Should the Right to Die Include Mental Health?

 death blog

 

It was 1988 when my mom wrote the first in a series of letters to our Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney, regarding being able to end her terminal illness in a manner in which she had some control. It was in 1989 that she contacted the Right to Die organization based in Oregon and after numerous rounds of correspondence was mailed a book written by the founder about euthanasia. This book was not only a memoir but contained information about certain drugs and the amounts that would be required to overdose. The letters and pleas continued, to no avail, and after battling cancer for six long years and deteriorating to the point of having no quality of life, on September 10th 1990, she took a lethal overdose of pills in the comfort of her home. She had spoken multiple times about this plan over the previous months and made it quite clear she had no intention of dying in hospital.  She already had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order and wanted to have some control over the last moments of her life.

She lay in her bed for hours but had merely slipped into a coma which caused enough concern that she was transported to the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital and saw her lying motionless, she looked so peaceful, like she had fallen into the deepest of sleeps. She remained comatose for almost a week before shocking everyone and waking up, which no one could explain given that they said the number of pills that she had consumed would have killed a horse. She had nothing but painkillers and IV fluids and continued to rapidly decline. There was one more failed attempt in hospital before the last one finally brought her the peace she was so desperately seeking. That was October 5th, 1990. She had written nearly 100 letters.

In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada made physician assisted suicide (Euthanasia) fully available to all mentally competent Canadians with terminal illnesses. Prior to the ruling, assisted suicide was illegal in Canada and punishable by up to 14 years in prison. There are strict laws governing the process, such as assisted suicide not being available to minors and only available to those residents eligible for Canadian healthcare. It cannot be used to relieve the suffering of any mental illness or long-term disability and patients are not allowed to arrange to consent in advance to dying, for example in cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s. This protocol has sparked debates in many areas but none as big as when a parliamentary committee recommended that people with mental illness be eligible to seek euthanasia to end their lives in the same manner of those with a terminal illness.

An estimated 90% of suicides in North America are associated with some form of mental illness.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize euthanasia in cases of terminal illnesses 13 years ago, and in that time, the practice has become legal in Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland as well as in five U.S. states…Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Montana and New Mexico. In Germany, doctors are able to provide patients with the necessary drugs for a medicinal suicide, but are not allowed to take any part of the actual suicide, such as guiding the patients or supporting their hand. The feelings are mixed when it comes to people’s beliefs of right and wrong, but if you have ever watched another human being slowly, painfully, rot away with not an ounce of dignity left, it might just open your eyes to the reasoning.

Assisted suicide based on psychological suffering is permitted in the Netherlands, Belgium and Quebec. A 2015 Netherlands euthanasia report stated that there were 5306 assisted deaths that year, with 41 being for psychiatric reasons, and 81 for dementia. In early 2012, a group called the Life-Ending Clinic went into operation for people whose doctors refused to assist in their suicides. The clinic has pushed the moral debate to its highest peak by helping people with chronic depression to die, and allowing some dementia patients to sign a euthanasia declaration in the early stages of their disease. In the past five years the number of assisted suicides has doubled and in Belgium it has increased almost 150%, amongst which has included people who have had autism, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic depression. In two of the more famous cases, the women had suffered from multiple mental illnesses over the years, tried pills, therapy and everything else possible before giving up on the thought of their lives ever improving. Should doctors respect their wishes to die in the same way they would respect the wishes of a patient with stage four cancer?

With regards to mental illnesses, the biggest issues are whether legalized euthanasia can lead to a suicidal frame of mind based on a desire to escape prolonged suffering, and whether a person suffering from chronic mental illness has the capacity to make such a life and death decision. Given that mental illness can distort thinking and impair judgment, perhaps on the finality of the consequences, we have to question is it the rational mind speaking or the voice of the illness. “Right to Die” advocates point out that doctor assisted suicide would be less traumatic than a hanging or gunshot, for everyone involved. The protesters say that accepting euthanasia as an option for the mentally ill would create a presumption of sanity for those who attempt suicide or request assisted suicide as candidates are supposed to be mentally competent to make an informed and voluntary decision. Statistics say almost all people who die by suicide have mental health problems and there lies the conundrum.

