Yesterday I got another of those calls. I’ve been getting them for years, one or two a month, and I suppose other therapists get them, too. I see I have a message, and when I check, what I hear is just background noise; sometimes street noises, sometimes a TV in the background, sometimes what sounds like people talking in the next room. What I don’t hear is the voice of the person calling. I sometimes think I can hear breathing, sometimes not. After a few seconds, or sometimes up to a half minute, the person hangs up. The calls are on my “land line” business phone. I have no record of the caller’s number, so I’m left wondering: what was that about? They’re not “butt calls”, obviously; I can hear the caller hang up, after a varying length of time, and they’re not wrong numbers; the caller stays on the line for too long. So, what was that about?
What I think is, I’m getting calls from people who have worked up the courage to call a therapist, but can’t bring themselves, yet, to actually speak, even to an answering machine. I remember, very well, how frightened I was the first time I called a therapist for help, more than forty years ago, how my hand shook, holding the phone, and my voice broke when I finally talked with him.
I think that’s what’s happening, and what I want to say to the caller, if only I have the chance, is, “I understand how frightened you are. How hard it is to trust in a stranger and to trust in yourself, and, especially, how hard it is to hope, just to hope that someone or something can help relieve your pain.”
I want to tell them, “Don’t give up. Keep calling for help. Maybe, next time, you will blurt out a number, and we can talk”. I want to say, “Come on in. Let’s start.”
And, until then, Keep calling. I know you’re out there.