What happened when I called the Employee Assistance Program line

Friday, 11:29 PM.

I sat on the edge of the bed calculating my next move. Three times I called and hung up unsure of how to answer the first question. 

Should I press one? Is this an emergency? Do I need to speak to a counselor?

I had been triggered and suddenly, I found myself reeling from childhood trauma. The facade I'd been wearing for 10 years had fallen and I was forced to face demons that had been swept under the rug. I realized the pain I thought I had been healed from was more present than ever. 

My mind was flooded with a mixture of emotions from sadness and anger to disappointment and disbelief.

How the heck did I manage to live this way for so long I asked myself. Better question: how do I make sense of this moment to move forward. 

Is this an emergency? Do I need to speak to a counselor? 

I pressed one.

"Hi, is this line only for suicide prevention or can I just talk to someone to think things through," I asked the woman on the other end of the line. 

"Yes, some people just call when they need someone to talk to. We're here for whatever you need," she responded. 

After taking down some basic information and making sure I was in a safe place, she patched me through to a licensed counselor. 

I explained my dilemma. I cried a little, but the counselor got the gist. I felt like I had been sleeping through chaos for years and all it took was one event, a glimpse of emotional freedom, to activate my great awakening. 

"This whole thing is crazy," I told her, "I asked the other person to give me space so I can re-evaluate how I truly feel without considering how they might feel about my feelings. Honestly, I don't know how to put my feelings into words."

For 20 minutes, the counselor patiently listened to my concerns and responded with understanding and compassion. "Say 'I love you. I'll always be here for you, but I can't support your decision and you know why,''' the counselor said. 

My breathing slowed as I let her words sink in.

I literally almost said thanks and hung up the phone. All I needed was someone to listen to how I felt and help me make sense of those feelings. She had done just that. 

I think we underestimate the value of just having someone to talk to when we feel overwhelmed. Someone that isn't stressed by your stress. Someone that doesn't change the subject because they've ran out of words. Sometimes, we just need someone to play present and it's always okay to ask for help. 

The best 20 minutes I've ever spent was using a free resource made available through my employer to catch my breath when life had knocked the wind out of me. I strongly encourage you to discover what resources are available to you in an emotional crisis like United Way's 2-1-1 information and referral hotline or your company's EAP.