people whose beliefs, situations, and backgrounds vastly differ.” This core belief in open-mindedness and active acceptance of others carried naturally throughout training, certification, and into action as he learned and continues to develop the tools of employing that inherent empathy via active listening and more to aid those experiencing crisis in finding a means to stay safe from suicide while they figure out a path forward to the future. With a style supervisors describe as as easygoing and laid back as the summer season in which he began helping people in crisis, Kai’s demonstrated ability to relate to and connect with chatters of all ages and backgrounds and his readiness to explore and empathize with their their situation or experience in order to help them better combine to offer chatters a solid source of support in their search for understanding and safety. We are so happy to have you on the IMAlive team, Kai, and even gladder to celebrate you as February’s Volunteer of the Month! 

For the Love of Spring

I feel it, the first warmth of spring on my face as I run. I feel free. I feel strong. I feel alive! That first warm day, usually a decoy day, never fails to entice me outdoors and cause me to dream of the garden I will never plant. 

I don’t actually like gardening. I like the idea of gardening so I plan my summer bounty. I think of the fun it will be to feel warm dirt on my hands and warm sun on my skin as I work in my garden. I can almost smell the sun warmed soil. I think of how nice it will be to harvest all of the vegetables I will plant and what I will make with them all and I quickly become overwhelmed at the idea and so, abandon my plans for a garden. But it was great fun while it lasted. I think my virtual garden is my favourite thing. No actual dirt has to be touched and no real sun burns my practically transparent skin. I am safe and clean in the garden of my mind. If I determine that I would like to make some type of effort at preserving things we have a great Farmers’ market in town to supply my schemes, I am lucky in that regard. 

I do, however, feel a jolt of joy when I step outside and look into the front garden and see the first green shoots of tulips and daffodils rising up out of the patch that my predecessor planted, I can only imagine, lovely autumn day. I get very excited and take pictures to share with family and friends as soon as I see any colour on those shoots. 

Spring is my time to truly enjoy the outdoors, as it is not yet overwarm, but it is still bright and joyful. I revel in the life emerging all around me and feel inexplicable joy at the renewal of the neighbourhood. As all of the neighbours spruce up the front of their homes so we can all chat with one another in relative comfort. I know that I have great privilege in having a neighbourhood where we are able to gather with each other and speak freely to one another, part of the joy of living in a small village. We know each other, we find joy in each other’s triumphs and sadness in each other’s pain. Spring in our village is the reacquaintance with our neighbours after a long time apart, even this year, as in the last year, we will speak over driveways, lawns, and across streets with one another to keep our bonds strong.

It is time to renew the bonds of friendship that have lapsed over the winter, and a time to marvel at the life that is returning to our little village.

Optimism Amidst a Pandemic

We are all here at this time affected in multiple ways by the coronavirus, whether it be  in some kind of lock down from or  sniffing the first sweet aromas of freedom because of strict rules thanks to vaccinations.

As I am fond of books, especially books with some kind of profound wisdom in it, I found my forgotten copy of “The Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down” underneath a pile of unread books next to my bed. I got it pre-pandemic from a dear friend and it had something to teach me.

Skimming through the pages, I figured most of us have learned to slow down in this weird time, focusing on things that help us hold on and get through. The fast pace of the  outside world seemed to have become a dangerous place, so why not turn inward, taking it one step at a time and focusing on the small things? Though it might feel like the best choice, trying to keep that focus while everything we used to know feels upside down somehow can be challenging. 

Seeing the optimistic side of things comes natural to me. I like to shower people with compliments. I’d like to think I would have been an excellent cheerleader if I could monster the gift of not dropping the pompoms. 

As with so many people, the length of this pandemic has exhausted my optimism. I have a ton of small things that usually make me happy- dogs, cats, books, being able to connect with people, or even help people but when my mind wanders, sometimes a deep sadness surprises me. Sadness about the state of the world,…not being able to hug the people I love and the endlessness of it. Just the other day when I was doing nothing of importance, I was extending my driver’s license, my mind drifted and suddenly that bucket with tears was full.

Knee deep in snow, bike in hand, I slouched to the community center and irony found me when a teacher from my son’s primary school appeared. Talking about optimism: big smile, red coat, upbeat steps, and a cheerful voice.  Even though she exchanged not more than a few words with me, I felt grateful and better.

