So glad I am a counselor and a geek.

I read over the lines on the screen. Then a bad feeling comes over me. I reach for the keyboard:

“Are you cutting yourself right now?”

“yes”

“Put your knife away and take a deep breath.”
“Done?”

“yes”

“Now, do you need to clean up some mess, get some bandage?”

“I have some tissues at hand”

“Can I help you not reaching for the knife again right now? Does it help if you put it further away?”

“You are listening to me and saying me to stop. That helps me a lot already. It is over for now.”

A sigh of relieve comes over me. We are something like 15 minutes into this chat and I realize that this is why I started working for this anonymous helpline. But there is more, the woman I am chatting with right now is easily overloaded, both sensory and in her own emotions. Cutting herself is a way for her to suppress all other feelings, to substitute the mess with one clear feeling. Cutting is her survival. But chatting with me helped her to order her feelings, taking away the acute need to create new scars.

I look at the screen and the keyboard. It is good I am not talking face to face with her, that we are separated by this digital distance. Face to face would be way to confronting, she would not have been able to be so honest with me. Face to face I would not have been able to reach her, my presence would only be a new overload. In this chat she only had to deal with the text on her screen. And she could look away on the moments that even that was too much.

So glad I am a counselor and a geek.

Winfried Tilanus
e-mail: winfried@tilanus.com
xmpp: winfried@tilanus.com