Having had three failed suicide attempts myself, I question if I would even be here if euthanasia was available here in Canada for chronic depression. I wonder where this debate will take us in the future, but for now, I continue to fight.

 

 

 

Swallow My Pride

Sometimes life throws so much at us at once, we can no longer stand up without the assistance of others. We have to drop our guard, allow ourselves to be vulnerable and reach out for help regardless of our pride or shame. I had made it my whole life keeping both a roof over my head and employment until my breakdown over a year ago. The trauma of severe sexual abuse as an infant through to my early teens resurfaced and led me to a hospital trip where I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depression with suicidal ideations and self-harm, and severe anxiety. I have since been in therapy and on medication and am trying my best to heal, but life keeps piling it on and I no longer can see a way out without any assistance, which means dropping my pride, which for me, is the ultimate sacrifice. I am on insurance disability who is now threatening to kick me off in 8 weeks, as that is the time frame they have deemed that I will be better enough to go back to work. I wish that was the case as I truly don’t want to stay in the system forever, but the truth is I am simply not well enough yet. I had to move which increased my rent and I am now facing the possibility of having no income. I will need to get a disability lawyer to help me get the rest of the time off that I need to heal, but because disability is already limited funds and with having to move, I simply cannot do this on my own, and unfortunately I do not have family to turn to for help. I am asking with all sincerity and humility for any financial help anyone could provide to help me get a lawyer. Anyone who knows me knows I would never reach out in this manner unless I was desperate, and right now I am. My time off will not be in vain as I am going to be working towards a being a certified Trauma Recovery Coach so I can give back, and help others. I would be humbled with any assistance anyone could provide to give me a helping hand. I promise to return the favor tenfold. Thank you so much and please be well.

https://www.gofundme.com/disabilitylawyer

 

Lost In the Darkness of the Jungle

 

dark jungle

 

They say that without darkness there is no light, yet I see not even a glimmer of light right now, like it has dissipated into tiny particles and scattered into obscurity, leaving me surrounded in a blanket of gloom.  I feel like I have been dropped off in to the depths of the jungle with no flashlight or compass, nor the light of the stars to guide me, with a deadline to somehow make my way out and back to a place where the light shines again. It feels like every step I take is through the thickest bush lined with vines of thorns and branches of spikes. I glance up hoping for even a glimmer of light to help light my trail but the density of the leaves form an umbrella of shade. I start a climb uphill only to have the earth give away under my feet. I have no sense of direction and feel like I have been wandering the same path in circles, or perhaps just always heading the wrong way, yet I keep walking.

I feel lost. Lost in every possible way; lost to the point that even if I was handed a map, I am not sure I could find my way out. Maybe I have been lost in this darkness for so long it has become my comfort. Perhaps a part of me doesn’t want to find a way out, not because it is easier to stay but because it is what is familiar to me and the unknown is frightening. Maybe there is an invisible string that pulls me back every time I follow that flash of light because I have unfinished business here. It might even be that I have convinced myself that without light I will finally succumb to the darkness, in which somewhere lays the only peace I can see. Why do the answers come so much easier in the shadows than in the light?

I am grasping for hope. Grasping on to anyone or anything that can help to fuel the reserve in my empty tank; probing for any reason, any purpose to continue this trek. I have looked and pulled from within for so long there is very little self-reliance left.  There is no unlimited stockpile of strength hidden somewhere deep within. There are not enough learned behavioral techniques in my mind to overcome the ingrained negativities that keep drawing me back into the darkness. I clutch on to anything I can…words, pictures, memories…anything that can provide a hint of this elusive thing called hope. I rely on my empathy for others to encourage myself to continue on this journey, after all, I may want out of the jungle but I certainly am not willing to drag someone in there with me to accomplish that.

