Wednesday, 26 December 2012

difficult subjects

One of the difficult topics in any society is that of suicide. With the survival instinct being high in 'normal' people the idea of killing yourself seems abhorrent to the mainstream population. While this is a reasonable reaction for those who have never suffered for those of us who do suffer the idea of ending the pain by ending ones life is something which occurs to many people.

There is lots written about the statistics of killing yourself, a wealth of academic material exists, but to me it seems that little is written about how the person themselves feels. I am not about to preach to anyone here, not going to deny a person makes their own choice, but I have discovered something on my own journey that I wish to share. So if you have time, before you go, then have a read of my story and see if it offers you anything.

Myself I have spent an amount of time considering the subject, I wanted to write about my feelings to make them clear to myself and perhaps to provide some help to either people trying to comprehend it or people who may be contemplating it.

To me death is inevitable. That I will die is about the only certainty that there is in life.

People who 'recoil' from or are 'sickened by' the idea of killing yourself are probably in some combination of: very happy with life and in denial about the inevitability of their own death.

Having had my best childhood friend die of cancer in my twenties, watched my mother die of ahlzimers, had my father die of cancer and my wife die of a brain tumor, as well as witnessed a few deaths "in the field",  I am under no illusions of the permanence of life.

For me the consideration of killing myself has nothing to do with a 'plea' to others. Those people (ones trying to make a call for help) choose methods which may be survivable and do so in a manner to allow someone to know about it. If I was going to do it, I have concluded that the most certain, quick, painless and "minimizing the risks of failure" method is the best. This last point is important, as if I decided to kill myself  then the risk of remaining alive but maimed and unable to control the circumstances of how I end my life would be intolerable and perhaps some sort of hell.

Hell? Does this mean I believe there is a heaven or a life after?

Well at this point perhaps I do. That topic in itself is the basis for another blog post, so for now I'll try to keep on subject here.


I guess that everyone comes to consider killing themselves from different paths, but I suspect that the place we find ourselves in is quite similar in many ways. Personally the sorts of feelings I have are:
  • intense sadness
  • can't see that life will ever get better (only more of the same and perhaps worse to come)
  • decreasing physical health (reducing the possibility that life will get better)
  • loss and grief
this all leads me to wonder "why do I go on?"

Currently I don't have any good answers to that, except that in the 'faith' of my survival strategies I just make one step. Each day that's all I ask of myself, just take one more step.

When you look at it like that (and don't ask why? or what's the point?) then taking one step isn't so hard. It is after all just one step.

I have at the moment decided to keep just taking one more step.

these poor bastards suffered from Polio, so all you new age - anti immunisation wankers, just keep this in mind when you selfishly decide to not immunise your kids (you ignorant assholes).
I know that life is difficult, I know that life seems to have no point, I know that I feel like shit, but as long as just taking one step is actually possible I'll keep doing that.

I've been to India a few times, and on my first trip there (some decade or so ago) I saw people with the most horrific crippling injuries but how just kept taking one step. I'm sure they gave no thought to tomorrow, just took a step each time they could to keep on surviving.

If they can do it I can do it.

First world problems: 

The higher you are elevated in life, the harder the fall back to a base line seems.

Personally I had found a pinnacle of happiness in my life. For I had been without issues from my heart for nearly 20 years, I had been traveling the world, I had met and married the most beautiful woman in the world, we lived by the beach in one of the best areas of the world (from a climatic, meteorological, geographic, political and economic point of view), we loved each other totally and trusted each other without reservation. We could not have been happier.

Then she died, and my whole world ended.

In the last year: I have had a major surgery to my heart, my father died, (then the worst thing ever to happen to me) my lovely wife died and my surgery developed an infection which required me to be hospitalised and re-operated on (to cut out the dead and infected flesh).

Presently I feel that I can never climb back up to the life that I had before the shit in my life happened.

I can't see any good future, I suffer the grief of the loss of my wife and I am still not even touching on the grieving of the loss of my father (who died just one month before my wife, yet somehow seems both distant and insignificant now), I remain uncertain if the treatments will enable me to continue of if there simply awaits some more years of hospitals and being cut up and reduced to a cripple in order to survive .

So planning to end my own life is something that I have been giving good consideration to. This has lead me to discover something about the nature of these things.

Opposites attract, but the same poles repel stronger the closer they get

If you get two strong magnets, you'll find that the closer you try to bring the same poles together the more they repel. At the point where they nearly touch its almost impossible to bring them together by hand. This effect seems to be how I think people who are contemplating killing themselves react to the idea of killing themselves. The idea seems OK from a distance, but the closer you get to doing it, the more the idea somehow seems wrong and the execution of it is somehow not possible.

I believe that this is an indicator that no matter how desperate you feel that the time is not right.

While I was laying on the prep-table in the operating room I found myself wishing that I would not awake from this surgery, wishing that I could just die and be with my wife again. At the same time I found myself crying about this.

