Suicide. It’s a scary word. People don’t speak it nearly as much as they think it, at least not in most circles. It’s not discussed nearly as often as it probably should be in our circles in my opinion. I make no bones about it. I literally think about it every single morning. I make a mental list of the pros and cons of ending my life every morning. And that list changes, but not as often as I’d like.
I’m not even especially depressed, or at least not as much as I think I should be at this point. I don’t want to kill myself. I just want to kill my body, or more specifically, kill my pain, and I’m fairly certain that is not a possibility, and will not become a possibility in my lifetime, since I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life unsuccessfully trying to make it at the very least a possibility. The pain is never going to go away. I will never get used to the pain. I will never gain a tolerence to the pain. There will never be a cure for the pain in my lifetime. Even the lack of a light at the end of the tunnel does not deter me mentally. I know my illnesses cause others to be uncomfortable, and I am a burden physically, emotionally, and financially on my family. Even though I have every reason to commit suicide, or at the very least be clinically depressed, I try to stay upbeat. I try to keep a sunny, positive disposition as much as I can for my family, for my daughter, because I know they need me, and possibly for my own sanity. And I know they don’t need me to be depressed all the time. I don’t want others to be uncomfortable, so I lie and downplay the pain. It’s usually pretty easy to do, since I’ve become a great liar, lying to myself all the time.
Besides, it just doesn’t feel right to me to be depressed all the time. It’s not me, and I don’t like the way it makes me feel. That’s not to say there aren’t times I “go dark,” and drop out of most aspects of my life for a while until I can overcome the depression that is simply unavoidable with chronic illness. But generally, I try to push through, keep going, one day at a time, one hour at a time, and sometimes, one second at a time.
Even if one is able to resist the depression and anxiety that go hand-in-hand with chronic illness, it is just not possible to not think about suicide. I think about it every day. I contemplate how I will do it. I used to think I’d do it in the most convenient, painless, and obvious way- overdose of the medications I have on hand. Then the country became obsessed with the “Opioid Epidemic”. I realized that even if I left a note outlining everything, statistically I would become another “opiate overdose.” I don’t want to contribute to the illusion that chronic pain patients are drug addicts who overdose all the time. That is an entirely different subject, though. So, I’d probably just leave the car running in the garage- quick and painless. It has been very difficult to come to terms with the fact that I think about suicide every day. I think it’s a selfish act, most of the time. I don’t want to leave this life. So, if I don’t want to leave this life, why would I think about it every morning when I wake up in pain? Or all night long, when I can’t sleep because I’m in pain? And that’s just regular pain. When I go through a flare, every muscle in my entire body seizes up. I’ve cracked teeth from clenching my jaw so hard because the pain is just too unbearable. I can’t take in a full breath because even breathing makes the pain worse. I try to deflect the pain by causing pain to another part of my body, just to overload the part of my brain that processes pain and give myself a little relief. Those are the things that make you think about suicide every day.  Maybe not even suicide, but thinking about the cessation of the pain. After 20 years of fighting pain every waking moment, or fearing pain flares, losing control of your life to pain, having to arrange your entire life around the pain, or losing friends and family because of the pain, you would do anything to stop it, too, because you don’t even remember what is like to not be in pain. If I am lucky enough to have a day with low pain or tolerable pain, my body is so exhausted, so depleted of any kind of energy from constantly working to fight the pain, that I feel like there are cinder blocks attached to each of my limbs, and all you can do to recover a little is sleep the entire day. It is neverending. What can you do? Naturally, after years of learning there is no way to cease the pain, except through the cessation of the body functioning, your mind turns to suicide. You don’t want to, but your body does.
It’s a strange dichotomy when your head and heart want to live, and would never consider cutting precious life short, but your body just wants to give up sometimes, or just take a break. Just the thought of another day of fighting and lying is unfathomable. Your body has betrayed you, and you want nothing more than to just have one day, or even just a few hours without pain, because you don’t remember what it feels like to not have pain or to just be without pain.
I don’t want to commit suicide, but my body wants to, and sometimes it can be tempting to listen to your body when it really needs a break. Not just the little breaks that a double dose of antihistimines and a sleeping pill will give you- forced sleep to hopefully allow your body to recover and repair a little bit before the battle starts again. But a real break from the constant, relentless pain. That’s why you think about suicide. It sounds selfish on the surface. Your body wants to stop fighting, but you also want to relieve the burden to your family. I know many people will say that’s a cop out, but when you have burdened your family phyically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and financially, you start to wonder about your purpose in this life. You aren’t the same person you were before you became ill. The person your spouse chose to marry, the person your children knew they could always count on for anything, the person who had friends and family to care for, the person who was a productive human being who contributed to society is gone. That person is dead already, so it’s not a big leap to think about offing this body, the body that has betrayed you, the body you wish you could get out of in any way possible.
It’s okay to have these thoughts. It’s not wrong, and there should be no stigma attached to it. Suicide happens much more often to people in our positions than we realize. Many overdoses considered accidental were probably suicides, if not intentional, certainly not unintentional. We need to keep talking to each other and not be afraid or embarrassed for thinking about it. We need to be honest with ourselves and with each other about suicide. The more we address it, the more educated we become, the more often we can admit when we need help, and also provide help to each other. Even though I know realistically there is no statistically significant chance this pain will ever be gone, I cannot give up. Even though I know I am a burden on my family, I cannot give up. Even though I know I will never have real physical friends, I cannot give up. Even though my body begs me for a reprieve, I cannot give up. I have not. I will not. I may be a very different person now, reduced to the singulair element of a voice. But even a single voice can be powerful. I want to use that voice to remind you that you have to hold on to something. Hold on to the love of your family. Hold on to the memories. Hold on to the good moments, no matter how few and far between. Hold on to each other. Hold on to hope. Think about the warrior you are, every day, and how you have a perfect track record of surviving each and every battle in this war that our bodies have waged against us. Celebrate the little things- a hug from your child, the five or ten minutes your body gave you a break today, the sunshine on your face, even if it’s only as you look out your window, the comfort you got from a fellow warrior, the hope that you gave a fellow warrior. You matter. You are loved. You are needed. And that is reason enough for your cons to outweigh your pros in your suicide column.