I am afraid. Afraid that perhaps this jungle is actually my home; that there is no beaten path for me to follow or make to find my way home, and that the darkness is actually where I belong. I am afraid that no matter how hard I try or how far I travel that I may never find that glimpse of light, that smidgen of hope that is bright enough or strong enough to guide my way. I am scared of looking up to the jungle always covering the night skies, fearful to look forward because I can’t see far enough through the thick brush to see my hand in front of my face, and looking behind me all I see are the trails of cuts and bruises that have gotten me to this point. I am afraid that my thoughts are far too at home in this place and that the darkness has always felt comfortable for me and perhaps the needle on my compass is just pointed here.

I can’t at this point even say why I continue to walk this unlit, beaten track, or why I continue to plod through the mud and stumble over the uneven ground. I don’t know why I insist in looking up in the hopes that there is a crack in the canopy where just enough light will peek through to at least point me in the right direction when time and again, the blackness is all encompassing. I stumble forward, unguided, trip over broken branches and fall right back to the place where I started, yet despite the mud weighing me down, regardless of the cuts and bruises incurred with each fall, I continue to rise. I somehow manage to stand back up time and again, after losing my bearings, and keep searching for this seemingly elusive path of light.

 

 

 

A Compelling Letter from Death

blog pen and letter

 

I have travelled the world from coast to coast, over and over since the beginning of time. I have seen the blessings and the sufferings of all of mankind. I have seen the souls of men, women and children through war, disease and famine. I have no sense of discrimination or bias. I do not judge.  I know not of religion, race, age or culture. It does not matter the riches you may or may not have had, or the tragedies and traumas you may have had to endure. It does not matter how much time you may or may not have had, or what you have or have not done, as upon the time of my arrival you are all the same. You are all on an equal playing field and at some point you all will have to face me, our meeting is inevitable; it is fate.

I am death.

I have a thousand faces, disguised in forms you recognize and many you cannot imagine. I am called to collect the souls that are loved and the ones who are forgotten. I pick up the leftovers of the damage mankind has caused to itself with war after war, century after century. I’ve gathered those of the innocent and naïve and those of people so heinous there are no words. I have watched the greed of mankind lead to millions of souls being stolen from starvation and disease, all for profit. I have seen the damage humans are willing to do to each other over the smallest of things and I am there to pick up whatever is left. I have forever been left saddened over collecting the souls of those who have departed too early; those of the children who never had the chance to grow and develop and live a life. Those who were not given a chance and their imminent meeting with me came long before it was due.

I have seen the beauty as well. I have seen the kindness and generosity that is possible.  I have seen things at their purest forms. I have watched strangers help one another with no expectations and loved ones support each other during the most trying of times. I have watched love bring together people whose paths undoubtedly would never have crossed had it not been for this serendipitous connection. I have watched the weak fight and raise above their struggles and the strong reach a hand out to help. I have watched the rich share with the poor and the poor share with the poorer. I have observed altruism from humans extend to every living creature, from one corner of the world to the next, and watched the innocence of children spread joy and laughter across the seas.

I am coming for you when it is your time, but I implore you not to call me early. I beg you not to take matters into your own hands regardless of the darkness that you feel, or the loneliness that seeps deep into your soul. I ask you to think twice, three times, or a million times if needed, before snuffing out the flame that represents your life. I will do that for you in due time. I have seen lives turned around in a matter of moments or a perhaps years, but the one constant is that everything changes.  Nothing remains the same. The seas rise and lower, the mountains shift. Your situation will change, the circumstances will change, your emotions will change and you will change, and what may seem impossible to face now will eventually be a memory; a stepping stone in your climb up to the light. You may not see it now but your life is a onetime gift and I plead with you to hold on to it like the rare treasure it is. I come for too many souls who have had no choice, but you do.

