Silence Is Golden: What Happened When I Actually Stopped To Listen

What Happened When I Stopped and Listened

Have you ever thought, if you just stopped to listen, something amazing might happen?

Then again, how will you ever know, if you never take the time to find out?

To become a Crisis Line Counselor, I went through two weeks of training with the Contra Costa Crisis Center. There was so much to learn–sometimes, it felt like too much all in two weeks, but I gained so much from my experience. 

We learned some astonishing and upsetting facts about what goes on at the Crisis Center on a day-to-day basis. They take in over 60,000 calls per year. These calls range from anything as simple as a referral to a local food bank, to serious crisis calls.

And needless to say, it can be a lot.

At first, as a new volunteer, these numbers and facts were overwhelming to think about at times. But, I knew it’s where I wanted to be.

And I wasn’t about to quit before I even got started.

My desire to help others grow, achieve and overcome far outweighed my self-doubt about whether or not I thought I could be brave enough to actually take a real crisis call. 

Our trainings consisted of Crisis Center volunteers and speakers who taught us about what clients might call in for on daily basis–sometimes multiple times per day–and areas they often would need support in: losing housing and needing resources on finding new placement, talking to someone after losing a child, being on the brink of a psychotic episode, and even actively thinking about taking one’s life.

The list actually went on quite a bit.

One of the most important pieces of advice I received was, “Sometimes our callers are just calling to talk to a real person. They feel like they have no one in their life who is willing to take the time to really sit and listen to them. The greatest gift you can give someone who’s calling our hotline, is to listen to them”.

It’s funny because, after spending a day training on the heavy topic of suicide–what it is, how to spot it and what to do once you detect someone is at risk–the first thought that came to mind, at least for me, was how do I make them feel better? How can I make this pain that someone is feeling just go away?

And the truth is, you can’t.

You can’t make someone’s pain of losing their 2-month old child six months ago to SUIDS, just go away. Or their pain of living a life filled with nothing but seemingly never-ending mental health visits to hospitals and therapy offices. And the endless medications that don’t work without horrible side effects. And the feeling that no one’s ever going to understand them–that doesn’t just go away.

Nothing is simple in the realm of mental illness, I’m learning. It’s unique to everyone–and it affects each person so differently. No two diagnoses are the same.

You might think, well then what the heck is the point of all this? The trainings on grief and trauma, the example crisis calls, the steps of assessing for suicide risk–what’s it going to change? Well, I didn’t exactly have it all figured out myself, but one thing was for certain: listening to others, was both a privilege (for us) and a gift (for them).

When we first practiced taking crisis calls, at first it was tempting to bombard the “caller” with questions. Are you safe? Who are you with? Where are you? Blah, blah, etc. 

 Not that those aren’t critical pieces to taking a call, but sometimes we just missed the point of it all. We (I) forget that sometimes, all the caller wants is to know that there’s someone out there listening. Letting them talk about their day and how their boss is such a jerk. Or how they used to love it when their husband played guitar and sang along really off-key. Or how much they missed their son’s laugh or how they really just can’t seem to get out of bed today.

Sometimes, people just want to be heard. And that’s the point.

You think to yourself, I don’t know what to say. Let your silence be okay. Let it not be filled with anxiety, worry and thoughts of I wish I knew what the right thing to say was or I wish I could do more. Instead, let it be filled with compassion, warmth and hope. I hope that I can bring this into my own relationships, outside of the Crisis Center: how to listen actively, speak less and really just be there for someone.

Because I’m learning that being there and listening, is just enough.

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Leighann

Twenty-something, lover of Jesus. I like animals (esp. dogs), Fun-Fetti cupcakes and yoga. I love God and do my best to love others. I hate too-warm weather and socks that fall into your shoes when you walk. I'm a huge fan of Christian rap and cold, sunny days.

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Obsession. I like to say photography is my love language—I have no idea what that means, but it sounds nice, right? I’m obsessed with taking pictures and learning more about composition, editing and trying new things with my little @canonusa baby. *accidentally deleted my post from yesterday—so here it is again*
  • This is not a drill—it’s a GIVEAWAY! 
Meet Kayla (@kayzilch). Though we’ve met just recently, I immediately recognized her as a kindred spirit (she’s also a Type-4 Enneagram)! Her writing is real, authentic and delves into an array of important topics such as mental health, identity, faith and much more on her blog @tobetruth_. She’s also working to become a certified yoga teacher and is passionate about her work as a freelance writer! 
Meet Meghan (@meghantschanz). I’ve never met a woman so determined and passionate about creating authentic community and tackling tough topics. She’s not afraid to go there and start conversations about real-world issues like sex- and labor-trafficking around the world, feminism (or lack thereof) within the church and equality for ALL. She’s currently working on securing a book deal, with the goal of empowering women around the globe to recognize their influence in society and their ability to make the world a more equal place. 
These women are doing some amazing things and I’m honestly just excited to come along for the ride. I believe in us, the work we’ve been called to do and I hope, after learning more about us, you will too. To celebrate and continue advocating for causes we believe in, we’re doing a giveaway with @causebox. 
Here’s where you come in:

