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How to Save a Life

A few years ago a client told me that I saved his life. Well, he didn’t tell me directly.  He told my colleague when he was drunk at a gala. But he told her to tell me. Although I’m not sure he remembers doing so. Still, I was humbled by this. I knew therapy was important to him, but I didn’t think his life was in danger. But then again, even when clients are in therapy, they don’t always tell you the full story.

Once I had to cancel a session with this client and he stopped coming in for about a month. Apparently he got depressed because he felt like I had abandoned him. A professor contacted him because he had also stopped going to class. When he came back to therapy, he told me that his professor saved his life. That was the first time I really understood how much therapy means to some clients, even when they say they’re not sure they want to be there.

Last week I went to a threat assessment training, and the first case that the presenter discussed was a student who had to go to the police department because she told her roommate she was suicidal. While she was there, she asked for a piece of paper and a pen. She drew what appeared to be a bunch of random doodles. But later when they looked at the drawing, they saw that she had embedded the word help three times.

This, too, reminded me that people may say they don’t want help but their actions tell you otherwise.

Before I started blogging, I thought blogs were just another example of our narcissistic culture in that journaling, which is supposed to be a private experience, was turned into something that you shared with the world and everyone was free to comment. But now I realize that blogs can be a way for people who have never had a voice to connect with people like themselves.

My favorite blog is by Nelly N. She writes passionately and honestly about her struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other things. She shares her most painful experiences so that other people who suffer in silence will realize that they are not alone. And it works.

A few days ago the student group that I advise had their annual eating disorder panel. It consists of students in recovery who are brave enough to share their story. On our campus, people with eating disorders are blamed and judged more harshly than any other disorder. Not surprisingly, no one wants to admit to having one publicly.

Every year, at least one student seeks treatment after attending the panel. And the next year, those students volunteer to speak on the panel so that they can help someone else who is alone with their eating disorder. Sometimes they use the opportunity to speak as motivation to get better.

We don’t have to be able to leap tall buildings to save someone’s life. Sometimes heroes are ordinary people who take action when someone needs help.


About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

7 responses »

  1. Wow, I am so honored that you feel that way about my blog. It means so much to me. I was scared of blogging when I first started. I mean, really truly terrified, but my husband, my best friend, and family pushed me to try it. What it has become is not only an outlet for what so many of go through but a connection to amazing people like you. People like you that care, are supportive, and dedicate their lives to helping people like us. People that don't judge or stigmatize. People that spread the word and make it safe for us to openly talk about our struggles. You and people like you are heroes. I mean that. You blog and your honesty inspire me in so many ways and I always look forward to reading your amazing insight. Thank you again and like always, I really love your post.


  2. Thanks, Nelly. I was equally terrified when I started blogging, too, and sometimes still am with some posts! Yours is truly by far my favorite, both because you area good writer and because you write from the heart, and it shows.


  3. Thank you for what you do for others. I'm sure you will never know the full extent of how much you have helped some. My therapists over the years have saved me in ways that I don't think I could have managed on my own. The first couple of therapists I had I became so attached to, though I never really let on to them about it, but they really pulled me through in such a strong way, and it was so rough when they left the clinic. After losing two therapists in the course of four years, I began feeling a lot more guarded with my next ones. I just couldn't risk such an enormous loss again, so I kept most of my innermost thoughts and feelings locked up. And I think that is what led me to blogging, because I really needed a place to voice everything. I currently don't have a therapist and I miss it, but at the same time I am afraid of trying it again. It's hard to start over with someone new each time and not know how long you will have with them. But even in short intervals, each therapist helped me in some way, and I will always be grateful to them.


  4. Thanks Amy. Your blog not only helps you but you've also made it a resource for people with bipolar disorder, and a thorough one, at that. You, too, are reaching more people than you know.


  5. Beautiful entry, Christy. (That's all I have to say for once in my life.)



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