The Conversation

August 31, 2010

(Editor’s note: Tim is one of our Military Helpline specialists and is scheduled for active duty as an Army Lieutenant this coming February)

“Why don’t you like to talk about the Army?” she asked.

“It’s not that I don’t like talking about the Army, it’s that I don’t like thinking about how it will pull us apart.”

This has become my reality.

Tears began to roll down her face as I spoke about my time here, and that it would come to an end, as all good things do. Eventually I would be called off to do a job that not many people want, or choose.

Lost in thought about all that I would be losing and leaving, and sitting next to me, was someone that was also looking into the future at something that eventually she was going to lose.

As we drove on, fighting back our own very real fears of the future to come, I turned to see her, sitting quietly while those tears of fear began building up in her eyes. I reached across and held her hand gently. No words were spoken, through that touch, that bond, we both understood.

But we didn’t understand.

We probably never will. The changes that will happen are as obvious as the differences between a man and a woman. I am leaving to do a very un-natural and dangerous job, while she stays here, in school, never to see what I go through. Life for her, and for all my friends and family will carry on when I’m away, just as it has in the past. For me, life will become sweeter in a way. All the effort, long nights, early mornings, being away from those I love for long periods of time, they will all finally be justified.

While I am privileged and honored to carry the flag of this nation into areas of strife and contention, I must also carry the burden that I will be leaving those I consider closest in my life. This weight will be much heavier than any load I will carry on my back, it is not visible, and I will never show its true weight.

Watching the tears roll down her face, the burden becomes very heavy.

-Tim


It makes me whole

August 19, 2010

It is early when the alarm goes off. 5:00am! Why would anyone want to get up at that time to go to work? The traffic is light as I head west on I-84 onto I-5 south. Morning has always been my favorite time of day.

The office is quiet, the overnight Crisis Line Staff fills me in on calls and updates me on need-to-know information. I log in and, as the red light disappears from the side bar announcing my successful entry into the system, the phone rings.

My first call of the day is about to start.

“You’ve reached the HelpLine, this is…” I listen as the caller describes the throws of addiction and the need for treatment. The all-too-familiar story of no insurance, no support, fear, humiliation and isolation pours out. “What can I do, where can I go, and how the hell did I get here?”

Employing listening skills, the methods of gathering information and opportunities to use encouragement, I work with the caller to find a reasonable treatment option. Reminding the caller that it takes a great deal of courage to call and ask for help, I compliment them on their strength. We make a plan to ensure the information is understood and followed, and then end the call.

I feel good that I was able to find appropriate resources, yet am still concerned for that caller. The addiction demons are very strong and they will need a great deal of support and inner motivation to get clean. Yet before I can dwell on this call, the next one is ringing in.

For the next 6 hours, one by one the calls come to “The Line”. Four lines in all: Suicide Lifeline, Alcohol/Drug Helpline, Military Helpline and Youth Line. We answer them all. Using compassionate and empathetic listening skills, non-judgmental discussion, resource and referral technology, we attempt to relieve the caller and help them with whatever crisis they are in.

They are the connection that makes me whole.

– David D.


Creating a (Larger) Community

August 17, 2010

We believe that we offer a volunteer experience that is deeper and more rewarding than many other volunteer experiences. The primary reward comes from interactions with people in crisis or in need, and most of these calls end with positive directions agreed upon between the call worker and the caller. And it’s these positive directions (created from a combination of training and innate compassion for suicide and drug prevention) that create a rewarding experience for the volunteer crisis worker.

But there’s something more about volunteering with us.

In addition to the professional training, supervision towards certification, and professional development that we provide, there’s a sense of community that develops. This sense of community envelopes all of us, and gets its start in the training. Volunteers begin talking to each other. But not in the way that we might be used to seeing people who have just met talk to each other. They talk and listen with genuine concern and compassion – to each other. And it is this sense genuine concern and compassion, I believe, that leads them to having barbecues in each others’ backyards. To having dinner together on a Monday night, on their own time. That leads them to inviting each other to concerts, and ball games.

When I hear them doing this, I smile wide to myself. This is one of my rewards, being the part of something that contributes to the creation of new meaningful relationships – ones where each other’s company is truly appreciated for the gift that it is.

But the challenge? In the middle of summer, our volunteers want to get out and about and enjoy the company of their friends and family (many times out of town). And our lines are sometimes left a little “thinner” than we would like. What’s the solution to this? Well, more volunteers of course! How do we do this? Lots of training. But also, a lot of community building.

And that, is a great reward.

– David C


Air Empathy

August 16, 2010

I thought I would use my flagship OP entry to repost this poem blogged by a friend who (also) works with grieving children:

Air Empathy

On the red-eye from Seattle, a two year-old
in the seat behind me screeches

his little guts out. Instead of dreaming
of stuffing a wad of duct tape

into his mouth, I envy him, how he lets
his pain hang out. I wish I too could drill

a pipeline into the fields of ache, tap
a howl. How long would I need to sob

before the lady beside me dropped
her fashion rag, dipped a palm

into the puddle of me? How many
squeals before another passenger

joined in? Soon the stewardess hunched
over the drink cart, the pilot gushing

into the controls, the entire plane, an arrow
of grief, quivering through the sky.
~jeffrey mcdaniel

This piece reminds me so much of a conversation I had with a priest on a transatlantic plane once, about how often those most disgruntled by crying children often seem to wish they could throw a tantrum themselves. How cathartic it could feel to shake your fists and scream “I’m uncomfortable and hot and queasy and scared too!! I hate flying!!!”