I was surprised as I have faced death a couple of times and not had this strong emotional reaction before.

The more that I actively brought to my mind my death in this surgery (while reaching out for the spirit or memory of my wife) the more that I found tears in my eyes, as I brought myself away from these thoughts and considered the struggles of life after the surgery and all its possibilities for difficulty I found myself simply sad, but not crying. This behavior perplexed me (and worried the staff at the surgery as they wondered what was going on. I told them. I learned from this the problems which can arise from telling 'normal people' about these feelings as they can't understand, and had a psychiatrist visit me in ICU after the surgery).

I wondered if this was some internal subconscious aspect of my survival traits and mechanisms? It has been a few months of contemplating this and this blog post is the current state of where I sit with this.

I currently feel that killing myself is an act which should only be undertaken when all other options are totally exhausted and that human dignity is being stripped of me by some terminal illness. Sure, life is a terminal state, but we are made to live. We are designed to live and to fight to survive. No matter how many setbacks or resets of state we have, we are designed to keep on fighting and struggling until we somehow know its time to die. Cancer patients get this way in their final stages, and everyone who works with and deals with palliative care knows when patients make this switch.

So as hard as it may be to deal with things (and I can assure you that dealing with the loss of my wife is the hardest thing I have ever faced), as long as you can just make that one step, then do it.

Its all anyone can ask.

I look at the photographs of my wife, and reflect on the happy times we had together. Mostly it still fills me with sadness, but that sadness is for her loss. Sadness for the destruction of everything we planned for, for the destruction of all that I had worked towards, for the plans we had for family, for the cessation of the joy we were living every day.

This sadness is so overwhelming I often feel that I just can't go on without her. Especially when combined with the depression I feel at the health issues which gnaw at me and tear at my fitness and strength. I feel that I have nothing to fight for, nothing to go on living for.

Sometimes I stumble across a picture of her pulling a funny face and I laugh. She makes me so happy sometimes and I realize that it is for her still that I make that one step today. For I feel that her love is still alive. Certainly it is alive within me. Killing myself would perhaps be killing that love too.

It hasn't been easy, it still isn't easy, but I did make that step today.

I hope you do too.


Anonymous said...

Should you ever decide to take that step, I know it will be a conclusion you had come to through a process of careful consideration.

Anyway, that is not why I write.

I empathised.
Mainly with the feelings of hopelessness.
That feeling of simply going with the flow of the river.
The continual bumping along the bottom, never rising more than a few inches to drift back into the mud.
Sometimes rising a little more than yesterday then slipping back into the mire.

Like all rivers, one day it reaches the sea.
Nothing has changed.
Just your position in time and space.
But something feels different.
Can't say what it is but just feel it.
The river and life, goes on.

I was there 20 years ago.
Life has never had the same sweet fullness and joy of another but there have been many happy moments, often blending to make a string of contentment.
Things are different and they can never be the same as before.
I will not achieve certain goals, realise certain dreams but I go on, different goals and different dreams.
Life may have passed me by but I am not too concerned.

Noons said...

From another good friend who has undergone a similar situation to yours:

"Please, if you are in contact with him, tell him that the pain does ease, if he can continue taking just that one step. It's been almost 20 years -- IT DOES EASE. He's had a LOT of shit hit him all at once and it's overwhelming.

he has my thoughts and prayers"

I couldn't say it any better.

Charles Maclauchlan said...

My wife's grandmother was a seriously wonderful person. Her personality was unique and one couldn't help falling in love with her. She also had a serious heart arrhythmia of some sort (I think she needed a pacemaker) and as I now see she suffered depression. She had a problem, was revived by the EMT's and promptly instructed everyone that she was not to be revived again. Small farm community she perhaps saw no more excitement in her life. A year later she had another problem and true to her wishes was allowed to die. Less than a year after that my daughter, her great grand daughter and namesake was born. Amazingly my daughter has Grammie C's unique personality. What few photo's we have of her as a girl and young woman show a striking resemblance to my daughter. She would have adored her great grand daughter and reveled in being there for whatever years of it she had.

My point, assuming that there is one is this; There's always something around he next corner...until there aren't any more corners.

Fungus the Photo! said...

I've been there a few times.

Not far from you, Burpengary!

I suspect all depression is "caused" by a number of factors. Most people simply do not wish to see. Others can compartmentalize.
The death of nearly all forms of giving genuine, non-commercial meaning to life makes resilience difficult. Particularly at Christmas time, my special time!

Now try to imagine the darkness of a Boreal winter? With heavy unceasing cloud at maybe 200 metres overhead? We are electrical beings, and the most powerful single organ is the heart.

I used to take the view that depressions were as Jung says, periods for introspection and consolidation. A pause before creativity. Now I know them to be very dangerous.

We need our own carefully designed supports, music, habits, exercise, society with good people, else suicide is indeed an option.

I experience it early in life and many times thereafter. I am very realistic about humanity, now.

You are not alone, but finding someone who knows what is going on is a survival necessity.