This post contains mentions of self-harm, suicide, homelessness, and disordered eating. Read at your own discretion.
I’m writing and posting my experience contacting IMAlive, a crisis support chatline, to hopefully help people use it if they need to. I almost didn’t contact them, myself, because I didn’t know what it was like. However, this is only my account of the one time I used IMAlive and everyone won’t necessarily have the same experience.
About a month ago, my partner, birds, and me ended up having to sleep in a hotel lobby for a night, not knowing what we were going to do the following night, because our resources to stay in the hotel had run out and we still had no income, despite our best efforts. I had already relapsed on self-injury several times during our stint in that hotel due to the extreme stress we were under, I had lost a significant amount of weight because not only was my ED triggered but we usually couldn’t afford food, and I was fighting suicidal idealizations on a daily basis. That night was one of the hardest of my life and I didn’t get much sleep because a disturbed older man woke me up in the middle of the night to ask me where he could smoke (our state has a ban on indoor smoking in public buildings so I told him he couldn’t and he got irritated with me).
The following morning, we desperately tried to find somewhere, anywhere, to go so we wouldn’t end up on the street in the middle of winter. We didn’t have any word back yet and I was actively planning suicide at that point so I went to IMAlive’s website because I knew I was in crisis.
I’d tried to use them in the past but every time I tried previously they were closed and I never could find hours posted anywhere. But this time I was taken to a page I hadn’t seen before. It asked me to enter my age range, zip code, and gender (I selected “other”). You could remain as anonymous as you can when entering that information or put in your email address. I chose the former.
Within minutes (two or three), I was typing to one of IMAlive’s trained volunteers who called themselves Alex. They asked what they could call me and I told them my name. They also asked about my situation, how I was feeling, and generally just listened and offered support. I could tell they had been trained in how to deal with people in crisis and that made me feel better, especially because I tried another chat service (NOT a crisis line) that left me feeling less than helped at the end since the people on that service weren’t trained.
I don’t remember the details of what we chatted about but I felt more hopeful by the end and Alex asked me if I would like it if they sent me a followup email in a few days. I said yes and they asked for my email address, which I supplied.
My friend helped us get into a new hotel that evening and then a couple days later, Alex emailed me to see how things were. I updated them but didn’t hear back; I’m unsure if that’s policy or what.
So, that’s my review of my experience using IMAlive. I hope this might help someone feel more comfortable using the service who otherwise might not because they don’t know what it’s like. Please, please, if you’re thinking of hurting yourself, contact IMAlive or another crisis line. You’re worth than you think you are in those moments.