The sadness wasn’t gone but I realized, right then and there, we are all in this. We are all in it together. Sometimes on our own, sometimes with someone but we all share this experience. That is something to be thankful for.

“The more grateful we feel, the happier we become. This is because gratitude helps us realize we are all connected.

Nobody feels like an island when feeling grateful. Gratitude awakens us to the truth of our interdependent nature.”

 (The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim)

Yet, these small things seem to be the only things that are still there at times. The ability to connect with others (even though in distance), eating or preparing food, taking care of ourselves, reading or watching endlessly what makes us happy, and maybe, focusing inward, slowing down, deliberately taking the time for loved ones or for yourself will make the difference.

Volunteers Of The Month – January 2021 Ciarán and Suzanne

Ciaran from the United Kingdom

Since becoming a certified crisis responder in April of 2020, Ciarán has dedicated over 200 hours of service to crisis intervention and suicide prevention with IMAlive. His work experience in the mental health field naturally extends in a compassionate approach to each chatter, with this foundation of knowledge, interest, and understanding going a long way to not just helping people in crisis to find their way, but in establishing a partnership with them taking the lead to find a practical and hopeful path forward. Supervisors say that since his days in training, Ciarán’s empathy and passion for helping those in crisis, as well as his initiative in consistently reflecting on and bettering his own practice, make him stand out on shift. He arrives to every shift full of smiles (quite literally with tons of smiley emojis), and on shift is a dependable and comforting force for each chatter; he gives his full well of empathy to each chat regardless of the many challenging situations we – and the chatters – may face on a shift. Ciarán’s palpable care for those struggling, his kindness, patience, humor, and a humble desire to do better not only make him a joy to work with, but also make those he works with on the IMAlive team strive to do better themselves through his gentle example of the power of opening your heart to help others day after day. We look forward to fostering his continued growth as a crisis responder, and are excited to join him on this journey. Congratulations, Ciarán, on being our volunteer of the month for January!

Suzanne from Florida

Suzanne joined the IMAlive team in May of 2017 as a Random Acts sponsee; in the years since she has given over 650 hours and counting to helping those in crisis and considering suicide who come to us to chat. Suzanne feels a deep drive and purpose toward helping others, expressing that “I genuinely care and want to help, it has always been a part of me.” She finds in her personal life “people warm to me easily and open up quickly,” and supervisors note this quality translates into her chats as well; there, she quickly establishes a comfortable rapport with chatters, overcoming the separation of distance and format of text on a screen to get to know them, allow them to feel heard in their situation, and ultimately to create a virtual safe space that overcomes boundaries to focus on prioritizing the safety of the person in crisis. Supervisors agree her level head and ability to set aside any personal struggles to focus fully on chats are great strengths and let her bring her A game to even the most challenging shifts time and again. Suzanne understands that no human situation is simple and that we must extend the same amount of empathy to each fellow human being who comes to our chatline as we wish others would extend to us. Any time Suzanne is on shift, you know that she will listen to any chat visitor with an open mind and caring heart and quietly support them while they process the hurts and feelings of the day. Suzanne has mentioned on shift that she believes she has a “sixth sense” about people in crisis, when in reality, she’s using finely tuned skills of active listening to pick up on cues that could easily get missed. There’s nothing supernatural, either, about the reason why she has been chosen as a volunteer of the month honoree this January!

Inside the Life of a Volunteer

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Ann from IN, USA

We’d like to take a time out to honor Ann before we let her go on about her story that brought her here. Since 2015, Ann has achieved over 870 hours of volunteer work in our organization, experiencing a full, countless spectrum of crises and helping people as much as she can through every one of them. While it’s been five years since Ann has brought her stellar skill set and empathic heart, she continues to amaze us with her devotion and has many more people to reach. Thank you Ann for being there with us and for those who start a chat. We’re so proud of you!

After retiring from a long career working in healthcare, I decided to attack my bucket list.  That included learning to counsel, be a good listener, and maybe even help people clarify the direction in which they want to go.  So I earned an Associates in Human Services to find out what social workers are taught.  I then reached out to volunteer jobs which afforded the opportunity to use and build some skills in listening and help people see more clearly how they can develop and attain their goals.  That led to a job with a large church meeting people in need of financial assistance and appropriately providing that help through the church’s benevolence fund.  It also led to IMALIVE.  IMALIVE is an amazing organization of which I am proud to be a small part.  It has taught me so much and I still ask myself after every call how I could have done that better.   Volunteering for IMALive is something I intend to do for a long time to come and, hopefully, more and more successfully.  