So, do not seek me out, we will unite when the time is right.

 

BPD and My First 15 Minutes

Blog 15 minutes

 

The moment my eyes open each morning, the same thoughts run through my head.

Here we go again, another day of fighting non-stop battles in my mind, another day in which I begin the day as tired as I end it.

The variations of thoughts that can overwhelm my mind in an instant have started; the first domino pushed down as the rest clatter and fall one by one, each one affecting the next and the speed picks up as the pattern continues. The rapid and often uncontrollable intense mood swings are my BPD’s worst nemesis.

Well as much as I want to stay in bed all day, I know I won’t sleep and the lying around will lead to even more destructive thoughts. I wonder if she has text me.

I sit up and as my eyes slowly start to open, I grab for my phone, knowing that something as small as a text, or the lack thereof could set me on a BPD ride for the day. Keep in mind there is nothing wrong with the text, it is usually as simple as a “morning” or an “I hope you slept well”, both perfectly nice words to wake up in the morning to. If for some odd reason I have had a good night’s rest or don’t wake up feeling quite as emotionally drained it seems so easy to just respond with a “good morning” and continue on with the conversation. However if I am on the BPD edge, the thought process is quite different.

Oh look, she did text…a morning and that’s it? Omg maybe she is mad at me, or upset with something I said or did. Maybe she doesn’t want to talk to me anymore or know how I am doing, or maybe she doesn’t even love me or want to be with me anymore. I don’t blame her, I am impossible to be in a relationship with and maybe I really am not deserving of love and no one wants me. I hate being like this. I hate feeling out of control over these mood swings and I am never going to get better, no matter what pills or what therapy, I am just too damaged to be fixed.

At this point, the tears start as I have a morning pity party sitting on the edge of my bed. This sadness, and these tears often goes on for hours as my mind continues to emotionally attack itself, but every time, at some point, the sadness turns to anger.

Who cares if she only said morning, I don’t need to wake up to some generalized text anyway. I don’t need to wake up to any texts at all because I don’t need you or anyone. I have gotten this far on my own and I don’t need your help. Besides, it’s obvious you don’t care because if you did you would have said more than just “morning”. You are just like everyone else who loves me on the surface and abandons me, the past repeating itself over and over. Fuck this life and everyone in it anyway. I am alone, a complete failure and a waste of space. I shouldn’t even be alive.

I sit up in bed and return the text with a casual “morning”.

Umm it’s been five minutes and still no answer. Here we go again. Should I ask what I did wrong or just leave it alone? Why won’t she just answer, it only takes a few seconds. Maybe she doesn’t have time to talk to me or really doesn’t want to and is ignoring me.

 

My phone vibrates and I quickly reach for it to read the message…”how are you?”, and the way I respond may very well set the tone for the day.

Does she really want to know how I am or is she just asking to be polite? Should I keep it simple and just say that I am ok or do I be truthful and tell her that I have only been up for ten minutes and my emotions are already bouncing up and down? What if she doesn’t want to hear it for the hundredth time? I am sick of listening to myself so why would she want to know. God, I am so pathetic.

I decide to keep it simple and reply with an “I’m ok”, to which she replies “good”

Does she seriously think I am ok? Since when am I ok? I am a mess and always will be. Why does she think that today would be any different? What is wrong with me that I think like this and why can I not get this BPD under control? She is only asking how I am, a perfectly normal, nice question and yet my brain takes all these statements and twists them so fast I can hardly keep up. I just want to be normal, whatever that may be. Is it going to be another day of this hell? I am so tired already.

All these thoughts and emotions have occurred before I have even stood up from my bed. Up and down that many times within 15 minutes. Welcome to the beginning of my day and thanks for taking the ride with me.