How often does this happen in our daily lives? How often when someone openly shares their struggle, anger, sadness are we overcome with our own feelings of the same? “You think you’re _____? You have no idea how ____ I am!”. When our own needs aren’t being met, how often do we fear being further burdened by someone else’s emotional baggage? Sometimes resentful or envious that they are taking time and space and energy to make “a cry for help”.

If there is one goal I believe we share on the crisis lines, and in the line of work we do, it is to de-stigmatize that “cry for help”. When we encourage individuals to reach out (to family, to friends, to professionals), our goal is to not only provide resources for our callers but also honor their bravery in seeking what they need.

Calling the YouthLine is sometimes one of the very first ways a young person reaches out into the world of caring for their own mental health. We strive to be a warm, bright doorway into the world of outside support. As we work here to increase our call volume on the line, to share our posters and cards, our number and web address, I think about the joy and excitement my YouthLine volunteers have when a call initially rings. If we could scream “CALL THE YOUTHLINE!” into every high school across the state, we would.

Call.

Call for help. We’re here. Sky-rocking with you through this crazy, overwhelming, confusing world. We’re in this boat, on this plane, together.

-Raina


Our Crisis Lines – Connection To Life

August 13, 2010

A safe haven.

That’s what I felt when I walked through our crisis line center this week. On each phone were trained volunteers deep in conversation. Connecting on an extremely personal level to a hurting person on the other end of the line.

When someone decides to call our crisis line, they are immediately in touch with a person specifically trained to listen, and not to judge. A compassionate individual there at the caller’s most vulnerable moment.

As I walked through that room every volunteer was on the phone and completely focused on their conversation. It made me think of another other expression:

A sacred trust.

That’s really what it is, a deeply personal relationship built on trust, honesty, acceptance and confidentiality.

It’s the whole reason for everything we do here at Oregon Partnership.

– Tom


Kitty Litter Fights Substance Abuse!

August 10, 2010

Looks like a headline from the Weekly World News, doesn’t it?

It’s not.

Surprising fact: One of the easiest places for teens to get drugs is from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine chests.

Back in March Oregon Partnership had great success working with communities throughout the state for a Drug Turn In Day. Citizens brought their expired prescription drugs to designated sites where law enforcement officials took custody of the drugs and then incinerated them. In one day, over 4,000 pounds of prescriptions were collected and safely disposed of.

Last night I was looking through my medicine chest and discovered 27 unused tablet of Oxycontin left over from a surgery three years ago.

But what could I do to get rid of them when there wasn’t a Drug Take Back day?

Certainly not flush them down the toilet.

An analysis by the Oregon Environmental Council found that chemicals from prescription drugs flushed down toilets make their way into Oregon’s rivers, streams and even into our drinking water.

According to experts, used kitty litter and used coffee grounds are a great way to dispose of dated or excess prescription drugs. Just grind up or empty the drugs into Fluffy’s old litter on its way to the garbage. Or mix them with the latest batch of used coffee grounds and send them off.

That kind of drug prevention is the cat’s meow.

– Tom


Oregon National Guard Families Key To Drug Prevention

August 6, 2010

Oregon National Guard Families Key To Drug Prevention

“How do I help a National Guard member when I don’t know what the problem is?”
“Where does a family member turn when their soldier is in emotional crisis?”
“What is the proper protocol to help an OEF/OIF veteran?”

These are some of the tough questions facing Oregon National Guard families.

The National Guard faces unique challenges in tackling reintegration issues.

Where Soldiers on active duty have access to military health care and the constant support of peers and leaders, National Guard Soldiers spend just one weekend a month with their unit, making it difficult to track changes in behavior and mood. Families serve as a vital link for identifying emotional changes.

How do families get the word, how do they find out what is going on with their Guardsman? The Military Helpline is a confidential resource that can help.

Early detection is the key in helping Soldiers deal with problems – and good communication plays an important role in detecting a problem. Often, family members and friends have pieces of information – things a Soldier has told them or actions they have witnessed – that together paint a clear picture of what a Soldier is going through.

The Yellow Ribbon program provides National Guardsmen and their families with information, services, referrals and proactive outreach opportunities throughout the deployment cycle. These Yellow Ribbon events are scheduled throughout the state and spaced at 30-60-90 intervals. Each soldier is given the information through his unit.

Oregon Partnership’s Military Helpline can furnish the information, resource and referral when needed. Concerned family members are highly encouraged to call (888) HLP-4-VET (888 457-4838) or find us online at www.MilitaryHelpline.org .

We are citizen volunteers here to help Oregon’s citizen soldiers and their families…one phone call at a time.

– David D.