A hobby of mine is making things from stained glass; I also enjoy taking care of pets and trying to keep track of what my children and grandchildren are doing and accomplishing.  

Gently, Deeply, Happily

When was the last time you said “I love you” to yourself? When did you last look in the mirror and celebrate yourself instead of criticizing? When was the last time you thought to yourself “I am awesome…worthy…or beautiful…”? When was the last time you praised yourself for doing well at school, work, or congratulated yourself for getting out of bed when the world felt like too much. 

For far too many of us, there’s a good chance it hasn’t been recently. We often get too caught up in our perceived flaws or mistakes and focus too heavily on these, forgetting to celebrate the amazing, unique and important individual we truly are! We are striving to be perfect in every sense, which gets in the way of celebrating other wonderful aspects of ourselves. Instead of looking at the countless aspects that make us up, we zoom in on the ones we don’t like but what do others notice about us? Is it the one flaw we’re focusing on or the intricate, beautiful aspects that we don’t even realize other people see. 

Imagine viewing yourself through the eyes of your loved ones – a friend, family member, pet, or anyone else who loves and admires you. What do they love most about you? Maybe it’s your sense of humour, your eyes, your empathy, whatever it may be – allow yourself to focus on that too. And if you don’t know – ask! 

In a world filled with negativity and judgement, try to be one of the people who focuses on the wonderful parts of life and yourself. Next time you look in the mirror or talk aloud, reflect on the things you love about yourself. It doesn’t always need to be big and groundbreaking, but it’s something you possess, that you love. 

Easier said than done, eh? And, admittedly, it may be hard at first, and maybe to start, you just choose one thing: “I love my hair…laugh…loyalty or ability to make others laugh”. On a good day when you’re feeling worthy, happy, and notice things you love about yourself: make a list! Continue adding to the list when you pick up on other things you love about yourself or when somebody gives you positive feedback. Then on the days when you’re feeling down and having trouble remembering what you love about yourself, refer back to the list. 

On days when you’re feeling defeated, carve out some time to take care of yourself. What do you do for you that brings you joy? It could be taking a bath, doing your nails, watching your favorite movie, getting a breath of fresh air, or a million other things. What brings us happiness is dependent on the things we love and enjoy. 

Please don’t compare yourself to others because you are not them. You are entirely yourself, made up of beautiful parts that aren’t always easy to recognize when we’re not feeling our best. 

In so many ways you are unique, beautiful, and worthy of love even when you yourself don’t see it. During “Madly in Love with Me Day” on February 13 and even every other day after and before, remember that you are the person who has preserved through everything that life has thrown at you and you’re still here. All of the parts that make you who you are, someone lovable, deserve to be celebrated. Work on loving yourself by being kind and easy on yourself. After all, there is nobody in this world who is and will ever be as you as you! 

Now – the next time you realize something you love about yourself, write it down. Put it somewhere where you are likely to look frequently (like right beside your bed to remind yourself before falling asleep and first thing in the morning). Continue adding to the list, ask others to add to the list, and regardless of what’s going on in your life, remember there are many reasons to continue to love yourself!

Better than New

As an introvert, I approach “Make a Friend Day” with trepidation. Do I have to make new friends? What is wrong with the friends I’ve got? Why is it so hard to make a friend? The short answer to the first is, “no”, you don’t have to make new friends if you don’t want to make new friends. To the second question, there is nothing wrong with the friends you have as long as they are not making you feel bad for being who you are or abusing you in any way. Now, the third question, that is where things get interesting… 

Why is it so hard to make new friends? All I can speak to is my own experiences and for me, I am always worried about being too familiar too soon and sharing too much, or the complete opposite; being far too standoff-ish. My own insecurities keep me from talking and interacting with people as deeply as I can. I only recently realised one person, who I now count as a friend (we met as part of an international club), really worked hard to get me to see her in that way. I looked back over all of our interactions and realised how much she would call and invite me places or just make an effort to help me with a project without making any demands on me emotionally. She just made an effort to be where I was. That made a big impact on how I viewed myself as a friend. She actually wanted to be my friend and made the effort to become better acquainted with me and soon after, she became someone I really liked being around and have started making the effort to reach out to her if we haven’t spoken in a couple of days. It made me feel valuable as a person, to think that she wanted to be my friend. 