 

 

 

 

 

Drowning In the Waters of Depression

 

 

drowning blog

 

I don’t know if it is the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or the depression, or the two of them that work together to try and pull me into the water, after securing boulders to my feet. Regardless of the fight left in me, the weight of the rocks pull me slowly under the water, before sinking me to the cold, dark bottom. These are the times I find it hardest to keep going, to keep fighting. These are the times where I question the progress I have made in therapy and wonder why I don’t yet feel better, or if I ever will.  These are the times when the smallest of things irritates me, getting under my skin to the point of feeling angry. These are the times when I cry the most, feel the most frustrated and misunderstood. These are the times that I wonder if I should fight to cut those boulders off and float to the surface or allow the water to fill my lungs and put my mind and body to a final, peaceful rest. I have clawed my way to the surface more times than I can count and will continue to do so.

For me, these major depressive episodes can come on as quickly as the blink of an eye. They are often triggered by the simplest of things, and last anywhere from a few days to a few months. These are not BPD depression episodes which tend to bounce my emotions around more rapidly, like the lines on a heart monitor. These are feelings of hopelessness and despair compounded with an overwhelming sadness that leaves upon me, an invisible heaviness I can physically feel yet cannot accurately describe. This depression sucks the life out of me, emotionally and physically leaving a sense of tiredness that I can’t control. The simplest tasks like getting up and having a shower or doing the dishes can leave me feeling like I just ran a marathon. The exhaustion of doing something so menial leaves me wanting to crawl back into bed and sleep the day away, and the frustration of that, draws me further towards the bottom.

The depression eats away at my desires. It sucks the pleasure out of the few things that once brought me joy, and replaces them with a complete lack of motivation. It feels like there is just no reason and no ability to see more than an hour ahead. Anything further than that feels impossible, and pointless. The depression makes my mind foggy and takes away my clarity and focus. It makes something that comes naturally to me, like writing, become a daunting and overwhelming task, as if I have to dig for the words instead of them just flowing. This depth of depression takes away every last ounce of hope I have. It makes the sunshine less bright and the flowers lose their wonder.

This type of major depressive episode has an inner monologue that drowns out any voice of reason. It is louder than and stronger than the positivity in my mind, or the therapeutic techniques I have learned to put into practice. It feeds my inner critic with falsehoods so convincing, I have to stop myself from believing them, and remember that depression is a master liar. It amplifies every negative thought or action I have ever done in my life. It takes the words from voices of my past, reiterating that I am a failure, that I am worthless, that I am all those things they said and repeats them over and over like a skipping record. It slowly eats away at my hope replacing it with overwhelmingly realistic scenarios of negativity that are as easy to fall into as a pit of quicksand. It makes me question my existence, my purpose and if I will ever be able to do anything more than just survive.

However, despite the despair and fear, I remain to fight. Despite the feeling of being constantly weighed down, I continue to fight the war in my head and survive its battle scars. I realize this will not last forever. It will pass just as the other episodes have. I know that regardless of the depths of dark, cold water I am pulled into, that I will continue to fight to untie those knots and release those boulders so I can take another breath and perhaps each time, I will spend be able to spend a bit more time at the surface.

 

Is the New Method of Suicide Note Online?

 laptop writing

 

 

I have been passively suicidal for most of my life and actively suicidal three times. I know what it feels like to be carrying a burden so heavy your legs can no longer hold you up. I understand what it is like to see nothing but darkness and pain in your future and to have lost every last ounce of hope. I realize the amount of pain you have to be in to get here; to reach the point where death seems like your only option, the only way out. Without getting into the gritty details, let’s just say with my last attempt was meticulous and organized. To me, suicide is a very personal and private thing and I do not want to traumatize anyone more than they may already be. I wanted to make sure the authorities found me and not leave that scar upon my friends. I think most suicidal people would tell you they are not trying to hurt anyone, they just don’t know how else to end their pain. To them, this is the only way out.

