My Crisis: The Struggle of Working in Crisis Intervention While in Crisis | Sarah Alvarez

Feb 2016 picture

Photo by Volkan Olmez via Unsplash.com

I lost my dad when I was just 16 years old. He was the first person that I had ever lost in my life. I didn’t know how to handle a situation like that. My world was crushed and I was grieving. How could I understand grief at such a young age?

Fast forward 7 years, I continued to experience anger and denial. I thought that I was okay and this was God’s will. I thought that I needed to accept that my dad passing away was my fault. I did not deal with those emotions throughout those 7 years. Grieving is a painful process and I knew that I did not want myself or anyone else to feel this way. From then on, I vowed to help others dealing with grief and heartbreak, just like I have suffered.

In 2014, I was a fresh college graduate with a degree in psychology. I was excited for the opportunity to put my skills to use and I got my first job in mental health. I became a Crisis Intervention Specialist in Pittsburgh and I was so pumped to have this job in my field! I was responsible for taking crisis phone calls from individuals who expressed suicidal intentions. I would  assess them over the phone and sometimes need to go out and meet with them to do a further evaluation. However, I came to find out that working in crisis does not work so well when I was in crisis myself.

Every day I could feel myself slowly breaking down. My job was hard. Every day I would be on the other side of the phone trying to give hope to others when in reality, I was the one losing hope. I became aware of these negative feelings that were floating around in my head and the more that I was helping others, the louder these thoughts became. My breaking point was when my boyfriend and recently new fiancé of six years ended our relationship. This sudden heartbreak opened up the old wounds from losing my dad. The feelings I had never dealt with from the loss of my dad were coming back, stronger than ever. I was in a tailspin. Depression set in. I didn’t eat or sleep. I lost hope. My seemingly perfect life was destroyed. I became numb. I was an empty shell. The only thing I knew how to do was cry.

I had no hope, no feelings, and I was supposed to give hope to the hopeless. I was supposed to convince them that life was worth living when I didn’t even want to take another breath. The numbness consumed me. I did things out of habit, like eating and sleeping, only because I knew that I had to. The only time I felt anything was when I cut. Day after day I would go to work, put on a brave face, and act like I was okay. In reality, I prayed to God to take my life because the pain of my heartbreak was destroying me. I was not only hurting on the inside, but I was physically causing myself pain. Every day was my own personal struggle.

A teenage girl called me at work one day. She was in tears and she told me that she had been cutting and there was nothing for her to keep her alive. As I talked with her through her crisis, I realized that this girl could have been me. When I hung up the phone, I should have been relieved that I had helped someone but instead it was just pulling me in the darkness further. I got up from my desk and went to the bathroom. I stood there, sobbing and eventually sitting on the ground, hunched over because I could feel my heart aching. It hurt to cry, to breathe, to exist. As I was sitting there crying, I began to cut.

After a few moments of this torture and the aching sobs, I looked at my wrists and saw the damage that I had caused. I was disgusted, how could I have done this to myself? How could I rightfully talk to someone through their crisis, but I couldn’t take my own advice? It was my job to help others, but it hit me, I cannot help others until I got help for myself. That was the moment that I knew that I needed to do something.

I was tired; mentally, physically, and emotionally. When I got back to my apartment that night, I called my mom. When my mom answered the phone, I couldn’t speak. I just began to cry. All I could tell her was that I wanted to come home. Just like that, I left my job and my apartment in Pittsburgh, and I moved back to Harrisburg with my mom.

During this time, my family was my biggest support. Eventually, I was able to tell my mom about that pain that I had been going through and about my self-harm. I was able to let others take care of me after being broken for so long. I started therapy and found an amazing therapist. I was finally able to start healing. I was able to see that life is worth living. I was able to see that I am worth it.

As I’m writing this, it has been almost a year since I last cut. It took 7+ years to bring me to my breaking point and to the healing process. I would be lying if I said there used to be days where I wanted to cut, but let me tell you, those days slowly diminished. In those moments where I contemplated cutting, I would remind myself of my worth and how much that I have accomplished. I kept telling myself that I can and will overcome those negative thoughts. I haven’t had thoughts of cutting in months and I am so thrilled to be able to say that!

I know that this was a long story, but I just want to encourage all of you that you can get help and that life is worth living. Although it may seem dark now, you can make it through. It is okay to ask for help. You aren’t going through this alone. You have people who love you and will support you through your journey.

If you are struggling with self-harm, there is hope and you are not alone.  Please reach our for help and call S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends) at 1-800-DONT-CUT (366-8288).