I guess it is hard to make friends because as an adult, it takes effort. You have to be in a position to meet various people and decide who you want to be friends with then you have to cultivate a friendship with them and you have to follow through on your efforts. It is fairly time consuming and we typically do not have a lot of time to do these sorts of things. So, I thought about the people I know and thought about how I viewed them. Then I thought about what would happen if I made an effort to be a better friend to the people I think of as friends. Nothing catastrophic came to mind. So, instead of making a new friend, I am working on strengthening the bonds of friendship I share with current friends. Selfishly and mostly,  because it is pretty optimal for my little introverted brain to not have to work at meeting new people, I work at making contact with one of my people every 2 or 3 days. It has been made a bit of an easier task because of the pandemic. I am more attached to my electronics and so are most of the people I know so yay for texting and messaging!

I just don’t think I am quite ready for meeting new folks right now but whatever effort any of us are willing to make, we can become better for it.

There Is Always Me – During COVID

YOU are invited to join IMAlive’s #ThereIsAlwaysMe campaign. in spreading kindness for the love we all deserve.

Join us this Valentines week, to reach out to others, but not in our traditional way. With COVID19 still here, we must change our ways to reach others in need.

2021 #TIAM – we ask that you post up window, yard , and car signs, online picture quotes, videos and more all with There Is Always Me in view. It is a small gesture that could go a long way.

It could even save a life.

What to do:

  • From February 7th – 14th get creative!
  • Pictures, posters, email, postal mail and so much more…
  • Download the our creations or make your own.
  • Add our hashtag #ThereIsAlwaysMe
  • Post, and take pictures and tag us, we will share them!
  • We can post them too, email them to us at socialmedia@imalive.org

Join us and spread the word that #ThereIsAlwaysMe

Follow up and tag us:

Twitter https://twitter.com/_IMAlive
Instagram http://instagram.com/imalivechatline#
Youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/IMAliveCrisisChat/feed
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/IMAlive-155814097819999
Tumblr https://www.tumblr.com/blog/imalivecrisischat
Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/imalive1/
Blog https://imalivecrisischat.wordpress.com/
TikTok https://www.tiktok.com/@imalive.org?lang=en

Save and print the cards below or make your own.

More to come…

Volunteer’s Of The Month – December Shraddha & Alexis

Shraddha N. from the UK

When Shraddha joined the IMAlive team in September of 2017 she expressed that, “I want to be able to support even one person … I just want to impact people positively.” Since then she has supported not just a one person in crisis, but impacted the lives and safety from suicide of so many who come to chat struggling to find support. Along the way she continues to develop her skills in crisis response and empathy to help others and to grow as an individual; her caring and compassion are evident in all that she does. Supervisors are impressed by Shraddha’s consistency, thoughtfulness in her use of empathetic responses, and the endless well of patience she shows to the people who come to talk with us. She excels in adapting her style to the age and language level of the people she speaks to, connecting with them in a place where they communicate as equals working through the fundamentals of the crisis intervention and suicide prevention process toward a common goal. Providing the best possible support she can to the person in crisis, she never hesitates to reach out for additional support and advice herself in navigating complex crises and situations where suicide is a high risk. We appreciate all she does and are pleased to honor her as a volunteer of the month for December!

Alexis K. from New York

Alexis – one of our PostSecret sponsorship recipients – completed her HEART training to become a certified crisis responder in April 2020. In a year where Covid-19 challenged humanity as a whole, she came to us with the expectation “that this volunteer experience will continue to teach me about the diversity of our society and the individual struggles that exist in this world.” This awareness that every person’s struggle is unique to them, her acceptance of diversity without judgement, and her willingness to continually develop her empathy and active listening skills, make her an asset to the team and, most importantly, to those people in crisis contacting us for help. Supervisors praise the wonderfully positive attitude she brings to shifts and the time, thought, and care she takes in endeavoring to understand her chatter’s situation and give them the space to feel heard and valued. This striving to understand the crisis and a chatter’s available or potential resources enables Alexis to work together with the person in crisis on coming up multiple approaches to see which one will allow the person to feel most empowered about their situation and safe plan. For being a rock of empathy in sea of troubled times, we celebrate Alexis as a December volunteer of the month!


Congratulations to both of our amazing volunteers!

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