That being said, I ponder the people who are determined to make their suicide public. What drives them to jump in front of a train packed with commuters at rush hour? Is there any maliciousness towards others? Why not wait for a cargo train or an empty one? Why affect the lives of others intentionally? Have you felt so invisible your entire life that you felt this method of suicide would draw some attention to you for the five minutes of “fame” you will get as they mention you once on the news or in the papers? Do you feel that because you are in so much pain, then others should be too? These are questions that remain unanswered because there is no one left to answer them.

Technology has done so much for our society and we have come so far in such a short time. The internet has provided endless amounts of information and resources. It has connected people across the world, whether it is family or new found friends. The advancements are rapidly changing and many things become fads until the next new thing is available. We were once excited about the fact we could make a video and put it on the internet for the world to watch at any time but now that is “old”, as the latest and greatest allows you to post live and to show the world a piece of your life at the very present moment. Sadly, there seems to be no limit to what people share, or what people are willing to watch, hence the alarming raise in the number of online live suicides. Again, what motivates someone to share both the preparations for and the last moments of your life with the entire world, and what kind of twisted individual do you have to be to sit and passively watch?

The examples were certainly not difficult to find.

A 12 year old girl, who had previously broadcast a few times that a family member had tried to rape her, hangs herself from a tree, live streaming the whole 40 minute video. Not only did people watch her live, but many of those people online actually encouraged her to kill herself.

Another girl who had spent her life being bounced around foster care hung herself from the shower door of her bathroom, while 1000 people watched her make her preparations, many ridiculed her. A friend saw it and alerted police but they did not arrive in time.

A 20 year old university student went on a message board and offered to kill himself online if he could get help setting up the live video stream. 200 viewers watched as he chased down pills with vodka, barricaded his dorm room door and then set fire to it while he waited to die lying under a blanket. No one online called 911.

Those who turn on their webcams during the darkest, most desperate moments of their lives must feel a need for someone to bear witness to them, or perhaps wish that somebody out of the thousands watching the suicide would care enough to intervene and alert the authorities. They feel like finally their name will be heard and remembered, however within minutes of the video being taken down, most of the viewers will have already forgotten their name.

The internet provides an outlet to suffer in public, to share pain and gain the attention desperately needed, however in these cases, perhaps the internet is just the new form of suicide note. Even though social media sites “prohibit” the promotion of suicide or self- injury and ask viewers to report to authorities immediately, there is no enforcement or regulation for these things. It is impossible for the sites to monitor everything which shifts the burden to the community to help stop bad things from happening. There are now groups of volunteers who monitor many of these live sites hoping to intervene before it’s too late, or perhaps before it is even started.

What I find deplorable are the ones that watch. Are people so disconnected and desensitized that they can sit in the comfort of their homes and not only watch, but encourage a child to kill themselves. Unfortunately it isn’t surprising that online viewer’s tap into these streams, it is almost human nature. There’s no such thing as an accident without a crowd gathering and standing on tiptoes in order to see the person lying on the ground, or people slowing down to stare at the car accident.. Violence and destruction are everywhere in society, from the news to the entertainment industry. Perhaps there is a fascination with other peoples pain because it’s only one gesture removed from our own, or maybe it is just bystander apathy, which basically is a social phenomenon where people are less likely to help someone in need if there are other people present. We are all relying on someone else to make the first move, to differentiate themselves from the crowd, when in fact we should all feel a moral responsibility to help someone at risk, whether you take it seriously or not. How is it going to sit in your mind years from now that someone who was seriously sick killed themselves while you egged them on?

I have been on both ends of suicidal situations and I know the anguish you can feel inside and the desperation to get any bit of attention, but posting a suicide attempt live is the ultimate cry for help, and I will never understand how anyone would take the time to not only watch someone make preparations but taunt and encourage them to carry through with that attempt, most often with fatal results. Think about it, someone’s life was in your hands and you made the conscious decision to do nothing but watch them die. It frightens me, the number of people who feel no moral obligations. We are all human.