1. Give this post a (♡) double tap.

2. Go follow @meghantschanz & @kayzilch.

3. After you’ve done both of those things, come back here and tag two women whose life, work and friendship you believe in! 
The prize is a summer-themed @causebox valued at $300, packed full of small-batch, sustainable and ethically created gifts made by women and small businesses around the world. 
Winner will be announced Friday (8/24) morning at 10am EST!
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Blue. I’ve been looking for a way to fill my ginormous (at least it seems that way) white living room wall. Every time I thought I knew how I wanted to decorate that space, I changed my mind suddenly, determined that there had to be a better way to fill the empty 
space.

I didn’t know this about me before, but it hit me one day, as my parents were helping me unpack my stuff in my new place. My mom began asking me what I’d like my new place to look like, rug colors, mat textures, wall—fixtures and all. I am no good at decorating. Like, I had no idea how to put a space together. I’ve never been on my own before and the idea of having to decide how my space would be...mine, freaked me out. 
But then, little by little I found some pieces that I didn’t hate, and started to put them together. And yesterday, I stumbled upon these little treasures at Marshall’s. I couldn’t resist the ocean hues and beach vibes. I knew it was meant to be. 
All that to say, for anyone else struggling to put your place together after either never having to do it before #livingsingle or maybe putting the pieces of your life back together after a breakup or split—take your time. It will all come together eventually and it will look amazing. And before you know it, it will start to look, like you. ttys
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Hot. No, it’s not what you think. As a matter of fact, when I first saw this picture I was horrified. I saw all that was wrong with my body, my hair and my skin—ugh. 
But you know what? No one’s perfect. And thank God I don’t have to be. Plus, my body was/is working just fine, my hair was moisturized, and my skin was poppin’. Trying to shift my moments of self-doubt and body-consciousness to thankfulness and positive self-talk. 
Also, the day this was taken was HOT, so it still counts towards today’s #augusteyecandy.

I don’t know if anyone’s told you today, but you’re made splendidly and you couldn’t be more perfect than you are right now—yes, even in this heat with your mascara running down your face. ttys 
S/O to @kayzilch and/or her awesome fiancé, Michael for this pic 📸
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5pm. 
It’s crazy to think that I’ve actually posted one picture on IG for TWO weeks straight. Especially considering all that’s been going on around me: moving back across the country for school, moving into my new place, actually starting school, remembering how to (somewhat) adult—throw in a little bit of anxiety, and you’ve got yourself the past two weeks of my life. 
All that to say—we made it, folks. We made it to today. And that is enough. You’re doing great—ttys
  • TW: Anxiety/Panic Attack

Anxiety is like a shadow that’s been following me around since I was about thirteen. I guess puberty marked the onset of racing thoughts, subtle hyperventilation and that queasy feeling you get when something’s just not right. I had my first panic attack at nineteen, during a new hire orientation. It felt like I was having a heart attack—my heart inexplicably began to race, my hands shook and I felt warmth all around me. 
I excused myself to the reception area and, in a panic, asked the receptionist if she could help me. She said to place my hands above my head and breathe. I paced around the lobby and breathed, eyes closed. Inhale. Exhale. I worried for a moment that I would die. Then gradually, my heart began to beat at normal pace again. My breathing deepened and my body cooled down to normal as I continued to pace, slower this time. The kind receptionist gave me some water to sip and sat me down until I was ready to go back to the meeting. 
Anxiety can feel like a high-speed train. Going 5mph one minute and 150 mph the next. It can also be subtler, feeling like you can’t quite catch your breathe and you begin to hyperventilate, in a way that is only recognizable to you. 
Although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, anxiety has taught me the importance of coming back to the present. And how allowing myself to feel what is presently around me, can ground me and remind me that I’m alive. I’m safe. 
I share this story in order to start the conversation. Anxiety is a part of my life, whether I like it or not. I hope you know that first of all:

1. You are loved beyond measure and valuable even with your anxious thoughts and actions 
and 
2. You are not the only one 
ttys

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